Term Paper vs Research Paper

Although there are different types of written projects, these different types tend to have overlapping aspects. For example, most written projects regardless of type include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Many written projects also require reading about the topics. It is not surprising, therefore, if students call an essay a research paper, or a thesis a dissertation, or a reaction paper a journal. The terms research paper and term paper, in particular, are regarded by many as the same and used interchangeably. However, strictly speaking, a research paper and a term paper are two different items. Though a term paper can be a research paper and a research paper can serve as a term paper, this is not always the case. Are you confused now? This post explains the difference between the two.

Research Paper vs. Term Paper
Research Paper

What is a research paper?

A research paper, as the term suggests, is a written project that involves the research of a specific topic and the analysis of the information. This definition may seem broad, and indeed it is. That’s because a research paper is a general type of paper. But it involves these three major features:

  1. Thesis statement. A research paper has to have a thesis statement. The thesis is the main idea or main claim of your paper.
  2. Evidence from research. A research paper has to present information from sources. Thus, writing a research paper requires you to look for and read published material related to your topic. The information you acquire from the materials will be used as evidence to prove, support, or defend your thesis.
  3. Original discussions. A research paper needs to present your own discussions. It should not rely on repetition of information alone; rather, it should analyze information to come up with assertions or conclusions. At the least, a research paper should synthesize information. 

To better illustrate, consider this example of a research paper with a topic on the Black Death. Suppose that you thesis is this:

“While the Black Death claimed up to a third of Europe’s population and left the continue ruined, it also paved the way for the rise of the Renaissance Period by reconfiguring the dominant hierarchies and power structures.”

To support your thesis, you would need to present information from your sources. Your sources would likely include both primary and secondary sources. Remember, your paper should have original discussion, so you would need to present analysis of the information rather than just recite them.

Types of research paper

Because a research paper can be broadly defined, it can be further broken down to various types. Some of the more common types of research paper include:

  1. Argumentative: This type of research paper involves presenting a claim and then backing it with facts and reasoning.
  2. Compare and ContrastThis type of research paper discusses similarities (compares) and differences (contrasts) between two or more subjects.
  3. Cause and Effect: This type of research paper discusses how specific factors eventually lead to specific consequences.
  4. Definition: This type basically involves providing an extended definition of a given topic by synthesizing the various definitions available.

There are many other types of research papers and these vary depending on the area of study. For example, a paper for a health class asking you to discuss a cardiovascular disease can be a research paper. Meanwhile, a proposal for a business model as based on business concepts can also be research paper. These two have different requirements, but they both can be called research papers. Also, the complexity and length of a research paper depend on the instructions.

How to Write a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is a rigorous process but listed below are some tips to follow to make the writing project easier. 

  • Go beyond the research process.

The first step to a writing a successful research paper is, of course, the research part. It actually helps you in multiple ways, as it helps you understand your topic thoroughly. Research also helps you formulate more ideas for your paper, aids in the development your thesis statement, and helps you write about your topic with authority. To begin the research aspect, gather research materials and review each one of them. This part is paramount to your topic, as your data will serve as the foundation of your entire paper. To find good information sources, look into the following:

  • Google Scholar
  • Online encyclopedias, almanacs, and databases
  • Books and periodicals
  • Government publications, guides, and reports
  • Newspapers

It is also important to remember that as you read through and evaluate the information you uncover, take notes. Also keep track of your reference materials; citing them and building your bibliography is vital in the later process.

  • Organize your data before writing.

With luck, your research process will have spawned a ton of ideas. If that’s the case, then it’s time to begin the next important step to writing your research paper – organizing your presentation. Remember that this should be done before you begin writing, and should never be skipped. Without this aspect, your paper will lose its focus, and you’ll find yourself wasting precious amount of time in the revision process as you try to make sense of your tangled thoughts and ideas. To begin, identify your thesis statement and outline:

  • The thesis statement - It is paramount that you invest much time writing your thesis statement, as it will serve as the main idea of your paper. From here, everything else will follow. Without a well-written thesis statement, your paper will likely end up messy and without a clear purpose.
  • The outline - an outline is an important step, too, as it will help you organize your thoughts before you jump into the actual writing process. As soon as you’ve developed your thesis statement, ponder on the main points you wish to use to support that statement. Those main points will fall into your subheadings, and the rest of the information, or any idea you have, will fall under each subheading.


When is a research paper required?

A research paper is a common requirement. A student may encounter this project at any moment during the term (or semester). It may be assigned early in the term, in the middle, or before it ends. 

Term Paper

What is a term paper?

A term paper is class requirement that is usually submitted at the end or towards the end of a term (or semester). The main purpose of a term paper is to show the student’s overall achievement over the course of the term. In other words, parallel to a homework's rather real time yet piecemeal approach, the term paper is designed to test  if the student has acquired enough learning in the given course.

For example, a term paper may require you to choose one prompt from a list and then use a number of class readings for your sources. Another example of a term paper would be if the professor required you to write a specific number of short essays corresponding with specific topics covered in class.

Note that the term paper is also a general term, and the type of term paper you submit depends on the instructions. It can be an essay, a research paper, a journal, a reaction paper, a reflection paper, or even a specific project. 

How to Write a Term Paper

As with a research paper, writing a term paper can be difficult. It requires much time and effort, but we’ve gathered some tips to help you get started:

  • Choose your topic wisely.

You may or may not be assigned a topic, but if it would be a time where you need to choose on your own, it is important that you choose your topic wisely. Your topic should be just the perfect balance; too broad and you’ll lose focus, and a too specific topic will be difficult to research on.

  • Research widely, and ponder over materials as much as you can.

The research process must begin immediately after you have chosen your topic. As with writing a research paper, your research process should be dedicated to gathering enough information to help address your topic. As you gather data, evaluate your sources and make sure they are reliable and appropriate for academic writing. Take advantage of your library or use the internet to look for books, journals, and other articles that will prove to be useful.

  • Create an outline.

To help organize the information you’ve gathered, create an outline for your term paper. Writing your term paper will be challenging, yes, but with an outline, the rest of the writing process will be a breeze. It helps you keep track of what information to use and what to dismiss, which would then help you craft a good term paper.

  • Make sure you write a strong introduction.

Your introduction will be the make or break of your entire paper; it sets of direction of your paper, as it provides an overview of the subject you wish to address. Your thesis statement should also be a part of your introductory paragraph. 

  • Remember to use short and precise paragraphs.

The body paragraph will be the “meat” of your paper. Here is where you lay down each of your arguments, along with the data to support them. However, it is integral that your thought process remains clear and your paragraphs flow perfectly to the next. Make sure to use precise and short sentences as you write. 

When is a term paper required?

Students are often asked to submit a term paper towards the end of the term, since the goal is to show the students’ progress over the course of term. However, there are also times when a term paper is assigned more than once and in the middle of the term. For instance, a single course may have two or three term papers which are assigned at regular intervals. Overall, a term paper is a requirement that serves as a milestone to mark your progress.

Research Paper vs. Term Paper

So when is a research paper a term paper?

If the research paper serves as the final or one of the final requirements and is intended to show overall achievement in a given term or part of a term.

But when is a research paper not a term paper?

If the research paper serves as a regular requirement, such as a research paper for a class topic, or for the week, or for the month.

When is a term paper a research paper?

If the term paper’s instructions spell out that the requirement is a research paper.

When is a term paper not a research paper?

If the term paper is a different type of project, such as a journal, a personal reflection essay, or a special project (such as a script for a creative writing course or a manifesto for a rhetoric course).

Term paper and research paper service for students

In the end, a research paper is a type of a written project that involves research of the topic. On the other hand, a term paper is type of class requirement that usually serves as a final requirement that shows overall progress for the term. While they have different definitions, they are often used interchangeably, and this is acceptable considering how they are often used in the same context. That said, it’s nice for a student to know the difference. Now, if you are confused over the type and purpose of your assignment, you may ask your professor for more clarification. Additionally, you may ask the experts here at CustomEssayMeister, the writing help service that offers the luxury of custom term papers, specially crafted for your unique specifications. Our expert term paper writers possess the know-how necessary to complete any written project you need. Our writing services are not confined to only custom research papers and custom term papers, but also to all types of essay writing tasks, and for that matter, any academic writing requirement. Enlist our assistance now and feel the difference!