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Types of Essays

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Below is a list of the most common 31 types of essays students need help with when crafting a philosophy paper and other related subject fields.

Check out our insightful guide on how to write a good philosophy paper if you haven't already!

Analytical Essays

An analytical essay examines a specific work and focuses on the use of evidence and assumptions that support a writer's argument. All information that is central to the argument will be examined and assessed to contribute to a greater understanding of the work.

Often, the analytical essay includes a summary of the original work, the argument or claim of the writer, an analysis and assessment of the assumptions at play, an analysis of any hidden arguments or inherent contradictions in the work, an analysis of the intended audience, and an analysis of the evidence provided (using rational, emotional, and ethical appeals).

All of the evidence and analysis in the body paragraphs should directly support a clear thesis, with facts and supporting details. The essay should also have a conclusion that restates the claim of the essay and summarizes the main points.

Argumentative Essays

The argumentative essay uses specific evidence to evaluate, establish, and argue a position on a controversial topic.

The introduction should explain the significance of the topic, and offer a clear thesis statement that establishes a definite position on the issue.

The body should include specific evidence and support for the argument, with clear and logical transitions that help the progression of the essay's argument. Argumentative essays often involve detailed research to bring in factual, logical, or statistical evidence. The essay should also consider the opposing side of the argument, anticipating objections that may arise and explaining the level of validity of different types of evidence.

In the essay, assume a well-balanced tone that is professional and trustworthy. Avoid the use of the first person, and use the various argumentative appeals: logos, ethos, and pathos.

Cause and Effect Essays

Cause and/or effect essays present reasons and explanations for specific events or conditions; in other words, they are concerned with why things happen and what happens as a result. The essay will focus on a certain event, phenomenon, condition, or trend, and explain its direct causes, effects, or both.

The essay can be organized chronologically (most common), in order of importance, or categorically. However the essay is organized, stick to the purpose and intent of the essay, make sure all evidence is relevant and supports the thesis, and focus on immediate and direct causes or effects. The essay should also maintain a reasonable and professional tone that avoids the use of the first person. The tone and use of evidence is crucial to the validity of the essay's argument.

Classification Essays

A classification essay sorts or organizes things into logical categories. The organized categories should reveal the theme or purpose of the essay, and should reflect a useful and logical system of classification. Make sure that the categories chosen are useful, that all the categories follow a single organizing principle, and that specific examples are given for each category. The essay should also point out similarities and differences between the categories.

The thesis statement of the essay should include the topic, the common classifying principle, and the categories. The structure of the essay will be organized around these categories. Each paragraph should investigate one category, with the most important category reserved for last.

Compare/Contrast Essays

A compare/contrast essay reflects on similarities and differences between two points of comparison (ie. two historical periods, ideas, works of literature or art, people, etc.).

The successful compare/contrast essay will make connections between the texts or ideas, and go beyond just a description or list of the similarities and differences. The similarities and differences should support a larger, more critical analysis and argument. While planning your essay, you should decide what is more important to your argument, the similarities or the differences.

The essay should also cover relevant points that relate back to course material and support the overall argument, and have a clear and specific thesis that proposes a deeper engagement with the ideas, a strong and organized structure (subject-by-subject or point-by-point), and clear transitions that signal switches from one subject or point to another.

Creative Essays

A creative essay is a short, non-fiction essay that uses on creative, aesthetic, and imaginative strategies. Creative essays can be considered similar to memoir or autobiographical pieces because of their emphasis on true events in the writer's life. Creative essays can take many forms – the two most common are the descriptive essay and the narrative essay.

Because creative essays often are written to express certain ideas or to provoke the reader, they do not have to follow a standard structure. Still, the five-paragraph format is an easy and common way to structure the essay. A creative essay may be non-linear, emotional, and imaginative, but must still have a purpose. The structure chosen should reflect the emotional appeal and purpose of the essay, with appropriate use of imagery, modifiers, and transitions. Like other creative works, the language of a creative essay is important.

Critical Essays

A critical essay evaluates a piece or body of work, such as a film or work of literature. Critical writing can only be done after critical reading. While evaluating the work, actively analyze the various parts of the work, the themes, and argument. Researching relevant sources such as literary criticism can aid in this process. The essay should be well-balanced and well-communicated, offering an evaluation of the information and presenting conclusions and judgments on the work's critical value.

The essay should include a strong thesis statement, a summary of the author's/artist's point of view, and an evaluation and assessment of the work. All claims need to be supported with evidence. Evidence from the text is strongest, though evidence from criticism can also be helpful. The good critical essay will be well organized, with each section clearly supporting the main idea. The essay should have an objective tone – the point here is not what your opinion is, it's whether you can support your claims with concrete evidence.

Current Event Essays

Current event essays relate current events with relevant class material, examining the historical and social context of current news events happening internationally. Good topics will stem from current issues or articles dealing with politics, international affairs and relations, economics, or other controversial issues.

The essay will require research of current journals, magazines, newspapers, or online news websites to build a broad understanding of the event's context. The essay should present the contemporary issue in the context of history, studying a larger context surrounding the event and the impact of the event (social, political, economical).

A strong thesis should address the complexity of the current event(s) and include a relevant and concrete position on the issue. The body needs to include evidence in support of the thesis statement, with adequate evidence from credible sources.

Deductive Essays

Deductive essays use deductive reasoning to draw a reasonable conclusion from the circumstances of a certain situation. Deductive reasoning has three basic parts: premise, evidence, conclusion. The basic premise is factual information, something that is already assumed to be true: "All dogs are animals." The evidence might indicate that "Benny is a dog." By deductive reasoning, the conclusion can be made that "Benny is an animal."

A deductive essay uses this simple concept on a larger scale, following the same basic format: presenting any factual information as the premise, and then introducing all the evidence that leads to a conclusion. A good deductive essay will be clear and concise, with each paragraph focusing on a specific point and using concrete evidence and examples to lead to a specific conclusion.

Definition Essays

A definition essay is an essay that defines and explains in-depth what a given term means. The essay will share the writer's personal and extended commentary on that term's meaning.

The essay should explain the term clearly and memorably to the reader without using dictionary definitions. Instead, the definition should be elaborated in the writer's own words with clear information, facts, examples, anecdotes, and personal information. The thesis should identify the term being defined and provide a brief definition.

There are many different ways that a term can be defined, and a good essay will use a combination of the following:

-Analysis/Comparison- Describing separate parts of the subject, comparing the term to something else
-Details- Providing a conceptual context of the term, physical and internal characteristics
-Negation- Explaining what the subject is not
-Examples and Anecdotes
-Origins, Causes, Results, Effects

Descriptive Essays

A descriptive essay describes a person, place, thing, or experience in vivid detail by using imaginative and metaphorical language, imagery, and sensual information. The essay will utilize detailed observations and descriptions to communicate a certain point ie. highlighting a specific feeling of admiration towards a person.

The successful descriptive essay will create a vivid experience for the reader by showing rather than telling, and focusing on the five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) to communicate details that support the main point of the essay. The details will imbue the essay with a certain emotional perspective and the paragraphs will be organized (most commonly, general to specific) in a way that is most effective in communicating the main point.

Evaluation Essays

An evaluation essay examines and evaluates a given topic or book, often using a certain set of criteria. The essay will assess the topic, form a point of view, and often attempt to persuade the reader to agree with the stance. The thesis statement should cover the main points of the essay, indicating the method of evaluation and offering a concrete judgment on the topic.

Separate paragraphs in the body should bring forward various arguments and evidence that support the thesis, with all judgments being based on concrete evidence, facts, and logical reasoning. The argument should be based on reasonable criteria. It is often a good idea to state the opposing point of view, providing counter-arguments and strengthening the essay's stance. The essay should also be written in an unbiased, professional, authoritative tone.

Exploratory Essays

An exploratory essay is an essay that can be written without an end in mind. It chronicles the exploration of an object rather than demonstrating previous knowledge. Using critical thinking and research, the essay focuses on a question rather than a thesis statement, exploring new arguments during the process of research and widening the scope of a discourse. It can be written from a retrospective view on the research done, or it can chronicle the actual research process.

A good exploratory essay will provide a thorough, enlightening, and subjective investigation of a topic, possibly providing various solutions for complex problems, analyzing various strengths and weaknesses, studying controversial opinions, and asking further questions on the way.

Expository Essays

An expository essay depicts other people's views or reports on an event or situation with information and facts, rather than with opinion or argument. The essay objectively explains a specific topic or point of view without attaching the writer's personal opinion.

The thesis statement should be clear, specific, and grounded in fact. The body paragraphs should present further evidence and supporting details that directly support the thesis. The successful expository essay will completely and objectively present complex information about a topic in detail, elucidating and analyzing the topic without argument or criticism. Before beginning an expository essay, make sure you thoroughly understand the given topic and are able to explain the ideas in your own words.

Feedback Essays

A feedback essay lets a person know how well they performed in something like an essay, performance, presentation, or interview. The essay will critique both the strengths and weaknesses of what is being evaluated, giving specific suggestions and details as feedback.

A good feedback essay gives many specific details and examples from the essay or performance. This is why it important for the writer to be very familiar with what is being evaluated, and to read/view it in a critical manner. The essay will also include feedback on how to improve, and analyze the piece both technically and thematically.

Five-Paragraph Essays

The five-paragraph essay is a common format for middle school and high school papers. It includes an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs that provide detail and support for the thesis, and a concluding paragraph.

The structure is very defined and follows the format:
1. Introduction
2. Body Paragraph One
3. Body Paragraph Two
4. Body Paragraph Three
5. Conclusion

The introduction will introduce the topic and three supporting ideas. The last statement of the introduction will be a strong and concise thesis - this is the most important sentence of the essay.

The body paragraphs will have strong topic sentences that reiterate the thesis and offer specific details and examples. All three body paragraphs should directly support the thesis.

Finally, the conclusion will restate the thesis and summarizes the three supporting ideas.

General Essays

A general essay clearly communicates an overview and basic information related to a certain topic. The essay should have a clear purpose, presented as a concise thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. General essays often follow the five-paragraph format, but can follow any other logical structure. The body of the essay will provide information and concrete support for the thesis, answering any basic questions related to the topic. The conclusion should summarize the information and reiterate the thesis.

A good general essay will use precise language and specific examples to clearly communicate the main idea. It will be well organized into separate paragraphs that cover individual aspects of the argument.

Informal Essays

Informal essays are written for pleasure and entertainment, while still communicating certain information about a given topic. The style and structure are less rigid than other types of essays, but must still be well organized. In informal essays, writers express their point of view in a conversational tone, communicating a sense of the writer's personality and philosophy.

A good informal essay will create suspense in the reader, use creative style and language, be entertaining and informative, use a time structure that is appropriate to the main idea, and utilize other strategies that move the story forward. Details should be engaging and support the main idea.

Inquiry Essays

An inquiry essay illustrates the writer's research and thinking process on a particular issue. It depicts how a writer discovers his/her position on an issue.

Rather than beginning with a thesis or argument, the inquiry essay starts with a discussion or summary of the topic. The introduction should explain the research question and the writer's original stance on the issue. By looking at one argument a time, the essay will analyze several individual arguments and follow the inquiry process. The essay will end with an explanation on the writer's current stance on the issue, based on the arguments researched.

A good inquiry essay will thorough look at individual arguments, exploring various aspects of the issue and reaching a new or more refined stance on the issue.

Literature Essays

A literature essay critically examines a particular work of literature and argues for a specific interpretation of the work. This interpretation is made clear in a specific, detailed, and debatable thesis statement. The essay examines the literary work by looking at the use of figurative language, rhetorical devices, and imagery. Aspects of content, form, and function should all be examined and related to the work's theme and argument as a whole.

A good literature essay will critically examine the author's choices in the work, incorporate relevant information on the historical period or author, avoid personal opinion, and cite specific quotes from the text as concrete evidence in support of the thesis. Literature essays should follow MLA format.

Narrative Essays

In a narrative essay, a story is used to get across a specific point. The essay is a reflection or exploration of the author's values and can involve an anecdote or personal experience.

The essay should have a purpose that is made clear in the introduction of the story. It should also follow the conventions of storytelling (such as plot, characters, setting, climax, conflict, sequence, ending) and be written from a particular point of view. Unlike some other essay formats, a narrative essay may be written in the first person.

Even though the narrative essay follows a story format, the language and details should be specifically chosen to support the main idea. Specific and sensory details, vivid verbs, and strong organization will enhance the point of the story and further involve the reader.

Observation Essays

An observation essay communicates a clear and vivid image of a particular object, event, or circumstance. Relying on sensory language and images rather than argument, the essay should still have a general structure and relevant details that support an overall impression or idea.

A good observation essay will describe something in such great and precise detail so that the reader will be able to imagine the scene. The essay will be written in present tense, include specific and relevant details, use the five senses, utilize comparative techniques and figurative language (metaphor and simile), and follow a logical or chronological structure.

Paragraph Essays

Paragraph essays are essays that are written according to a certain format and structure. The most popular paragraph essays are the three-paragraph essay and the five-paragraph essay.

The three-paragraph essay is a basic essay that follows the format:
1. Introduction
2. Body
3. Conclusion

The five-paragraph essay is commonly introduced after mastery of the three-paragraph essay and follows the format:
1. Introduction
2. Body Paragraph One
3. Body Paragraph Two
4. Body Paragraph Three
5. Conclusion

In both types, the introduction introduces the topic and supporting ideas, with the last statement being a clear thesis. The body paragraph(s) offer specific details and examples that support the thesis. The conclusion restates the thesis and summarizes the supporting ideas.

Personal Essays

A personal essay is similar to a narrative essay in that it uses the conventions of storytelling to communicate a certain point. It involves self-analysis and a description of personal capabilities.

Personal essays are often used for college admissions essays as written expressions of your qualities. A good personal essay will be creative, unique, and memorable, demonstrating your personal identity vividly and concisely. Remember, admissions committees read thousands of these essays- a good personal essay will stand out as original, interesting, and honest.

The essay should include positive characteristics, tie yourself to the particular school or department, express your achievements, and be well written with precise word choice and grammar. The essay should not repeat information given elsewhere on the application, write on general or controversial topics, use clich├ęs, or be artificially intellectual.

Persuasive Essays

A persuasive essay uses logic, reasoning, and evidence to convince the reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action. The essay should maintain a professional tone and avoid personal pronouns. It should also have a clear thesis that takes a definitive position on an issue.

The body of the essay will use specific evidence (facts, statistics, quotes, examples) to convince the reader and directly support the thesis. A good persuasive essay will be written towards a certain audience and be well organized and researched. It will also anticipate and incorporate possible counter-arguments to strengthen the essay's validity.

Process Essays

A process essay describes how to do something or how something is done through a series of chronological steps. The successful process essay will be clear and easy to understand for the reader, utilizing a variety of transitional phrases to clearly signal shifts from one step to the next.

The introductory paragraph will reveal the significance of the process, its real-life applications, and any relevant background information. The body of the essay will describe the steps of the process in chronological order, with information on the importance of each step and any potential difficulties. The final paragraph will then summarize the process and reiterate the importance of understanding the particular process.

Pros and Cons Essays

A pros and cons essay is a persuasive essay that convinces the reader to take a certain position on an issue by presenting both positive and negative evidence. The argument is supported by both facts and counter-arguments, with evidence presented for both the pros and the cons of the issue

The successful essay will have a clear thesis that takes a definite position on the issue. All the points of the essay should then work to support this thesis. The essay will be well-researched, presenting reasonable arguments and concrete evidence that support the thesis and undercutting counter-arguments and counter-evidence.

Reflective Essays

A reflective essay provides a thoughtful reflection and analysis on a personal event or experience. It works as a self-assessment, revealing personal development and individual point-of-view. The essay should convey a unique perception of a event or experience, with a definite stance that is supported by valid information.

A good reflective essay will reflect on both positive outcomes and difficulties, and concentrate on individual ideas and views of the topic. All conclusions should be supported with evidence (facts, statistics, personal experience). The essay should include an insightful interpretation of the event or experience, and balance personal observation with factual information.

Research Essays

A research essay communicates the results of investigation and research as part of an overall argument or analysis. It requires the gathering and interpreting of information, and the further developing and organizing of specific ideas in a well-organized and communicated essay.

A good research essay does not summarize texts, but offers critical interpretations that support an overall argument. It draws on outside sources about a particular topic and engages with those sources to offer a unique perspective and analysis of the material.

Sources used in a research essay should be relevant and reliable, with all works cited in the proper format.

Response Essays

A response essay provides a critique or evaluation of a particular work by linking personal reaction and experience to concrete aspects of the work. The essay will examine strengths and weaknesses of the work, thematic content, and technical strategies.

A good response essay will be persuasive, with a strong thesis that can be supported with examples from the work and personal experience. The essay will draw parallels between the work and your personal reaction to it, with analyses of various techniques and evidence supporting this unique perception of the work.

The successful essay will also situate your opinions within a wider context, pay attention to details in the original work, and provide alternate views.

Scholarship Essays

Scholarship essays vary in subject matter but often require the presentation of personal experience. They need to be captivating, interesting, and original in order to convince selection committees that you are most deserving of the award.

A good scholarship essay will answer the given question, be original and innovative, come across as honest, use vocabulary appropriately, utilize vivid imagery and figurative language, and stay away from grand or general themes. The essay must have a clear purpose and include relevant details.

Unlike in other essays, the introduction does not need to clearly explain the main idea and should not include summary. A good introduction will be provoking and interesting to convince readers to continue. The conclusion is also crucial as the final opportunity to create an impression. It should not merely summarize the essay but rather look at broader implications or provoke further thought.

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