I have heard a lot about people doing research and writing papers about it, but I’m not sure in which cases the papers would be called a research paper.

Here are a few hypothetical example cases I could think of:

  • A found a technique to increase clock speed of microprocessors
  • B did research on life on a historical person by visiting people and places related to him. She/He found new information and She/he was first to successfully join the bits of information about that persons life.
  • C researched about a writer. She/He did not find anything new, She/he just collected various information from different sources and put it together.
  • D used sources like internet and books to show how technology X is very essential for doing Y. Although this may be obvious to some, no one has written about it before.

Assuming each of them writes about their work, who would write a research paper? When is something called a research paper?

My Internet research so far was not successful, as I did not understand the concept of a research paper and everyone said something different.

  • 5
    • E made a systemetac study of what kind of papers were published as research papers and which were published as review papers or similar.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 11:18
  • 5
    @Wrzlprmft xkcd.com/1447
    – Kroltan
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 21:00
  • How could D search the Internet for books and articles on a subject if nobody’s written about it before?
    – nick012000
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 0:30

4 Answers 4


Any matter that one finds novel or improvement over a conventionally used method supported by practical results, simulation, or theoretical construction deserves to be published as a research article (paper).

In your cases, the following applies.

  • A's article could be a research paper provided her/his method is novel or unconventional.
  • B's article could also be a research paper as such papers are available for life sciences as well as historical biographies.
  • C's article can't be classified as a research paper although it can be recalled as a survey paper.
  • D's article do not have sufficient qualities for a research or survey paper. It may be published as a news or magazine article.

A research paper is a paper that contributes some new knowledge to your field. That is, if you do some work (research) that adds to the body of knowledge in your field, and you write up the methods and results of your research in a paper, this can be called a research paper.

So in your example cases:

  • If A's technique is an important bit of knowledge that will move the field forward, then a paper describing it is a research paper. If it's a straightforward application of things that are already known, or a hack that's not going to move the field forward, it's probably not going to become a research paper.
  • D's work would not be considered research, if it's obvious to those in the field.
  • I don't know enough about standards in history to judge what's considered a contribution to the field, so I can't comment on B or C.

Complementing the other answers, a research paper is usually something new and useful that other researchers in the field might want to read. I'm "defining" it as such to say that what is considered useful changes from field to field.

Therefore, some stuff that would be considered a research article in one field (replicating experiments, physics for instance - correct me if I'm wrong), wouldn't be published in another (computer science, in this example).

That said, remember too that the definition of original contribution can change as well. A survey paper doesn't present any new methods, but the original contribution is the comparison of many methods in the same conditions.

There are also introductory papers, meant to gently introduce/summarize a specific problem/context to non-familiar readers. The methods presented are usually not new contributions, but the different presentation/approach is the new original contribution...


When studying at higher levels of school and throughout college, you will likely be asked to prepare research papers. A research paper can be used for exploring and identifying scientific, technical and social issues. If it's your first time writing a research paper, it may seem daunting, but with good organization and focus of mind, you can make the process easier on yourself. The paper won't write itself, but you can plan and prepare well so that the writing practically falls into place.

for more info: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Research-Paper

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