What Is the Difference Between a Term Paper and an Essay?

What Is the Difference Between a Term Paper and an Essay?

Are you a complete rookie in the academic writing realm? What is the difference between a term paper and an essay? Would you like to find out? Then make some time for a detailed discovery and stick with us. 

We understand that academic papers are confusing, and you might have some issues at the stage of defining the distinguishing features of each paper type. But you’ve got to worry no more as we’ll lay down the difference between the research paper and essay in simple words.

Why Is It Vital to Know the Difference Between Essay and Research Paper?

It might look obvious, and you do not question yourself much about the reasons you would like to discover this subject matter. But there are many benefits for understanding what unites several academic papers and sets them apart. So, here is the good side of knowing more about a term paper and essay:

  • increase awareness and general knowledge;
  • know what exactly the teacher wants you to deliver;
  • write faster and more effectively;
  • maintain your performance.

Understanding the Nitty-Gritty

We can’t figure out the difference between an article and an essay or term paper without grasping their core concepts. So, let’s see what these papers mean.


An essay stands for a short written piece that describes the author’s viewpoint on a given subject. Of course, the definition is vague as there are different essay types, but in general terms, it is characterized by a condensed form and the delivery of your point of view without providing much information from external sources. Of course, the essay can rely on published materials or other sources, but it should focus on the writer’s ideas and interpretation.

An essay is frequently around 500-1000 words long, so it doesn’t require much effort from the student’s side. 

Term Paper

A term paper is an academic assignment that relies on the deep research of the trusted sources and interpretation of the findings by a student within one term. This is a time-consuming task and can take several months for a student to complete.

It involves synthesizing information from different sources on a given topic and then interpreting them from the student’s perspective. Thus, it introduces new ideas or insights on the subject matter from a scientific viewpoint in around 5000 words.

What’s the Gap Between a Term Paper and Essay?

You already have some basic comprehension about the essay vs paper, but let us clear things up for you so that not a single hesitation is left.


The goal of an essay is to give a space for discussing the topic and sharing the student’s ideas. It also assesses the student’s understanding of a narrow topic or writing skills.

A term paper enables the learner to get a close look at the topic of interest and learn it in more detail through thorough research of sources.


Even though there are different types of essays and some of them are obliged to have references to other reputable sources, most of them rely on the student’s vision, experience, ideas, feelings, or emotions. 

A research paper, in its turn, has no place for sentiments, and it is written based on extensive research that enables a young scholar to interpret the findings and sum them up.

Depth of Understanding

When it comes to the extent of understanding of the subject matter, the essay allows the student to have some background knowledge to talk about it. You don’t have to go deep and study the topic from different angles. Basic facts are enough to create a stunning essay filled with your own ideas and attitudes.

However, that won’t work for a term paper. The purpose of this paper is to stimulate a thorough examination of the topic from various angles and sources. Thus, you really immerse yourself into the subject and get to know it really well.


There are differences in the topics the student is given for a term paper and essay. Since an essay is short, it usually has a very narrow aspect for the discussion. 

A term paper has more words, so you are free to study multiple topics united under a core theme. It means that the topic range is wider when you are writing a term paper.


An essay usually comprises three parts: an intro, body, and the final part. It’s written on a single or several pieces of paper without chapters, sections, or additional headings.

A term paper has a more complicated outline. It starts with a title page followed by an abstract with the basic information on the project. Then you should add an introduction, which explains why the topic is important and contains a statement. The body of the term paper has several chapters that reveal the subject from different perspectives. Finally, there is a conclusion that sums everything up. A reference list is a mandatory part of the term paper, while the appendix is optional. It contains images, tables, charts, or other materials that might distract the reader’s attention.