Types Of Essays: How To Write Them and Sample Topics
There are several types of essays that students might not know about. Writing essays is a big part of student life. Whether you’re in high school or college, your teachers and professors will always add an essay writing portion in an exam or require writing tasks.
Essays are a great way to practice research, independent learning, and train your writing skills. In this blog, we’ll enumerate the different kinds of essays and give sample essay topics to inspire you for your next writing assignment.
Why Students Are Tasked To Write Essays
From the perspective of the teachers, reading and grading their students’ essays take a lot of time. This is especially true for larger classes. There is also a lot of course content that needs to be tackled in a term or semester. So why do teachers almost always assign writing assignments to their students?
Regardless of how many essay types there are, writing teaches students lots of valuable lessons. This includes students’ ability to formulate and defend their own arguments, learning to use evidence correctly, and training their writing skills. Still, not all students enjoy the writing process. But Brad Hughes, director of Writing Across The Curriculum from the University of Wisconsin-Madison actually encourages teachers to assign students writing tasks.
Benefits of Essay Writing
Here are some of the reasons why essay writing assignments are beneficial to students and teachers.
● Writing allows students to consume the coursework in a more engaging way. It also promotes deeper thinking and understanding about their class topics.
● When a writing assignment prompt is well designed, it teaches students critical thinking. It allows students to think indepthly about their topic. An example Hughes gave in this instance is a book review. It forces students to read and really understand the material in order to write an analysis about it.
● In Harvard professor Richard Light’s research, he found that students are more engaged in courses that require writing. This was compared to the time spent on a course, the intellectual challenge, and a student’s interest in the course.
● In a research done by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, they associated courses that are writing-intensive as a “high-impact practice”. Research shows “high-impact practices” allow students to enjoy higher levels of learning success.
● Writing projects are an important and meaningful part of undergraduate education (The Meaningful Writing, 2017)
● Writing improves student and teacher relationships.
● Teachers are given insight into their student’s thinking and learning. It even allows for gaps within the teaching methods to be filled.
● Writing assignments improves class discussions.
● Students are more likely to remember course material and lessons when they write about it. It’s a fact that even years after a certain writing assignment, the lesson stays with the student.
● Essays allow students to practice their writing skills. The writing skill atrophies when it isn’t practiced. This is why essay writing becomes an integral part of the curriculum. Through repeated and sustained practice, students get to hone their writing skills and become better writers.
The Definition of an Essay
Frederick Crews, English professor at the University of California at Berkeley gave a brief description of an essay. According to the professor an essay is “a fairly brief piece of nonfiction that tries to make a point in an interesting way.”
Basically the point of an essay is to either teach, persuade, or inform a reader about a specific topic. Essays are anywhere from 300 to 1500 words long and have specific formats. For example, if your teacher requires you to write an essay in MLA format, you have to follow specific instructions. Essays that follow the MLA format are printed on a standard size 8.5 x 11 paper. Depending on your teacher or professor, they might have a preferred font but the common choice is either Arial or Times New Roman in size 12. MLA format essays also follow a double spaced format and require you to cite all your sources.
Three Main Components of An Essay
To learn how to write an essay, you must first learn the three main components that make up a detailed essay. All different kinds of essays have these three essential parts.
In your basic essay structure, the introduction is one of the most important parts. The very first paragraph in your essay has several purposes. First, it should catch the reader’s attention. Second, it should provide a short preview of the contents of your essay. Third, it should contain your thesis statement.
If you want to learn more about what a thesis statement is and other parts of an essay, check out our blog How To Write A History Research Paper where we enumerate all the steps necessary to write one.
To create a clear flow in your essay, you can start each sentence in the body with a transition word or phrase. You can also start each paragraph with your topic sentence which is a shorter, more concise version of your thesis statement. Then you can easily piece together a paragraph with sentences that support the main idea of your topic sentence.
The conclusion is the last paragraph in your essay paper structure. It serves to remind the reader the basic ideas of your essay and reinstates your thesis statement. Your conclusion is not the place to write new ideas, but rather summarize all the points you’ve covered in the body.
The 10 Types Of Essays
Students will be tasked to write many essays in college and in high school. Whether students like it or not, there’s simply no way around this important part of the curriculum. So just how many types of essays are there? Here are the 10 types of academic essays.
1. Narrative Essays
One of the most personal types of essays you can write is called a narrative essay. Narrative essays tell a story. According to Purdue, this type of essay is anecdotal, experiential, and personal. A narrative essay also allows students to be more creative and imaginative. Narrative essays are often also the type of essay used for college or graduate school applications.
Here are some narrative essay guidelines from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
● Tell all the parts of a story. To write a complete narrative essay you must include all the elements which are the introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.
● Not all narrative essays follow a storytelling format. For example, if you are tasked to write a book report the focus should be on an informational narrative for the reader rather than following the pattern of a story.
● A narrative essay’s purpose is to prove a point. Without a point, there is no use narrating at all.
● Have a clear point of view when writing a narrative essay. You could write from an author’s perspective which is common. You could also exercise creativity and write from various points of view as long as you stay consistent.
● Be sure to use language in a concise and clear manner. Similar to a descriptive essay, use language carefully and particularly in order to evoke emotions from the reader.
● You may use ‘I’ in narrative essays but do not abuse it.
● Stay organized and don’t leave your reader guessing. As the writer, you control the narrative of the essay and you should guide your reader in a way they can follow.
2. Descriptive Essays
While sharing similarities with narrative essays, descriptive essays focus on one subject while narrative essays tell a whole story. There’s also more room for creativity in descriptive essays. The key to descriptive writing is using adjectives. In order to really immerse the reader in a descriptive essay’s topic, use vivid imagery, use strong action verbs, and connect your readers in a way where they feel involved and connected to the subject of your essay.
Important aspects to consider when writing a descriptive essay is the difference between showing and telling while using sensory details.
Sensory details refer to details of smell, taste, texture, sight, and sounds. In supplying these sensory details in a narrative essay, you will be more successful in showing rather than telling. Using “telling” words are usually more ambiguous, vague, and more open to interpretation which is counterintuitive in a descriptive essay. Showing on the other hand is more specific in supplying sensory details.
It’s almost important to note that explanation is not the same as being descriptive. Explanations don’t contain sensory details and according to Butte College, your descriptive essay becomes boring when it devolves into explaining and telling rather than showing.
3. Expository Essays
An expository essay is a neutral presentation of facts in written format. It’s commonly used to demonstrate knowledge or expertise about a certain subject. Expository essays are the type of essay teachers assign to students to gauge their understanding of a topic. An expository essay is devoid of personal statements and opinions and should be based on facts.
This type of essay requires students to be investigative. They should be able to evaluate evidence, expound on ideas, and be able to argue their points clearly and concisely.
For a more in depth tutorial, read our past blog on What Is An Expository Essay and How To Write An Amazing One.
4. Definition Essays
Definition essays provide an in-depth analysis and explanation of a term or an idea. This is the one of the types of essay writing that are commonly used in academic and research settings. There are also two types of definition essays. One is to define concrete concepts and the other is to define abstract concepts.
In order to write a definition essay, you need to ask a question to prompt the start of your essay. Here are some sample questions that can help inspire you for your next definition essay.
Concrete Concept Question Prompts:
● What is climate change?
● What is the Pythagorean Theorem?
● What is the definition of Gothic Romanticism?
Abstract Concept Question Prompts
● What is the definition of bravery?
● What is maturity?
● How do you explain the concept of friendship?
5. Process Essays
A process essay is also commonly known as a “how-to essay”. This is one type of essay that teaches the reader how to do something or explains how something works. Chronological order of steps and processes are usually what a process essay contains. It’s basically a tutorial in written format. Here are some tips to help you start writing your process essay.
● Consider your audience’s skill level.
● List the materials needed if your topic is how to make something.
● Enumerate each task or step clearly.
● Explain each step’s purpose.
● Use transition words to create a well-structured essay.
● Discuss what the main result will look like.
Here are some sample process essay topics:
● How to lose weight using intermittent fasting
● How to start a drop-shipping business
● How to open your first bank account
Homework Help Global also has some great “how-to” blog samples. Read this one about How To Take Notes in College for more inspiration.
6. Compare and Contrast Essays
The different types of essays usually always discuss one specific topic. For compare and contrast essays, there are two subjects where the essay aims to detail the similarities and differences between the two. It’s also different compared to a definition essay or an expository essay in the sense that it does not only state the obvious facts but makes light of the subtle differences and unexpected similarities in the two subjects.
There are two main strategies to writing a compare and contrast essay.
Organize your two topics and clearly establish each one. When you start introducing the topics, start with one and then the other.
After establishing each topic separately, discuss the topics in relation to each other.
For a more detailed instruction, watch this episode of the Homework Help Show on How To Write a Compare and Contrast Essay.
7. Argumentative Essays
What sets an argumentative essay apart from other types of essays is the writer’s position about the topic being written. On top of collecting data, researching, and presenting all the facts, the writer has to establish their own perspective and argument to sway the reader.
Here are three different types of arguments you can use to structure your argumentative essay.
Also known as the “Aristotelian”, is the most popular form of argumentative writing. It follows a simple line of thinking and is effective even when your audience knows very little about the topic. To follow a classical type of argument, present the main argument, state your position, and present the evidence that will convince the reader why your position is the right one.
This type of argument is best for polarizing and different topics. In order to follow a rogerian type of argument, the first step is to present the problem, state your point of view, and then explain why your position is beneficial to the readers. What differentiates a rogerian argument from a classical one is that it acknowledges both sides of the polarizing issue and presents a middle ground.
The term “Toulmin” comes from this argument’s developer, Stephen E. Toulmin, who was a philosopher. The Toulmin argument has six defining components which are the claim, grounds, warrant, qualifier, rebuttal, and backing.
Luckily for you, of all the types of essays there are, Homework Help Global has curated 100 Powerful Argumentative Essay Topics You Can Steal Right Now. We’ve also made a step by step guide on How To Write An Argumentative Essay.
8. Persuasive Essays
Persuasive essays typically use logic and reasoning to emphasize the legitimacy of an idea more than another. Other types of essays usually require the writer to do a neutral presentation of facts. For persuasive essays, the writer is entitled to form their own opinion and attempt to convince their reader why their stance is correct. This is done by providing logical and ethical arguments.
Because the nature of this essay is to persuade people, it’s commonly used in speeches as well. Check out this blog on 100 Persuasive Speech Topics That Will Captivate Your Audience Instantly, to get more inspiration on topics.
Persuasive Essay Tips
To write a successful persuasive essay, try using these techniques.
● Repetition: Your readers will most likely remember the message and pay attention when the same message is repeated several times.
● Storytelling: Messages that are conveyed through storytelling or with the use of an analogy or anecdote, are more likely to be understood by your readers.
● Rebuttals: Pointing out the flaws in the logic of your opposing viewpoints makes it look like the viewpoint you’re defending is the valid position.
● Call To Action: This technique is very popular in advertising and can be applied to persuasive essays. Compelling your readers to take action gives them a purpose and therefore makes them more likely to side with you.
There are also three components called “modes of persuasion” that you can use.
● Ethos: People are more likely to believe credible sources or people who are known to be knowledgeable on a certain topic. “Ethos” or “ethical reasoning” allows you to establish that credibility and knowledge. When using ethos in your persuasive essay, you are more likely to succeed in “selling” your point of view.
● Pathos: This mode of persuasion appeals to the readers’ emotions. It is also known as “passionate reasoning”. By evoking emotions and feelings in your readers, it helps them connect with you and adds a compelling layer to your writing. Triggering certain feelings in your readers like empathy can help persuade them to your argument.
● Logos: Unlike using credibility and emotions to persuade your readers, logos or “logical reasoning” just use plain logic. It’s easy, straightforward, and rational. To use logos in your essay, outline all the logical reasonings behind your argument and back up your claims with evidence to further persuade your readers. There’s nothing like persuading your readers with good old hard facts.
9. Cause and Effect Essays
A cause and effect essay explores the causality between two events. There is a big difference between chronology and causality and some students mistake the two. Just because an event occured before the event, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are related. When writing a cause and effect essay, be sure to research the causes and confidently demonstrate why and how they led to the effects. Cause and effect essays could also be considered a type of expository writing. It aims to state facts and is devoid of subjective opinions. The aim of this type of essay is to explain, discuss, or relate certain events and situations with others.
It’s actually quite easy to make any essay topic into a cause and effect essay. You simply have to ask the right questions. For example, your topic is climate change. Climate change in this case could either be your cause or your effect. If climate change is the cause, explore arguments such as animal agriculture and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. If climate change is your effect, explore the events like the drying up of rivers in different parts of the globe and the devastating storms countries like Pakistan have experienced recently that is an effect of climate change.
If you need more help, check out this blog on How To Come Up With Good Topics. Then try your hand at formulating the right questions that can turn any topic into a cause and effect essay.
10. Critical Essays
A critical essay, similar to a critique essay, provides an in-depth analysis of your subject. A good analytical review on a topic required in a critical essay uses critical reading, critical thinking, and of course, critical writing. Your sources of critiquing could be books, movies, plays, artwork, and even restaurants.
The main purpose of a critical essay is to gauge your understanding of a certain topic. That’s why of the two main components in writing a critical essay, the first is reading. You must have a thorough understanding of your chosen topic in order to critique it. The second part is the writing process. Critical essays are very research-based and use facts to justify the writer’s opinion on the subject matter.
For example, in a book review, if you are critiquing the author’s use of “boring language” cite examples of boring lines within the book.
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