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The difference between a "term paper" and a "research paper"

The definitions ‘research paper’ and ‘term paper’ are sometimes used interchangeably since both of them represent a culmination of a body of work over the course of one`s class. The difference between the two definitions is minor – ‘term paper’ signifies a project typically conducted at the end of a given term, while ‘research paper’ represents any research project over the course of the semester.

Term paper content and structure

Your term paper should contain all of the following essential structural components: 

Thesis. The thesis is a one-statement sentence that encapsulates what the whole paper is all about. Anything that you say afterward in your paper should be relevant to this one statement. 

Introduction. Your introduction is where you get your reader engaged with your subject. You need to intrigue, without being vague; you need to take a stance, without alienating your reader. A smart writer uses introduction for "placing" his or her argument into a broader context. You may consider writing your introduction AFTER you've completed writing your paper. By the time you've completed the first draft, you will develop a better grasp on the subject. 

Body. The body of the term paper itself should contain the following sections:

The Methods Section. Here you should describe the methodology and special materials you used in the research. You need to enlist any methodologies that are specific to your particular field of research, such as lab practices for a lab experiment or data-mining tools for field investigation.

The Results Section. Quantitative information – measurable data – includes data sets and their comparisons. Quantitative information can be offered in charts, tables, and graphs. Qualitative information will include explanations, descriptions, or instructions, and can be offered in essay-like prose, prose tables or lists. 

The Discussion Section. Here you need to discuss your research findings. To do so, you need to explain the meaning of your findings and then suggest your points that back up the statements you made in the introduction. Avoid bringing up new concepts or discussing tangential topics not related to the exploration of your thesis. 

Conclusion and recommendation. It is the last component of your work. Conclusions serve as a bridge between your research findings and discussion. Conclusions connect your whole research with the initial thesis, synthesizing the main concepts of your writing. You may be required to provide your recommendations in your term paper assignment. In this case, you may come up with a solution to a problem, offer a judgment, suggest a course of action, or elaborate on the implications of your ideas. Language is important in a conclusion. Your objective is to leave your ideas to resonate with your reader. Make your language compelling.

Academically sufficient length of a term paper

A typical college-level term paper should contain a total of between 2,500 to 10,000 words. Running a little bit under or over this word count is not an academic suicide, but keep in mind that while your professor is ready to dedicate sufficient time to your paper to score it adequately, he won’t waste time reading unrelated musings.



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