Difference between Expository Writing and Research Papers

Published on August 13, 2016

Both expository writing and research papers seek to inform, describe, and explain a topic, idea, or point of view. Which one should you use to better get your ideas out to your audience?


Expository Writing vs Research Papers

Expository writing is all about presenting straightforward, hard facts to inform others. This is achieved by defining the subject matter and offering explanations in the most objective way possible. The focus is on the subject matter along with relevant facts or figures supporting it.

Facts are laid bare to the audience in a take-it-or-leave it manner. It is non-opinionated, and not even the audience is prompted to form an opinion. It is supposed to be without bias and based on careful analysis of the facts.

It is easy to spot samples of expository writing as it is the most commonly used type of writing. Textbooks, do-it-yourself articles, technical or business reports are some examples of expository writings you can come across on a daily basis.

Generally speaking, expository writing is one of four types of writing; the others are descriptive, persuasive, and narrative writing.

Writing a research paper involves analyzing a point of view, or arguing a point as either true or false. This is done by forming a fresh perspective or a unique opinion from related studies that support the writer’s subject matter, instead of merely confirming facts that have already been established. An effective research paper analyzes its sources and can distinguish reliable sources from biased sources. Extensive research and surveying a field of knowledge to sort out the best possible information there is about that subject is truly key.

Take a psychologist or a scientist, for instance. Both would spend many hours examining case studies supporting (or even debunking) a certain scientific principle before setting out and writing up a research paper about it. Clearly, a thorough study must be done first before presenting a research paper.

Expository Writing vs Research Papers

So, what is the difference between expository writing and a research paper?

The two are similar except for some definitive details. Expository writing is all about presenting facts and figures that support the subject matter. Everything is based on researched fact alone. Here, the writer does not inject their opinion about the topic, nor do they tell the audience to do the same.

A research paper collects facts from various studies on which the writer can form a fresh take or a unique perspective. What sets it apart from expository writing is that it contains the author’s opinion. In short, a research paper proves a point by citing hard data from previous works in addition to the writer’s own research and opinions, while expository writing is based on researched data and presented to an audience in the most matter-of-fact manner.

Comparison Chart

Expository WritingResearch Papers
Presentation is done in the most objective mannerPresentation of facts must contain writer’s opinion
Subject matter is supported by factual¬† information from other sourcesSubject matter is supported by data from other studies and the writer’s own research
Confirms established factsArgues a point as true or false