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10 Great Essay Writing Tips

5 types of essays

Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.

Prepare to Answer the Question

Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.

5 types of essays

Plan Your Essay

Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.

Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable

You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

5 types of essays

View It as a Conversation

Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.

5 types of essays

Provide the Context in the Introduction

If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.

5 types of essays

Explain What Needs to be Explained

Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.

5 types of essays

Answer All the Questions

After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.

5 types of essays

Stay Focused as You Write

Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.

5 types of essays

Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread

When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.

5 types of essays

Avoid Filling the Page with Words

A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.


5 types of essays

What Are the 5 Different Types of Essays? A Complete Guide

For high school or college students, essays are unavoidable – worst of all, the essay types and essay writing topics assigned change throughout your academic career. As soon as you’ve mastered one of the many types of academic papers , you’re on to the next one.

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This article by Custom Writing experts provides the tools you need to attack any essay. It describes the five current major types of essays and five additional types! The article includes some thesis statement examples and numerous useful links to resources with sample essay papers. Keep reading and good luck with your assignment!

🎈 Other Essay Types

🔗 References

📑 what are the 5 different types of essays.

The five main essay types are:

The Five Main Essay Types Are: Expository, Argumentative, Persuasive, Descriptive, & Narrative.

Expository Essay

An expository essay aims to present opinion-free information on a topic that may be broad or narrow. This essay type is often assigned as an in-class or an exam task. Please find below useful expository writing tips!

“The oil industry is a very large portion of the energy sector, and it has significant impacts on the climate and economy.”

Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay requires a profound investigation of a topic leading to the collection and evaluation of evidence. Such an in-depth study shall result in an established position on the topic, written down concisely.

As a rule, this type of writing presupposes extensive literature research . Sometimes, argumentative assignments may require empirical investigation through surveys, interviews, or observations. Detailed research ensures a clear understanding of the issue and the different points of view regarding it. Thanks to the preliminary study, you will be able to make an unbiased decision on which opinion to adhere to, and your argumentation will be more persuasive.

An argumentative essay shall follow the strict structure rules:

Difference between Expository and Argumentative Essay

Expository and argumentative essays abound in similarities and are often mistaken for one another. The principal difference is the amount of preliminary research . Argumentative essays are often assigned as final projects summing up the corpus of information mastered during a course. Expository essays are shorter and less based on research. They are used for in-class unprepared writing.

Persuasive Essay

Persuasive writing is the polar opposite of expository writing. For this style of essay, your opinion should be the focus . A persuasive essay attempts to persuade its reader to have a specific opinion.

“Though the oil industry is an important part of our economy, it has negatively impacted our environment through climate change, smog, and the building of roads.”

Descriptive Essay

There is no more clearly-named essay than the descriptive one. Here, the goal is to describe something : a person, an object, a place, etc. The oil industry theme used to demonstrate an expository thesis statement would not be typical for a descriptive essay. Instead, descriptive writing would far more likely focus on an object associated with the oil industry, such as an oil drum, an oil tanker, or even the liquid oil itself.

Narrative Essay

The meaning of narrative writing is very similar to a story. It may be moving, emotional, anecdotal, or insightful. You are allowed to write using first-person pronouns, and creativity is appreciated. A narrative essay is subject to all the story rules and shall comprise an introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, and conclusion. The only case when a narrative assignment does not have to comply with a story outline is a book report. This informative narration is impersonal and unemotional.

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Difference between Narrative and Descriptive Essay

A narrative essay is aimed to tell the reader a complete story of personal experiences . A descriptive essay dwells upon a separate object, place, concept, or phenomenon. It does not have a climax or any development of action.

Cause and Effect Essay

In a cause and effect essay, the text should focus on the impact of some phenomenon or physical thing —in other words, a cause and its effect.

The simplicity of this essay allows you to explore any topic . All you need to do is consider its consequences and write. Again, the oil industry can be the focus of a cause and effect essay thesis statement :

“The oil industry has had a tremendous impact on our world, enabling the automotive industry, contributing to climate change, and generating great wealth.”

Reflective Essay

In this essay, the goal is simply to respond to or reflect upon a species person, place, thing, event, or phenomenon. You may be required to reflect upon a poem, a military battle, or perhaps even another essay. By its definition, reflective essays should be very subjective. You should use personal pronouns like “I” and “me” in these essays! This type of essay should be very personal. Check out some examples of reflective writing to see this yourself.

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For example, this would be a great thesis statement for a reflective essay :

“The oil industry has provided many benefits to society, but I worry deeply about its potential costs to our planet and its species.”

Analytical Essay

In many ways, analytical writing is the objective cousin of reflective writing. Prior to attempting this style of essay, you should reflect. But you should also conduct research. The reflection is personal, while the analysis is rooted in facts and logic.

Compare the following example thesis statement with the one from the previous type of essay:

“As the oil industry has grown, the levels of greenhouse gases have increased along with temperatures and concentrations of particulate matter in the atmosphere.”

This statement outlines factors that will be analyzed in the body of the essay. It DOES NOT insert personal feelings, personal pronouns, or subjective language. You can even try and use an informative thesis statement generator and then compare the results to see it more clearly.

By staying objective, an analytical essay is much more like a report. In fact, an outline for an analytical paper should be interchangeable with a section of an outline for a much longer research project. But most importantly, any analytical paper should avoid using personal pronouns .

Comparison and Contrast Essay

In a compare and contrast essay , you make a comparison of two or more issues . You may look at their similarities, differences, or both. The focus of your analysis should be reflected in your thesis statement. Consider this example:

“While both the oil industry and the solar-power industry will be major sources of energy in the future, oil has more environmental costs than green solar power.”

Exemplification Essay

An exemplification or illustration essay is one of the most flexible essays you might be assigned. In simple terms, this essay is all about picking vivid examples. In other words, you want to make points that exemplify or illustrate your thesis statement.

For an exemplification essay, you should focus on the examples that will make your point without serious effort. In other words, if you are trying too hard, you are missing the point of the essay. Consider the following example thesis statement:

“The oil industry has had serious effects on the environment as demonstrated by the impact of massive oil spill on wildlife, the uncontrolled fires and explosions caused by oil and oil derivatives, and the melting of the polar ice caps caused by climate change.”

In the body of this exemplification essay, the writer should devote a paragraph to each of these arguments. Descriptions of seagulls or penguins coated in oil would be perfect examples of the effect of the oil industry on wildlife. Similarly, descriptions of major oil refinery explosions will also grab the reader’s attention.

Once again, the conclusion should restate the introduction, providing less background, and reminding the reader of the examples one last time.

👌 Remember These Important Essay Tips

These tips and tricks are just the basics of essay writing .

When you are writing any assignment, always pay close attention to the instructions . The standard interpretation of any particular essay style is never as important as your teacher’s definition of the assignment. When in doubt, ask questions! No teacher will be upset with you asking for reasonable clarifications. It is better to write the essay your teacher expected, rather than surprise your teacher with a creative effort. And, subsequently, get a poor grade.

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Beauty lasts only a short time. But in the realm of art, in the field of poetry, beauty lasts forever. Sonnet 73 is addressed to a lover who is younger than the speaker. The poem uses three metaphors to depict the speaker’s age and impending death. First, the speaker says that he is autumn, the time of year when the beauty of summer is gone, and the death of winter is about to set in. Then he says that he is the end of the day when only a faint light lingers on the western horizon, and deathly darkness is about to engulf the world. Then he says that he is an almost burned out fire, nearly reduced to ashes. This sonnet doesn’t look to art for consolation, but to love. It concludes by saying, You love me even though you know you’re soon going to lose me, and that makes your love all the greater.

Awesome post as usual! Your posts make me accumulate knowledge about writing various college papers! Thanks a lot for this assistance!

These are amazing tips for compare and contrast essay writing. Will definitely use them when writing my compare and contrast essay. Thanks for sharing them!

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The 5 Types of Essays Every High School Student Needs to Know & Easy Tips On How to Write Them

High School Student Writing

There are many types of essays (some call them categories of essays), and you will likely encounter several throughout your school career. Although the specific requirements and expectations for each type of essay may vary, there are five basic essay formats that you need to know to write. Let's take a look at each essay type:

Descriptive - Paint a Mental Picture

In a descriptive essay, you give the reader a picture of a scene, object, or person. To accomplish this, you must appeal to all the senses. You must help your reader see, smell, feel, taste, and hear what is described.

When done well, a descriptive essay can be incredibly stimulating and powerful. It can put your reader directly into the scene's heart or experience being described. This is because effective descriptive writing creates a detailed picture in your reader's mind and allows them to experience it firsthand.

Expository - Explain Something

An expository essay is a style in that you must clarify a topic and freely express your opinion. This type of essay is often used in school writing classes to help students express their ideas clearly and concisely. Expository essays usually contain three main parts: an introduction, paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction should state the thesis or central idea of the essay, while the paragraphs should support that idea with evidence and examples. The conclusion should briefly summarize the essay's main points and provide the reader with a final thought.

Narrative - Tell a Story

A narrative essay tells a story with an introduction, setting, characters, plot, climax, and conclusion. In other words, it follows the traditional narrative format of beginning, middle, and end.

The purpose of a narrative essay is to entertain your reader by telling them a story. Unlike other forms of writing, such as expository or persuasive essays, which focus on conveying facts or trying to convince your reader of something, a narrative essay is meant to be compelling. Therefore, it should be well written and have good pacing, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Persuasive - Convince the Audience of Your Point of View (POV)

A persuasive essay attempts to convince your reader to agree with your point of view. Remembering that a persuasive essay is not just about presenting facts but also about stating your opinion and supporting it with evidence.

Your opinion should be the focus of your essay, and you should support your argument with evidence. Be clear and concise, and try to avoid complicated wording or jargon. Your goal is to present your point of view as clearly as possible so that your argument will convince the reader.

Argumentative - Explore a Topic and Establish a Point of View.

An argumentative essay is a form of writing that takes a stand on a topic. You must prove your position is the best by presenting evidence supporting your view. Often, these essays are written about a controversial topic or issue on which there are multiple points of view. To make your argument convincing, you must examine all sides of the issue and evaluate the evidence objectively. You must also take a point of view and defend it with argument and logic.

**Note:  An argumentative essay is about convincing you to see something from your point of view, so I think this essay could be put in the "persuasive essay" category. However, they (whoever they are) say that argumentative essays require a tremendous amount of research, and all the different viewpoints are considered, concluding that your perspective is correct.

The five types of essays you need to know how to write are 

It is essential that these different styles of writing can all provide a unique perspective on an idea or topic to avoid boring the reader with the same type of essay. By mastering the different types of essays, you can convey your thoughts and ideas in a way that engages and interests the reader.

What are the Differences Between Expository vs. Argumentative Essays?

  What are a Few Sample Expository Writing Topics?

What are a few Sample Argumentative Essay Ideas?

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5 Different Types of Essays

In high school and college there are several types of essays that students face. These styles encompass writing skills that students need throughout life, excluding technical writing, and mastering the styles early allows students to focus their efforts on content rather than form. Each instructor will have different requirements and specific word or page counts, so read assignment guidelines carefully and be sure to write the type of essay required.

Narrative Writing

Narratives tell a story, so narrative essays have a beginning, a middle and an end. Whether the story is truth or fiction will depend upon the assignment, but teachers have several criteria that they typically use for grading. Outside of the normal essay elements, such as organization, grammar and punctuation, teachers usually look for plot development, characterization, descriptive details and dialogue. Excessive details are not necessary, but do provide descriptive details such as the darkening sky and the taste of the lemonade.

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect essays describe the cause and result of a situation or issue. An essay might discuss the development of treaties before World War I and the rise of the Axis and Allies. When writing this type of essay, research all possible outcomes and ensure that you can logically support your thesis with information on how a particular cause led to a specific effect. For longer essays, it may be possible to include circumstances that contributed to the effect.

Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays ask a student to choose a side on a particular issue and argue the merits of that side of the controversy. A student might argue her perspective on the death penalty or explain what she believes happened to the settlers at Roanoke. This style of essay allows greater freedom to interpret facts, statistics and primary sources, but the writer must be certain that she defends her interpretation cogently and effectively.

Research Papers

Research papers or essays require a student to select a topic, research it and formulate an opinion. This style asks a student to narrow the focus to a specific part of a topic, which he can adequately cover in the given essay length. Thesis development is critical; it may be helpful for students to make a list of elements to include and draft an outline before writing. Teachers typically request specific types of references and citation accuracy is vital to avoid plagiarism.

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast essays describe the similarities and differences between two things. The two primary ways are to block, in which the writer discusses either similarities or differences first and the other second, or to alternate similarities and differences between paragraphs. Choose several similarities and differences, such as characterization and setting in two books, and organize the essay so that similarities always come first or so that in block essays, the order of the topics is the same between the two sections.

Five Paragraph

The five paragraph essay includes an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. Introductions are traditionally four to five sentences, with an attention-grabbing opening sentence, and conclude with the thesis. Body paragraphs support the thesis, and the order of supporting points is usually from least to most important. The conclusion should restate the thesis and draw the body of the essay together.

Rebecca Zadell has tutored writers since 1997, taught elementary school and is both a nanny and a professional crafter. Zadell's work has been published in NOVA's Write On and in the "Christian Observer." Zadell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Mason University.

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15 Types of Essays (and What You Need To Know About Them)

list of all 15 types of essays from the article

Narrative essays narrate, argumentative essays argue, and expository essays … expose? Explain? (It’s a little of both). While these essays may use narrative, argumentative, and expository writing styles to make their points, they’re not the only types of essays to do so. In fact, there are 15 different types of essays — all of which narrate, argue, or explain something to their readers.

1. Narrative Essays

Narrative essays tell stories from your life or the lives of others. They’re told just like fictional short stories, with characters, a setting, a compelling plot, a climax, and a resolution. 

Narrative essays use the third person perspective (it happened to someone else) or the first person perspective (it happened to the writer). Narrative essays should be entertaining and engaging to read, so choose a narrative writing topic that speaks to you.

Narrative Essay Example Structure

When writing a narrative essay , a possible structure could include:

2. Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays (also called argument essays ) investigate topics fairly and thoroughly to present the writer’s argument to the reader. The writer makes a claim and argues why evidence and logic support that claim in a well-structured essay.

Strong argumentative essays use rhetorical devices to strengthen their arguments, and they address the opposing argument (known as a counterclaim) as well. When choosing an argumentative essay topic , select an issue that you care about (or a topic you’d like to learn more about), and begin researching your position with reliable sources.

Argumentative Essay Structure Example

You can structure an argumentative essay like this:

3. Expository Essays

Expository essays use research and critical thinking to explain more about a topic. Newspaper articles are a type of expository essay — they provide information to the reader in a concise, factual way. Writing expository essays requires a straightforward outline, evidence-based conclusions, and a strong thesis statement.

Though expository writing reveals information, it’s not the same as technical writing . Expository essays “expose” the truth about a selected topic , not just the information about it.

Expository Essay Structure Example

Most expository essays follow a structure similar to this:

4. Descriptive Essays

Like narrative essays, descriptive essays use narration to set a scene for the reader. But unlike narrative essays, descriptive essays don’t tell a story from beginning to end. If a painting could be an essay, it would be a descriptive essay — a written experience that you can almost see. 

Descriptive essays use lots of sensory details to describe the way something looks, sounds, smells, tastes, or feels. Well-written descriptive essays also use similes, metaphors, hyperboles, or other types of figurative language to pull their readers into the experience.

Descriptive Essay Structure Example

When writing a descriptive essay, you can follow this outline:

5. Persuasive Essays

Persuasive essay writers try to convince their readers to agree with them. You’ll find examples of persuasive writing in both essays and speeches when a speaker, writer, or politician wants the audience on their side.

When you write a persuasive essay, you use similar strategies as you would in an argumentative essay. But persuasive essays use personal anecdotes (stories about yourself or others) and emotional appeals rather than the logic and evidence you’ll find in an argumentative essay. They also include a call to action at the end that inspires their audience to act.

Persuasive Essay Structure Example

You can structure your persuasive essay in a similar way as your argumentative essay, with a few key differences.

6. Informative Essays

Like expository essays, informative essays (also called informational essays ) inform their readers about a topic. But the main purpose of an informative essay is to educate the audience rather than to expose them to the truth.

Informative essays require lots of evidence and strong research. Be sure to choose an informative essay topic that interests you, since you’re going to learn a lot about it during the course of your writing.

Informative Essay Structure Example

Outline your informative essay structure in a straightforward, no-nonsense way.

7. Personal Narrative Essays

Personal narrative essays (also called personal narratives ) are a form of narrative writing in which the writer explores how an experience affected or shaped them. They focus on a single event or theme in one’s life, and unlike narrative essays, personal narratives are always true (and always autobiographical).

College entrance essays are a type of personal narrative in which a college applicant considers how a event or person in their past helped them to become the person they are today. Another type of personal narrative is a memoir — a longer narrative about one’s own life.

Personal Narrative Structure Example

It’s tempting to write a personal narrative in an unstructured way, but having a solid structure is the key to writing a compelling personal narrative.

8. Reflective Essays

Reflective essays explore an idea, concept, or observation from a writer’s point of view. They may include humor or emotional writing, but they should reveal a lot about the writer themselves (and about the reader).

Both reflective writing and personal narratives are forms of creative writing. But while reflective essays are personal, they don’t need to be written in a narrative format or tell a story. Think about a well-written journal entry — it probably doesn’t tell a story from start to finish, but explores the way something made the writer feel.

Reflective Essay Structure Example

Depending on your topic, reflective essays can be quite structured or more loosely organized. Generally, you can follow a standard format.

9. Synthesis Essays

Synthesis essays gather opinions, evidence, and proposals from various sources and present it to the reader as one document. They’re similar to argumentative essays (in that they present a claim) and informative essays (in that they present information), but the goal of a synthesis essay is first and foremost to compile a body of evidence.

That evidence may support the writer’s claim, or it may cause them to reexamine their thoughts about the topic. Either way, synthesis essays include a wealth of sources (all of which must be properly cited, of course).

Synthesis Essay Structure Example

You can structure your synthesis essay like an expository essay.

10. Definition Essays

Definition essays define a term or idea. These terms could be vocabulary words, technical terms, abstract concepts, historical words, or any other idea that a writer wants to define for the reader.

It seems like that may only get you a sentence or two, but a well-written definition essay does a lot more than look up word meanings. They can be expository when pointing out little-known facts or implications of the term, reflective when referring to important concepts, and even argumentative if the writer has a stance to defend.

Definition Essay Structure Example

Definition essays have straightforward outlines that make it easy for the reader to understand your meaning.

11. Analytical Essays

Analytical essays analyze a topic with strong detail and critical thinking. Also known as critical analysis essays , they use a balanced approach to thoroughly analyze something, whether it’s a passage in a piece of writing (known as literary analysis or rhetorical analysis ), a an element from a scientific discovery, or an important historical event.

Like reflective writing, analytical writing is very detailed and focused on a single topic. While that topic may have larger implications in the essay (and it should), each sentence should connect back to the core of the analytical essay.

Analytical Essay Structure Example

Analytical essays should follow a strict outline that doesn’t detract from its thesis statement.

12. Compare and Contrast Essays

Compare and contrast essays are analytical essays that examine how two subjects are similar and different. These subjects can be two characters, two historical events, two concepts — any two topics that have similarities (compare) and differences (contrast). Compare and contrast essays often use expository writing to present the information in a thoughtful way.

When writing a compare and contrast essay , structure can be just as important as the essay’s thesis statement. Structuring your compare and contrast essay can highlight the ways your topics resemble and differ from each other. Thanks to the many compare and contrast essay topics available, you’ll never run out of things to compare (or contrast).

Compare and Contrast Essay Structure Example

Compare and contrast essays rely on a tight structure to analyze topics — but that structure may differ, depending on your topics.

13. Cause and Effect Essays

Cause and effect essays , another type of analytical essay, use structure to show the relationship between an event and its consequences. These essays often explore historical events or plot points in a story, though cause and effect topics can vary by subject.

Depending on how you write your cause and effect essay , you can use expository writing to explain how one thing led to another, or you can argue a little-known element of the cause and effect relationship (such as a surprising event, or a seemingly unrelated consequence). 

Cause and Effect Essay Structure Example

Like compare and contrast essays, the structure of cause and effect essays depend on the topic you’re writing about and how you want to analyze it.

14. Evaluation Essays

Evaluation essays use a measured, unbiased approach to evaluating a work, topic, product, or another subject. With sound evidence and reasoning, evaluation essays present the writer’s opinion about the subject. Movie reviews, book reviews , and sports columns are all types of evaluation essays.

Though evaluation essays do thoroughly analyze their subject (think of the detail included in a movie review), they go beyond analysis. You would write an evaluation essay  to present an educated and considered viewpoint, which should influence the reader when making up their own mind.

Evaluation Essay Structure Example

Your opinion is the claim in an evaluation essay, and just like any other claim, you need to defend it.

15. Process Essays

Process essays are a type of informational essay that explains how to do something (its process). They include a short introduction and conclusion, but the focus of the essay is on its steps and guiding the reader through the process.

Consider the process section of a recipe or instruction manual. A well-written process essay uses technical language to be as clear as possible, refrains from making an argument or claim, and only uses detail when being more specific.

Process Essay Structure Example

Process essays are some of the easiest to structure, since they go from beginning to end (much like narrative essays).

Types of Essays Guide

Keeping all 15 types of essays straight can be a challenge. Let us help you keep them all straight with an infographic. 

seven types of essays with definitions and outlines from the article in a chart

You’re on the Write Track

Once you know what type of essay you’re trying to write, there’s only one step left: writing the essay itself. For more tips and reference guides for writing all types of essays, check out:

8 Types of Essays You May Write While in School

5 types of essays

An essay is a short piece of nonfiction writing that concentrates on a single subject. Students commonly use the essay format to defend a thesis or present their viewpoints on a topic.

Essays can take different formats, ranging from persuasive essays to narrative essays that describe a story. Essays can be academic or casual and range in length from one paragraph to many pages.

Differentiating between types of essays is as simple as determining the writer’s intention. Is the writer attempting to describe something, explain a problem, or persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view?

Before we proceed to the different types of essays, you should know that there are essay writing services that you can ask to “ write my essay ” to get a quality paper that will impress your professor.

Here are eight types of essays you may write in school.

Expository Essay

The most basic form of essay is an expository essay, also known as a definition essay. Expository essays are written to explain or define a concept rather than make a point. Expository essays are generally shorter compositions that directly answer a question.

Analytical Essay

Like an expository essay, an analytical essay takes the topic a step further by addressing the subject’s pros and drawbacks to provide an objective analysis. An expository essay, for example, might explain how the president is elected, whereas an analytical essay would explain how the president is elected and the electoral process’s potential benefits and drawbacks.

Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay (also referred to as an argumentative essay) takes a position on a topic. A strong argumentative essay tries to persuade readers to comprehend and support a writer’s specific point of view on a topic by explaining and supporting their reasoning with facts. A persuasive essay typically has an introduction, a thesis statement, body paragraphs containing a counterargument and data to support your main claim, and a conclusion. Persuasive essays can be complicated for most students. While that’s the case, you can pay for an essay and have an expert deliver an A-grade paper.

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay, often known as a personal essay or a reflective essay, blends personal narrative with academic argument. This essay style allows the writer to express a message or teach a lesson through personal experience. Nonfiction writings that are typically autobiographical and written in the first person are known as narrative essays. 

They are written in a more creative approach than academic or journalistic writing, fact-based and completely objective. Narrative essays may be structured in any way the author sees fit to emphasize their main point. Narrative essays can be found in many scholarship essays, personal statements and college application essays.

Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay aims to provide detailed sensory descriptions of a certain event or object (sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound). Like a narrative essay, a descriptive essay can be written in a more creative style, but unlike a narrative essay, it usually does not seek to tell a whole story or make an argument. Many authors use descriptive essays as a writing exercise before commencing a narrative essay.

Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay contrasts and compares two objects, emphasizing their similarities and differences to demonstrate a larger argument. In compare and contrast essays, the body paragraphs are frequently separated into two sections: comparison and contrast.

Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay (also known as “cause and effect”), like a compare and contrast essay, attempts to explain the relationship between things—specifically, how one thing was influenced by another (e.g., how an unfair law sparked a riot). The cause is usually explained first, followed by the effect in cause and effect essays.

Critical Analysis Essay

A critical analysis (also known as a critical essay) is a literature-based essay in which the writer dissects a brief piece of literature (sometimes as short as a single line) to establish a case for what the author is trying to communicate. Critical essays, like persuasive essays, generally follow a conventional argumentative format—introduction, thesis, body, and conclusion—and support their points with textual evidence and other critics’ writing.

Writing various types of essays effectively has become important to academic achievement. Essay writing is a regular school task, a requirement for college applications, and a requirement of standardized testing. Choosing the right type of essay to write in response to a writing task is crucial to answering the question correctly on examinations. Understanding the many forms of essays will assist you in improving your writing skills. Outsourcing your work to the best essay writing service, on the other hand, ensures that your paper will be successful.

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What Is an Essay

Four main types of essays, expository essay, main features, descriptive essay, narrative essay, persuasive/argumentative essay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you are a high school graduate, a college student, or a passionate writer, it is vital to know how to create different types of essays . Depending on the goal, be it a test or a college application, selecting the right type of essay may significantly increase your chances to succeed . In fact, even great content may fail to communicate the main idea if a writer doesn't integrate essential elements. For this reason, you need to distinguish types of writing styles and formats to address a writing prompt.

While academic writing may encompass a number of essay variations, there are only four basic types of essays that lie at the core . Find out more about each category, its features, and structure. All types of essays are followed by attached examples of excellent academic works.

And remember that you always can count on our essay writing service. All you need is to ask " write my essay for me ", and we will be eager to help you.

An essay is a piece of nonfiction academic writing created to develop a specific idea or support an argument . In general, essays are mainly used to provide some information, share the writer's point of view on a matter, or dispute a thesis statement. Depending on the purpose of writing, the essay tone can be either formal or informal. The essay formatting requirements may also vary – it may be a standard 5-paragraph piece or a lengthy academic work. If you wonder how to write a 5 paragraph essay , read our blog. It has a useful guide to help you with this question.

There is a full array of different types of essays. However, the most common classification includes only four major essay categories :

These types of essays may share similar features. For example, expository and persuasive essays mostly deal with factual information that ensures a clear presentation of ideas. Narrative and descriptive essays are written informally and require a creative approach . 

An expository essay is a focused piece of writing designed to explore a particular subject by providing factual information. The primary purpose of expository writing is to analyze a topic without making an argument. Expository essays require a writer to communicate complex information in a simple , easy-to-understand way. Unlike other types of essays, it offers an analysis based on facts. Therefore, a student should use a neutral tone of voice and introduce ideas in a logical order.

This academic assignment tests the student's ability to present a clear explanation of an issue. To create an informative piece, you should refer to statistics and find factual examples. Some of the most common characteristics of expository essays include:

A standard expository essay structure includes the following sections:

As a rule, expository writing is divided into several sub-categories. Some of the most common variations focus on the following matters:

Below you can view an example of a complete expository essay that has all crucial features and follows a standard structure.

A descriptive essay is a type of writing that provides a detailed description of a chosen literary piece, subject, event, etc. A sensory portrayal, commonly used in descriptive writing, serves two purposes. On the one hand, it helps to visualize things; on the other hand, a detailed description is a tool that allows conveying a deeper meaning. High school and college teachers assign a descriptive essay to improve student's creative skills. In this type of writing, you shouldn't limit your imagination . Instead, you will want to show your creativity and resourcefulness.

Typically, descriptive essays share the features of informal writing. Here are the key characteristics descriptive writing should have:

As a rule, a descriptive essay doesn't have specific requirements to its structure. You are free to leverage your creativity to describe an object in the most unusual manner possible. However, this type of essay should contain the following information to address academic objective:

Take a look at the attached example to have an idea how a perfect descriptive essay should look like.

A narrative essay, as the name suggests, tells a story significant to the author. Basically, it's a personal narrative created to share a meaningful experience that profoundly impacts a writer. This type of essay explores different challenges a writer has gone through, and that's what makes it so engaging. In a narrative essay, a writer would navigate a reader through a story without persuading or proving any point. However, a personal narrative should include an element of a moral so that the audience can take away some valuable insights. By writing narrative essays, a student learns how to apply a creative approach to express their feelings and emotions. And yet you need to be able to preserve a story's consistency.

It is common to confuse a narrative essay with a short story : they are not quite the same . In a nutshell, the narrative essay has an academic objective, meaning that it should focus on the personal experience that has actually happened. At the same time, narrative essays share some common features with those of a short story. This type of essay typically contains five elements of storytelling :

As well as any other type of academic assignment, narrative essays have peculiar features listed as follows:

Check out a sample of a narrative essay written by the experts in the domain. As you read, pay attention to how a narrative piece should be organized and how to integrate the elements of storytelling into this type of writing.

A persuasive essay is a type of essay where a writer has to persuade a reader to adopt a specific point of view. A persuasive essay is otherwise called an argumentative essay, since it has to convince the reader of the truth presented in the argument. Besides, in a persuasive essay, one would take a firm stance on a matter . A writer should then provide supporting evidence and facts to back up a thesis statement. Argumentative essay writing requires good research and persuasive skills. A college student should be able to communicate their point of view through evidence-driven research. On top of that, it is crucial to refer to the credible sources , otherwise, chances are that a reader will doubt the argument.

To establish a steady stance, a writer need to create persuasive essays with such characteristics in mind:

Maybe you will need good persuasive essay topics , keep in mind that you will find them here.

Just like any other type of essay, an argumentative essay should be structured according to academic instructions. As a rule, college teachers and university professors require students to include the following parts:

The paper attached below is an excellent example of a persuasive essay provided by our proficient writer.

Bottom line 

A deep understanding of the reader’s intent helps to write along the right lines. Once you determine which of the four types of essays best addresses your goal, you will be able to create an astounding essay tailored to your writing purpose. 

1. How do I choose the right type of essay? 

High school and college teachers usually assign a specific type of essay. But sometimes you may be given writing prompts on the basis of which you have to choose an essay type yourself.  In such case, you will need to pay attention to the requirements of each assignment - they will give you a hint. For example, the word “convince” means you need to write a persuasive essay, whereas the word “describe” indicates you should create a descriptive essay. The word “tell” suggests you should write a narrative essay. 

2. What is a hybrid essay? 

A hybrid essay is a unique combination of two or more types of essays. Sometimes you may be required to address two objectives at once, for instance, tell about your previous and current experience and compare them. In this case, you will need to write a narrative essay with the elements of compare-and-contrast essay.

If you want to write an outstanding analytical essay, you need much more than just a good subject to explore. While having a captivating topic is important, your analysis paper also needs to be properly structured and include all key elements in order to stand out. In this article, you will learn ho...

Understanding the basics of writing a personal essay is essential for any student who wants to succeed at college admission. In 99% cases, the applicants enter the colleges of their dreams thanks to a well-crafted admission paper, and a brilliant personal essay is all you need to stand out from the ...

If you are reading this article, you need to write an informative essay. You might have written it before or this might be your first informative paper. The point is that you are looking for some tips and guides on how to write a really good informative essay.That is for sure! Because you want a hig...

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Different Types of Essays Writing: 4 Main + 12 Additional

By: Angelina Grin

Different Types of Essays Writing: 4 Main + 12 Additional

16 Types of Essays

 1) argumentative essay ,  2) expository essays ,  3) descriptive essay ,  4) narrative essay ,  persuasive essays ,  process essay ,  analytical essays ,  expository essay ,  reflective essays ,  critical analysis essay ,  compare and contrast essays , what are the 4 major types of essays, what are the 10 types of essays, what is the most common type of essay, what is an essay format, how many types of essays are there.

An academic essay is a piece of writing whose focus is to persuade and inform. It achieves these goals by developing ideas and arguments through analysis, evidence, and interpretation. Several essays fall into four major categories: descriptive , expository , argumentative , and narrative essays .

There are also different types of essays for elementary, middle school, high school, and higher learning levels like universities and colleges.

While paper writing is part of academic progress, many students do not differentiate the various types of academic essays. Understanding all the paper types makes it easier for the scholar to create a well-organized paper that is understandable to the reader.

The internet makes it easy for students to research and get relevant information, but that is not enough without knowing essay writing styles. Every topic in academic writing falls under a particular type of essay.

The main types of essays include:

4 Major Types of Essays

There are 4 main types of essays. 

Before settling to write any essay paper , it is critical first to answer the question, “what are the different types of essays?”  Know their distinguishing features and where to apply each of the essays. Four modes of essay writing are known as the organized, the chronological, the functional, and the cause-effect.

It would also help to understand the different kinds of essay formats since each paper follows a specific format. Check out the main essay types and definitions below.

An argumentative essay focuses on an intensive argument concerning a particular thesis statement . The writer has to take a firm stand on one side of the argument and aim to convince the reader about your thesis by citing pieces of evidence. Your stance on the discussion should be clear near the end of your introduction.

An argumentative essay has three distinguishing features.

Introduction - it captures the reader's attention and prepares them for what to expect. It should present the appropriate topic and clearly outline the writer’s point of view.

The body paragraphs - should present your main ideas in a systematic order. Present your argument and evidence for it to your audience.

Conclusion - construct a summarizing paragraph emphasizing the importance of your argument. You need to create a strong conclusion, and the following tips might help:

Argumentative essays are common in higher learning levels like college and university. It tests your research skills and your ability to defend your position on a given topic.

Academic papers for colleges and universities are more detailed and complicated than the lower levels. It requires you to employ your research techniques in practice. In addition, the knowledge and skills you gain from experience will help you stand by your opinion even after graduation.  

Expository refers to the art of describing or explaining something. An expository essay clearly describes a given topic , set of ideas, or process. It provides a balanced view on the topic rather than proving any point. They are more natural than argumentative essays, which rely majorly on research.

It is a type of essay that provides facts and information. It aims to test the scholar’s ability to express themselves or present an explanation on a given topic. You need to consult statistics and find factual examples to write a perfect descriptive essay.

Below are the five main features of an expository essay.

A perfect expository essay structure requires the following components.

Expository writing is the most common kinds of essays for middle and high school levels. These academic essay genres intend to test the student’s understanding of the subject and composition skills.

Expository essay writing styles are helpful in school and teach the student how to express any issue in their own words. 

A descriptive essay vividly describes a general situation, object, or place. It mainly involves a more abstract case, like an emotion. It is the most creative of all types of essays. It tests the writer’s ability to use language to convey a memorable image of the object creatively and originally.

These genres of essays are common assignments for students in high school and also for composition classes. A well-structured descriptive piece of writing has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

 Introduction  - should establish the purpose of your writing. Also, set the tone of the impression by clearly showing what you want your audience to focus its attention on.

 The body  - the body includes factual, sensory, and figurative details. It also involves your feelings and thoughts and should be in local order. Use a transition to connect your ideas.

 Conclusion  - restate the main idea and briefly summarize the ideas in the body.

A descriptive paper equips the writer with the skills to use language figuratively to describe life’s events, both in school and after-school life. 

Narration is a story, and therefore a narrative essay involves telling a story. Most of the time, it consists of the narrator’s personal experience. Unlike other essay forms, the narrative gives you room to get creative and unique when telling your story, and you can freely use first-person nouns.

The following are the five distinctive features of a narrative type of essay with examples.

Plot refers to the events and how they follow each other in your story. For instance, you can narrate your first day in college, what happened, and how the events influenced who you are currently.

Setting : it refers to the location and time of the events, for example, at a particular school in the winter of a specific year.

Character : a protagonist drives your story, but you may have some support characters. In this case, you are the protagonist; your support characters could be the people you met on your first day in school.

Conflict is the challenge, problem, or moment of tension the protagonist has to solve or win.

Theme : it is the moral of the narrative or what you learn and want the reader to know. For instance, the challenges you face as a new student and how to counter them.

Narrative essays are common in high school and university composition classes. It places a student in a position to write a personal statement correctly when making applications even after graduation.

Common Types of Essays for Elementary School

Elementary school is the second-lowest level after kindergarten and ranges from grades one to seven. 

Learners in these grades are equipped with writing skills in easy essay types and different types of essay formats. The following are some types of academic essays for the elementary school level.

A persuasive essay aims at convincing the reader to take sides or adopt the writer’s opinion. It involves factual pieces of evidence and emotional appeals. A writer can include emotional and moral reasoning to connect with the audience to support a cause or argument.

The basis of a persuasive essay is sound reasoning, relevant facts, and evidence. The following features distinguish a persuasive paper from other types of essay writing styles.

 Clear and concise thesis :  as a writer, you need to present your thesis in the first paragraph. Clearly define your take on the particular topic.

 Introduction :  you need to create a strong introduction that captures your readers' attention and presents the ideas of the central issue in question. Clearly communicate the background information of the issue. A strong introduction will persuade the audience to buy the writer’s opinion on the topic.

 The body :  the body develops the argument in a clear evidential manner. The writer needs to start from known to unknown. Consider the reader’s point of view on the topic before introducing your take as a writer.

 Conclusion :  a firm conclusion in persuasive writing readdresses the thesis touching on the evidence provided in the essay.

A persuasive paper must meet the following characteristics:

The skills in persuasive writing enable the learner to tackle more complicated different type of essays at higher levels.   

It isa type of exposition essay that explains how something works or how to do something. A process essay writer must maintain clarity and organization by following a chronological order. It must have the following elements.

 Introduction:  it presents the process you will be communicating in your essay.

 The body  paragraphs should describe the process step-by-step in chronological order. Transitional words will help you to connect one step to the next.

 Conclusion:  summarize the entire process in your conclusion. For example, learning how to prepare chicken is the best experience anyone can enjoy.

Process essays are common in elementary school, as early as the third grade. They equip the learner with skills and the ability to break down the process of writing and achieve better results in other types of academic essays.

Common Types of Essays for Middle School

Middle school is like a bridge between elementary and high school. It serves adolescent students in grades five to nine. The higher middle school grades, 7 to 9, are commonly referred to as junior high school grades.

Some types of papers at the elementary level are part of the middle school curriculum, while some high school essays start in middle school. The following are the types of essays in English for middle school.

It is a type of argumentative writing that outlines the relationship between two subjects. In an academic paper for a typical cause and effect essay writing, the writer details how an event, person, or object influences another one directly.

In a school setup, cause and effect essays are meant to teach persuasive writing, logic, and critical thinking. In a professional setting or academic writing, these paper formats are in the form of a research paper, scientific studies, or lab report abstract. In either case, the author explains a phenomenon and attempts to explain its causes.

There are different essay structures for each type of paper. Below are the structure and main features of a cause-and-effect essay.

 Introduction:  the introduction should give background information about the topic to the context of your essay. To make a solid introduction, avoid cliché phrases and words.

 Body:  the body paragraphs include a topic sentence and supportive sentences. A topic sentence introduces the paragraph's main idea and captures the reader’s attention to the supporting sentences. Support sentences give persuasive facts.

 Conclusion:  summarize the content of your essay in conclusion. Please do not introduce any new information at this point. You can re-state your thesis in the introduction. Listing the causes in your essay body is another alternative way of creating a solid conclusion for the cause-and-effect essay.

It is an essay genre where the student has to investigate and expound on an idea. The scholar then examines the evidence and clearly presents an argument on the same idea. Accomplishing this requires comparison and contrast, definition, or cause and effect analysis.

The features of exposition or expository writing include the following.

Informative: the main point of expository text is to give information.

Clarity: the writer needs to use words that communicate what the text is talking about.

Text organization: an excellent exposition should retain its focus on the topic and outline the events in chronological order.

Impersonal: it does not encourage the use of the first person but instead uses the second-person pronouns “you.”

Unbiased: an exposition aims at providing information and does not openly disclose the author’s opinion.

The structure below holds an exposition together.

A statement of the thesis should be clear, concise, and defined.

The Introduction gives a clear link or transition between the introduction and the body. The body paragraphs should concentrate on the main idea of your writing to maintain clarity and direction all through the essay. It should be creative and factual, logical, or statistical evidential support. Create a solid conclusion by readdressing your thesis in light of some of the evidence in the body.

Common Types of Essays in High School

High school teachers introduce more complex essays to students than those in middle school. Some of the papers in high school progress to the college level. Below are some essays for high school students.

A reflective means you have to reflect on your own experiences. A reflective essay requires the writer to communicate their thoughts and feelings about a specific person, situation, or place in their point of view. Many scholars confuse a reflective paper with a narrative essay.

A reflective piece of writing includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.

 Introduction:  you need to be specific about what you reflect upon in your paper. Make the reader understand your position in the subject you are assessing.

 The body:  each paragraph in the body must start with a topic sentence. Speak your thoughts and experiences concerning the topic. You may include a thesis and statements if you are writing an academic paper.

 Conclusion:  it requires a precise articulation of your thoughts and feelings to create a solid conclusion.

It is an essay writing style that incorporates critical thinking, reading, and writing to communicate to the audience. The writer identifies a piece of art or literature and tries to analyze the author or artist’s thoughts. It focuses on the writer’s opinion, thesis, and argument using logical reasoning and citing evidence.

The significant parts of a critical analysis essay include an outline, introduction, body, and conclusion.

 The outline:  think critically about what you are writing about. Outline the main ideas in bullet form.

 Introduction:  the introduction should state the aim of the initial author of the work you are writing about. Make the introduction as engaging and captivating as possible to capture your reader’s attention.

 Body:  focus on the ideas in your outline and introduction. Each body paragraph should tackle a single notion for flow and consistency.

These tips 👇 will help a writer create a captivating critical analysis essay.

Common Essays in College

The highest level of essays applies to college and university scholars. The following are some of the paper types for college.

It is an essay style that shows the differences and similarities between two subjects or more. It is a perfect way of showing what unites or separates two subjects or objects, especially if people tend to confuse them.

Compare and contrast essay has some similarities to other paper types, but it has the following distinguishing features:

 Thesis:  Carefully pick the subjects you want to compare. If it is not given in the question, you have to be keen to select the one you can handle comfortably.

 Organization:  These essays follow a specific paper structure. The essay format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.

 Introduction:  you need to elaborate on your thesis or the subject you will be discussing.

 Body:   it is the central part of your paper. It would be best to list the differences and similarities between your subjects of discussion here.

 Conclusion:  summarize and clearly wrap up your points.

There are three ways a writer can approach a compare and contrast essay:

Other essay types for college include research and definition. Reflective papers are also part of the college curriculum.

The four major types of essays include argumentative, descriptive, narrative, and expository. Expository and argumentative aim at giving clear points and information, while narrative and descriptive test the writer’s creativity.

There are more types of essays besides the four major categories. Below are ten of these essays.

An argumentative paper is the most common essay type. It tests the writer’s research skills and ability to present their position on a particular subject. It is common at the college level.

An essay format is a series of guidelines that influence how you arrange your academic paper. It includes:

There are many different types of papers to write, but there are four major ones. The essays are subdivided according to their complexity and students’ level of education.

Learning the different types of essays in English language is the first step toward being an excellent writer. You will be able to differentiate each type with its format, writing style, and structure.

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5 types of essays

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Every section of this article was helpful. It gave me knowledge on the definition essays that can be used with data, to criticize, and how to include sources in my pages. From the popular forms of essays, to what you should include in each section, this was really great.

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My teacher told me to examine the benefits of writing different storytelling essays. I now know which type is best to argue my point on any subject matter. It was really helpful and I now feel confident in my college work.

The concept behind a literary analysis essay is for writers to detail everything from the storyline and the idioms to every literary tool used in a piece of literature. It gives readers full experience even if they've yet to read the work.

I was struggling with writing a narrative essay. This article helped to explain how to write different essays and improve the quality of my written work.

While reading this article, I learned the need for the inclusion of sensory details in essays. With literary analysis of any specific topic, you can easily spot the author's writing process.

I was looking for help to explore what an analytical essay and critical essay are to improve my grade band.

Descriptive essays are very critical essays because you need to use words to give your readers an insight into your mind. Thank you for the awesome guidelines.

5 types of essays

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The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 6, 2021.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

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A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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