Four types of essays exist including: narration , description , exposition , and argument . Each type has a unique purpose: some tell a story, some are descriptive and others prevent viewpoints. One of the best ways to better understand each type of essay is to review examples.
Types of Essays
Narration is telling a story from a certain viewpoint, and there is usually a reason for the telling. All narrative essays will have characters, setting, climax, and most importantly, a plot. The plot is the focus of the story and is usually revealed chronologically, but there are sometimes flash forwards and flash backs.
In writing a narrative essay, remember to:
- Include sensory and emotional details, so the reader will experience the story, not just read about it
- Have the story support the point you are making, and make reference to that point in the first sentence.
- Write in the first or third person
Descriptive essays have text which describes traits and characteristics of people, objects, events, feelings, etc in intricate detail.
Whatever is being described will be thoroughly examined. For example, if you were describing roses, you would explain:
- Where they come from
- What they look like
- What colors they are
- How they grow and smell
When you write a descriptive essay, you want to involve the reader’s senses and emotions. For example, you could say, “I got sleepy” or describe it like this, “As I was waiting for Santa, my eyelids began to get heavy, the lights on the tree began to blur with the green branches, and my head started to drop.” The second sentence gives vivid details to make the reader feel like he is there.
Expository essays can compare, explore and discuss problems, or tell a story. An exposition essay gives information about various topics to the reader. It:
In writing an exposition, the text needs to:
- Be concise and easy to understand
- Give different views on a subject or report on a situation or event
- Explain something that may be difficult to understand as you write your essay.
Remember that your purpose is to explain.
In an argumentative essay the writer is trying to convince the reader by demonstrating the truth or falsity of a topic. The writer’s position will be backed up with certain kinds of evidence, like statistics or opinions of experts.
The writer is not just giving an opinion, but making an argument for or against something and supporting that argument with data.
To know how to write an essay in an argumentative way, you have to research and backup what you say in the text.
Learn by Example
When learning how to write an essay, sometimes the best way to learn is to look and analyze essay examples.
Following are excerpts from narrative essays:
“Looking back on a childhood filled with events and memories, I find it rather difficult to pick on that leaves me with the fabled “warm and fuzzy feelings.” As the daughter of an Air Force Major, I had the pleasure of traveling across America in many moving trips. I have visited the monstrous trees of the Sequoia National Forest, stood on the edge of the Grande Canyon and have jumped on the beds at Caesar’s Palace in Lake Tahoe.”
“The day I picked my dog up from the pound was one of the happiest days of both of our lives. I had gone to the pound just a week earlier with the idea that I would just “look” at a puppy. Of course, you can no more just look at those squiggling little faces so filled with hope and joy than you can stop the sun from setting in the morning. I knew within minutes of walking in the door that I would get a puppy… but it wasn’t until I saw him that I knew I had found my puppy.”
“Looking for houses was supposed to be a fun and exciting process. Unfortunately, none of the ones that we saw seemed to match the specifications that we had established. They were too small, too impersonal, too close to the neighbors. After days of finding nothing even close, we began to wonder: was there really a perfect house out there for us?”
The following is an example of a famous narrative written by John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”:
“The afternoon grew so glowering that in the sixth inning the arc lights were turned on–always a wan sight in the daytime, like the burning headlights of a funeral procession. Aided by the gloom, Fisher was slicing through the Sox rookies, and Williams did not come to bat in the seventh. He was second up in the eighth. This was almost certainly his last time to come to the plate in Fenway Park, and instead of merely cheering, as we had at his three previous appearances, we stood, all of us, and applauded.”
Following are excerpts from descriptive essays:
“Like his twisted feathers, his many scars, the reliable old owl chose the gnarled, weather-beaten, but solid branch often-it being a companion to the wise alone with the night and the last branch to creak in the heaviest wind. He often came to survey the fields and the clouds before his hunt, to listen to the steady sound of the stream passing through reeds under the bridge, while combing his feathers for the unwanteds-whatever they might be.”
Here is a descriptive essay about a first visit to a favorite diner written by a student at Roane State Community College :”When entering the door at Lou’s, two things are immediately noticeable: the place is rarely empty and seems to consist of a maze of rooms. The first room, through the door, is the main part of the restaurant. There is another, rarely used, dining room off to the right. It was added during the oil well boom of the seventies. Through the main dining room is yet another room; it guards the door leading into the kitchen. This room contains the most coveted table in the place. The highest tribute Lou can bestow on anyone is to allow them access to seats at this table. This table is the family table; it is reserved for Lou’s, and her daughter Karen’s, immediate family and treasured friends.”
Here is an example of a descriptive essay from St. Cloud State :”Billy Ray’s Pawn Shop and Lawn Mower Repair looked like a burial ground for country auction rejects. The blazing, red, diesel fuel tanks beamed in front of the station, looking like cheap lipstick against the pallid, wrinkled texture of the parking lot sand. The yard, not much larger than the end zone at General G. Patton High School on the north end of town, was framed with a rusted metallic hedge of lawn mowers, banana seat bicycles, and corroded oil drums. It wasn’t a calico frame of rusted parts, but rather an orchestra of unwanted machinery that Billy Ray had arranged into sections. The yellow-tanked mowers rested silently at the right of the diesel fuel. Once red, now faded orange, mowers stood at attention to the left. The oil barrels, jaded and pierced with holes, bellared like chimes when the wind was right. The bikes rested sporadically throughout the lot. In the middle of it all was the office, a faded, steel roof supported by cheap two-by-fours and zebra paneling. Billy Ray was at home, usually, five blocks east of town on Kennel Road.”
Following are excerpts from exposition essays:
“This family was a victim of a problem they could have avoided-a problem that, according to Florida park rangers, hundreds of visitors suffer each year.” Several times a month,” ranger Rod Torres of O’Leno State Park said, “people get scared and leave the park in the middle of the night.” Those people picked the wrong kind of park to visit. Not that there was anything wrong with the park: The hikers camped next to them loved the wild isolation of it. But it just wasn’t the kind of place the couple from New Jersey had in mind when they decided to camp out on this trip through Florida.”
Here is an example of a student model answer of an Expository Essay from The Write Source :”Did you know that 7 out of 10 students have cheated at least once in the past year? Did you know that 50 percent of those students have cheated more than twice? These shocking statistics are from a survey of 9,000 U.S. high school students.Incredibly, teachers may even be encouraging their students to cheat! Last year at a school in Detroit, teachers allegedly provided their students with answers to statewide standard tests.”Here is an another example of an expository essay.
This example comes from Essay Start :”Throughout history and through a cross-section of cultures, women have transformed their appearance to conform to a beauty ideal. Ancient Chinese aristocrats bound their feet as a show of femininity; American and European women in the 1800s cinched in their waists so tightly, some suffered internal damage; in some African cultures women continue to wear plates in their lower lips, continually stretching the skin to receive plates of larger size. The North American ideal of beauty has continually focussed on women’s bodies: the tiny waist of the Victorian period, the boyish figure in vogue during the flapper era, and the voluptuous curves that were the measure of beauty between the 1930s and 1950s. Current standards emphasize a toned, slender look, one that exudes fitness, youth, and health. According to psychologist Eva Szekely, “Having to be attractive at this time . . . means unequivocally having to be thin. In North America today, thinness is a precondition for being perceived by others and oneself as healthy” (19). However, this relentless pursuit of thinness is not just an example of women trying to look their best, it is also a struggle for control, acceptance and success.”
Finally, here are excerpts from argumentative essays:
“Gun control has been a controversial issue for years. A vast majority of citizens believe that if gun control is strictly enforced it would quickly reduce the threat of crime. Many innocent people feel they have the right to bear arms for protection, or even for the pleasure of hunting. These people are penalized for protecting their lives, or even for enjoying a common, innocent sport. To enforce gun control throughout the nation means violating a persons Constitutional rights. Although some people feel that the issue of gun control will limit crime, the issue should not exist due to the fact that guns are necessary for self defense against crime, and by enforcing gun control is violating a citizen’s second amendment right to bear arms.”
Another examples of an argumentative essay comes from Bogazici University :”Throw out the bottles and boxes of drugs in your house. A new theory suggests that medicine could be bad for your health, which should at leastcome as good news to people who cannot afford to buy expensive medicine. However, it is a blow to the medicine industry, and an evenbigger blow to our confidence in the progress of science. This new theory argues that healing is at our fingertips: we can be healthy by doing Reikion on a regular basis.”
On Essay By Example , on the other hand, the sample argumentative essay addresses online games and socialization:
“Online games aren’t just a diversion, but a unique way to meet other people. As millions of gamers demonstrate, playing online is about friendship and cooperation, not just killing monsters. These games are a viable social network because players focus on teamwork, form groups with like-minded people and have romantic relationships with other players.”Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) feature millions of players interacting in the same environment. The games are social in nature as they allow players to band together and complete missions based on a story line, or test their skills by fighting against each other. At the start of the game, the user creates a fictional character, and customizes its physical appearance. Since many games involve combat, players also outfit their characters with armor and weapons, as well as choose their “profession.” Many popular game titles like World of Warcraft and Everquest follow a fantasy theme, so most professions have magical abilities like healing other players or raising undead minions. While the process seems simple, players may spend hours agonizing over the perfect look for their character, from their armor color to the type of skills to use in battle. Once their character is created, the player is free to explore the vast, digital world and interact with other players; however they must pay on average $15 a month for game content. MMOG users are mostly male – usually between the ages of 18-34 – although titles like World of Warcraft have a healthy population of female players as well. With millions of players, there are plenty of people to adventure with.”
The key to learning to write a good essay is to read and study other essays and then practice, practice, rewrite and practice some more.
“Essay Examples.” YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 07 November 2018. <https://examples.yourdictionary.com/essay-examples.html>.
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Four types of essays exist including: narration, description, exposition, and argument. Each type has a unique purpose: some tell a story, some are descriptive and others prevent viewpoints. One of the best ways to better understand each type of essay is to review examples.
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Look at these critical essays written by Sussex students (click on the essay image to view). Think about what we covered in the section on Critical writing and ask yourself if the essays fit with this guidance. How easy is it to follow the student’s argument? How do they use evidence to support their argument? Think about the feedback you would give and compare it with the tutor’s feedback.
- Second year student: English Literature essay
- Second year student: International Security essay
- Second year student: Anthropology essay
- Third year student: English Literature essay
- Second year student: English Literature essay
- Second year student: Biomedical Science essay
Second year student: English Literature essay
Discuss the relation between narrative style and moral judgement in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness [ pdf 117KB ]
Tutor’s feedback – 75%
This is an astute, and often sophisticated, essay which makes its arguments cogently. One of its strengths is that you are making excellent use of citation both to support your points but also to move your argument along (for example, see double ticks on pp.3-4). There is also significant independent reading to secure an original, thoughtful approach to the question. Though tendentious, the topic is broached with a real flair for critical analysis (one is well aware of the limits of Hampson’s defence of Conrad through the paragraph on p.5). Your conclusion is deft, with a very strong sense of the complexity of the issues. There is also the possibility, of course, that Conrad might identify with Marlow while at the same time undercutting his ‘racism’ not by expressing alternative perceptions but by plotting (see Peter Brooks, READING FOR THE PLOT as one way into this; Toni Morrison’s PLAYING IN THE DARK is another take on Achebe’s position).
Second year student: international Security essay
Discuss with examples how and why major international actors have been perceived as failing the victims of genocide [ pdf 98 KB ]
Tutor’s Feedback – 73%
This is a well structured and fluently written essay with a clear argument, well done. The examples are appropriate and the evidence and quotations you have chosen highlight your argument well. Excellent set of readings.
You could do more to say specifically why Bosnia, Rwanda and Armenia are cases of genocide at the start of the essay ? perhaps compare them against the UN Convention. You say they are all cases of genocide, but are they all exactly the same? Are there any differences between them that are of importance when considering outsiders’ failure to prevent/end them?
To push your argument further, think about the reasons why major international actors fail the victims of genocide: you give a few reasons, such as political and economic interests, reputation, the desire to avoid costly and indeterminate conflicts, UN bureaucratic inertia and so on. Could you systematise these at all? Are the reasons the same in each case, such that you can make a general claim, or does it vary case by case?
In the bibliography, make sure you give the publisher of books.
Second year student: Issues in Contemporary Anthropology essay
Explore the meaning of ‘radical evil’ and the ‘banality of evil’ and how they might relate to understandings of evil using the cases of Idi Amin and Adolf Eichmann [ pdf 50 KB ]
Tutor’s Feedback – 75%
Deals confidently with very complex issues (Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’ vs Zizek’s ‘radical evil’). Focuses on Leopold’s work, but extends it considerably. Rather longer than expected, but a well constructed argument, and generally well written (however p.2 ‘Disobeying orders was not an option for Eichmann…. As a result conveying their agency the other Nazi officials do not qualify as banal’ is unclear & may misrepresent Arendt’s argument p.3 some confusion over Pottier’s & Leopold’s position. ). Interesting and original attempt to compare Arendt’s analysis with Zizek’s in relation to Amin. The conclusion needs more explanation about what is meant by ‘everyday understandings of evil….what one refers to with the word in the on a daily basis’ (sic) (Shame to have such a typo in the final sentence!). Nevertheless, a very good, thoughtful and original argument.
Third year student: English literature essay
Laurence Sterne and the Erotic: The Depiction of Sensibility in ‘A Sentimental Journey’ [ pdf 99 KB ]
Tutor’s Feedback – 78%
This essay is clearly-written with a an intelligent, incisive style. The piece is well-presented and very thoroughly researched. I especially liked the essay’s alertness to the cultural and philosophical contexts of sensibility. In covering this topic, you used critical and historical sources to support, rather than to dictate, your analysis. Consequently, you convey a strong sense of engagement with, and ownership of, the material. Excellent work.
Second year student: English literature essay
Is Tess in ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ portrayed as being responsible for her own demise? [ pdf 40 KB ]
Tutor’s Feedback – 73%
Yours is a beautifully clear essay. You write very well, and your prose is delightful to read. You’ve also done your research and it shows. There is a remarkable lack of vagary about society or feminism in your piece, and you’ve picked canny quotes from your secondary sources that elucidate and situate your arguments.
You’ve also located some wonderfully specific quotations from your primary source to support your argument that Hardy’s narrator sympathises with Tess. Some of your close readings are wonderfully astute, as when you point out that Tess implores Angel, rather than commanding him. Slightly less persuasive is your assertion that Tess is the victim of Alec’s eyes; I suspect you might have found better quotations, descriptions, or incidents denouncing Alec’s gaze.
You are clearly very good at pursuing and proving an argument. I encourage you to be a bit more experimental in your next essay; perhaps choose a less straightforward topic and see where it takes you.
Please see penciled notes throughout on shortening sentences and watching for comma splices (please look this term up in a style manual if it is unfamiliar).
Second year student: Biomedical science essay
Discuss the new insights in the understanding of Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome and its worldwide implications following the large scale outbreak of E.Coli O104:H4 diarrhea in Germany 2011 [ pdf 680KB ]
An outstanding essay which shows a complete understanding and an ability to think around the topic, especially with regards to the pathogenic features. Very good evidence and an indepth discussion, which highlights the role of the unique features of the German outbreak. Also, good use of evidence to highlight the unusual epidemiology. The essay is logical, moves step by step in the sequence of events chronologically. Excellent presentation. Very good use of diagrams, especially the one on the plasmids. Good referencing. Very minor errors highlighted on script. Download the script for more detailed tutor feedback [ 737 KB ]
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