What’s The Difference Between An Article, A Paper, And An Essay?


The question is tricky in that it cannot be answered definitely once and forever. Although we all seem to realize that there is some difference between an article and a paper or an essay, the precise definitions seem elusive. Once we begin to describe an essay, we move close to the paper realm and sometimes venture into a visible circle of articles.

The Issues of Defining an Article, An Essay And A Paper 

The point is, in different situations of communication and in a different context, article, paper and essay can be interchangeable notions. For example, experimental sciences tend to use words ‘article’ and ‘paper’ for pieces of writing that non-experimental sciences would call exactly the opposite names. Yes, sometimes it may get that complex.

But fortunately, in your educational years, you will face simpler forms of this writing. So, for the purpose of clarifying the school meaning of each piece, we will rely on a few criteria that won’t let you down on your writing path.


The article is basically any piece of writing that is prose (not a poem) and non-fiction, and that is posted in some kind of media, be it a school website, your Facebook page or New York Times. Articles are believed to be objective (they do not persuade, they inform), but often they do persuade, although they do it subtly. Articles do not have a rigorous structure and do not require a reference page (although if you want to recommend a particular source, you can do it in free form in the text or at the end of your article). Topics of articles can be anything, from the new NASA mission to a new dress of your fav celeb. Hence, articles inform but usually do it in an entertaining form, and sometimes they just entertain.


An essay is more of a scholarly assignment or opinion piece if it is requested by some newspaper from a popular writer or expert. An essay is also prose, but it has a clear structure that should be followed. An essay usually relies on your reasoning on some matter supported by the evidence you collect. Besides, you are often required to have a clear thesis – the idea you will present or defend. So, your text will revolve around this thesis and so will be more rigid and formal, than the article. Essays usually have some serious or debatable topics and urge readers to think over this topic and take some side in the debate.


Paper is often used as a synonym for an essay. A research paper is usually an essay that requires a lot of research, relates to some very scholarly topic and should have a very formalized and clear structure. In academic circles – in ‘real science’, we mean – a paper is a key document that presents findings and results of the work of scientists. All major scientific discoveries were first published as papers in academic journals or presented at conferences, reviewed (and criticized) by peer scholars and then accepted as scientific norms.


So, an academic paper will have a hypothesis, research questions, methodology, lots of numerical data, statistical analysis (or long explanation of biological minutes), findings, their discussion and conclusions. Most probably, your college research paper will not require such scope of efforts. Yet, you will be asked to come up with some original or at least interesting thesis on some scholarly topic that you will develop in your research. Definitely, this kind of writing will have a reference page (maybe even an annotated bibliography) and possibly an abstract.

Hence, in a nutshell, the article is the least formal piece, the essay is more formal and serious, and paper is the top rank of scholarly writing, formal, rigorously structured, and decorated with all kinds of academic stuff like references and abstract.

Basic Assignment Structure

If an article has the free form (although you should strive to give it clarity and logical order), paper and essay will be more formal in their construction. Both will have three major parts: introduction, body and conclusion.

The introduction will feature the keynote of your writing – a thesis. A thesis says what it is all about. When writing, look at the thesis, and so you will not wander far away from your topic. Introduction, in general, mentions the background of your thesis and gives some information (but not too much).

The body includes paragraphs. This is where you say all you want to say related to your topic. Each paragraph has its topic sentence that includes the main idea of this paragraph. Yes, one paragraph equal one idea, and mixing several ideas into one is a frequent mistake in writing. Please avoid it. String your paragraphs in proper order, so that one idea naturally led to another, thus supporting your thesis.

The conclusion is necessary. It will be brief, and you will repeat what you have already said, although in different words. But it reminds readers of your main points, and so they will remember them after they finished reading.

References. An article does not require articles, but essay and paper do. Carefully note down all sources you used and compile a list on the last page. Every book or article you used in the text should be credited in the references.

Essential Writing Tips

Clarify all details and requirements before you start working. As we have said at the beginning, what one university calls an essay, another may call an article, and yet another may call a paper. So, requirements may differ, and it is essential to know what exactly is required from you. Once you have a list of parts to include in your writing, you can start planning and researching information.

Outline and draft. This is important for any piece of writing. You organize your thoughts, information and potential arguments. You write them down and start rearranging. When you have enough material, you can start writing a draft. When you have this preliminary sketch, you can write faster, easier and with more confidence than when you just sit over an empty sheet without a single idea where to begin.

Proofread and edit your paper. It goes without saying, and it should become your habit for any written assignment. When in haste or deep in your thoughts, you can make silly mistakes or omit words or even phrases. Re-reading the paper with a fresh eye can help you find such slips and fix them. Poor grammar, careless mistakes and the like do spoil the impression, and even the best content will not help in this case.

Getting a good sample to follow can save you a day. When looking at a good sample, you create a good paper yourself. You see what goes where what words work better and what are boring or look unprofessional, and in general, you get the feeling of good writing. Just be careful to pick a worthy sample to follow, and match the type of paper you picked with the type of paper you need to write.

Possible Topics For Each Kind Of Writing

To give you a kickstart, we have compiled several lists of topics for each occasion. As you can see, they differ in complexity and level of flexibility and entertainment. Take it as a clue if you decide to come up with the topic of your own.


Family and its role in the modern world

Costs of raising children

Your college experience and tips to freshmen

On the importance of pets

Jobs of the future

Will AI replace humans in most occupations?

Poetry in our life

Are grades the real measure of your worth?

Volunteers keep the world running.

Home economy – should it be back on the curriculum?

Revisiting the recipes of our grandmas


Social work and its significance for the society

The New Deal program of Roosevelt.

Can wars of the future be waged by robots solely?

Adoption of kids: pros and cons

Foster programs and their impact on the well-being of children

What is the latest data on changes in climate and populations of wild animals/insects?

Can great fires like the catastrophic fires in Australia be prevented?

What are the features of a country as a real global power/leader?

When do humans lose their ability to learn?

Students’ daily menus and their impact on academic achievements.


Rene Descartes and his reasoning about proofs of self-existence.

Deontology versus utilitarianism in philosophy.

Machiavelli and his practical lessons in policy making.

Impact of income inequality on academic success of students in college.

Cultural diversity in the working environment.

Work in office vs work from home: pros and cons.

Conflict management – what it is?

Outsourcing key manufacturing facilities to China: lessons and implications for the future.

Medical system of Canada vs. medical system of the USA.

Women in mathematics: names and contributions.

Examples of Writing 

Let’s imagine an informal but engaging article on the matter of the return of a species of butterfly to its previous living quarters.

On a sunny morning, I went out to my balcony with a cup of tea (yes, despite the coffee mania trends, I stick with my old trusted Darjeeling brew for the wake-up call). Here I stood in the sunlight, soaking in the warmth and spring mood when suddenly a movement on the balcony rails caught my attention. First, I thought it was some kind of a stray flower, torn from a bush and dropped carelessly by the wind. Yet there was no wind, and the delicate bright yellow thing still fluttered on the rails. I approached with caution and saw a butterfly. Its merry lemon wings slightly trembled, and antennas moved intact to its busy thoughts, I believe. I held my breath, and the creature sat there for a couple of minutes, resting before its departure for the nearby flower plot. Then it took off and flew away, maneuvering in the air like a crazy little aero plane. I was never much of a biologist, so it took me quite a while before Google provided me with the image that matched my morning guest. It was large orange Sulphur, a beautiful species with imposing scholarly name. I started googling details and discovered a striking thing. This butterfly was considered long gone from the city because of pollution and the disappearance of its habitat. Now, it turns out, and the Sulphur was back.

Now let’s consider an essay on the same butterfly and its return.

Butterflies once constituted an integral part of any landscape in warmer seasons, and both cities and villages were populated by local varieties of these pretty Lepidoptera. The presence or absence of butterflies served an indicator of the pollution level of air, and as industries developed and produced more and more pollutants, so the populations of butterflies dwindled. One of the species that was ousted by industrialization and urbanization was a large orange Sulphur, Phoebis algorithm in Latin. Its bright yellow wings have not been observed for more than 30 years in populated areas of Texas, and it was considered that the species is lost (Darwin, 2005). Yet recent reports of amateur entomologists give some hope on this matter: for the first time in three decades, a representative of the species was observed within the city borders.


We hope that we clarified a bit the question about the difference between these written pieces. It is senseless to say that we defined everything once and forever, since definitions differ, and one piece can go under different names in different institutions. Yet we attempted to clarify how to create a good article, essay or paper in their essence. Learn carefully from guidelines what exactly you are required to write, and then write it according to structure and tips we have provided.

In case you are still unsure how to go about writing, and what you should write (because the task says ‘article’ and the structure says ‘paper’), let the weathered, experienced people deal with this complexity. We have a wonderful team that can tackle any written task, no matter its name. If we do it, you get a ready paper (or essay) that you can use as a template or submit as it is. It saves your times, nerves and efforts, and next time you can approach your task with more confidence and experience. Accepting our help is definitely worth it!