Essays can be divided into different types and each type requires a particular skill in approach.  Some styles of descriptive essay writing (such as narrative) are less useful in an academic environment since they do not encourage the student to display critical thinking.  However, you might use pieces of all these essay styles within the confines of one essay or a dissertation, for example, the overall essay may be a discussion, but you may need a section of definition to explain terms.  Here’s a brief overview of the sorts of essay you might come across during your studies.

Narrative Essays

These essays require you to tell a story or set out the sequence of events.  At university, unless you are studying a topic such as Creative Writing, it is unlikely that you will be asked to write a narrative essay.  Tutors want to see that you are capable of critical thinking and a narrative usually would not allow you to display this.

Descriptive Essays

Descriptive essays can describe processes (useful in science topics) or the principles behind the topic.

Compare and Contrast Essays

This style is popular in exam situations.  You need to pick out the similarities and the differences between the concepts, events, people or objects mentioned in the title.

Cause and Effect Essays

This sort of question asks you to explain how a particular result was caused by other factors.  It is popular in science, but can appear in history, politics or urban geography questions, for example.  You might also be asked to uncover the causes of a rebellion, decreasing crime rates or how a talentless politician came to be so persuasive at a later stage in their career.

Discussion Essay

This type of essay, asking you to discuss an issue, is trying to assess your critical thinking ability.  Focus on providing evidence for every claim you make.

When you are editing essays or proofreading dissertations, analyse every single sentence you have written.  Pretend you are a stranger reading your work critically and after reading each sentence, question it.  Ask yourself “Why?”, “Who says so?” or “Prove it!”

Are you having difficulties with any of these essay types?  Let us know.  Post a comment below.