Types Essay

Definition of Types of Essay

An essay is a short academic composition. The word “essay” is derived from a French word “essai” or “essayer,” which mean “trail.” In composition, however, an essay is a piece of non-fiction writing that talks or discusses a specific topic. Presently, essay is part of every degree program.

Each subject has specific requirements for the essays to be written. Some subjects need longer essays, while others need shorter ones, such as a five-paragraph essay. In composition, the start is made from a five-paragraph essay. Based on the requirements, there are seventeen types of essays.

Types of Essay

  1. Definition Essay
    As the name suggests, a definition type of essay defines different things, ideas, and perceptions.
  2. Narrative Essay
    A narrative essay is a narration like a short story. It is, however, different from a short story in that it is written in an essay format.
  3. Descriptive Essay
    A descriptive essay describes something to make readers feel, smell, see, taste, or hear what is described.
  4. Expository Essay
    An expository essay exposes things in detail to make readers understand without any complications.
  5. Persuasive Essay
    A persuasive essay is meant to convince the target audience to do something or not do something.
  6. Argumentative Essay
    An argumentative essay is meant to present arguments in the favor of something. It has an additional fourth body paragraph that is meant to present opposite arguments.
  7. Analytical Essay
    An analytical essay analyzes something, such as in literature an analytical essay analyzes a piece of literature from different angles.
  8. Comparison and Contrast Essay
    A comparison and contrast essay makes either a comparison, a contrast, or both between two different or similar things.
  9. Cause and Effect Essay
    A cause and effect essay makes readers understand the cause of things, and their effects on other things.
  10. Critical Essay
    A critical essay is written on literary pieces to evaluate them on the basis of their merits or demerits.
  11. Process Essay
    A process essay outlines a process of making or breaking or doing something that readers understand fully and are able to do it after reading it.
  12. Synthesis Essay
    A synthesis essay means to synthesize different ideas to make a judgement about their merit and demerits.
  13. Explicatory Essay
    An explicatory essay is meant to explain a piece of literature. It is often written about poems, short stories, and novels.
  14. Rhetorical Analysis Essay
    A rhetorical analysis essay evaluates a speech or a piece of rhetoric on the basis of rhetorical strategies and devices used in it.
  15. Review Essay
    A review essay discusses the merits and demerits of a book and evaluates it through a review.
  16. Simple Essay
    A simple essay is just a five-paragraph essay that is written on any topic after it is specified.
  17. Research Essay
    A research essay revolves around a research question that is meant to answer some specific question through a research of the relevant literature.

Format of an Essay

Generally, a simple a five-paragraph has five paragraphs including an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. An argumentative essay, however, has an additional paragraph which presents counter argument or opposing arguments in the same sequence. However, at the end of this paragraph, both the arguments are weighed in the favor of stronger arguments presented earlier in three body paragraphs.

The format of an argumentative essay is given below:

A. Introduction
i.  Hookii.  Background Informationiii. Thesis Statement
B. Body Paragraph
i. Topic Sentenceii. Explanation/Exampleiii. Supporting Detailsiv. Transition Sentence
C. Counter Argument
i. Topic Sentenceii. Explanation/Exampleiii. Supporting Detailsiv. Comparison of Body Paragraph Arguments
D. Conclusion
i. Rephrasing Thesis Statementii. Summary of Pointsiii. Concluding Remarks

Function of Types of Essay

An essay is a specific discussion or debate on a topic from a specific point of view. A student discusses the topic from his own specific angle. Readers not only get a glimpse of what the other aspect of the topic is, they also come to know about the tone and voice of the student writers to decide whether he has achieved a certain level of capability in writing. In literary essays, a writer becomes discusses the influence that literary piece has upon the readers about a certain point of view. Essays are also useful in winning public approval about certain political ideas.

Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.

The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.

Answering Questions:  The Parts of an Essay

A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.

It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)

"What?"  The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.

"How?"  A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.

"Why?"  Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.

Mapping an Essay

Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.

Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:

  • State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
  • Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the "what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
  • Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is . . ."  Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your essay. 

Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.

Signs of Trouble

A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").

Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

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