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5 Different Types of Essays


In high school and college there are several types of essays that students face. These styles encompass writing skills that students need throughout life, excluding technical writing, and mastering the styles early allows students to focus their efforts on content rather than form. Each instructor will have different requirements and specific word or page counts, so read assignment guidelines carefully and be sure to write the type of essay required.

Narrative Writing

Narratives tell a story, so narrative essays have a beginning, a middle and an end. Whether the story is truth or fiction will depend upon the assignment, but teachers have several criteria that they typically use for grading. Outside of the normal essay elements, such as organization, grammar and punctuation, teachers usually look for plot development, characterization, descriptive details and dialogue. Excessive details are not necessary, but do provide descriptive details such as the darkening sky and the taste of the lemonade.

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect essays describe the cause and result of a situation or issue. An essay might discuss the development of treaties before World War I and the rise of the Axis and Allies. When writing this type of essay, research all possible outcomes and ensure that you can logically support your thesis with information on how a particular cause led to a specific effect. For longer essays, it may be possible to include circumstances that contributed to the effect.

Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays ask a student to choose a side on a particular issue and argue the merits of that side of the controversy. A student might argue her perspective on the death penalty or explain what she believes happened to the settlers at Roanoke. This style of essay allows greater freedom to interpret facts, statistics and primary sources, but the writer must be certain that she defends her interpretation cogently and effectively.

Research Papers

Research papers or essays require a student to select a topic, research it and formulate an opinion. This style asks a student to narrow the focus to a specific part of a topic, which he can adequately cover in the given essay length. Thesis development is critical; it may be helpful for students to make a list of elements to include and draft an outline before writing. Teachers typically request specific types of references and citation accuracy is vital to avoid plagiarism.

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast essays describe the similarities and differences between two things. The two primary ways are to block, in which the writer discusses either similarities or differences first and the other second, or to alternate similarities and differences between paragraphs. Choose several similarities and differences, such as characterization and setting in two books, and organize the essay so that similarities always come first or so that in block essays, the order of the topics is the same between the two sections.

Five Paragraph

The five paragraph essay includes an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. Introductions are traditionally four to five sentences, with an attention-grabbing opening sentence, and conclude with the thesis. Body paragraphs support the thesis, and the order of supporting points is usually from least to most important. The conclusion should restate the thesis and draw the body of the essay together.

About the Author

Rebecca Zadell has tutored writers since 1997, taught elementary school and is both a nanny and a professional crafter. Zadell's work has been published in NOVA's Write On and in the "Christian Observer." Zadell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Mason University.

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