Types of essays: introduction

Do you like school assignments? We bet that most of the students find homework on certain subjects not so interesting. However, completing essays is rather fun and many students enjoy writing them!

There are so many types of essays that every student will surely find the suitable one: short or long, persuasive or descriptive, serious or humorous and much more. The only goal of such an assignment is to meet the given prompt.

Today we will tell you about five main types of essays and will give you all the information you may need to master the art of writing!

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5 main types of essays

Although you may find a long list of essay types, there are five basic types, which are later divided into subcategories. They include:

  • Descriptive;
  • Narrative;
  • Expository;
  • Persuasive or argumentative;
  • Compare and contrast.

Below we will tell you about each essay type and you will be able to choose the one that suits your needs!

Descriptive essay

Descriptive essay is probably the most popular and commonly assigned type of essays since middle school. Its main goal is to describe a particular piece of literature, event, place, object and what not.

Writer of such an essay will have to deal with adverbs and adjectives, as well as to master a broad vocabulary of descriptive words and phrases. In addition, you will need to familiarize yourself with metaphors, analogies, allegories, personifications, similes and other literary tools that can make your writing vivid and alive.

Descriptive essays are usually assigned by literature teachers and you have a chance to pick one of the millions of topics: to describe your own experience, share emotions, give instructions on cooking your favorite meal and much more! The only limit is your imagination.

Narrative essay

Narrative essay is a sort of a short story, where you can discuss anything you want! You can tell about your dreams and fantasies; share a personal story about your first kiss; explain motives of your actions or decisions.

Some students decide to refer to a certain day or period in life to show how it influenced their personalities and shaped their minds.

The main goal of a narrative essay is to tell about the things and experiences that you have gone through to reach and interest the reader.

Luckily, you don’t need to conduct research and to use various sources for a narrative essay. This makes writing a narrative essay quite easy but only if you are open-minded and ready to share your story with the audience!

Read also about Research Paper Outline

Expository essay

Expository essays are rather challenging and large compared to other types of essays. That is why it is better to divide them into subcategories to understand which one you need to complete: interpretation, definition, cause and effect, analysis or response.


The first and the most common type of expository essay is an interpretation of a certain process. You will need to break the concept into logical steps and to provide readers with clear instructions. These types of essays answer the question ‘how’. For example, how to build a house, how a cell phone works, etc.


Definition essay is surely the easiest one but this doesn’t mean that you can simply copy the definition from Wikipedia. Plagiarism is your biggest enemy, so even the simplest essay should be written from scratch.

You should provide a few definitions of the concept, as well as to give your own vision of the term. For example, define ‘love’ or ‘justice’.

Cause and effect

Cause and effect essays explain how things relate. You will need to build a parallel between various concepts or events and explain why certain things happen or how the effect other issues. For example, the causes of World War II or the effect of Donald Trump’s election on minorities.


Analysis essays are assigned to students to make them understand the given material. For example, the teacher picks a certain piece of text (article, chapter or a book) and asks students to analyze and interpret it. To succeed you need to read the source text and to use various analytical devices to build a structured and clear text.


Response or reflection essay is a rather subjective type of writing. Yes, you need to cover a particular topic based on facts and evidence but it is also important to focus on your opinion on the subject.

Persuasive or argumentative essay

Persuasive or often called argumentative essay is an essay type, where you need to insist on a chosen point of view. Persuasive essays aim to convince the audience that the chosen argument is true, while argumentative essays simply defend thesis statements with credible arguments and facts.

This type of essay is rather difficult, so requires a whole set of skills: analytical, persuasive and writing.

Compare and contrast essay

The main task of a compare and contrast essay is to provide readers with similarities and differences of a subject, object, event, person or location. Thus they will be able to compare and contrast the chosen matter.

When you compare, this means that you find similarities, while contrasting means that you find differences.

This type of essays allows understanding several topics at the same time.

Even though there are many types of essays, it doesn’t mean that you should stick to one of them: mix different types to enrich your story and your tutor will surely appreciate it!

Four extra essay types

You may claim that there are much more types of essays. It is quite fair but you can complete all of your essays simply by combining the types, which we have described above. Below we will introduce you to four additional essay types, which are equally popular among students.

Admission essay

If you look at the rest of the essay types, you will surely notice that they are alike. However, admission essays surely stand out, because their goal is to help you get higher education.

After graduating high school, students that are willing to enter a college or university, need to write an admission essay. To craft a great essay you will need to:

  • Tell why you have chosen a particular study field;
  • Explain why you need this degree;
  • Write about your strengths and weaknesses;
  • Show that you know much about the chosen college;
  • Emphasize how you can contribute to the college and their community.

Scholarship essay is a rather similar type of essays. Students of higher educational establishments often complete them to show the college committee that they deserve a scholarship. This allows them to cover the tuition fee with fewer efforts and to concentrate on classes.

Colleges are often willing to pay for students, who possess outstanding skills and achievements. You can become rather wealthy just after writing a great essay.

Essay on cultural identity

Unites States consists of a variety of cultures, so they often hold activities to unite nations. Teachers at schools and colleges regularly assign essays on cultural identity to help native students understand their foreign classmates better, learning about their traditions and customs.

Cultural identity papers cover a variety of topics: they can tell about
religion, language, traditions, viewpoints, and reasons why a certain person decided to move to the US. However, it is not a personal essay type, because it is not centered on a single person. You need to write about several people from the same culture and to tell about their backgrounds.

Process essay

Process essay is often called one of the expository essay types. This type is rather important and allows students to master technical writing with ease. Such essays describe a particular process step-by-step, providing instructions in a chosen manner.

The main question that a process essay answers is ‘How to’. You don’t need to explain the goal of the process – just provide a clear guide with lots of details.

Informative essay

If you compare essay types above, you will surely see that informative essay is the most popular one. Some students claim that any essay contains information, so any essay can be called informative.

However, this particular type of essay covers a given topic using lots of details, definitions and a deep analysis with reliable facts. Authors of informative essays must have a great understanding of the topic to create a really strong paper.

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Essay tips for different academic levels

We have already discussed five main essay types and four additional ones. However, many students are also interested in which types are more suitable for their academic level. Below we will discuss middle and high school, as well as college essays. Unfortunately, we won’t cover Master’s and Ph.D. essays, because they prefer coursework, researches, and dissertations instead of simple essays.

Useful information: Types of Sentences in the English Language

Middle school essays

  • To craft a good paper choose a narrative, descriptive, demonstrative, how-to or storytelling essay;
  • Select a prompt based on your hobbies, talents, and skills;
  • Tell how to play your favorite game or to cook your favorite dish;
  • Give lots of details, when you are describing a person, location, toys, etc.;
  • Put yourself into the teacher’s shoes to understand what you are expected to write about and how to get an A+.

High school essay types

  • Students of high school need to concentrate on narrative, cause and effect, compare and contrast, expository, admissions and analytical essays;
  • Follow a regular five-paragraph structure: one for introduction, three for body paragraphs and one for conclusion;
  • Concentrate on one topic instead of trying to cover as many issues as possible;
  • Remain focused and provide arguments clearly;
  • Start writing admission essays and personal statements well in advance. This will greatly increase your chances of entering the college of your dreams.

College essay types

If you are already a college or university student, follow the tips below:

  • Always start the writing process with brainstorming, even if the topic was given in the class. Make a list of ideas and research them to find as much information as possible;
  • If the topic is wide, try to narrow it to come up with a clear story;
  • Be creative: you should not only cover the topic providing relevant arguments and facts but to offer your own vision and at least one personal argument;
  • When writing a personal statement you should always remain honest and never lie. Don’t makeup skills or knowledge, because sooner or later the truth will come out and you will feel rather awkward;
  • Always revise your essay before passing it to the teacher or admission officer. This will help you to eliminate multiple mistakes;
  • Create a strong speech and presentation if you need to perform with an essay in front of the class. This will greatly help to support your main points;
  • If possible, protect the essay with copyright. In such a way you will have all right reserved and no one will be able to steal or copy your essay.

Research papers

Once you leave high school and complete first years at college, essays will transform into research papers. You will need to conduct your own research on a given topic and to describe what you have found.

Such works consist of the following parts:

  • Title page;
  • Outline;
  • Abstract;
  • Introduction;
  • Methodology;
  • Results and discussion;
  • Bibliography.

Final thoughts

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