Types of Essays: 2 Experts Describe Them

Types of Essays: 2 Experts Describe Them

Essays are perhaps the most popular form of assigned writing because they require students to synthesize their own knowledge and ideas, presenting them in a coherent way.  Essay writing is an art that requires practice, revision, dedication, and—above all—thoughtful consideration.  In French, the word essay means "to try."  An essay, then, can be understood as a writer's attempt to explain, interpret, or depict something and, through doing so, both learn and inform.  There are many kinds of essays, but all essays can be divided into two general types: academic and creative.  

Academic essays are assigned in most high school and college courses.  These can be argumentative essays, analysis essays, interpretive essays, research essays, position essays, critical essays, etc.  The point of each of these assignments is for the student to approach a topic in a critical way and present his or her thoughtful views on the particular topic.

Creative essays are found in books, journals, and English composition classes.  Creative essays are personal essays, descriptive essays, humorous essays, and narrative essays.  These are texts that present the writer's individual experiences or perceptions using carefully chosen and aesthetically presented language.  Creative essays are also sometimes considered under a larger genre term for true, creative texts called "creative non-fiction."  

Whether they are academic or creative, most essays will have a thesis—a main point or idea.  In academic essays, this thesis should take the form of a claim or argument that articulates the writer's stance on the topic.  In a creative essay, the thesis is more often implied—meaning it is embedded in the themes of the text.  Regardless of whether it is academic or creative, however, the thesis of the essay should be apparent to the reader and developed through the examples, analyses, and commentary presented in the course.  The essay should always end by remarking on that thesis in some way, without summarizing or repeating it.

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An essay is a short text written to express a writer's interpretation, analysis, or opinion on a single topic.  Such compositions are not "papers" in the common sense of the word.  An academic paper is typically assumed to have a significant reference component.  Though many essays also include research, essays use that research to augment the writer's own ideas and opinions, whereas papers are often intended as informative documents that provide an overview of information on a topic without many of the writer's own insights.  There are dozens of types of essays, each requiring a different approach and style of writing.

Most essays fall under one of two general categories: academic and creative.  

Academic essays are the reports assigned in most high school and college courses.  The point of all academic types of academic document writing is to approach a topic in a critical way and present the thoughtful views of the writer on that particular topic.  Some of the most popular types of reports in this category include argument essays, analysis essays, research essays, position essays, and critical essays.  Argument essays seek to argue a certain issue in such a way as to persuade the reader to his or her perspective.  Analysis essays critically examine a certain theory, concept, or idea and present the writer's interpretation of that theory, concept, or idea.  Research essays use many secondary sources to support the writer's own ideas about a specific topic or idea.  Position essays are similar to argument essays in that they seek to advance the writer's own stance on a particular issue.  Critical essays examine texts and report on the reportist's interpretation of those texts by pointing to specific textual evidence.  

Creative essays are commonly assigned in English composition classes.  They are also one of the most commonly published types of reports because many creative writers compose creative essays in addition to other creative work.  The most common types of academic document writing in the creative genre are descriptive essays, humorous essays, and narrative essays.  Descriptive essays focus on the vivid portrayal of a person, place, or thing.  They are, in this way, similar to poetry, in that they invoke the senses.  A descriptive essay is not merely meant to render, however, but also to indicate why the object of description is significant to the writer.  Humorous essays are texts about any number of things told in a humorous way.  Sometimes humorous essays are satirical, and sometimes they merely recount a funny experience the writer has had.  Narrative essays are the most popular type of creative essays.  These present an experience of the writer—any experience—in the format of a story.

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