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Term Paper vs Research Paper | Research Writing and College Life

What’s the big deal? Term paper, research paper, a paper is a paper right? Absolutely Wrong…and your professor’s know the difference so you should too! A term paper is very different from a research paper and needs to be approached with a broad goal in mind. On the other hand, a research paper is a narrow endeavor that requires a focused approached. A definition of each will help elucidate the differences clearly.
Beginning with term paper – A term paper is exactly what the name states, a paper on a topic that you have studied over the “term” or the length of the semester. In a term paper, you will be writing about something that you have discussed at length in the class and is important to the overall course. The term paper must include as many concepts and ideas learned during the length of the course as possible. The goal of a term paper is to show the professor that you have a good, overall understanding of the ideas, concepts and topics discussed during the length of the course.
Now for a Research Paper – A research paper may or may not be on a topic you have covered during the semester. The goal of a research paper is to learn more than what you have discussed or read in your coursework and do an in-depth analysis of a topic. Research papers show your professor what you are capable of adding to a topic beyond what he has taught you. You will use outside source material, draw insightful conclusions and illustrate a thorough understanding of one very narrowly defined issue or topic. The goal of a research paper is to show your professor you are an expert on a specific topic you learned about in class or a topic that is related to the coursework.
In summary, term papers are broad, all-encompassing papers on many issues covered during the “term” or the length of the course or semester. Term papers “brag” to the professor on how well you can integrate the many points of knowledge learned over the course and illustrate that you have a very good grasp of how the course work flows together. Research papers are meant to show your professor that you are an expert in one specific topic or concept discussed during the semester. They are narrow and contain original information from outside sources and material that goes beyond the scope of your course work.

Karen Sonnenberg

Karen Sonnenberg

Writer, editor and research paper guru. Also a really wonderful person that is available at any time to assist with research paper questions. Connect with me on Google+

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