The Difference Between a Research Paper and a Term Paper

A term paper is a written academic paper that needs to demonstrate the acquired essential skills and knowledge in the subject matter. Usually it is a task given to the students at the end of a term and accounts towards the final grade in the subject, sometimes it can even constitute as the only component of the final grade. The length of a term paper may vary but it is usually between three to five thousand words.

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A term paper can be a critical essay on a popular or current topic requiring author’s personal point of view of the issue and demonstration of good and accurate understanding of the subject. The author needs to establish compelling arguments accompanied by facts or other evidence supporting his/her point of view.

The topic of a term paper might be chosen by the student or sometimes it might be a prompt given by the professor of the subject. In the latter case the professor provides you a problem to resolve or a question to examine and sets the requirements for the paper. However, sometimes the professor might not give you very much information but just a very general task. For example in law studies you might be asked to choose one case in the relevant case law and analyse it critically. You are given a subject but not a topic nor any further information about the expected aspects or components of the term paper.

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A term paper can also be a research paper on a topic chosen by the student and involving thus more thorough academic research in the chosen subject. However, it is very probable that you need to select a topic or subject that had been discussed in the class or in a relevant text book. In this case the requirements are basically the same as of a research paper, starting with choosing a feasible topic which interests and/or challenges you and that has a sufficient range of references available. The materials that are being used and cited in the term paper should be versatile, i.e. encyclopaedias, text books, journal articles and other documents relevant in the chosen topic.

Every research paper should contain a central statement that the research seeks to defend or support or discuss. It may be stated in the form of a question that needs to be discussed or even answered or in a form of a claim that needs to be defended. In any way it cannot be longer than one sentence and needs to be formed with clarity.

Creating a good outline is the key to a successful term paper. The outline is like the bone structure of the term paper. Thus it needs to reflect the overall purpose of your research, the introduction of the chosen topic and the statement, accompanied by the main arguments and conclusions.

When writing the term paper follow the created outline and make sure all the requirements set for the term paper are being met.

In conclusion a term paper can have the same features as a research paper but with certain limitation in its subject and purpose.

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