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A Guide to the Types of Essays

Almost everyone will have to write at least one essay at some point in their lives. A well-executed essay can get you into college, help you gain funding or approval for important projects, or inspire your readers. The links on this page will lead you to great resources that can help you navigate the different types of essays through guidelines, tips, and examples.

Persuasive Essay/Argumentative Essay

The persuasive essay, sometimes called an argument essay, is pretty much what it sounds like. A good persuasive essay tries to convince readers to take on the author’s point of view about a given subject. It is not, however, simply an opinion or editorial piece because anything you assert must be supported by logical arguments backed up by citable information.

  • – 100 topic ideas that are well-suited for persuasive or argumentative essays.
  • Interactive Persuasion Map – Generates a customized “map” to help you create an outline for your essay.
  •   – The writing center at Hamilton College provides this thorough guide to writing a persuasive essay, taking you through the process step-by-step.
  •  – Excellent persuasive essay writing guide from The Owl at Purdue – an invaluable resource for students and writers of all disciplines – with help for citations.

Expository Essay

An expository essay must have two main things in order to be successful. First, it must thoroughly outline and explain a concept or an idea. Then, it must offer an argument about said concept, supporting the argument with credible information. The expository essay is similar to the persuasive essay, but is usually a bit simpler and typically requires less research.

  • – A precise explanation from The Owl at Purdue of the expository essay and its structure, along with discipline-specific help in creating proper citations.
  • – A sort of “do’s and don’ts” guide to writing expository essays, with helpful tips to get you over common essay-writing hurdles.
  • – Prompts and ideas to help you get started if you’re lacking topic inspiration.
  • – An article devoted entirely to effectively concluding your expository essay.

Cause and Effect Essay

This kind of essay conducts an in-depth investigation into the causes of a certain condition or situation, backing the author’s statements up with supporting facts and evidence. These often focus on a particular event or situation, explaining all of the factors that precipitated it.

  • – Examples, prompts, and tips for creating an engaging and convincing cause and effect essay.
  • – Technical guidelines for writing a structurally correct essay, handy for checking against your work to make sure you don’t go outside the lines of the essay model.
  • – Starting with the cause and effect essay, this page lists attributes of all major essay types along with useful examples of each.
  • – Written by a high school English teacher, this guide takes you through the proper structure for a cause and effect essay – with examples for every step.

Compare and Contrast Essay

In a compare and contrast essay, the goal is to accurately demonstrate how two (or more) things stack up against one another by methodically listing and explaining their similarities and their differences.

  • – A simple guide for writing a compare and contrast essay, with a structural outline making it easy to keep your essay within the correct parameters.
  • Compare and Contrast Word Table – Basic but very helpful table consisting of compare and contrast “helper words.”
  • – A more comprehensive breakdown of the structural components of compare and contrast essay writing, with examples and in-depth explanations.
  • – Stumped on where to start? Read through this list of sample topic ideas for inspiration.

Literary Essay

This type of essay focuses on a particular literary text, first reviewing and then offering evaluative insights to further explore the text and its meaning, value, and implications. While a good literary essay will rely on existing critical works, it must also add something new to the ongoing dialogue regarding the central text.

  • – Extensive structural outline and analysis of a proper literary essay, with sample essays and score sheets to help you evaluate your own essay and make sure you’ve included all of the necessary components.
  • – Rundown of what attributes a literary essay must have, along with tips and ideas for inspiration.
  • – Help to get you started writing a literary essay, with tips for choosing a text to write about.
  • Questions to ask when Writing a Literary Analysis – Instructions for crafting a viable literary essay through critical questioning and analysis.

Informal Essay

The informal essay is sometimes called a narrative essay because it reads more like a story than an analytical or academic piece of writing. Of course, certain structural and grammatical orthodoxes still apply, but this type of essay allows for much more freedom and creativity on the author’s part – and there’s no need to provide empirical evidence for your statements. Informal essays often take on a more casual or conversational tone and there are no restrictions or limitations regarding topic choice (unless, of course, you are limited by the assignment guidelines as set forth by an employer or instructor).

  • – Great insights about the informal essay, with an example for reference.
  • – Topic ideas to get you started writing an informal style essay (Scroll to the middle of the page).
  • – Resources for instructors (though anyone can use them) on the merits of using the informal essay as a learning tool.
  • – Try these unique ideas to help you make your informal essay more engaging and fun to read.

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