Essay vs Research Paper – Main Differences

Perhaps the biggest difference in the essay vs research paper conversation is that a research paper is a little less flexible. You can write essays in a wide variety of ways, from argumentative essays to narrative essays, whereas research papers have far fewer types. Is it a case of research paper vs essay? Not really, but there are going to come times when you have to ask yourself if you are going to write an essay or a research paper. Though in most cases, your professor will tell you which to write, which takes the guesswork out of college coursework (or at the least, it takes the guesswork out of figuring which type to write).

essay vs research paper comparative infographic
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Source: engr.uky.edu

Research Paper vs Essay

The fundamental difference that affects the essay vs research paper argument is the purpose of the documents themselves. Most consider research papers a way to research and build knowledge on a certain topics. Whereas an essay can help build writing skills, arguing skills, critical thinking skills, and so forth.

Which is Better?

The essay vs research paper is a trap. It gets people thinking that one thing is better than another. To put it simply, one cannot be better than the other. They both have their uses. That is like saying that a car is better than a train. They are used for different things in different ways, but saying one is better than the other is a waste of time. The research paper vs essay argument isn’t a contest that can be won.

Comparing Information

A research paper is an essay. It focuses mostly on comparing information, often from different sources, and then perhaps comes up with conclusions or makes points that offer value to the reader. An essay can do all these things, but an essay may lean more heavily on conclusions or analysis. An essay needs a little more attention to logical and coherent layout and thought. An essay may also have to work a little harder to retain the readers’ attention, but this differs depending on the topic and the type of essay being written.

The Papers and Essays Make a Point

There is some degree of data and information collection that goes on when you write a research paper, but if you were just to collect information and curate it, then it isn’t a very useful research paper. It has its use, especially if other people need the information curated, but it doesn’t make for a very good research paper unless it cobbles together the information to at least make a point. Essays also have to make a point. The difference with an essay is that the point may be made in a wide variety of ways, and the essay may have a great many points that don’t have a direct connection.

Factors That Each Contains

One could write a whole book on the essay vs research paper just like one could write a whole book on the benefits of microwaves over traditional cookers. Still, to save a little time, here are a few facts for the research paper vs essay.

  • Essays allow you to get your point across.
  • Research papers allow you to gather other people’s ideas and add your own.
  • Essays are shorter where some even only have five paragraphs
  • People expect more research papers to be at least eight pages
  • Need to gather very full knowledge to complete the research paper
  • Can learn all about your essay’s topic as you go

These are just some ways that essays and research papers differ. However, you have probably already noticed that many factors between research papers and essays are very similar. Even in the research paper vs argumentative essay argument and the argumentative essay vs research paper argument, the similarities between an essay and a research paper are wide, broad, and pretty frequent. Still, your professor will expect one or the other, so learn the difference between each.