Term Papers Vs Research Papers: What are the Differences?

As much as the writing process aims at producing quality content, writers need to understand the different types of papers they usually handle. In the academic realm, students come across writing assignments for essays, dissertations, research papers, and term papers. Most of them tend to confuse term papers for research papers. Discussed below are the ways in which the two papers differ from each other.

What is a Term Paper?

A term paper is an academic paper that tests the acquired essential knowledge and skills of a student in a particular subject. Students usually get it as an end-of-term assignment that accounts towards their final grade in a subject. Though the length of a term paper may vary, it can range from three thousand to five thousand words.

College tutors can assign term papers on a current or popular topic that requires a student’s comprehension of the subject and personal point of view. In this case, the writer needs to establish arguments backed with evidence of facts that support his or her point of view. The college tutor or student can choose the topic of the term paper.

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper has a central statement highlighting what the research seeks to discuss, support or defend. The writer should structure the central statement in form of a claim that needs a strong defense or a question that needs a valid answer. The statement shouldn’t be more than one sentence in length. It is the mandate of the writer to form it with clarity.

Research papers aim at answering theoretical questions in an academic study. The student has the mandate to translate a set of data into noteworthy information in the paper. The length of the research paper can depend on the topic and the paper’s intended purpose.

Can a Term Paper be a Research Paper?

A term paper can take the form of a research paper in which a student/writer chooses a topic. The term paper will involve more extensive academic research on the chosen topic. The writer needs to choose a feasible topic that challenges and/or interests him or her. Sufficient references should be available for the particular topic.

Both research and term papers require research and reference materials to guide the writing process. They give the writer a chance to communicate his or her knowledge and to broadly understand a specific topic. They also help a writer understand the methodologies that are prevalent in research, referencing and note-taking. Success in writing the papers lies in one’s ability to acknowledge and incorporate previously gathered knowledge.


A term paper and a research paper can have similar features. However, the two papers differ in terms of their purpose and subject. Some term papers can qualify as research papers if they involve thorough academic research in a subject chosen by a student. Creating a good outline is essential in the writing process of both research and term papers. The writer needs to create arguments and back them up with facts or evidence.