For some students the most traumatic element during their years at university is writing essays. It doesn’t have to be like this. Once you know how to go about putting a good essay together, it is less work than you might think. Let’s take a look at the 3 most essential elements every essay needs.
3 main features of an essay
An essay does three things.
- It addresses a topic,
- it answers a question,
- and, it (usually) takes the form of an argument.
1. Finding your topic: where do you stand?
First, an essay addresses a topic.
Many textbooks will tell you that a topic is the essay’s subject. That’s not quite true. An essay’s subject is simply what it’s about: it’s a label, like the label you might put on a box file, or the name you’d give to a folder on your computer. An essay’s topic is the position it takes on the subject. It expresses your view on the subject.
To find your topic, ask: What’s my perspective on this subject? What’s my position?
Suppose the subject of your essay is the French Revolution. To find potential topics for this subject, you could start by creating phrases beginning with the words ‘why’ or ‘how’.
How the French Revolution began?
Why the French Revolution collapsed into despotism?
How the French Revolution influenced revolutionary movements elsewhere?
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If you’re writing a dissertation or a post-graduate thesis (for a PhD, for example), you’ll be asked to choose your own topic: you may spend some time with your supervisor refining that topic. If you’ve been set an essay to write, then the topic will be indicated or suggested by the question you’ve been given.
2. What question are you answering?
The problem is that, sometimes, the question doesn’t look like a question. Many essay questions are in the form of instructions. These instructions are contained in directive words: for example, ‘outline’, ‘compare and contrast’ or – that word guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any essay writer – ‘discuss’.
You must answer the question. But you’ll need to do more: you have to support that answer with an argument.
3. What do you mean, ‘argument’?
We tend to use the word ‘argument’ to mean a disagreement. But we can also use the word ‘argue’ in the sense of ‘making a case’. We use this meaning of the word for more formal situations: we might talk about a lawyer arguing her case in court, or a politician arguing for reduced taxes.
This is the kind of argument you need to construct in your essay. It should address the topic and answer the question.
To sum it all up: An essay takes your reader on a journey, from introduction to conclusion.
Three elements of an argument
An academic argument is made up of three elements.
- A claim that you are arguing for
- A reason to support that claim
- Reasoning and evidence to link the reason to the claim
In its simplest form, an argument takes the form: [Claim] because [Reason].
In academic writing, we usually call an argument’s claim a thesis or thesis statement. A well-constructed essay uses two elements to support its thesis statement:
- reasoning, which presents ideas in a logical structure,
- and evidence, information suggesting or demonstrating that the ideas are credible or true.
If you can create a clear thesis statement, and support it with logically connected ideas and carefully presented evidence, your essay will stand out from all those essays that are nothing more than collections of facts.
And that’s the kind of essay that the free eBook “How to Write an Essay” written by Alan Barker will help you produce. You can download this free eBook right here.
What is an essay? Interestingly, but the majority of students gets confused or even stressed the very moment they are asked to come up with this piece of academic work.
- Firstly, an essay evaluates an issue, with the purpose to present your personal academic opinion on a given subject.
- Secondly, each type of writing is designed to convey a certain message and perform a certain function.
- Thirdly, you have to take various viewpoints into account, organize them properly & reflect the informed opinion on the topic.
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10 Most Common Essay Types to Feel Quite at Home in Academic Setting
Descriptive Essay | Definition Essay | Compare and Contrast Essay | Cause and Effect | Narrative Essay | Process Essay | Argumentative Essay | Critical Essay | Expository Essay | Persuasive Essay
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These Are the Top Types of Essay Writing
#1 Descriptive Essay, or "What’s This?"
A descriptive essay describes whatever one likes, sees, feels, makes or how it works, happens, sounds, tastes, smells – from the beautiful flower in a vase to the process of honey-making by bees. Descriptive essays provide every sensory detail of what is actually described.
DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY EXAMPLE
#2 Definition Essays, or "Love Is…"
A definition essay defines the true meaning + importance of abstract concepts, timeless values, specific terms.
Definition essays explain deeper & more directly than dictionaries.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for definition: speaking about (this), in other words, (or) rather, moreover, in fact, on the one/the other hand, above all.
GET IDEA TO WRITE YOUR DEFINITION ESSAY
#3 Compare & Contrast Essays, or "Spot the Difference/Similarity!"
A compare/contrast essay explores either differences or similarities (likenesses) between 2 places, religions, people, things, concepts, etc. Comparison/contrast essays focus on the similarities and/or differences, which is done to convince or entertain the reader. A compare essay reviews the similarities, a contrast essay reviews the differences.
TOP 30 TOPICS FOR COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
#4 Cause & Effect Essays, or "How It Comes"
A cause/effect essay explains the way why things happen, how it comes & what follows next. Cause/effect essays resemble a study of how it all began & what will be the conclusion of all this. This type of essays may address either causes & effects tied together, or each of them alone. For example, 3 effects as a result of 1 cause or 3 causes resulting in 1 effect.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for cause-and-effect: for the (simple) reason that, due to (the fact that), whatever happens, in case, even/only if, as a result (of this), thus/consequently/therefore.
READ A SAMPLE OF A CAUSE AND EFFECT ESSAY
#5 Narrative Essays, or "One Night I Fell to Thinking of the Past…"
A narrative essay always tells a story about a single personal experience – either a boring party or an exciting sightseeing excursion, daily routine event or life-shaping voyage. Narrative essays are generally written in the 1st person, using ‘I’.
#6 Process Essays, or "Step-by-Step Guide"
A process essay typically guides on how to do this or that, how this or that is done. It’s a walkthrough, the so-called ‘stepwise refinement’. Process essays work out in detail, demonstrating specific actions/giving specific instructions to be performed in a series.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for process discussion: in the (first, second, etc.) place, initially, next, eventually, last but not least, finally, in conclusion.
#7 Argumentative Essays, or "5 Watertight Arguments Why You Should Learn to Write Essays"
An argumentative essay functions as a means for a writer to get a solid argument across to a reader. The purpose of this type of essay is to express an argument in order to sway the reader to see the topic through the author’s point of view. It is a useful type of essay for students of any educational level because it is good practice to not only argue a case but also to articulate one’s thoughts on a certain matter.
This type of essay uses stern language, solid facts, and undeniable examples as proof that the argument is immaculate. Without these features, the argumentative essay ceases to flow well and comes across as weak. A good argumentative writer has a solid sense of what he or she believes should be said in any situation. They also have an organized idea of how to articulate the argument against possible opposing ideas.
ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY TOPICS
#8 Critical Essays, or "The Court Delivers a Verdict"
A critical essay brings somebody or something into focus, analyzing the strengths or weaknesses of things, events, people, etc.
Critical essays discuss how well the work is done & whether its creator has managed the task by conveying the message in his/her book, film, painting.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for criticism: frankly speaking, with attention to, important to realize, another key point, first thing to remember, most compelling evidence, on the positive/negative side
#9 Expository Essay
An expository essay is an essay that requires extensive research on an idea or issue. The writer must present an evaluation of the issue and the conclusion based on his or her findings.
One of the functions of this essay format is to learn how to conduct a research. Research requires a certain set of skills. It takes a lot of practice to obtain them. Students may want to draw from their own experiences when discussing certain issues they write about. But through expository essay writing, students will find out, that doing research can be rewarding. Expository essay writing brings a new light to an aspect or idea they probably would not have come to on their own.
Expository essays are opinion based essays, so there are no wrong answers when presenting it. However, expect this essay type to be at least 5 paragraphs in length.
READ A SAMPLE OF AN EXPOSITORY ESSAY
#10 Persuasive Essay
Unlike the argumentative essay, the persuasive essay’s main purpose is to persuade readers towards the author's case. Argumentative essays express an argument or opinion. They are not meant to change the reader’s perspective.
Most persuasive essays focus on current issues and what people should do about them. Persuasive essays can be really challenging. Students must show confidence and authority in their writing. They must come across as credible writers. When a persuasive essay loses its credibility, it will ultimately lose the reader.
In everyday life situations, charm allows a person to easily persuade another one. Since a persuasive essay is a written piece, it lacks that personal connection. So, the writer should present strong views to sway their readers and do not come across as pushy.
Most writers and persuasive essay authors are able to find their own personal connection to their readers through their writing experience. Many students find this as a challenge early on, but with practice and guidance, they soon write persuasive essays naturally.
30 IDEAS FOR PERSUASIVE ESSAY TOPICS
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