Essays are the most common papers students have to write. Almost every professor (except, perhaps, for STEM classes) assigned at least a couple of essays over the course of a semester.
What complicates students’ job, though, is that there are different essay types, each with its own purpose, structure, and requirements. Here are some of the most common ones.
1 Expository essays
Expository essays are the simplest, and they are often assigned to first-year students who are only learning how to write compelling texts. If you’re a struggling student wondering, “can service PaperWriter write paper for me” for the first time, chances are, an expository essay is what you’re assigned.
Expository essays aren’t supposed to argue a position or convince the reader of anything. They simply describe something (a concept, event, or phenomenon) to introduce it to the audience. The only challenge of an expository essay is to make it opinion-free. Even if you have a strong position on what you’re writing about, the reader shouldn’t be able to gauge it from your essay.
A few examples of topics for expository essays:
- What are the main reasons for procrastination?
- What are the most competitive degrees in American colleges?
- Describe what happened during the battle of Gettysburg.
2 Narrative essays
In contrast, a narrative essay tells a story. It’s a hybrid type of essay that falls somewhere in-between academic writing and fiction. While other essays are typically dry and emotionless, a narrative one can and should be moving, funny, and, most importantly, personal. The author’s personality should shine through words.
This isn’t a must, but in most cases, narrative essays call for first-person narration, meaning you have to use first-person pronouns (“I,” “my,” “me,” “we,” and so on). This makes perfect sense, seeing topics that students are assigned for narrative essays typically revolve around them.
Some of the standard topics for a narrative essay include:
- Tell about the place from your childhood that mattered or still matters to you a lot.
- Describe the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced and how you’ve overcome it.
- Write about the most valuable gift you’ve ever received. Describe when and how that happened.
3 Argumentative essays
Now, argumentative essays are one of the more difficult essay types to write. The author of an argumentative essay is supposed to argue in support of a certain idea or point of view. Its purpose is to persuade the reader that the author is right, which isn’t always easy.
At the same time, an argumentative essay should still sound academic and credible. So when writing one, you have to acknowledge your opponents’ positions and explain why they are wrong. This is what a lot of students struggle with. It’s challenging to find the right balance between persuasion and staying at least somewhat objective.
Here are a couple of topic examples for argumentative essays:
- Should schools ban unvaccinated children from attending classes? Why or why not?
- Should NATO close the sky over Ukraine in light of Russia’s invasion?
- Would it make sense for governments to tax airlines more to make flights more expensive and decrease the environmental harm they cause?
4 Descriptive essays
Descriptive essays are less common in college writing classes. But some professors do assign them to let students practice their non-academic writing skills. A descriptive essay is all about sensory details. The reader should be able to imagine how what you’re describing looks, smells, and sounds like.
Most descriptive essays are about objects or places and the meanings they bear. For example, you can be assigned to talk about one of the artifacts discussed in your history class. Or your assignment can be about describing the most valuable material item you own (this is more common in writing and composition classes).
A few examples of common topics for descriptive essays include:
- Describe the most spectacular museum you’ve ever been to.
- Talk about your favorite clothing item. Describe it in detail and tell how you got it.
- In your opinion, what does the most beautiful piece of jewelry in the world look like?
5 Compare and contrast essays
Compare and contrast essays are the third most common essay type assigned to college students (alongside expository and argumentative essays). As the name suggests, a compare and contrast essay is supposed to discuss two or more objects (ideas, events, people, phenomena) and compare them to one another.
Compare and contrast essays aren’t too difficult to write. But they do have some distinct genre conventions that students have to keep in mind. For example, there are several typical structures that all compare and contrast essays follow.
Here are some sample topics for a compare and contrast essay:
- Discuss the comparative benefits of ebooks versus traditional books.
- Compare the advantages and problems of pharmacological versus non-pharmacological treatments of mental disorders.
- What are the comparative upsides and downsides of attending college in one’s home company versus abroad?
6 Cause and effect essays
Finally, the main idea and structure of cause-and-effect essays are pretty self-evident. They discuss what happened, how it happened, what preceded it, and what followed it. For example, your history professor can ask you to talk about the causes and effects of the Great Depression.
Cause and effect essays are similar to compare and contrast ones in that they aren’t too difficult to write but have a rigid structure and other genre conventions to follow.
Some examples of cause and effect essays:
- How does parental divorce affect children’s psychological well-being?
- What is the impact of nationwide single-payer healthcare introduction on the access to and quality of care?
- How has the pandemic affected the gaming industry?
So, how to decide what essay to write?
Most professors clarify what type of essay students are required to write in the instructions. But if you’re free to pick any, choose based on the topic. If it’s a historical event, an expository or cause and effect essay works. If it is about some relevant and controversial issue, an argumentative one is the best option. Or you can always email your TA and ask for their advice.