An essay is a short piece of writing that has compositional integrity and logical coherence. There are many types of essays. The essay reflects personal opinion and individual impressions on a particular topic, issue, or question, and does not necessarily claim to be comprehensive. The personal opinion can be supported by examples from literary texts, mass media or life observations. In this post the four essay types with examples which are most frequently assigned in high school or college are explained.
A narrative essay describes events in a certain sequence, most often chronologically, telling a story. Usually, the author does not just show the sequence of events, but also expresses his attitude to them. The form of essay with examples of such type:
- the beginning: “When I was 12 years old…visiting … turned out to be one of my most memorable experiences”;
- development of events: “I was amongst the members of the group who … For hours we…”;
- the climax (the most interesting, tense or pivotal moment): “We had almost given up when suddenly…”;
- the denouement, or the conclusion of your story containing morals or lessons you have learned.
The following components are important to any narrative:
- the place where the action of the story has happened;
- the characters –the people the essay is about;
- the plot: what happens in the story, the sequence of events. Often there is a climax or turning point in the essay when the characters or events being described change;
- the meaning – the main idea that the author leads the reader to. Often the meaning of the story is not distinguished from the theme of the story, which is wrong. A hometown (theme) can be told for different purposes (meaning): to invite the reader to a holiday, to draw attention to pressing social or environmental issues, to share information about the city’s glorious past, etc.;
- the mood – a certain atmosphere that the author of the essay creates with his story. This atmosphere can be pleasant, encouraging, uncertain, frightening, etc.
The first part of the introduction begins the narrative essay. It describes the place, introduces the characters, and prepares the reader for what will happen next. The second part of the introduction (usually the first sentence) is designed to grab the reader’s attention (the intriguing part). In a narrative essay, it is important to awaken in the reader a desire to guess what will happen next. This piece of information engages the reader and makes him or her want to know what happened to the author. After reading it, the reader may have many questions.
The statement contains the main idea of the essay and outlines its structure. In a narrative essay, the assertion is the beginning of the presentation of the action (event, phenomenon) to which the essay is devoted. It is important that the reader does not yet understand from the statement what exactly happened. Here it is necessary to try only to hint at what will be discussed in the main part.
The main part of the essay contains the main intrigue. The events can be told in different ways. Most often a chronological order is used. In this case, the reader learns about the events as he or she gets acquainted with the text: the first paragraph describes the beginning of the story (the plot), in the second, its continuation (development of events), and so on (until the climax and denouement).
In the chronological organization of an essay, each paragraph ends with a binder sentence. Such sentences are written to mark the end of a paragraph and to connect the information reported in one paragraph to the information of the next paragraph. These sentences are necessary to make the story perceived as one unified story and to make it easier for the reader to read.
A narrative essay needs a concluding idea. The last paragraph ends the description of the event. The last sentence can serve two functions:
- the author can derive a moral from the story or share thoughts about what the characters in the story have learned from the event described;
- the author can make a suggestion about what will happen in the future or share his discovery (if he has learned something new that he didn’t know before).
Thus, a narrative essay will be successful if: its statement serves as the impetus through which the further narrative develops, or the essay has special sentences that show the connection between events and help the reader follow the development of the story. The narrative essay ends with a moral, a suggestion, or a report of a discovery made by the author.
A descriptive essay is an orderly description of the most essential features of an object (thing, person, animal, phenomenon, process, etc.). Such an essay describes an object. It can be an event, a person or an animal, an artist’s work, a book or a movie, etc. In the description it is important not just to convey the main characteristics of the object: appearance, smell, texture, but to reflect your feelings. In the essay-description should not resort to criticism and analysis. Subjectivity here is manifested in the features themselves, in the wording, in the emotional coloring.
The compositional features of a descriptive essay are:
- general impression;
- description of details;
For example, If you are to describe a landscape, it is important to understand what your purpose will be. So, for example, you could:
- convey the mood that the landscape evokes;
- help the reader see what you see;
- to convey the thoughts that arise when you see that landscape!
The descriptive essay has a definite structure:
- overall description;
- several characteristics;
- personal impression/evaluation.
When characterizing details, it is common to use:
- associations (a connection that arises in the student’s mind in connection with a certain object, phenomenon, event, fact, etc., and makes one think of another. For example, fox – cunning, hare – fear, white – purity, etc.).
- comparisons (a stylistic device based on figurative comparison of two objects or states, created by means of comparative conjunctions “as”, “as if”, “as if”, “exactly”, “what” (what): for example, “the forest is like a painted tower”; the form of the instrumental case: for example, “tears pour down in hail”, “smoke is piled high”, etc. The adjective or adverb in the comparative degree: e.g., “there is no beast stronger than a cat”; lexically, with the words “like”, “similar”.
- definitions (epithets) are definitions added to the name of an object for greater representativeness: e.g. blue sea, golden autumn, etc. Expressed mainly by an adjective, but also by an adverb (“to love fervently”), a noun (“merriment noise”), a numeral (“second life”), a verb (“desire to forget”).
The algorithm of writing a descriptive essay:
- clarify the purpose of writing;
- convey a general impression;
- present all the characteristics of the object or phenomenon being described, using comparisons, associations, definitions;
- give a personal assessment of the object being described.
A descriptive essay writing skills tend to contribute to the development of comparative essay skills as well.
An argumentative essay, which is based on logically structured facts, seeks to persuade the reader to agree with some opinion, perform some action, or do both. The authors of the argumentative essay achieve their goal by means of rational influence, relying on opinions of authorities, statistical data, etc.; emotional and ethical influence. This is the most popular type of writing, common in various professional fields. When writing an argumentative essay, the student will be required to be able to:
- clearly articulate his or her standpoint and explain it in writing;
- select strong arguments to support their arguments and present them effectively in a written text;
- follow the argumentative essay structure types;
- to express accurately one’s thoughts in written form.
Structural features of the argumentative essay:
- Introduction: introductory statements (non-standard, unusual questions, interesting quotes, statistics, statements that are used to capture the attention of the reader and stimulate further interest in reading);
- Body of the essay:
- The thesis statement: 1) the thesis or point you will argue, formulated in one sentence; 2) an explanation of the thesis (2-3 sentences).
- Arguments (two) 1) statement (statement of assertions); 2) support (facts, judgments, etc.); 3) support (the assumption or premise on which the statement is based is used to strengthen the argument); the support is more fundamental than the statement, it deals with abstract questions of methodology, ideology, philosophy.
- Counterargument (one) (the supposed objection of the other side strengthens the argument because there will be more credibility to the arguments since opposing views are not silenced): 1) assumption of the opposing side; 2) identification of a weakness or problem in the evidence of the opposing opinion.
- A compromise solution can be offered that satisfies the opposing side as well.
- synthesis of arguments; b) restatement of the thesis; c) concluding statement (future of the argument; question or statement for reflection; recall introductory statements; posing original questions that will provide a different perspective on the problem).
In the introduction to an argumentative essay, be sure to refer to the topic and the key words that, in formulation, led you to the idea of the essay. Don’t go into a long argument right away. Don’t forget to introduce the necessary terms, disclose them if they are important to the topic of your essay.
An expository essay is a perspective written with the intention of educating and/or explaining something. It does not call for any original research or definite argument, rather it simply explains an idea, concept or fundamental principle recounted by others. The key structural elements are, as usual:
You can do this by using comparison and contrast, definition, example, cause-and-effect analysis, etc. A clear, concise, and definite thesis statement in the first paragraph of the essay. It is very important that this thesis statement be adequately narrowed. You need to start with an explanation of what issue you’re trying to argue for, and then proceed with the points you want to prove in the body part of your expository essay outline. Summarize everything at the end!
An expository essay suggests that you provide a clear and focused presentation of important facts and positive aspects of your subject under discussion. Expository writing is an educational format in which the writer discusses or dissects a particular topic, delivering factual information to present their argument in an honest and balanced manner.
Textual analysis essays
To understand the author’s intention and assess how it is realized in the text, you need to be able to conduct complex analytic-syntactic operations to process the perceived information, to move from one meaningful element to another. Text analysis includes the following steps:
- identifying the topic (problem) of the proposed text. Selecting key words to understand the topic, the meaning of the title, and the main idea of the text;
- identifying the idea (main idea) of the text;
- determining the main idea means answering the question of why this topic is still of interest and resonates with different authors;
- determining the type of speech – narrative, descriptive, argumentative;
- vocabulary analysis: analysis of the text assumes knowledge of the main lexical means of language (synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, words with direct and figurative meanings, phrases), the ability to find them in the text and analyze the features of their use;
- expressive means.
The text can be analysed with the use of different methods, which are explained below.
The purpose of a rhetorical analysis is to analyze and evaluate a written work. Such a review essay is aimed at evaluating a proposed text and requires the expression of the reader’s attitude to what and how it is written, in what he or she agrees with the author and in what he or she disagrees. A rhetorical analysis contains a critical evaluation, so you need to know not only the basic requirements of the text, the rules of its construction, but also the problem, the issues it talks about. In other words, the rhetorical analysis essay is a text about the text, its critical analysis and evaluation.
The ability to determine the rhetorical means of expression used by the author of the text is one of the most difficult tasks. It presupposes knowledge of the main linguistic means of artistic expressiveness (epithet, comparison, metaphor, hyperbole, personification). Also, the most common figures of speech: anaphora (repetition of words or word combinations at the beginning of a sentence), antithesis (contrast, contrasting phenomena and concepts), gradation (arrangement of words or expressions in ascending or descending importance), oxymoron (combination of words with opposite meanings), parallelism (similar construction of complex phrases, sentences), rhetorical question, rhetorical exclamation, rhetorical reference, etc.
Rhetorical analysis of the text allows you to consider different aspects of its construction on a specific material, to identify the techniques of speech impact, to evaluate the linguistic means chosen by the author, the means of speech expression. The ability to analyze a text is an important component of communicative competence; it also creates the necessary basis for creating your own texts of various genres.
The literary analysis is one of the most common assignments in high school and college literature classes. The literary analysis of a text is considered to be its review according to certain parameters. This process allows for a better understanding of the written piece, to trace not only its storyline, but also its inner meaning. The main secret to successful literary analysis is following a plan:
- history of creation;
- the meaning of the title;
- the genre of the work;
- theme, idea and problems;
- composition and key moments of the plot;
- the conflict in the work;
- the system of characters and images;
- the position of the author;
- artistic means;
Conclude the analysis with summarizing conclusions. This can be a personal reader’s opinion as well as opinions of famous literary critics. The main condition is that the conclusions must be substantiated.
Frequently asked questions about types of essays
How to know which type of essay you should write?
As a rule, your assignment would state which exactly type of an essay you should write. When the prompt is not clear, the style of the essay can be determined by the keywords in the assignment. For example, when you are asked to “explain”, it suggest an expository essay, “argue” or “evaluate” stand for an argumentative essay, when you are asked to “analyze” some written piece it is, obviously, a text analysis, and “describe” hints on a descriptive essay.
What type of essay is most frequently assigned in college?
When you are at university, you will have plenty of academic writing assignments. Their types depend on the subject and which of your skills a professor wants to test. Writing an essay develops logical thinking and the ability to present arguments to prove one’s views. It teaches how to convey information correctly, usually in a conversational style.
How do argumentative and expository essays differ?
Basically, expository essay explains or explores some issues, not bearing much of your subjective point of view. While through an argumentative essay you must defend your statement.
How do a narrative essay and a descriptive essay differ?
A narrative and a descriptive essay both develop creativity and bear your subjective point of view. But a descriptive essay just describes something or someone, while a narrative essay tells a story.