Even having written a considerable amount of academic works, some students still don’t get the difference between a term paper and an essay. You get the requirements and you write the paper, but do you often think of the purpose? Let’s get deeper into the definitions and differences between these two most common types of tasks.
Term Paper in a Nutshell
A term paper or a research paper is a type of task used to assess students’ research and analysis skills. The students have to conduct deep research on the subject and present facts, arguments, and evidence in the right format.
The paper is usually at least 8 pages long, and has the following structure:
- Title page.
This is a summary of your work where you let the audience know the main points of the paper.
This includes your thesis and introductory sentences that will make the readers take interest in your work.
- Literature review.
This part explains how you wrote the work, showing that you’ve conducted considerable research and are fluent in the specifics of the subject.
- Main body.
This includes the actual arguments/facts, supporting and/or refuting evidence, results, etc.
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As to the types, a term paper can be:
In an analytical research paper, the students have to analyze and criticize different points of view on a particular subject. They have to research various contradictory sources that give different opinions. There’s no need in arguing that one of the points is the only correct one.
In an argumentative research paper, there is a need to persuade the readers that there’s one correct point of view and it’s the one that the writer stands by. The research is aimed at looking for supporting and refuting evidence of the arguments presented.
Essay in a Nutshell
An essay is a short piece of writing that allows assessing a student’s writing, explanation, and research skills. The main purpose of an essay is to engage the audience in reading the work, which then achieves different goals. The goals depend on the type of the essay:
The author’s telling a story, usually about their life.
Much like the narrative type, this one shows (not tells) a story through a description.
This is an informative task that requires analytical skills. The author can show a contrast, comparison, cause and effect, etc.
The author adopts a point of view on a subject and proves it correct, persuading the audience.
Essays are usually about 5 paragraphs long, but it depends on the topic, difficulty, and type. The basic structure of an essay includes:
- Main body:
The transition between the intro and the main description, support, or refutation. Describes the topic with background info and explains the connection to relevant subject problems.
The supporting evidence of your point of view or further description of the story.
The evidence refuting the counter-arguments or the lessons learned from the story.
Your understanding of the differences between these main types of academic writing tasks will make completing them easier. The difference isn’t only in the structure and length of the papers, but in their purpose as well. Pay attention to that the next time you get an assignment.