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An essay is the most common academic assignment at college and university. It presents an argument and persuades the readers to believe in the rightness of the author’s point of view. While there are many types of essays, they can be broadly categorized into the following four main types:

Argumentative essays and expository essays present arguments to convince the readers of the author’s position. In narrative essays and descriptive essays, you can use informal language and imagination to engage the readers.

At high school, college, and university, argumentative essays are the most widely recognized kind of essay.

Type of essayAssessment criteriaExample prompt
Argumentative

  Forming opinions based on research

Presents evidence to support the argument

Has distance learning had a positive or negative impact on education?
Expository

  Use creative language

Explaining sensual details

Describe how the conquest of Mecca led to the Golden Islamic Age.
Narrative

  Building an engaging narrative

Use creative language

Explain why you have chosen to apply to the University College of London.
Descriptive  Providing clear and concise information about the topicDescribe your first visit to the dentist.

Another important essay type from the academic perspective is the textual analysis essay, which tests students’ reading and analysis skills.

Argumentative Essays

In an argumentative essay, you present an argument and back it with supporting evidence. An argumentative essay requires the author to take a clear position on the topic and persuade the readers to agree to the author’s opinion, analysis, and interpretation. The thesis statement provides the main argument of an argumentative essay.

Argumentative essays help to evaluate your ability to conduct independent research and form well-informed opinions on the issue. The inclusion of the supporting evidence adds weight to your argument.

An argumentative essay is the most common type of essay in the academic world. It follows the standard essay structure, which includes an introduction, main body, and a conclusion.

  • The introduction of an argumentative essay introduces the topic, provides background information, presents the thesis statement, and maps out the essay structure.
  • The main body presents the main argument, which is reinforced through evidence and interpretation.
  • The conclusion summarises the essay’s main argument, links back to the thesis statement, and fortifies the significance of the argument.

Argumentative Essay Example Paragraph

Here is an example of a paragraph taken from the main body of an argumentative essay on the effects of distance learning on education.

Example:
Distance learning is one of the most economical and viable forms of education available to adult students who are juggling many responsibilities due to financial and time constraints in their life. The burden of responsibilities prevents adult students from studying in a foreign country or another city. Distance learning enables them to overcome these challenges and complete their education. Learning in a distant mode, they can also mitigate the economic, social, psychological, and cultural difficulties. Distance learning students often achieve better results when compared with on-campus students because the pursuit of knowledge is undertaken for its own sake, rather than as on obligation.

Expository Essays

An expository essay aims to provide clear and concise information on a given topic. You cannot include your personal opinions in an expository essay.

In an expository essay, the author must present a well-informed and balanced overview of the issue without relying on personal opinions. Like argumentative essays, expository essays are also a popular type of academic assignment at college and university.

An expository essay begins with an introduction paragraph that states the topic and provides background information. The body of an expository essay presents evidence through a balance approached without introducing personal opinions and analysis. The conclusion recapitulates the information presented in the essay.

Expository Essay Example Paragraph

The following paragraph was taken from the main body of an expository essay, “The Conquest of Mecca by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions.

Example:
Before the conquest of Makkah, the Muslims were often subject to abuse and prosecution. Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions had to go through hardships of all kinds at the hand of the Quraysh tribe after they embraced Islam. In 619 CE, the Islamic Prophet along with the entire clan of Banu Hashim was expelled from Makkah and forced into exile. The tribal council of Makkah was of the opinion that the exile would bring Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions to their knees.

Narrative Essays

Narrative essays are all about telling a creative and engaging story. The story a narrative essay tells typically comes from the author’s personal experiences, but it can also be purely fiction-based.

In a narrative essay, you will need to follow an appropriate structure to keep the readers hooked. While argumentative essays use formal academic language, narrative essays are more flexible as they allow creativity and imagination.

A personal statement, a part of a college or university application, is somewhat similar to a narrative essay as it also provides an account of an event or experience.

A narrative essay has a flexible structure, but it should begin with introducing the narrative. The main body tells the story intriguingly and logically. The conclusion of a narrative essay includes brief statements of the main points raised earlier in the main body.

Narrative Essay Example

The following narrative essay example will help you learn how to write a first-class narrative essay. The topic of this example narrative essay is “Explain why you chose to apply to the University College of London.”

Example:
Scrutinizing nature beyond any limit is a goal shared by both me and the University College of London. I have always found myself fond of disciplines like math and science than humanities. For me, these subjects are of more productive value in comparison to any other subject.
Courtesy of my experience at the World Science Festival Series, I realized science is more than just a hobby for me. It has instilled in me a passion never known before. There is one thing for sure. University College of London Student Science Training Program can mark the beginning of a journey as I set out to quench my thirst to explore this discipline.
I was completely naïve to the World Science Festival until one of my friends introduced it to me. I was sure it was going to be a boring session on scientific theories and ideas that would fail miserably to keep the audience at the edge of their seats. But I was so wrong because the presenter, Professor, and Doctor Brian Greene gave the most interesting and gripping explanation of the Sting theory that sent my brain into a tailspin.
The talk was an unparalleled experience for me and my friend Robert – who said “This is just the beginning of our love for science”, and we were in constant reverence and admiration of it.
The speaker engaged with us on our level instead of indulging in intricate details of complicated scientific concepts. As he explained the superstring theory, the idea that every particle and force in the universe originates from an infinitesimal strand of energy vibrating in 11 dimensions from a beginner’s perspective, I found myself visualizing various forces at play in my surroundings using a string theory lens. As the talk concluded, it had for sure ignited in me a passion for pursuing science than any other subject by then.
The University College of London Department of Physics will help me make the most of my passion for science. As the department is recognized throughout the world for its world-class teaching faculty and unmatched research facilities, I am sure I can continue my journey towards scientific excellence. While this is just the beginning for me, I am confident that, if given a chance, my time at the University College of London will enable me to live my dream truly.

Descriptive Essays

The purpose of a descriptive essay is to provide an unbiased and detailed description of an object, place, feeling, situation, person, or thing. A descriptive essay tests your observation and creative writing skills.

While a narrative essay allows for a loose structure, a descriptive essay should be focused and to the point. Make use of striking words and phrases to paint an unforgettable picture of what you describe in the essay.

A descriptive essay begins with an introduction that introduces the object, place, thing, person, or event you aim to describe. However, like the narrative essay, its structure is flexible. What makes your descriptive essay stand out is your language and choice of words.

Descriptive essay example

The following descriptive essay paragraph example from the essay “My first visit to the dentist” can improve your descriptive essay writing skills.

Example:
One of my earliest childhood memories is going out with my parents to the dentist. It was early in the morning on a joyful day. The sun was shining bright. I was just four years old when my mom convinced me to see the dentist to have my milk teeth checked.
I was excited not only because it was my first visit to the dentist but also because it was the first time I saw a dentist. I thought of myself as a fearless and courageous boy, so I readily agreed to the trip.
While we drove to the dentist, my stomach grumbled suddenly. Mom said, “Shall we get some snacks for you?” So we stopped at the next service area to grab some crisps and juice. I thoroughly enjoyed the snacks and felt at ease thereafter. A few minutes later, we finally reached the dental clinic.
I must say I was a little surprised to see how clean the place was. I immediately asked my mom, “what is this place?”. There was a large reception area with a receptionist behind the counter. There were posters of dental treatment and dental hygiene on the walls.
I looked at the posters and loved them. I wondered again, what could this place be? My curiosity led me to ask my mom, “Mom, where are we? What is this place?”. But my mom didn’t respond and continued to read the newspaper that she had been looking at since we arrived at the place. As we waited for our turn, I went to sleep.
A few minutes, my mom woke me up, and I went to the dentist’s room with my parents. I saw a stranger dressed in a white overcoat. He had a stethoscope around his neck.
I analysed his desk and saw a dental syringe and dental drill. At that very moment, I freaked out and quickly ran out of the room. My dad came after, I couldn’t escape. I was back in the dentist’s room and tried to muster up some courage. My dad held on to my arms tightly, and the dentist started to examine my milk teeth.

Textual Analysis Essay

Textual analysis essay enables teachers to evaluate students ability to read and critically analyze information. While other types of essays also test your reading and analysis skills, a textual analysis essay additionally gauges your ability to derive meaningful information by critically analyzing a text.

Literary Analysis Essays

In a literary analysis essay, you carefully read a piece of literature such as a poem, book, or novel to come up with meaningful themes. Analyse the author’s choice of words and phrases to present an in-depth analysis of the text.

Find characters, themes, symbols, and settings of significance in the piece of literature you are supposed to read and present a comprehensive analysis of the text to decode the author’s message for your audience.

The literary analysis essay follows the standard essay structure. It includes an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

The introduction paragraph states the topic, provides background information, and present the thesis statement. The main body uses quotations from the original text and involves evidence-based analysis. It ends with a conclusion to emphasize how the approach helped to expose the information.

Rhetorical Analysis Essays

A rhetorical analysis essay explores the efficacy of the rhetorical devices used in a political speech, cartoon content, another essay, or any other type of persuasive text.

Rather than proving the author of the text right or wrong, a rhetorical essay looks at how they constructed the argument.

A rhetorical essay also starts with an introduction to present the text, background information, and thesis statement. The body analyses the original text in-depth, and the conclusion links the argument to the broader concerns.

1How do I understand which type of essay I have been asked to write?
It is quite simple to assess which essay you have been asked to present. If you are provided with a guideline, look for the keywords, such as;
  • Elaborate
  • Explain
  • Briefly describe/ describe
  • Argue
  • Examine
  • Narrate etc
The word “elaborate/ explain” suggests that you have to produce an expository essay, while the word “briefly describe/ describe” implies that the essay should be descriptive.
If you are asked to narrate a topic or event, you have to write a narrative essay. The guidelines for an argumentative essay will include the words like “argue, examine, or evaluate.”
Mostly the guidelines provided by the university or college clearly suggest the type of essay required from the student.
2What is the most common type of essay at the university or college level?
You might be instructed to write various types of essays throughout your academic years in university and college. Still, the most common type you will work with is the argumentative essay. Most of the essay assignments will instruct you to analyse a specific topic, conduct research on it, and support your argument and analysis with evidence.
There are several ways to compose an argument. For example;
  • For a science essay, you can present an argument in support of a particular scientific theory.
  • For a history essay, you will be required to argue over the significance of a particular event from the past.
  • In a literary analysis, you can defend or oppose a specific interpretation of a text.
3What is the difference between a descriptive and a narrative essay?
Out of all the types of an essay, only the descriptive and narrative essays allows you to use your imagination, creativity, and personal experiences. The only difference between them is, in a descriptive essay, a detailed description of the event, place, idea, or object is discussed. In contrast, in a narrative essay, the essayist can narrate a complete story from his personal experience.
4What is the difference between an argumentative and an expository essay?
An argumentative essay involves independent research and requires the author to construct an argument presented in the form of a thesis statement. The author should support the thesis statement by his analysis, interpretation, and evidence.
In an expository essay, the author should provide explicit and concise information on the topic but presenting an argument is unnecessary. Expository essays are less extensive as compared to argumentative essays.

Carmen Troy

Troy has been the leading content creator for Research Prospect since 2017. He loves to write about the different types of data collection and data analysis methods used in research. Troy has also been lucky enough to work as an editor for BBC.

Carmen Troy
Carmen Troy
Troy has been the leading content creator for Research Prospect since 2017. He loves to write about the different types of data collection and data analysis methods used in research. Troy has also been lucky enough to work as an editor for BBC.
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