Education :: Non-Fiction Prose vs. Research Paper

Photo by Michelle Tresemer on Unsplash

So this one is for our older writers, and it’s something I believe is very important for our high schoolers and college students to practice and understand.

Before you roll your eyes and click out, let me implore you to not take this knowledge for granted. You may think it’s obvious and you don’t need to teach the difference; that’s true for you but not for 90% of your students.

When your students hear ‘non-fiction’, their minds automatically jump to research papers. That’s what I did. ‘Prose’ meant nothing to me. I saw ‘non-fiction essay’ and began ordering in-depth books studying the topic I needed to write about.

I began the essay with a true story of something I had seen happen, and all I could think was, “If I could write the whole thing like this, it would just flow!” I started reading the research books and had a lot of great info, but my brain felt fried. Then I read the prompt again: ‘non-fiction prose essay’. I looked up what that meant and felt like an idiot.

If you’re not completely sure yourself, this is how I explain them:

Research Paper – a fact-filled essay that cites references. These essays hold no fictional aspects. They can be written in an active voice (I’ll teach on this later), but aren’t written as a story.

Non-Fiction Prose – these essays surround fact but are written more in a story form. They can include fiction as long as it’s based on factual information. These essays are informational and typically written in an active voice.

Both research papers and non-fiction prose are written for informative purposes but accomplish the goal in different ways.

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