Types of Essays

Broadly speaking, there are four types of essays you are likely to be asked to write and each genre has different types of questions you will need to answer. In each case, the approach for answering is slightly different.

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The Descriptive Essay

With this type of essay writing, you are expected to provide information about the topic, but you are not expected to comment on it. When you reach university level, however, it is most unlikely that students will only be required to describe something. This is likely to be the first part of the essay question.

Where you provide facts, these should be substantiated with well-chosen examples or hard evidence. Questions for these types of essays - the descriptive type - often use such words as: define, delineate, describe, explain, list, outline, present, state, summarize or trace.

The Discussion Essay

With this essay type, the writer is required to provide some main points about the topic. They will also be expected to discuss these in detail and, on occasion, they may be asked to examine the implications. With this type of essay, you will be expected to support any points or commentary with relevant evidence. Essay questions in this category often use such words as: account for, analyze, comment on, consider, debate, discuss, examine, explain, explore, how, illustrate, interpret, review and show.

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The Evaluation Essay

With the evaluation essay, the writer is usually expected to select a topic around which they can develop an argument or particular train of thought. In the academic context, it is expected that the argument will be examined from all sides. You will be expected to arrive at a conclusion and support your views by reasoning through or discussing all relevant evidence. In terms of essay writing, this genre of essay is often considered the most difficult. In these essay types, questions often include such words as: comment on, criticize, critically examine, evaluate, justify and interpret.

The Comparison Essay

Of all the different types of essays, a comparison essay generally requires the writer to identify the likenesses and differences between different objects, facts, evidence or points of view. The comparison essay sometimes requires evaluation, description and discussion, with much dependent on the question. Essay questions of the comparative type often include such words as: compare, contrast, debate, distinguish and differentiate.

Important note: Some types of questions have more than one part. For instance, the writer may be asked to describe the primary organizational structures behind modern-day management theories and how relevant these are to a particular field of business.