As I know, in most of situations (in scientific context) these two terms are used to point to same thing and even they are used interchangeably.

For example,

Theory of value with public goods: A survey article


A survey paper on cloud computing

Are there any major differences between them? and can we use them interchangeably in any context?


3 Answers 3


The following extract helps understand the difference between a research article and a research paper:

  • Research paper and research articles are pieces of writing that require critical analysis, inquiry, insight, and demonstration of some special skills from students and scientists. It is really overwhelming for students when their teachers ask them to write a research paper as a form of assignment. Students remain confused between a research paper and a research article because of their similarities. This article attempts to find out if the two terms are synonymous or there is any difference between the two.

Research Article

  • What do you do when you are a scientist or a scholar and have arrived at a solution to a problem or have made a discovery that you want to share with the world? Well, one of the best ways to let the world know about your piece of wisdom or knowledge is through a research article. This is a piece of writing that contains an original research idea with the relevant data and findings Research article is published in renowned scientific journals that are involved with works in the area to which the paper pertains. A research article is a paper or writing that informs people of a path breaking research or a finding with clinical data to support the finding.

Research Paper

  • Research is an activity that is given much importance in academics, and this is why assignments requiring research and technical writing start early in the school. Students are asked to submit a research paper as early as in High School, and they become used to the concept when they are pursuing higher studies in colleges. However, a research paper is not just these assignment papers written by students as those written by scholars and scientists and published in journals are also referred to as research papers.
  • What is the difference between Research Article and Research Paper?

• There is no difference as such between a research article and a research paper and both involve original research with findings.

• There is a trend to refer to term papers and academic papers written by students in colleges as research papers whereas articles submitted by scholars and scientists with their groundbreaking research are termed as research articles.

• Research articles are published in renowned scientific journals whereas papers written by students do not go to journals.



There is no definitive distinction between papers and articles that can be applied to all scientific disciplines. Usage varies between disciplines. and within disciplines it can vary depending on context.

Both the examples quoted refer to ‘writings’ that are surveys (in other areas often termed reviews) — one in the field of a social science (economics) and the other in a numerical science (computing). However the term science is also (and perhaps more) associated with the experimental sciences (physics, chemistry and biology), where the types of ‘writings’ are different and where different words are used to distinguish them.

Articles and papers in the Experimental Sciences

Let me illustrate this for the Biomolecular Sciences (biochemistry, molecular biology, molecular genetics and the like). As a practitioner in this area, when I hear these terms, e.g. talking to colleagues, I understand:

Paper: A report of a piece of experimental research work in which the original data presented by the authors was central to interpretation and conclusions regarding advancement of knowledge and understanding of the field.

Article: A review or commentary in which the author was discussing the previously published work of others (perhaps including his own) in attempting to provide a perspective of the field or to present a new theory/model/interpretation by integrating such work.

However, despite this professional conversational use of the terms, if I go to any specific journal — here the US heavyweight, Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) — I would find a somewhat different usage:

JBC publishes several types of articles but only two of those can be submitted as an unsolicited manuscript: regular papers and accelerated communications.

Thus, JBC regards all the ‘writings’ it publishes as ‘articles’, in common with other journals such as The Journal of Biophysics , and this is consistent with general non-scientific usage — “I read an article in the Financial Times yesterday…”

The way JBC uses ‘regular paper’, is consistent with my specialist conversational definition (above), and although it doesn’t actually say what types of ‘article’ are unsolicited, but if you look at a table of contents of the journal, you would conclude that for this journal it is ‘minireviews’ and historical appraisals of the work of individual scientists.

The Journal of Biophysics only uses the term ‘paper’ in describing only one of its categories of ‘article’:

Comments to the Editor | Short commentaries on a paper published earlier in BJ.

Again using ‘paper’ rather in the sense I defined above.

To conclude, in the extended sense used by peer-reviewed journals in the experimental sciences, all published ‘papers’ can be referred to as articles, but not all articles would be referred to as ‘papers’. (One wouldn’t use ‘paper’ for an editorial, a news item and generally not for a review.) This is exactly the opposite conclusion reached by @1006a from his reading of the OED.

Conflict with the OED and non-experimental sciences

How can one resolve the conflict with the OED, mentioned above? I think the OED describes more traditional usage in the non-experimental sciences and the arts. It is pertinent, in this respect, to consider the phrase “reading a paper”.

As far as my area of science goes, this is just a rather outdated term for presenting one’s results orally at a conference. The talk in itself is transitory, the abstract unreviewed, and the information conveyed will most probably be published elsewhere.

However for colleagues in computing science the talk is likely to be based on a ‘paper’ that has been submitted to the conference organisers, selected after peer-review, and will be published as conference proceedings or in a journal associated with the conference. This is more in line with traditional non-scientific academic presentations, although in this case the ‘paper’ might never have been published.

The difference would seem to derive in part from whether the field of science is one in which original work is in the form of ideas or in the form of measurements and their interpretation.


The distinction I would make is that an article is formally published, generally in some kind of periodical. The relevant definition, from Oxford Dictionaries:

  1. A piece of writing included with others in a newspaper, magazine, or other publication.

Scholarly/scientific/research articles are thus "pieces of writing included with others in" an appropriate publication, most often an academic journal (see Wikipedia).

A paper, on the other hand, may or may not be published anywhere; and if it is published, may be in some alternate venue like conference proceedings (though it can be published in a scholarly journal). Again from Oxford:

  1. An essay or dissertation, especially one read at an academic lecture or seminar or published in an academic journal.

So you can generally call any scientific (research) article a paper, but not all papers are articles.

Edited to clarify the last sentence, to which I also added the parenthetical (research):

Of course, not all articles are scientific (or research) articles; that distinction generally means that the article presents original research, and as I am using it, that it has met certain standards of whichever field it represents (usually some form of peer review) so that it can be published in a scientific/scholarly journal. A scientific (research) paper meets the first of these criteria, but not necessarily the second (it presents original research, but may or may not be published). There are other kinds of articles/papers, which would ordinarily get a different modifier, like review or meta-review (or newspaper/magazine etc. for articles), or might commonly go by other terms altogether, like essay.

By this definition, not all articles are papers, and not all papers are articles, but all scientific (research) articles are also scientific (research) papers.

  • Just to mention that in my consideration of experimental sciences I present the opposite conclusion from that you draw from the OED. Please don't think I am saying you are wrong, but as I explain, that your assertions only hold for certain areas of science.
    – David
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 22:27
  • @David The key distinction I make is that articles are published. That would, indeed, include things like (literature) review articles, commentary, and possibly book reviews. It does not exclude original research in any field of which I am aware (which includes "experimental science"). It is certainly possible that certain disciplines or specific journals have non-standard usages, but I don't believe it breaks down along "experimental" and "non-experimental" lines.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 16:38
  • I agree about there being a difference in relation to publication. The whole background of "reading a paper" implies it can exist without being published, and even in the experimental sciences one might say "I wrote a paper about 'whatever' and sent it to such-and-such a Journal, but they rejected it because the referees were too stupid to understand it". You might feasibly say that about an article (I once had a solicited mini-review rejected because it was thought to be in bad taste) but it would be unusual. But a very popular program for storing PDFs of publications is called... "Papers".
    – David
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 16:53

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