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Dear Brits,

In academia, what's the difference between an essay and a paper?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC)
In some contexts they are synonyms; course work for example. OTOH one wouldn't produce an essay for a confrence or seminar but one might for a Festschrift.
Oct. 20th, 2005 09:45 pm (UTC)
You've given me the use that I know from North America. Perhaps it's the same here and yesterday's exchange was based on a misunderstanding somewhere.

Me: "So they're busy later in the term with papers?"
Academic: "No, essays."
Oct. 20th, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)
I guess a paper can also be an exam. Maybe that's where the confusion arose?
Oct. 20th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. Thank you.
Oct. 20th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC)
What's Academia?

Just Joking!
Oct. 20th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)
It's an anagram of "a Mac idea".

P.S. You have two new people from recent weeks on your friends-of list. One of them you can probably figure out. The other I recommended in your direction courtesy of a meme I posted a few days back.
Oct. 20th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
An essay is written to a *question*

ie "To what extent was the thirty years war, one war or many?"

US students tend to turn this into a title; "The Thirty Years War", tell me loads about the war and utterly fail to answer the question. An essay *must* answer the question set (at upper levels you may have devised the question yourself). One of the easiest ways to spot plagiarism in the UK system is that the question hasn't been answered, however knowledgeable the essay.

A paper is written to your own devising, it may answer a question set but is more likely to post an independent thesis. And we tend to use "paper" when we mean "thing presented at a conference".
Oct. 20th, 2005 10:25 pm (UTC)
sorry, that's me.
Oct. 20th, 2005 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This makes a great deal of sense, and also explains why graduate students in particular would be busy with papers instead of essays.
Oct. 20th, 2005 11:28 pm (UTC)
US students IME also don't know that a paper has to have a thesis, either ... at least mine don't! Or that the thesis for anonymous' example question could be, "One," "Many," "Both" (in this case, probably not neither). Can you tell I'm giving exams/essays right now? And I have a dreadful feeling I'm going to see a lot of "The Renaissance was definitely a rebirth after the bad Dark Ages" essays, although I mantioned pain, shame, death, destruction, and poor marks if they were to use DA!

Please let them have written on the Price Revolution!

I don't even want to think about the primary source analysis on gender relations in Ancient Greece ...

Oh hell -- or how many people wrote about Joan of Arc rather than what the trial documents tell us about expectations of behavior and gender ...

Oct. 20th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
sorry -- didn't mean to hijack -- especially since my Brit affiliations are mostly by (ex-)marriage!
Oct. 21st, 2005 07:39 am (UTC)
A paper, to me, is for verbal delivery
If it gets turned into something published, it's an essay.
The essay = answering question is a subset of the entire field of essay (I don't think Charles Lamb as Elia was answering questions, more like asking them and meandering) applicable at certain academic levels.
But this is probably all idiolectic.
Oct. 21st, 2005 08:24 am (UTC)
In my experience, 'essays' in the UK tend to be what would be called 'papers' in the US, ie written assignments. 'Papers' would be what Americans might call conference papers, intended for public presentation. That's the simple answer in my brain anyway.
Oct. 21st, 2005 02:18 pm (UTC)
Who you're talking to and how important it is. It probably won't be a paper unless it's been published somewhere, that's the importance factor, scientists are more likely to call it a paper, otherwise it has a habit of being used interchangeably unless the person you're talking to has a particular preference.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )