Barbara P
Barbara P

Different Types of Essay: Definition With Best Examples

12 min read

Published on: Mar 10, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

types of essay

Are you dreading your essay assignment? Not sure what type of essay to pick?

There are multiple types of essays, and each is approached differently. This is why it can be a real challenge for students.

A good way to start thinking about essays is to identify the types of essays That is why we are here to explain what types of essays exist and how they all serve different purposes.

Let's get started!

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Common Types of Essays and Examples

Essays are the most common type of assignment in high school and college. There are ten common types of academic essays, and each type has specific requirements. 

Here is a quick overview of what skills you need for these types of essay writing and how their prompts look:

Essay Type

Skills Needed

Example Prompts

Narrative Essay

Storytelling, vivid language, sequencing

1. Write about a memorable childhood experience.

2. Describe a time when you faced a challenge.

Descriptive Essay

Observational skills, sensory language

1. Describe your favorite place in nature.

2. Paint a picture of a bustling city street.

Expository Essay

Research, organization, clarity

1. Explain the process of photosynthesis.

2. Discuss the impact of social media on society.

Analytical Essay

Critical thinking, evidence evaluation

1. Analyze the theme of love in a novel.

2. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of a movie.

Persuasive Essay

Persuasive writing, logical arguments

1. Convince your audience to recycle more.

2. Argue for or against school uniforms.

Compare and Contrast Essay

Comparative analysis, structured writing

1. Compare and contrast two historical figures.

2. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of the two travel destinations.

Cause and Effect Essay

Causal relationships, logical reasoning

1. Explore the causes and effects of climate change.

2. Investigate the impact of technology on human interaction.

Critical Essay

Critical analysis, argumentation

1. Critically evaluate a work of literature.

2. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a scientific theory.

Textual Analysis Essay

Close reading, interpretation

1. Analyze the symbolism in a poem.

2. Interpret the meaning of a historical document.

Process Analysis Essay

Step-by-step explanation, clarity

1. Explain how to bake a cake from scratch.

2. Describe the process of conducting a scientific experiment.

Below is a detailed definition of each essay type, as well as examples to help you understand.

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Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is a personal way to tell stories with an academic argument in mind. They allow the writer to use their own experiences as examples. Also, make arguments or impart lessons through real-life events. 

A narrative essay can be written in any way the writer chooses. Autobiographical narratives make a connection with readers by adding emotions to every sentence. It allows more creativity which is what makes this type of essay so appealing. 

The first-person point of view also creates an emotional attachment, but some writers use it differently than others. They may write about another person's story as their own or even create imaginary characters they never met in real life. 

These stories have no limitations on time periods, topics, or genres. There are endless possibilities when telling personal tales through an academic argument. 

Narrative Essay Example

Below is an example of a narrative essay to help you know how to build a strong essay by yourself. 

Expert Tip

Want more information on narrative essay writing? Check out this guide on narrative essay to learn all about it!

Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay paints a picture with words. It uses sensory language to describe a person, place, or thing in great detail.

The perfect way to start a descriptive essay is by describing what you see, hear, and feel. 

What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? How does it make you feel?

The goal of a descriptive essay is to allow the reader to visualize and understand something. This kind of writing can be used for many different subjects, whether it's an object or person, experience, or emotion. 

The more detailed information your essay has, the better your readers will be able to understand it. Describe what you have felt and observed through some specific event. Many writers start with a one-line description before moving on to complex arguments. This is the best way to start a descriptive essay. 

First, writers include event details and then combine them with sensory details. It allows readers to imagine whatever scene the writer wants them to imagine. 

Descriptive Essay Example

Expert Tip

Delve into this comprehensive guide on descriptive essays to gain a comprehensive understanding!

Expository Essay

An expository essay explains or informs the reader about a specific topic. It provides a straightforward, information-centered presentation of facts or concepts.

It only aims to explain an idea or define a concept without making any arguments at all. This is usually a shorter piece of writing. 

An expository essay is also known as a definition essay. It's useful for those who want an in-depth explanation without having to do too much thinking by themselves.

In order to make expository writing more interesting, writers use several essay variations such as comparison and contrast essays, cause and effect essays, or process essays. These variations help to add depth and interest to the description of facts and information.

The best example comes from science class when students have to write an informative paragraph on how paper is made. They aren't allowed to use any argumentative techniques like persuasion because that is not what an essay is built for.

Expository Essay Example

Expert Tip

Looking to enhance your knowledge of expository essay writing? Explore the ins and outs of crafting clear and well-structured expository essays.

Analytical Essay

An analytical essay examines and interprets a piece of literature, artwork, or event. It involves critical thinking and evaluation of evidence to provide insights and arguments.

It is similar to an expository essay in that they both describe a topic, but it takes one step further by investigating each side of the subject.  It takes an expository topic and then investigates the different sides of that subject.

For instance: An expository essay is about how presidents are elected. You might look at all aspects of this process to discuss its pros and cons. 

An analytical essay investigates what would happen if we changed some parts or fully abandoned the electoral system altogether. 

Analytical Essay Example

Expert Tip

Need to get started on your analytical essay? Enhance your analytical essay writing skills with this comprehensive guide!

Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay aims to convince the reader to adopt a particular viewpoint or take a specific action. Writing this essay can be tricky because it wants the writer's viewpoint and reasoning on a certain topic. 

To ensure that your essay is clear, concise, and persuasive enough, you have to convince the reader. Think about what information would justify your arguments. It is a type of argumentative essay because they take a stance on an issue.

A good persuasive piece includes counterarguments for opposing views as well as data to back up the central thesis statement.

Persuasive Essay Example

Expert Tip

Looking to boost your knowledge of persuasive essay writing? Read this insightful guide on persuasive essays and get started!

Compare and Contrast  Essay

A compare and contrast essay is a type of essay that examines two items. It compares their similarities while also pointing out the differences between them.

It's important to organize this essay into sections, one for comparisons and another section for contrasts. It is designed to show readers how topics or concepts differ or how they're alike. 

A good way to start is by stating why you're doing a compare & contrast essay on that particular subject (i.e., how they relate back to each other). This will keep readers engaged throughout your whole essay. 

Compare and Contrast Essay Example

Expert Tip

Explore this comprehensive guide on compare and contrast essays to gain a thorough understanding!

Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay explores the reasons (causes) behind an event or phenomenon and the outcomes (effects) it results in. It establishes connections between different factors to explain their relationship.

Cause and effect essays are often organized chronologically to show the relationship between two things, in particular how another influenced one thing. 

The essay might start with a cause, for example, an unfair law. Then it will go on to explain its effects which can be anything from people rioting or animals fleeing. 

This type of writing is usually structured like this: first explaining why something happened (which is called the “cause”), then exploring how that event had consequences (referred to as “effects”). 

Cause and Effect Essay Example

Expert Tip

Read this guide and discover effective strategies and valuable tips to craft impactful cause and effect essays!

Critical Essay

A critical essay offers an in-depth analysis and evaluation of a literary work, film, or idea. It examines the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of the subject matter.

It breaks down literature into its simpler components, so the reader better understands what they are reading. As well as be able to make an argument about its meaning. The writer usually uses textual evidence as well as other critics when making their points.

An introduction that presents your thesis statement followed by evidence from both text-based sources (other critics) and outside knowledge (personal accounts). The body then gathers this information in order to create a sound argument, backed up not just by textual analysis but also by contextual understanding. 

Critical Essay Example

Expert Tip

Looking for more insights into critical essays? Explore this comprehensive guide on critical essays to get a better idea. 

Basic Essay Format

Writing a basic essay can be as easy as following three simple steps. The key to writing an insightful essay is having these parts work together in harmony for the best readability possible.

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The Introduction

The introduction is like a doorway to your essay, inviting the reader to step inside. It should be captivating and interesting to grab their attention from the start. 

You can use a compelling anecdote, a surprising fact, or a thought-provoking question to engage the reader. 

The introduction also provides some background information about the topic, giving context to your essay. But giving away too much information can make the introduction less impactful. It should only hint at what points will be discussed in the essay.

  • Thesis Statement 

The thesis statement works as a road map for the entire essay and is part of the introduction. It shows readers what the essay claims and the reason behind this claim. Thesis statements are vital because they state the main idea of an essay concisely.

It is necessary to avoid any confusion about where the essay is going or why certain arguments matter more than others. The basic essay format sets limits on topics by narrowing them down instead of making comparisons with every other.

Body Paragraphs

The body of the essay supports the main points of the thesis statement. It provides specific details in each paragraph that tie together ideas to make a convincing argument for the thesis statement. 

Each paragraph has specific details to back up ideas, using a mix of research or personal experience. The author’s own analysis ties in with these supporting facts and conclusions drawn from presenting those findings that support their thesis statement throughout this section.

The use of transitions is also important because they can get readers from one thought to another. They can be as simple as a word or two (e.g., ‘next,’ ‘also’). Or they may take more than just a sentence by providing background information for the reader before switching topics entirely. 


The conclusion brings your essay to a satisfying close. It summarizes the main points discussed in the body paragraphs and restates the thesis statement in a different way.

Avoid introducing new information in the conclusion; instead, emphasize the significance of your arguments and leave the reader with a lasting impression. A well-crafted conclusion provides a sense of closure while leaving the reader with something to ponder.

Expert Tip

Need to learn more about how to format your essay? Have a look at this read to get better informed about essay format!

Essay Writing Tips

You have to keep in mind some useful essay writing tips while writing any type of essay. 

  • Understand the Prompt

Understand exactly what is expected of you. It's a good idea to break the prompt down into sections.

  • Make a Plan

Organizing and brainstorming your ideas will make your life much easier while writing. It is a good plan to make a web of your ideas and supporting details. 

  • Use and Cite Sources

Carry out your research. Use quotes and paraphrases from your sources, but NEVER plagiarise.

  • Write an Essay Draft

Drafts are a great way to get any “poor quality” ideas out of the way and are frequently required by professors and instructors.

  • Make a Strong Thesis Statement

The thesis statement (main argument) of your essay is the most important thing you'll write. So, make it a focal point.

  • Respond to the following prompt

After you've ironed out any kinks in your first draft, you can begin writing the final draft of your essay.

  • Proofread

Carefully read your response to ensure that there are no errors and that you did not overlook anything.

With the knowledge of these essay types, you have the tools to write an essay that can make a lasting impact.

However, if you find yourself in need of professional assistance, our online essay writing service is here to help. Our team of experienced writers is dedicated to providing expert help for any type of essay. 

Our AI essay writer can deliver all kinds of essays.

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Barbara P


Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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