Types of Essays

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Below are some common types of essay: Expository Essay; Persuasive Essay; Informal Essay; The Review; The Research Essay; Literary Essay; Argumentative Essay; Cause and Effect Essay; Comparison and Contrast Essay.

Types of essaysThere are many different types of major essays used in a majority of academic settings. The essay is a way for a student to convey what they have learned and to prove themselves as scholars in training.

The many different types of essays have their own unique purpose and function for almost all academic pursuits. If a student wants to argue against a common opinion, there is an essay format designed to convey just that. If a student wants to reflect their feelings on current events, there is a style for that as well. Academic essay writing help students to organize their thoughts to share them with their professors and peers. So, depending on the writer's intention, the various essay types help the writer present their case.

Each type of essay is designed to help organize different thoughts and ideas and how each one should be properly presented, depending on the writer’s intention. In this way, the essay is like an empty canvas waiting to be filled with the writer’s ideas. A vivid picture and clear understanding of the subject should be presented to the reader.

The following eight major types of essays are guidelines to assist the writer in making their inner thoughts tangible for the reader. Without them, disorganization and chaos would be present in the written academic world. These eight major essay types make writing academically acceptable works possible.

Argumentative Essay

Man trying to talk to the audience and get his point across, as if reading an argumentative essay
An argumentative essay functions as a means for a writer to get a solid argument across to a reader. The purpose of this type of essay is to express an argument to sway the reader to see through the author’s point of view. It is a useful type of essay for students of any educational level, because it is good practice to not only argue a case, but also to articulate one’s thoughts on a certain matter.

This type of essay uses stern language, solid facts, and undeniable examples as proof that the argument present in the essay is immaculate. Without these features, the argumentative essay ceases to flow well and comes across as weak.

A good argumentative writer has a solid sense of what the writer believe needs to be said about whatever the case may be. They also have an organized idea of how to articulate the argument against possible opposing ideas.

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Expository Essay

An expository essay is an essay that requires extensive research on an idea or issue. The writer must present their evaluation of the issue and the conclusion they have come to based on their findings.

One function of this genre of essay is for students to learn how to conduct research on their own. Research requires a certain set of skills that take practice to obtain. Students may want to draw from their own experiences when discussing certain issues they write about. But through expository essay writing, students will find that doing research can be rewarding. Expository essay writing brings a new light to an aspect or idea they probably would not have come to on their own.

Expository essays are opinion based essays, so there are no wrong answers when presenting it. There just needs to be enough effort in the research done in order for it to be valid. The instructor will give thorough guidelines; however, expect this essay type to be at least 5 paragraphs in length.

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Persuasive Essay

Unlike the argumentative essay, the persuasive essay’s main purpose is to persuade readers towards the author's case. Argumentative essays express an argument or opinion. They are not meant to change the reader’s perspective.

Most persuasive essays focus on current issues and what people should do about them. Persuasive essays can be a challenge to write. Students must show confidence and authority in their writing. They must come across as credible writers. When a persuasive essay loses its credibility, it will ultimately lose the reader.

In everyday life situations, charm can allow a person to easily persuade another. Since a persuasive essay is a written piece, it lacks that personal connection. So, the writer should present strong views to sway their readers. They must be careful in the tone they set, so they do not come across as pushy.

Most writers and persuasive essay authors are able to find their own personal connection to their readers through their many years of writing experience. Many students find this as a challenge early on, but with practice and guidance, they soon write persuasive essays naturally.

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Literary Essay

A literary essay carefully examines main themes and ideas in a literary work. Liberal Arts students should expect to write hundreds of literary essays throughout their entire academic career.

The purpose of a literary essay is to test how well a student can examine the specifics of a literary work. The more details a student can break down into one solid theme and idea, the better regarded they are as avid and strong readers.

The main functions of a literary essay include addressing the main themes of the literary work and explaining why they are the main themes. Each paragraph should pinpoint and explain a specific idea of the work. They must identify why it is significant to the story and its audience.

A literary essay should address symbolism, pathos, and identify what part characters play in a real world perspective. Literary essays, at the core, should talk about why literature, as a whole, is relevant and significant to society.

Research Essay

Man writing on a board, planning his research activity: research, project planning, cases etc


Much like the expository essay, the research essay is based on solid research and referring to other sources for its content. However, it differs from the expository in that the research essay is not necessarily an essay that expresses the author’s opinion. It just has to answer a question in its thesis or address what the audience may be asking. Depending on the subject, the student may or may not conduct an extensive amount of research.

The purpose of this type of essay is to encourage students to learn and self-educate themselves independently. It teaches students how to find answers to questions they may have, whether those questions are relevant to their field or not. Research essays are critical to a writers success. It teaches them how to find the answers for themselves rather than depending on an authority figure giving them the answers.

6. Summative Academic Essay

A summative essay is a summary of research findings, academic papers of the same discipline, or the plot of a literary work. Students may be required to write a summative essay to show knowledge of a book or academic papers they are required to read for a course.

A summative essay is structured with each paragraph summarizing an idea from the literary work. Each paragraph may focus on the important details of one chapter alone. Or, the summative essay could include their thoughts as well. The summative essay is a very simple and straightforward genre of essays.

7. Reflective Essay

Man sitting on the rock, reflecting on his previous experiences or meditating

A reflective essay is a very personal form of writing where the writer can reflect on an idea, thought, event, or anything else of interest. The writer is to write about their feelings on the subject. It is an interesting type of essay, because it may not seem as though a student can learn anything from writing something so personal.

It is comparable to writing a diary entry and having to turn in said diary to the professor. On the contrary, students may find that writing a reflective essay can be just as rewarding as writing an argumentative or research essay.

It is just as important to dwell on other’s thoughts and opinions, as it is to dwell on personal thoughts and feelings. Writing those personal thoughts and feelings down gives the student insight on how they think and how they view the world.

The main features of a reflective essay should include a main point. It can be very easy to ramble on when writing down personal thoughts and feelings. To stay on track, the writer must build up to a point to keep the audience’s attention and to bring significance to their personal insight on the subject at hand.

8. Definition Essay

A definition essay defines a word, phrase, or theory. It adds a personal insight to the subject. A writer should know this subject well so that they can give specific examples to explain and teach others about this subject.

The main features of this essay should include the thesis and a vivid image of the subject, some background on the subject, and break down sufficiently the definitions of the subject. It is a very simple and straightforward piece that does not require that much research, as the writer should already be familiar with the subject.

The student should always end with a strong conclusion that ties the entire paper together. The reader should have a full understanding of the image painted at the opening of the essay. This type of essay teaches the student how to articulate their findings.

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