Essay versus Research paper

Essay versus Research paper

Essays and research papers may be confused as they might appear similar to some people. However, they have very many differences which one should consider so as not to end up writing an essay instead of a research paper or vice versa.

Essays are short, usually five paragraphs or more but not very long, as compared to research papers which can be over eight pages long.

An essay doesn’t really require clear understanding of the topic but the research paper does. The phrase ‘essay versus research paper’ does not only outline the differences but also the similarities of the two.



There exists several types of essays. For example: argumentative essays, analytical essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, compare and contrast essay and many more.

These essay are part of the assessment for particular courses just as research papers are. They require critical thinking when writing as the writer has to think critically on the topic so as to come up with a good essay.

Critical thinking in this case helps the writer to analyze the information on the topic.

In most cases, these essays require the writer’s point of view unlike the research papers where the focus is mainly on the research carried out.


Research paper

The research paper is extensively researched and requires more time to write as compared to the essay.

It is more detailed and therefore long, about eight pages or more. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the topic. In the research paper, the focus is usually on other people’s point of view as opposed to the essay where the writer focuses on their point of view.

This is mainly because the information passed in a research paper is a product of the research conducted by the writer and therefore not really original.

For example, writer can incorporate information like statistical data and analyses in the research paper where he/she can use critical thinking skills to interpret the data.

After successfully researching on the topic, the writer has to compile all the information in the research paper and present his/her point of view in the conclusion.

Essay versus research paper: comparison

The two forms of writing have a lot of similarities which we cannot ignore.

These similarities may end up confusing people who may end up writing an essay instead of a research paper or vice versa. These similarities are:

  • Both require critical thinking skills

The writer has to apply critical thinking in the two forms even though the research paper requires more application of critical thinking.

This is due to the depth of the research undertaken. The application of these skills is necessary in analyzing the information available and coming up with a good conclusion.

  • Both contain the introduction, body and conclusion

The structure of the two is quite similar even though the body of a research paper is quite long as compared to that of the essay.

  • The writer has to give their point of view in the conclusion

In the essay, the writer gives his/her point of view based on the opinions passed in the body of the essay.

Therefore, the conclusion is mainly based on the opinions of the writer. In the research paper, the writer gives their point of view based on the researched information.


Essay versus research paper: differences

Despite the two having similarities, there are many differences which one can use to differentiate them. These differences are:

  • The length

The essay paper is short, usually five paragraphs, as compared to the research paper which is usually not less than eight pages long.

  • Views expressed

The views addressed in an essay are usually the opinions of the writer while in a research paper, the writer expresses the views of others based on the information researched while still incorporating their opinions.

  • Amount of research required

Research paper as the name suggests have to be a product of a research. The writer therefore has to apply critical thinking skills to analyze the findings of the research. Little or no research is required for the essay. One con come up with an essay without undertaking any research.

  • Time taken writing

A research paper usually consumes a lot of time before finally concluding, can even take months.

This is due to the extensive research required. On the other hand, an essays due to their short nature and little or no research is required, they take little time. It can even take an hour to come up with an essay.