Since some of you are using the essay questions from Living Outside the Lines as part of your curriculum this year I thought you might enjoy a post that gives a simple definition for the various types of essays. Please know that there are books and curriculum you can purchase that will give you a better understanding of each of these. Jensen’s Format Writing and Writing Aids are two good examples. The links take you to reviews about them. Each of these teaching tools go into a great deal of depth that you might find helpful. This document is my attempt to give you a free, simple answer to your questions,
“What is a ________ essay?”
“How do I write a ________ essay?”
The Analytical Essay
The purpose of an analytical essay is to examine material and then analyze or give your response to your reading. It evaluates a subject by analyzing its strengths, weaknesses, possibilities, advantages, disadvantages, and methods. The writer should take an unbiased view toward the subject — book, play, poem, painting, writing, views, opinions, beliefs and leave the judgment to the reader. Persuasion is not a tool for this essay.
The writer collects information about the argument that he plans to give. He writes about the strengths and weaknesses of the topic. The analytical essay usually begins with a summary of the original material, makes a claim to the reader and then gives evidence for the argument.
The Cause and Effect Essay
The cause and effect essay demonstrates how many things produce an outcome or how one thing leads to several outcomes. The reader is told how X, Y, and Z lead to A or how A leads to X, Y, and Z. Structure the paragraphs according to the format you choose and follow the guidelines for a five to seven paragraph essay.
The Compare and Contrast Essay
The comparison and contrast essay handles two ideas and compares and contrasts them. The similarities and differences should be based upon provable facts and information that is either gathered from experts or trustworthy resources.
The essay can be organized in a couple of different ways. The two ideas can be compared in one paragraph and contrasted in another or by comparing all points in one paragraph and contrast the ideas in the next paragraph.
Use examples to explain the comparisons and contrasts. The essay can be an objective account or be written as an attempt to persuade the reader to accept the comparison and contrast in favor of one of the two ideas.
The Descriptive Essay
A descriptive essay is really a creative writing project. The writer should look for ways to engage all the senses. The reader ought to be able to visualize the topic of the essay if the writer had done his job well. It helps to close your eyes and visualize what you want to describe and then write what you see.
The Demonstrative – Process – How-to
The demonstrative, sometimes called the process or how-to essay describes a task step-by-step so that the reader knows how to do something — bake bread, change a tire, organize a closet or landscape a yard. It is fact driven; therefore using a few narrative elements will make it more interesting. It should be written in the order required to accomplish the task being described.
The Expository — Definition Essay
The expository or definition essay defines an idea and explains it with facts and examples, not opinions. It explains the topic with the goal of showing the reader that the writer possesses provable knowledge about the subject. This type of essay is designed to convey information and help the reader to understand the topic. Using familiar illustrations is a good tactic. If the topic of the essay is new to the reader and you attach familiar examples, the reader can learn and remember the information easier.
The Five-Paragraph Essay
The five-paragraph essay is the most common writing assignment. The first paragraph introduces the thesis of the essay. It should have a hook to grab the reader’s attention.
The next three paragraphs are called the body of the essay. Choose three statements that prove your thesis and build paragraphs around each.
The final paragraph is the conclusion, which summarizes the essay and restates the main thesis statement. It can restate it exactly or capture the essence of the thesis statement.
You can use the five-paragraph essay format or expand it to a seven paragraph essay which is essentially the same as the five, only instead of having three paragraphs for the body you will have five.
The purpose of literature essays is to provide a synopsis of a piece literature. The first step is to create a thesis statement about the literature piece, which serves as the introduction and gives an idea to the reader about where the essay is going. You might begin with a question, “Did Billy Budd, Sailor commit murder or man-slaughter?” Or make a statement of opinion about the work like this, “I believe one main theme of Le Morte d’Arthur is loyalty.” From here you will use proof statements or answers to form three to five topic sentences. These paragraphs also give a synopsis of the story. Using quotes, either full or paraphrased to back up your points lends credibility to your essay and draws interest from the reader. End the essay with a summary of the evidence — the three to five points and how they back up your thesis statement.
The Narrative Essay
The narrative essay tells a story and is usually personal. The writer narrates an experience or incident. Using a flash back technique that starts at the beginning and leads the reader to the conclusion by explaining the details in order is a common way to handle this assignment.
The goal is to show, not tell the story to the reader; therefore the writer should use strong images, powerful language, and vivid impressions. DO NOT use adverbs and limit your adjectives to one or two. This essay is most often written in the first person. The essay ought to leave the reader with a take-away nugget that has universal meaning — love, commitment, perseverance, etc.
Begin with a sentence that generalizes the story. Then unfold the story for the reader. A narrative essay should have a plot, setting, characters, a climax leading to the thesis, and conclusion. Most narrative essays will have a time line showing where the story begins and where it ends.
The Persuasive Essay
The writer takes a stand in the persuasive, sometimes called an argumentative essay and attempts to bring the reader toward his way of thinking. The writer backs up his points with facts and includes refuting language about opposing arguments. Unsubstantiated opinions are not allowed in this paper. Verifiable proof is required; otherwise an opponent will not take the argument seriously.
NOTE: The research and response essays are built upon this essay.
The Research Essay
The purpose of this essay is to prove an idea is viable. It also demonstrates that you are able to research a topic uncovering ideas and facts related to it. Develop the thesis early in the paper and then direct your writing toward the facts that support your thesis.
The Response or Reaction Essay
The goal of the response essay sometimes called a reaction essay is to explain the work — to share thoughts and feelings about a subject within the material: a book, an event, video, a visit to a museum, reading assignment, etc. It is not a review about whether you like or dislike a work. Your job is to demonstrate that you understand the work and the ideas held within.
The Review Essay
If you are a reviewer you must first create a chart or list of criteria to which you will measure the work you are reviewing. The review essay is an informed opinion based upon a standard against which the work is judged. Your thesis will show how well the work – movie, book, play, etc. stands against this standard. Then you present arguments to prove your thesis.
Check out the difference between the motive for a response and a review essay.
Review – an informed opinion based upon a predetermined standard.
Response/Reaction – stating what you believe are the themes and what you think about those themes; the symbols and what you believe they mean, meaning of the story as you think the author intended it, etc.
The Reflective Essay
A reflective essay is often used to see how well you understand a book, class, or field trip. Your writing ought to show that you have thought about the subject deeply. If you add personal anecdotes or other personal observations that connect your experience to the topic, then the reader will be more likely to believe that you have considered the assigned material. You become more believable.
Using a Grading Rubric Helps the Student and Teacher
Rubrics are used to help students understand grading criteria and teachers to feel confident when grading a subjective subject like writing essays. When students use rubrics they often do better over the course of a semester or school year.
You can design your own rubric by listing the criteria that will be used to assess performance. Information can be written in charts to explain the points in a rubric. A successful rubric will describe what is expected and how it is to be met. A general guideline for grading a writing assignments might suit your needs or maybe you would like to use a point system this:
Score: 2 Points
- The thesis is clear.
- The mains point are clearly stated
- The conclusion restates the thesis combining mention of main points.
- No grammar or spelling mistakes have been made.
Score: 1 Point
- The thesis is clear.
- The main points are mentioned but no evidence is provided.
- The conclusion does not mention the main points.
- There are several grammar and spelling mistakes.
Showing the expectations to your student changes a subjective assignment like writing to a concrete measurable task. Ask him to keep a copy of the rubric in his notebook. A good rule to follow when grading is to write comments on the assignment before you return it him and limit your comments to the points on the rubric. If he wants to improve his writing he will compare your notes to the rubric and make changes in his next essay.
NOTE: If you use the point system, determine the number of essays you want to assign for the year. The total number of points possible equals 100 %. If you want your student to write ten essays during the school year and a perfect score is 2, then 20 points = 100%.