For students across all academic levels, essays are unavoidable – they are the most common types of academic writings in any institution. This article describes the 10 different types of essays and gives some writing tips as well as free topic examples.
What is the Meaning of an Essay?
Generally, an essay refers to any piece of writing written to convince the reader of something or enlighten someone about a particular topic. A standard short essay comprises an introduction, conclusion, and three body paragraphs – but could be more.
There are different categories of essays in Academic Writing, but the most common ones include:
- Descriptive Essay
- Argumentative or Persuasive Essay
- Compare and Contrast Essay
- Cause and Effect Essay
- Pros and Cons Essay
- Expository Essay
- Defination Essay
- Process Essay
- Critical Analysis Essay
- Problem and Solution Essay
To write an amazing paper, you should comprehend the instruction to tell which type of paper the professor is looking for. And, in so doing, you can know what topic to select, write an excellent article using correct wording, and then format it correctly.
You probably would get disappointed when your professor comments, “Your essay is too descriptive; be more critical, or lose marks!” It may seem unlikely but think about it.
How do you differentiate a descriptive essay from a critical analytical one? You need to know when to describe, define, include facts, and give your opinion.
Let’s explore the types of essays once and for all – and avoid the confusion!
Types of Essay You Should (Must) Know
You’d probably want to know how understanding the type or genre of essay could impact your academic writing skills. And we have the answer! It helps you select an appropriate topic for your paper, use correct wording, and format your essay appropriately.
In fact, you are more likely to earn higher marks than a person who wrote a 5-paragraph essay with no particular attention to the category of essay the professor requested.
That being said, let’s have a deep look at the meaning of 10 different types of essays – with topics examples and writing guidelines. And, if you’re stuck with writing, editing, or formatting your papers, we can help.
1. Types of Descriptive Essays
Do you know What are Descriptive Essays? As the name suggests, they logically describe or narrate an event, emotion, object, or person.
According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary, the genre is derived from the verb ‘describe,’ which means “to say what somebody or something is like.”
They test the writer’s ability to explain experiences in writing.
So, you ought to give an account of something and provide as many details as possible.
For instance, the professor may ask you to describe the origin of abortion in the United States. Or describe the major types of gambling.
There are about four different types of descriptive essays.
They include: Essays about Person, an Object, an Opinion or about a Place
Let’s list some examples of Descriptive essay topics. The professor may ask you to describe your favorite place, venue, or person;
- Your favorite place (e.g. a hotel, country or village)
- An ideal bedroom (ideal home)
- A country’s struggle for independence
- Your classroom or house
- A favorite shop, store, or country
- A place you have visited recently
- The area in which you grew up
- Your teacher’s leadership skills
- A particular venue like a wedding
Exercise: Using the examples above, write at least five descriptive essay topic examples about a particular object, person, opinions, and memories in the comment section.
Now that you comprehend the meaning of descriptive essays, let’s move on to the second category -persuasive or argumentative essays.
2. Persuasive/Argumentative Types of Essays
Just like a seller convincing a buyer to purchase a particular product, your persuasive essay should convince the reader to take your point of view on a particular subject. It would be best to defend your argument using logical reasoning and convincing facts.
Persuasive or argumentative essays, just like the other different types of academic writings, call for an extensive understanding of the topic under consideration.
The genre does not ask you to describe your perspective – this is not a mere opinion essay. You need to gather reliable evidence to back up your arguments.
You should first select an appropriate topic, conduct background research on it, examine the evidence, and take a position, either “for” or “against,” to build the strongest argument.
While writing your essay, make sure you take a position with more strength (facts), as you have to explain your reasons for taking that direction.
Of course, you ought to support your claim using relevant sources, examples, and, where appropriate, tables and figures.
Formatting an Argumentative Essay
Argumentative or persuasive essays follow a unique writing format. Remember, you’re exploring a debatable topic or subject, then give your opinion on which side you think, based on substantial evidence, weighs more.
Don’t forget to provide justification for taking a stance. For instance, if you argue in support of organ donation, the reader needs to see the logic in your writing. Give ‘enough’ details and evidence, and cite (acknowledge the sources) appropriately.
Bonus Writing Tip – the general format of a persuasive or argumentative essay include;
- Cover page (with student’s credentials and essay topic)
- Title (Essay Topic) – should be relevant and researchable
- Introduction paragraph (with a thesis statement, background, and the hook)
- Paragraphs on one side of the argument (like why abortion should be permitted)
- Paragraphs on the other side of the argument (like why abortion is immoral)
- Your position – which side has more weight? What have you learned?
- Conclusion – summarize the main point, opinion, and restate your thesis
- Reference page – list of materials used to back up arguments
- Appendices – information or data not included in the text, but relevant
Some examples of persuasive or argumentative essay topics may include;
- Are we too dependent on computers?
- Should online gambling be delegalized?
- Do we need online dating apps in the 21st century?
- Does social media impact one’s life?
- Should content on the internet be more restricted?
Exercise – think of additional 5 argumentative topics and share them in the comment section. The best topics earn a 5% discount for all our services.
This video outlines the essay topic selection process, and free argumentative essay topics that you can write your essay on. Check it out, and leave a comment.
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3. Compare & Contrast Essays
The purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to explore the similarities and differences of two separate but relatable things. And, the professor expects you to illuminate subtle disparities or unexpected similarities rather than just stating the obvious.
While writing such an essay, you should first identify the basis to compare the two things and then identify how they differ. It is essential to compare and contrast items that relate in some way.
For instance, you cannot compare driving a motorcycle and reading an article – they are not comparable and don’t seem to have anything in common.
However, you may compare reading a book and reading an article or the similarities and differences between gambling today and 100 years ago. Another possible topic to write your comparison essay on is the level of abortion in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Let’s list some examples of compare and contrast essay topics:
- Economic development in a developed and underdeveloped countries or regions
- The education system in the USA and Canada
- College life vs. high school life
- Two articles, books, or magazines
- Leadership styles of two presidents or governors of your choice (or pre-selected)
Wait, we have more: 150+ Compare and Contrast Essay Topics For Students in 2021
While writing this category of essays, it is fundamental to find some common grounds to base the comparison on. For example, while comparing two leaders based on leadership style, leader A may be endorsing democracy while leader B applies dictatorship.
It is up to you to find relevant bass for the comparison. An example of a wrong comparison could be – leader A endorses democracy while leader B is tall. I hope you get the point? The basis of comparison should match.
Next in line is the cause and effect essay.
4. Cause and Effect Essay Types
A cause-and-effect essay first recognizes the causes or reasons for the occurrence of something, then goes deeper into explaining the consequences or effects.
The genre is prevalent in academic writing and mostly in medical studies, especially while examining health problems like HIV, Covid-19, and Malaria.
For example, you could be asked to explain the causes and effects of abortion in the United States. You need to understand what abortion is to give the correct answer. Another example is – to explain the causes and effects of undocumented immigration in Mexico.
You may also consider writing your cause and effect paper on:
- Pollution, climate change, or global warming (related topics)
- The Civil Rights Movement and its effects
- World War I, II or any other conflict
- Tsunami or earthquake in a particular region
- Stress is any other health problem
This type of essay demands a more profound understanding of the topic, for you would not be simply describing but investigating the how, when, why, and effect of a particular aspect in life.
More so, you need to conduct relevant research on the topic. And most importantly, you can opt to investigate the effect of a particular aspect on a country’s sociodemographic, economic or political status. However, always consult with the professor or essay guidelines (instructions).
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Now that we understand the meaning of cause-and-effect essays, let’s move on to the following genre of essays – the pros and cons of essays.
5. Pros and Cons Essays
For ages, pros and cons analysis has have been regarded as the quickest and simple way to make objective, considered decisions in real life.
While writing such type of paper, a writer must first understand the topic and then examine the advantages and disadvantages of the subject to write a quality and informative pros and cons essay.
For instance, you could be asked to explain the pros and cons of social media. While one of the pros would be connecting learners from other educational systems, social media users are prone to cyberbullying.
You need to explain the points separately and not just list the pros and cons in the same paragraph. Here are some topics that you can write your paper on:
- Online dating
- Going to college.
- Social media
- Online shopping
- Animal experiments
- Legalizing prostitution
Additional Tip: To write a good pros and cons essay, or any of the different types of academic writing, you need to conduct extensive research.
6. Expository Essays
An expository essay also falls under the basic essay categories that all essay writers should know.
It requires the learner to investigate a particular idea, examine the existing evidence, expound on it, and then form an argument clearly and concisely. You can accomplish this by analyzing the cause and effects, comparing and contrasting ideas, etc.
This genre is prevalent in classroom evaluation. For instance, you could be asked to explain why parents are strict sometimes. Or why you prefer a particular English teacher. An expository essay evaluates your investigative, evaluative, or argumentative abilities.
Some expository essay topic examples may include;
- Explain why parents are sometimes strict
- What is your favorite school subject?
- How was your first day in college?
- Does Alcohol solve problems?
- Has technology made communication easier?
- What would you do if you were to live forever?
Expository essays describe a particular aspect broadly and coherently. Understood? So, make sure you back up your arguments with peer-reviewed sources, as always, and go deeper into the topic.
Have you heard of definition essays?
7. Definition Types of Essays
What is a definition essay? It is a genre that requires you to explain the meaning of a particular term – from a broad perspective.
While terms like a tree and book have definite and concrete meanings, others like honor and love depend on a person’s perspective.
For instance, the professor can ask you to define terms like respect, optimism, natural beauty, or kindness. You need to be very creative to avoid repetition in such essays.
Some of the terms or topic examples you may be asked to write a definition essay on include;
While writing a definition essay, do not simply write its dictionary meaning. It would help if you explored it deeper.
You may as well explore what other authors have defined the term in their writings and give your opinion on whether you think their definition is appropriate.
Let’s move to the 8th category of essays – The Process Essays.
8. Process Types of Essays
A process essay is a genre in academic writing that aims to guide or direct a reader to do something. It explains the steps one by one and consistently. You should never skip any steps while writing a process essay. Instead, your directions should follow a chronological order.
For instance, a professor can ask you to write a process essay on the topic:
- How to cook pilau
- Writing an essay step by step
- How to format a paper in APA
- Riding a bicycle
- How to insert a table of content in Microsoft Word
For instance, in this step-by-step tutorial, we illustrated how to create a Table of Content in Microsoft Word. You can as well write a detailed essay on the same.
However, while writing a process essay, your directions or steps should be factual and verifiable. You have to understand the process for you to write an outstanding essay. Otherwise, you may end up losing marks.
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9. Critical Analysis Types of Essays
Critical analysis essays are most popular in advanced learning levels, especially Master’s and Doctorate. They are regarded as the hardest among the outlined 10 types of essays. In fact, they have made many students google “Someone Write My Essay.”
So, what are critical analysis essays?
It is a genre of essays that requires you to analyze the effectiveness of particular literature, and explain, obviously with supporting evidence, what it does, or does not do well. You are not asked to describe but to investigate the work in detail. It would be best to examine what other scholars say about the topic.
For instance, your professor could ask that you critically analyze a particular article, book, or film. You need to understand the article’s content; otherwise, you may not manage to defend your arguments on its strengths and weaknesses.
However, your critical analysis essay must not always analyze a particular article or film. You could as well explore a particular theory, or defend a certain quote, explaining its relevance in a particular context.
Regardless of the topic you chose, you must back up your arguments with evidence from credible sources.
Some examples of critical analysis essay topics include;
- Racism in sports is real. Discuss.
- WWI is a necessary tragedy that transformed the world. Discuss.
- Analyze Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and its impact on racism in America
- Analyze the effect of betting on the sporting community
While writing a critical analysis essay, it would be best to describe or summarize the content but critically analyze it with logical arguments and reliable sources.
Make sure you identify the reliable article, find similarities and differences in authors’ opinions, generate your own opinions, identify research gaps, suggest solutions, etc.
Last on our list of different types of papers, we have problem and solution essays.
10. Problems and Solution Essays
Wondering what a problem and solution essay is? It is a piece of writing that describes a particular problem and goes deeper to offer practical solutions to solve the issue.
Such a type of paper focuses on convincing the audience why a problem needs to be solved urgently or why a particular solution is the most appropriate to solve the issue.
To write an outstanding essay, you should think of a problem you have experienced or witnessed and suggest how it could be solved. You can opt to discuss one ideal solution to the problem or a couple of multiple solutions.
So, briefly, the basic parts of a problem and solution essay include:
- Problem description and justification
- Proposing a solution(s)
- Argue why the proposed solution is practical and cost effective
- Expain why the solution is different or better than other solutions
- Conclude your essay
Some of the common topics that you could write your paper on include:
- How can body shaming issue be solved?
- How can police brutality be eliminated?
- What are the ways to control inflation?
- How to develop confidence?
- What are legal ways to stop human trafficking?
Let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below.
Understanding the different types of essays is critical in writing outstanding academic papers since each category has a unique format, wording and serves different purposes.
However, the exact number of types of essays is undecided – some scholar says it’s 4, while others say it’s 5, 6, 7, 9, or 10. It depends on what one understands by the term ‘types of essays.’
For instance, while we included argumentative and persuasive essays under one category, some scholars claim that they differ. Some argue that persuasive essays depend on opinions and emotions, while argumentative essays use logic and reasoning.
Nevertheless, the ten most common types of essays include;
- Descriptive Essays
- Persuasive or Argumentative Essays
- Compare and Contrast Essays
- Pross and Cons Essays
- Expository Essays
- Definition Essays
- Process Essays
- Cause and Effect Essays
- Critical Analysis Essays
- Problem and Solution Essays
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Recommended Video: How to Format Essay Paragraphs Automatically.