Difference Between Research Paper and Essay

The two most common assignments in both school and college are writing an essay and a research paper, at some point. But over the years students and writers, in general, have struggled to differentiate one from another, creating confusion and even fear of the matter. The essay vs research paper encounter can be easily explained and solved in the following article, in which readers can find very detailed and straight-to-the-point information about each writing type and why they differ from each other.
Furthermore, a comparison table can be found at the end with 10 key differences between a research paper and an essay to easily understand when to use each as well as the structure needed thus there are several types of essays and research papers that share some foundations but have a determined shape that must be followed.
Below you can find useful information and tips about research papers and articles and how to write an award-winning piece.

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What Is An Essay?

The most common assignment in school and college is to write an essay, but what is it really? An essay is a form of writing that allows students to demonstrate their comprehension, cohesion, and critical thinking skills about a certain topic. Usually, at school levels, the requirements for an essay suggest writing a five-paragraph piece that contains an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. College essays are more extensive but have the same structure, although more details and academic performance are required.

There are various types of essays:

  • Narrative essay writing. This type focuses on the plot and allows students to use different writing resources such as flashbacks, flash forward, and other creative additions that add depth to the story.
  • Descriptive essay. As the name states, this form of essay focuses on the details of a story, enhancing information to satisfy readers’ emotions and intellectual senses. Writers can use metaphors, connotative language, and other writing tools.
  • Comparison essay. This kind of writing article has two or more central points that are broken down and compared through the extension of the piece. Another variant of this essay is a cause-and-effect topic in which students can analyze the consequences of certain actions or the possibilities of something happening.
  • Academic essay. Perhaps the most known form of an essay is the academic essay, in which students are challenged to show their competitive writing and analyzing skills, along with exceptional use of grammar and proper literature review. Academic essays require scholars to include the right bibliography in the appropriate format (APA, MLA, Harvard, etc.) and are typically asked to be between 3,000 and 5,000 words.
  • Argumentative essay. Argumentative essays require students to argue for a certain position and explain why they support it, providing evidence and relevant information that can convince readers they have proper reasons to back up that cause.
  • Philosophical essay. This last form of essay writing implies students write about a point and use rational arguments to back up their thoughts and opinion.

Although there are different types of essays, all have the same basic structure, which students can later improve and add their own touch to stand out from the rest. For those who are starting with this kind of writing scheme and need some guidance, here’s a useful template students can customize to fit their topic or arguments and deliver an award-winning essay.

  • Introduction of an essay: Introduce the topic of your essay and why it is relevant to be talked about. Writers can include personal reasons behind the subject chosen as well as the methodology used and a sneak preview of what the article will provide readers.
  • The main body of an essay: The most common form of an essay consists of 5 paragraphs, 1 for the introduction, 1 for the conclusion, and 3 for the main body. 
  1. First paragraph: This part follows the end of the introduction, therefore, it is important to write smoothly to start talking about the first point of the essay. Here, students can include background information and relevant issues that will be later talked about in-depth during the article.
  2. Second paragraph: After introducing relevant points, this second paragraph serves as a backup space in which students should provide clear and official evidence to support their sayings.
  3. Third paragraph: This last part is typically used to address counter-claims and arguments relevant to the topic chosen, in which students are required to mention and properly dismiss or explain accordingly, using evidence.
  4. Conclusion: A summary of the paper, highlighting key points or arguments and is commonly finished by encouraging readers to continue acquiring knowledge on the topic by providing a suggested reading list.

Essays are not as hard to write as many people might think, they do require some “non-negotiable” structure, just as the one mentioned above, as well as proper information and evidence. Spending some time drafting an essay will ensure a great outcome and will make a student’s task easier.

Plus, if you need help, you can always turn to a professional writing service and pay to write a research paper.

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What Is A Research Paper?

A common confusion among the writing assignments proposed in school and college is mistaking an essay for a research paper, and although they are similar, they play different roles in presenting information and the situations when they are required. The difference between an essay and a research paper revolves around the approaches used as well as adhering to the requirements provided, such as length, format, and citing.
A good research paper definition provided by Sierra College states that “a research paper is an essay in which you explain what you have learned after exploring your
topic in-depth”. The difference between a research paper and essay pieces has been addressed, but what is a research paper in essence? Research papers are required to assess a student's analytical skills, in which a wide selection of information must be displayed to show the writer’s competence on the topic chosen. Data, graphics, facts, statistics, and other verified forms of information are used to back up the sayings exposed in the paper.
Writers required to write a research paper must adhere to a certain structure, which is very similar to an essay’s but differs in some points. Here’s a useful template that can be modified and filled out to comply with a professor’s requirements.
  • Page title of research paper: Another difference between an essay and a research paper is this first part of the piece, in which students are required to dedicate a page to address the title chosen for the paper, as well as write their contact details (usually their full name, email address and class they attend).
  • Abstract: An abstract works as a summary of the paper, highlighting key points and relevant information explained in the piece.
  • Introduction for research paper: Introduce the topic and why it is relevant to be talked about. This part should be very entertaining and attention-grabber for readers.
  • Background: After the introduction, the writer should include proper background information or the literary review readers can use to know the topic better before diving into the complex details of the research. This part also serves as proof of a student’s knowledge and awareness of the chosen subject.
  • Body: The body of a research paper can be divided into as many paragraphs as needed, with the length requirements properly in mind (meaning that if a professor asked for a 5-page research paper, students can decide how to structure their piece accordingly). A good thing to consider is writing a different paragraph for every new point or perspective added, such as materials used, discussion, results, etc.
  • Conclusion: A summary of the research paper, concluding with the results obtained, as well as a literature recommendation for readers to keep investigating the topic explained.
  • Acknowledgments: Most research papers have this part to thank people for their support and contribution to the piece written.
  • References: In this part, all of the information used should be properly mentioned according to the format required (MLA, Harvard, APA, etc). Most professors will ask this list to be in alphabetical order and others in order of appearance, so students should consult with their tutors to avoid any misunderstandings. Also, our writers can help you with mla style college papers for sale.
The difference between essays and research papers is centered on the approach and situation used. For example, suppose a very detailed investigation of a topic is necessary, with specific data and facts required. In that case, a research paper is the best type of writing form that can be used, whereas if a political opinion must be addressed and explained to others, perhaps an argumentative essay will be best to use.
Furthermore, an essay and research paper are two main forms of writing which can be subdivided into many categories with different approaches.

Essay VS Research Paper: 10 Points of Difference

Students wondering what is the difference between an essay and a research paper will find this part very useful. The essay vs research paper confusion can be easily addressed in the following table, in which 10 key points of difference are explained to put an end to the ancient struggle between the two forms of writing.


Research Paper

1. An essay is shorter than a research paper, usually 5 paragraphs.

1. A research paper is commonly required to reach at least 8 pages, depending on the assignment.

2. Essays showcase a student’s opinion and points of view, which can be backed up by several sources.

2. Research articles present other people’s stand on a topic, generally a scientist’s or recognized organization.


3. In-depth research is not generally required for this writing service.

3. Like the name states, an analytical research paper requires a wide understanding and investigation of a certain topic.

4. Essay’s main point is to prove a student’s writing skills and capabilities.


4. Research papers focus on a deep analysis of a matter.

5. Depending on the type of essay, students might need or not be familiar with the topic chosen.

5. Students writing a research paper will always need a level of understanding of the topic and sources chosen.


6. Essays can expose a writer’s opinion if wanted.

6. Writers should abstain from personal opinions and stay in line with facts only.

7. Students can play around with the structure and perception of the paper in some cases.

7. There’s a non-negotiable structure that must be followed and closed with a proper conclusion.

8. There are different types of essays: narrative, descriptive, comparison, academic, philosophical, argumentative, etc.

8. Types of research papers: cause and effect, analytical, subject-based, etc.

9. Typically, essays have 5 parts: An introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

9. Has a bigger structure, including a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, acknowledgments, and references.

10. Essays are not tied to a specific methodology required for their writing.

10. Research papers do require a specific methodology carried out throughout the paper.

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What Is The Difference Between Research Paper And Different Types Of Papers

There are several types of writing papers that focus on different approaches as well as follow a certain structure. All share the same foundations but differ in the way they expose information and evidence.
  • Analytical research paper. Used for in-depth analysis of a matter, typically exposing various points of view but equally and by presenting facts and rightful evidence.
  • Argumentative research paper. Requires an argument and proper investigation of a subject, as well as a lot of time to compose.
  • Informative research paper. Used to provide the reader’s information about a determined matter in a generalized way and delivered in a shorter length compared to the typical research paper.
  • Persuasive research paper. As the name states, the main goal of this paper is to persuade the reader to think like the writer, who, through this writing method, can show their incredible writing skills and abilities.

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To properly deliver an academic-worthy paper writing service, it is essential to determine the type of research paper and the best approach to start writing it. It is recommended that writers create a brief outline of what the paper should be about or the topics that must not be forgotten to have some structure before beginning the research and writing process. Additionally, we can do a research paper for you can and provide assistance in the form of finding sources and editing the paper to ensure that it meets the highest standards.

Generally, both types of assignments require different skills and complexity of research. Essays are shorter and aim to present the writer’s opinion with supporting arguments. Research papers are more complex and require a deep study of the matter and presentation of other scientists’ opinions as well as the writer’s conclusion. If you have any struggles with your college assignments, you can buy custom written essays and ask our writing service to help. We work with any type of paper on any subject and provide excellent quality right on time.

Essay VS Research Paper Infographic

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