Difference Between Essay and Research Paper

Essay vs Research Paper

There are various styles of writing a piece, and when you are in college, your professor tests your understanding by throwing challenges at you. Two styles of writing that confuse students the most are essays and research papers. At the college level, it is common for students to get assignments, and knowing what is expected of you, is a good idea to avoid being reprimanded or ridiculed. This article attempts to highlight the differences between research paper and essays.

Research Paper

Research paper, as the name implies, is a writing style that reflects the analytical skills of a student. To write a research paper on a given topic in a subject, a student has to read a lot, and make himself aware of the works of great authors and experts to be able to cite them at different places in his piece. This takes a lot of effort, but these days, internet has emerged as a great source of information for students. Libraries in colleges containing journals can also be a good source of information for students to have a sound knowledge base.

A student has to provide deep level of information by presenting all facts and figures citing the works of experts and authorities on the subject. This is done by incorporating one’s own thinking and ideas into the paper supporting them by facts from earlier research papers. It is not possible for a student to write a research paper without having a deep understanding of the subject. He not only has to present the already available knowledge base but also critically analyze it, presenting his own insight and ideas into the subject. After all, a research paper is one platform that allows a student to be critical and judgmental, in addition to presenting his own perspective to the readers.


Essay is a style of writing that is taught to students quite early in classrooms. There is a standard essay writing format consisting of 5 paragraphs, of which the first one is called introduction. The main parts of an essay are the body and its conclusion.

There are many different styles of essay writing with some being comparative while others reflecting a cause and effect writing style. There are both descriptive as well as persuasive essays. While descriptive ones are lengthy, persuasive essays try to convince the readers about a topic by presenting the point of view of the writer and supporting it with evidence and facts. Essays are usually written in the third person and students are discouraged writing essays in first person.

Essay vs Research Paper

• Essay is a short piece of writing where a writer has to provide his views on a topic

• Research paper is a lengthy piece of writing where deeper level of knowledge is required, and the student has to support his viewpoint citing the works of earlier experts

• Research requires getting information and collecting facts and figures from various sources to be able to cite them in support of your view point

  • Paige Vandergriff

    Take note of the following error in the second paragraph under the Essay heading:
    Essays are usually written in THIRD person (it, he, she, they, one…), not SECOND (you) person; second person, in fact, is discouraged in academic essays as much as, if not more than first person (I).