Difference of term paper and research paper

Term paper and research paper are two common assignments given to students during their academic journey.

Although both may sound similar, there are distinct differences between the two in terms of purpose, scope, and formatting.

Understanding these differences is crucial in order to excel in both assignments.


The main purpose of a term paper is to demonstrate the student’s understanding and knowledge of a particular subject or topic.

It is usually assigned at the end of a semester, and its purpose is to summarize the entire course material.

A term paper may require the student to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information from different sources, such as textbooks, lectures, and articles.

The goal is to showcase the student’s grasp of the subject matter and their ability to present their thoughts and arguments in a structured and cohesive manner.

On the other hand, a research paper’s main purpose is to investigate a specific research question or problem and provide new insights or findings on the topic.

It is a more in-depth and focused assignment, where the student is required to conduct extensive research and make a unique contribution to the existing body of knowledge.

This could involve conducting experiments, surveys, or analyzing existing data.

The objective of a research paper is not only to demonstrate the student’s understanding of the topic but also to contribute to the field or subject.


Another significant difference between a term paper and a research paper is the scope.

A term paper tends to have a broader scope, covering the entire course material.

It may also involve discussing multiple perspectives or viewpoints on a particular topic.

On the other hand, a research paper focuses on a narrower scope, with a specific research question or problem to be addressed.

It requires the student to delve deep into a specific aspect of the subject and provide in-depth analysis and original findings.

Format and structure:

The format and structure of a term paper and a research paper are also distinct from each other.

A term paper is typically structured like a traditional essay, with an introduction, main body, and conclusion.

It may also include subheadings for different sections and a reference page.

The focus is on summarizing and synthesizing the information from various sources, and the student’s opinion or analysis is also included.

In contrast, a research paper follows a more structured and standardized format, commonly known as the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion).

It also includes an abstract, literature review, and methodology. The emphasis is on providing original research findings, and a strong emphasis is placed on evidence-based arguments.

Proper citation and referencing are crucial in a research paper, as it showcases the student’s ability to conduct research and present information accurately.

Length and deadline:

In terms of length, a term paper is usually shorter, ranging from 5-15 pages, depending on the level and subject.

A research paper, on the other hand, tends to be longer, ranging from 10-30 pages or more, as it requires more extensive research and analysis.

The deadlines for both assignments also differ, with term papers usually due at the end of a semester, while research papers may have a longer deadline, spanning over several weeks or months.

In conclusion, while both term papers and research papers may seem similar, they serve different purposes and require distinct approaches and skill sets.

A term paper tests the student’s understanding of the course material, while a research paper aims to contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Understanding these differences is crucial for students to excel in both assignments and succeed in their academic journey.

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