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Essay Types, Academic Essays

Essay Types: General Review of Academic Essays

Sep 27, 2012 - Posted to  Essay Writing
Essays are concise pieces of writing often required by most educational programs and institutions. This type of composition allows the student to illustrate his or her writing ability and convey individual thoughts and ideas as well as comprehension of texts and presented evidences.
Essays can be grouped into four main categories: narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive. All four are general to different types of academia and may be requested quite often in literature-based courses such as English, Journalism, Psychology, and the Humanities. Most likely, if you can think of a type of essay, you can find it in one of these categories. Advertisements? Persuasive. Autobiography? Narrative. Cause and effect? Exposition. And so on.
In this article we will explain each type of essay, its format and structure, common examples, and the major elements to be included in each.
*Note: One frequently assigned writing that would not fall under one of these categories would be the research paper; research writing is considered to be a separate category.

Narrative Essays

A major objective in writing is to tell a good story. Narrative essays are usually just that-storytelling. As a very common type of narrative is a short story. Short stories are assigned to students all throughout their primary and secondary years and are familiar to many. The details may get a bit more complex as you get older but the structure is the same. A short story is made up of four main elements: a narrator, characters, plot, and setting.
Yet, every narrative is not a story that can be explained in such a way. An example of this would be a book report. A book report falls under the narrative category but follows a more distinct format of simply restating information presented in a book.
Another type of narrative essay would be the autobiography. An autobiography is a story about yourself written by you (hence the prefix auto) and is a good example of the incorporation of I in narrative writing. Unlike other categories it is permissible to use the pronoun I when formulating this type of essay.
Things to remember
When writing your narrative you want to make sure to:
  1. Clearly indicate the main objective of your essay and the type of narrative you are writing:


    Let your reader know where you will be taking them. This is important if you are not telling a traditional story with a beginning, middle and end. If you are relaying a personal experience or specific event be sure to indicate that in your essay's introduction.
  2. Identify your point-of-view:


    Will you be writing from a first-person, or third-person point-of-view (note-there are three types of third person; dramatic, omniscient, and limited omniscient)? Whichever point-of-view you choose, be sure to show clarity and consistency throughout your writing.

Expository Essays

Expository essays generally ask you to explain or evaluate concepts and ideas and inform the reader of specific information. Therefore a thesis statement is essential to an expository essay. A thesis statement is one or two sentences that explicitly tell the reader what you will be covering and your main purpose or objective in writing. In addition to this, your essay should include support statements that will further explain and aide your thesis statement. A dependable and candid method of forming your paper would be to follow the five-paragraph format of writing; i.e. introductory paragraph (1) support paragraphs (3) and conclusion paragraph (1).
Please note that this is not the only method of formulating an expository essay. Its a good idea to engage your reader in any type of writing so try and experiment with other formats as well.
Common examples of expository essays include; comparison and contrast, cause and effect, problem and solution and definition essays. Out of these examples it is clear that the writer will be supplying the reader with clear evidence to support their main objective or thesis within their paper.

Descriptive Essays

To begin thinking about descriptive essays try to identify the color Jorge Luis Borges is describing in his essay Blindness; "that great color, which shines in poetry, and which has so many beautiful names in many languages. Think of scharlach in German, scarlet in English..."
Did you guess it? The color is red. Take note of the very detailed and descriptive way it is explained by the author. This is a great example of a descriptive essay.
Descriptive essays are essays that address your sense of touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. In the above example the author, Borges appeals to our sense of sight in imagining this astonishing color as well as our sense of sound in formulating the articulation of each word variation presented.

Types of descriptive essays

Descriptive essays can further be categorized by type. Some types include:
  1. functional descriptions - detailed descriptions of primary physical characteristics (the thing described can be a person, place or thing)
  2. character profile and sketch - character profiles and character sketches differ in that profiles are descriptions reserved for real or actual people while sketches are descriptions of fictional characters
  3. observations - a description of something the writer witnessed or experienced (should be nonfiction)

Persuasive Essays

A persuasive essay attempts to convince or persuade the reader to agree with the author's position on an important issue. This essay is also known as an argumentative essay and involves a great deal of research and effort on the part of the writer. Convincing someone that your opinion is the right one can be a hefty task outside of writing so you can imagine the weight of each word when writing a persuasive essay. The main areas of focus are the evidential portions of your paper which will prove to your reader, in a sense, the validity of your points. A persuasive essay like the exposition should have a precise and clear thesis statement as well as strong support statements. A quick outline of your persuasive piece is as follow;

Persuasive essay outline

  1. Introduction


    This area should house your thesis statement, a brief introduction of the topic and its significance.
  2. Body


    The body of your essay should include your researched evidences to support your thesis statement. For example, if you would like to argue that background checks are necessary for employment in public child care settings you should therefore provide examples of cases or news reports in which a negative outcome resulted from a child care provider not being properly screened prior to employment.
  3. Conclusion


    This portion of your essay should highlight the most striking evidences presented as well as revisit your thesis statement and give your reader a final thought or idea to ponder over. A suggestion for writing conclusions in general is to leave the reader with a "call to action" requesting that they make some sort of change, provide the reader with an ending solution to the problem addressed, or to make statements about the future or advancement of the issue or idea.
A key area not to be overlooked in persuasive essay preparation is the investigative or research aspect of this type of writing. It is not simply about stating your opinion but providing the necessary research required and then formulating an informed, logical and clear response. Book reviews for example require that the reviewer first read the book in question and obtain an amount of background information on the author before writing the review.

Personal Essays

Personal essays are interesting to note as they do not exactly fall under any one of the categories presented. A personal essay is a nonfiction piece of self-expression that reveals the personal experiences, thoughts or ideas of the writer. The personal essay may be a narrative in which the author decides to tell you a story or a sort of persuasive essay in which the author speaks freely about his or her opinion on a matter. These types of essays are also known as personal opinion essays and do not follow the same guidelines as other persuasive essays. The approach is much more relaxed and informal and may not provide substantial evidence to support opinions stated. Though this type of writing does allow for a bit of freedom and flexibility writers should still be cautious of proper organization and comprehensiveness while writing. Example topics for personal essays include; analysis of personal growth and development, memories, and major incidents or events that occurred in the author's life.
The essays discussed cover a wide range of writing types and styles. Knowing them will hopefully improve your writing ability and give you a comprehensive understanding of the formats and guidelines expected of you as a student and as a writer.
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