A term paper
is a long research paper
made by a student over a term
or semester which accounts for a large amount of a grade and makes up much of the course. Term papers are generally intended to describe an event or concept or argue a point. There is much overlap between the terms "research paper" and "term paper". The phrase "term paper" was originally used to describe a paper (usually a research based paper) that was due at the end of the "term" - either a semester or quarter, depending on which unit of measure a school used. However, the term has fallen out of favor. Common usage has "term paper" and "research paper" as interchangeable, but this is not completely accurate. Not all term papers involved academic research, and not all research papers are term papers.
An entire industry has sprung up in recent years to provide plagiarized, pre-written, or custom written term papers to students of all ages. There are thousands of websites that sell term papers of all levels of quality and writing proficiency for reasonable prices, but they seriously undermine the academic integrity of the student. Use of such papers is frowned upon by school staff, and submission of these works is considered plagiarism, and is considered grounds for disciplinary action. These papers are in some rare cases used as a "model" for a student to use as a starting point in their research, but this is also considered ethically questionable and is usually a pretext for plagiarism.