A research paper is any paper, written for any subject, which requires the writer to review previous writings and to draw conclusions. Every field of study is likely to require a number of research papers throughout the course of study. A research paper does not just teach research skills, it will hone interview, sourcing, investigative and writing skills that will stand students in good stead throughout their lives and careers.
A research paper may also be referred to as a term paper, an academic paper, a thesis or a dissertation although the last two terms are normally reserved for graduate level papers. There may be minor distinctions between these different types of papers as follows:
A Research Paper
A research paper will be either argumentative or analytical. The argumentative research paper contains an introduction in which the researcher clearly introduces the topic and informs the audience of his or her position in reference to the topic. This is usually referred to as a thesis statement and it is the appropriate way to begin a research paper. An essential aim of an argumentative paper is to persuade the reader that the writer’s position is most valid and true. Therefore, the topic chosen should be debatable or controversial.
An analytical research paper on the other hand, seeks to illuminate all sides of an issue, argument or dilemma. For this type of paper, the writer will begin by asking a research question offering no opinion on any single position. This type of paper in meant to explore and understand all facets of an argument. The reader is presented with a number of perspectives and in a research paper of quality, the writer will elucidate new ideas as well as those already put forth in the literature.
A term paper is essentially a research paper that requires the student to show an understanding of topics and information learnt over a set period of study. The topic will be relevant to what the student has learnt so far and specifically to the course of study he or she is taking. Term papers are generally intended to describe an event, a concept, or argue a point. A term paper is a written original work discussing a topic in detail, usually several typed pages in length and is often due at the end of a semester. Not all term papers involve academic research, and not all research papers are term papers.
Most academic papers require the writer to hone a talent in rhetoric. Academic papers are excellent measures of a student’s ability to be compelling and engaging. Rarely is an academic paper graded purely on content, but rather a combination of writing skill and the ability to capture the reader and engage him or her in a thoughtful and compelling journey of discovery. This is an academic achievement that may be published in an academic journal. It contains original research results or reviews existing results. Such a paper, also called an article, will only be considered valid if it undergoes a process of peer review by one or more referees
Thesis or Dissertation
These are usually longer, more detailed and vastly referenced research papers written at graduate level study. The thesis or dissertation is often the culminating work of years of study resulting in a Masters or Doctorate degree.
All of these are essential facets of university level study but a research paper is really the foundation upon which good writing and research skills are honed. The building blocks of good spelling, grammar, structure and organization are also critical to the success of every type of academic paper, including a research paper, term paper, essay, thesis or dissertation.