Writing a Descriptive Essay: Tips from 5 Experts

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Writing a Descriptive Essay: Tips from 5 Experts

A descriptive essay is a text that presents a detailed image of a person, place, or thing.  This is done through the use of descriptive language—adjectives and adverbs—and the incorporation of images that incorporate several of the body's senses.  A descriptive essay is typically a form of personal writing because it presents its description through the perception of a single person—typically the writer.  However, a descriptive essay differs from a personal essay because its main focus is on describing a person or thing, not on telling a story.  

The point of a descriptive essay is to project a specific image into the reader's mind—to allow the reader to see a scene or thing through the writer's eyes.  To do this, a writer must be very precise and detailed.  For instance, if a writer were describing a barn, he would not simply say the barn is red.  He would describe the exact color of that red—rust-colored in the shadows, cherry red where the sun hits it, both set off by the gleaming white door.  

An integral aspect of descriptive essay writing is the order in which the writer chooses to describe a thing or scene.  For instance, if the writer were describing a person, that description should not begin with what the person is wearing, because that is not what a person would notice first.  When describing a person, it might be best to first indicate the age and sex of the person before commenting on his or her clothes.  That way, the image is built from general to specific, which is easier for the mind's eye to imagine.

Descriptive essays depend not only on precision and a general-to-specific order, but also on the scope and quality of the descriptions.  A sophisticated descriptive essay will attempt to incorporate as many senses as possible in order to present the most complete form of the entity being described.  For instance, if the descriptive essay were describing a field in summer, it would comment on the intense light, the heat from the sun, the smell of the freshly-mowed grass, and the sound of the cicadas in the trees.  That way, the reader can truly transport him or herself to that field and experience it with the writer, as the writer has painted it.

The quality of the descriptions figures significantly in descriptive essays.  Avoid using cliches, because they are difficult to imagine.  For instance, to describe the old barn above as "old as dirt" doesn't give the reader an image.  Stick to precise, inventive language, and say "the barn is so old it leans to one side as if the other side were tired."  

Viewpoint of Author #2

There are many occasions in which a student may have to write a descriptive report.  This type of term paper is generally assigned for undergraduate English courses in which students have to experiment with different forms of writing.  A descriptive term paper is similar to a standard term paper, except that it is designed to describe a particular scenario, idea, event, or thing in depth.

Because a descriptive term paper is usually written in depth on one particular subject, learners will need to ensure that they understand their topic and the project assignments prior to beginning.  After all, if students do not understand the topic or project requirements, they run the risk of studying the wrong subject in depth or writing in the wrong form.  

The first step in writing descriptive term papers is for students to make sure that the read through the report instructions.  Most professors will give their students a printed instruction sheet with information about how to complete the project.  This information should include word count, style, and more.  Students should always ask questions if they do not understand these requirements.  

Next, students need to decide on a topic that their will cover in their descriptive term papers.  The topic should be something that interests students, as students will need to spend a great deal of time researching it.  Students should also select a topic that they feel they can write about in depth.  

After students have decided on a topic, they can begin their research into the topic.  This research should include primary and secondary resources.  Students working on descriptive term papers also need to keep in mind that they will need to include more in-depth information than they would if they were writing a different kind of term paper, so they need to be sure that they dig deep into the research.  

Students should also write outlines for their descriptive term papers before they begin the process of writing them.  The outline should include content as well as information about the format they will follow when writing the descriptive report.  This outline will make writing the report easier than if they did not have an outline.  

Students should be aware that a descriptive term paper is a specific type of assignment that requires them to write details and plenty of descriptions about the topic that they are studying.  A descriptive term paper may be the same format and length as other university articles, but it is focused on just one topic in great detail, whereas other university articles may pull in several topics.

Viewpoint of Author #3

A descriptive research paper is a type of project that is common in high school, undergraduate, and graduate academic programs.  There are many different definitions for descriptive research papers, but the most common understanding of the term is that a descriptive research paper is designed to provide in-depth information about one particular subject by describing that subject from various angles.  Therefore, descriptive research papers are not emotive or persuasive.  Instead, they should simply provide information.

A descriptive research essay requires a unique format.  Unlike traditional articles that require a thesis statement, introduction, body, and conclusion, descriptive research papers are often much more free-form.  When learners write descriptive essays, they do not always have to draw conclusions or provide reasons for the way things are; they simply need to explain the way things are by using their sensory perception and intelligence.  Descriptive essays may not even require a thesis.

The introduction to a descriptive report should include background information about the topic.  The body paragraphs should include new information about the topic.  Finally, the conclusion paragraph should recap what the student has stated in the introduction and body of the descriptive reference project.  Descriptive research essays are not necessarily examples of high-level academic writing, but they do show professors how well a student understands certain concepts, ideas, or facts based on how well the students can explain them.

Many students have a difficult time grasping the difference between a descriptive research paper and a traditional article.  In many situations, a professor might not even understand the basic differences between the two types of writing.  However, when it is important to make the distinction between a descriptive research paper and a traditional article, learners should understand the basic differences in order to complete the assignment accurately.  

A descriptive research paper is always designed to provide a large amount of information on one subject.  In order to obtain that information, students need to understand a topic by researching it.  However, they are not necessarily researching a topic for the purpose of being able to draw conclusions about a topic.  Instead, they are researching a topic in order to simply understand it from multiple angles.  

A traditional article is unique in that students should perform a large amount of research on a particular topic in order to develop their own ideas and conclusions.  Here is an example of how the two might differ: if a professor gave an assignment for students to write about apples, when a pupil writes a descriptive research paper, the student might describe the look, texture, and taste of varying apples.  A title might be, "How Different Apples Look, Taste, and Feel."  

If the student were to write a traditional article, the student might draw conclusions based on the look, texture, and taste.  A title for a traditional research essay might be something like, "How the Different Look, Taste, and Feel of Apples Influences Their Popularity."  The traditional article draws conclusions and looks for correlations.  The descriptive research essay merely describes the apples.

Viewpoint of Author #4

Most students will be required to write a description essay at some point.  Description essay assignments are likely to continue through college for most pupils.  Description essays are a great way for instructors to gauge a student's knowledge on a particular subject or concept as well as test students' writing skills.

Description essays do just what the title indicates.  They provide details.  Description essays can be about a tangible item, a concept, or even a philosophical construct.  And, as much as students tend to think that a description essay on a tangible item is easier than any other type of report, they are often wrong.

The best way to begin writing a description essay is to research the item or concept assigned.  Students should begin their research by simply opening up a dictionary and an encyclopedia.  When researching description essays, the best course of action is to understand the technical details of the item or concept.  After reading what a dictionary and encyclopedia have to say, learners should move on to more complicated details that exist on their topic.

Students can, and should, include a dictionary or encyclopedia definition in the introduction of their informative article.  Using these types of existing basic details can help introduce the topic as well as ensure that the reader has the proper grasp of what the report intends to discuss.  Unless otherwise directed by the course instructor, learners should always assume that the reader has no understanding of the topic to be discussed in the informative article.

After introducing the topic to be discussed in the descriptive essay, students must use the body of the document to support their representation.  Sometimes students find that describing tangible objects is easier than discussing concepts or thoughts, but, especially as students enter secondary education, college, and even grad school, descriptive reports are more likely to be about intangible concepts than tangible objects.  Writing on real objects in the lower grades helps students gain a basic understanding of how to write a description essay so that they will be able to apply that understanding to the advanced level of critical thinking that they will need later on.

After writing the introduction and body to a description essay, learners should pull everything together with a well-written conclusion.  Before turning in their document, learners should always proofread what they have written for proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  Writing description essays is not difficult and students who pay attention to writing their document properly are more likely to receive a satisfactory grade than students who merely throw the report together at the last minute.

Viewpoint of Author #5

A descriptive essay is a type of assignment that strives to provide the reader with a more vivid experience and understanding of the item being described.  Rather than focusing on statistics and facts, a descriptive essay paints a picture by utilizing detailed observations and descriptive words.

A descriptive essay typically portrays a place, a person, a memory, an object, or an experience.  Regardless of what is being described in the report, it should focus on what the writer perceives and experiences.

When writing a descriptive essay, you must also determine the overall purpose.  By determining the reason for your essay, you can better focus your ideas and determine what information should be included.  For example, if writing a descriptive essay about a person, you need to decide if you want to focus on that person's appearance or on a specific trait the person has.  For example, you might write a descriptive article that describes how the person is a hard worker, brave, or honest.

When writing descriptive essays, remember the phrase "show, don't tell."  Your goal should be to describe the subject rather than simply tell the reader.  For example, rather than say, "I was tired after my workout," you might say "Sweat rolled off of my brow and I tried to catch my breath as I painfully walked to the locker room after completing a fast-paced, 30 minute workout."

In order to show your reader rather than tell, you need to focus on using your five senses.  These five senses include sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.  When considering the situation you are writing about, think about how all five of your senses are used in that situation.  

During the pre-writing stage of your writing, you need to determine who or what you are describing, the reason for the description, and the specific qualities you wish to focus on.  Then, you need to create a first draft of the article that focuses on the five senses and provides as much detail as possible.  Be sure to use a powerful introductory paragraph that will draw the reader in and make him or her want to read more.  

After creating the rough draft of your descriptive essay, go back and review it to make sure you have provided an adequate amount of detail and descriptions.  As you reread the report, make sure you didn't leave out minor details that are important when it comes to painting a picture in the reader's mind.  At the same time, take out any details that really are not necessary for the document.

Finally, check over your descriptive essay to make sure there are no grammatical errors, punctuation errors, or errors in the logic or the flow.  Each paragraph should flow naturally to the next and the conclusion should leave a very clear and vivid image that will remain in the reader's mind long after he or she has finished reading the document.

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