Home » Research Paper vs. Essay – Understand The Difference.

Research Paper vs. Essay – Understand The Difference.

Research Paper vs. Essay difference.

At some point, every student has to write either a research paper or an essay because these are the most common types of academic assignments. Over the years, it has become usual for writers and students to struggle in differentiating between the two types of writing. This article solves the encounter of research paper vs. essay by giving detailed and precise information on each type of writing and the differences between the two.

The article further compares 10 major differences between essay and research paper writing. The goal is to settle the essay vs. research paper confusion by explaining when to use each writing style and the structure to follow. There is also a further clarification of the different research papers and essays to help scholars understand the various structures.

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Exelent tips On How to Write an Essay

            Essay writing is the most common type o assignment in college and school. It is a form of scholarly writing that lets students demonstrate their critical thinking, cohesion, and comprehension of a certain academic topic. The usual requirement for a good essay at school levels is writing five paragraphs, including an introduction, the essay body, and a conclusion. As scholars graduate to college, the essays become a little more extensive but retain a similar structure. College essays require more academic performance and details.

The Different Types of Essays

            There are six different types of essays that a student needs to know about:

Academic Essay

This is, perhaps, the most known type of essay. In an academic essay, the scholar is expected to show their analyzing skills combined with their competitive writing skills. This type of essay challenges students’ intellectual ability and capability to organize and structure their thoughts. Scholars are also expected to use grammar exceptionally and the relevant literature review.

For academic essays, all substantial facts require supporting citations for references in evaluating the topic arguments. Scholars should provide the correct bibliography using the appropriate writing format, such as APA, Harvard, MLA, or any other, as specified in the instructions. The typical academic essay ranges from about 3,000 to 5,000 words.

Narrative Essay

            This is a type of essay whose main focus is the plot. It gives students the freedom to use writing resources like flash-forwards, flashbacks, and other different creative additions, such as transitions, to add depth and flavour to the story and help build the climax.

Descriptive Essay

            From the name, this type of essay gives the main focus to the details in a story. The goal is to enhance the information to satisfy a reader’s intellectual and emotional sense. The writer can use writing tools such as connotative language, figurative language, denotative language, similes, and metaphors to achieve the goal of a strong impact on the reader.

Comparison Essay

            In this type of essay, two or more focus points are usually compared by breaking them down into different aspects throughout the essay. A different type of comparison essay is a topic on cause and effect in which the students evaluate the consequences of certain courses of action or probabilities of an occurrence.

Argumentative Essay

            As the name suggests, the requirement is that students argue for a specific position and give useful facts to explain their support. The argument should be accompanied by relevant information and evidence to convince the readers of the reasons to support the cause.

Philosophical Essay

            This essay involves writing about a particular point and using rational arguments to support opinions and thoughts.

The Structure of an Essay

            While there are various types of essays, they all share a similar basic structure. It is upon the student to modify, improve on and add personal touches to help their work stand out. The following is the customizable template students can use for their different essay arguments and topics.


            This section contains the topic and its relevance; the writer introduces the essay’s main idea and why it is important to be addressed. It may also contain personal reasons for the choice of the topic, the methodology used, and a preview of the essay’s contents.


            This is the main part of the essay where the writer expounds on the topic. It is structured in paragraphs, each with a different point.


            This is a summary of the essay that highlights the main arguments or points discussed in the paper. The most common ending of a conclusion usually encourages readers to continue exploring the topic to acquire more knowledge.

How to Write a Research Paper

            A common mistake among scholars in colleges and schools while writing assignments is confusing a research paper for an essay. While the two are similar in various ways, they have different roles in information presentation. The difference between the two revolves around the varied approaches used and adherence to their specific requirements, such as the format, citations, and length.

            The working definition of a research paper, according to Sierra College, is “a research paper essay in which you explain what you have learned after exploring your topic in-depth.” In essence, research papers are used to assess a learner’s analytical capabilities. The writer must use a vast amount of information to show their competence on the topic of discussion. This type of writing requires using facts, data, statistics, graphs, and other verifiable information to back up the arguments in the paper.

            The structure of a research paper is specific and somehow similar to that of an essay, with a few notable differences. The following is the customizable template that students can use for their different research papers. A student can modify it accordingly to suit the specific professor’s requirements.

Title Page

This is one of the differences between the structure of a research paper and an essay. A research paper has the first page dedicated to information on the paper’s title and the scholar’s details, such as full name, class, and professor’s name.

It is important to note that some writing formats, such as MLA, do not have a separate title page. The scholar should adhere to the specified format.


            This is a comprehensive summary of the paper. It highlights the main points in the paper and gives relevant information on the methodology used in the research. It also summarizes the results and conclusions made. This section should be so well-written that readers can understand the research without reading the rest of the paper.


            Like in the essay, this section gives an attention-grabbing introduction to the topic of discussion and its relevance.


            This is an important part of a research paper that gives readers well-researched background information on the topic in a literature review format. It is a prerequisite to the complex research details. It shows the student’s level of awareness and knowledge on the topic of choice.


            A research paper can have as many paragraphs as needed. The length is usually dictated by the requirements given by the professor in terms of the number of pages. Every new perspective or point should have its paragraph.


            This section summarizes the research paper with details on the results, findings, and literature recommendations for further reading on the topic.


            While this section may not appear in every research paper, it is essential for scholars who wish to thank those who contributed to and supported them in writing their research papers.


            The scholar should properly mention all sources used in writing the research paper according to the required format, such as APA, Harvard, or MLA. Some professors specify that the list of sources we are in either order of appearance or alphabetical order.

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10 Differences Between a Research Paper Vs Essay

            With the understanding of both forms of writing, it is now easier to settle the research paper vs. essay confusion. Here are 10 major points that explain the differences between a research paper and an essay:

EssayResearch paper
1An essay usually has about 5 paragraphs.A research paper generally has about 5 to 8 paragraphs, depending on the complexity of the topic and the instructions given.
2An essay is a representation of the scholar’s point of view or opinion that is supported by relevant sources.A research paper contains other people’s verified or published stands on a topic; it could be a recognized organization, scientist, or scholar.
3Essay writing, in general, does not require in-depth research on a topic.A research paper requires an exhaustive analytical investigation and understanding of a specific topic.
4The main goal of an essay is to prove a student’s comprehensive capabilities and writing skills through how they express themselves.The focus of a research paper is a deep analysis of an important matter.
5For an essay, some topics do not require a student to be familiar with the chosen topic.Research writing always requires a student to have a certain level of understanding and familiarity with the topic and the relevant sources of information.
6Essays allow for the exposure of the writer’s opinion on the topic of discussion.A research paper requires a writer to stay with facts and refrain from personal opinions.
7Some essays offer students the flexibility to modify the perception and structure of the paper.The structure of a research paper is rigid and non-negotiable. It always has to be followed to the latter and closed with an appropriate conclusion.
8The types of essays include descriptive, argumentative, narrative, philosophical, comparison, and descriptive essays.Research papers can be analytical, cause and effect, or subject-based. They are the same,
9A typical essay’s structure has 5 parts; the introduction, 3 paragraphs for the body, and a summary or conclusion.A research paper has a bigger structure: a title page, an abstract, a paper introduction, a body, a summary or conclusion, acknowledgments, and a list of references.
10Essays do not require a methodology.Research papers require a specific methodology to be followed throughout the writing.  
Research paper Vs essay


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