A Complete Essay Guide: Types, Parts, Structures

An essay is more than just a long jumble of…

An essay is more than just a long jumble of words. It is a piece of writing that can present an idea, express emotion, inform readers on a topic, propose an argument, and so on.

The functions of an essay are seemingly endless, and they can cover a wide variety of topics. When writing an essay, it can help to know the different parts of an essay paper, its types, and its structures. And that’s what we’ll be discussing in this article.

This is the ultimate guide to getting to know essays more deeply. Get ready to be an expert on all things essay by the time you’re through this article!

A fountain pen used to write something in cursive.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

What is an Essay?

Before anything else, let’s formally define what an essay is.

Essays are short pieces of writing revolving around a particular topic or subject. They not only provide information about the subject, but they can also convey the opinions and thoughts of the author.

In many cases, an essay is used as an examination in an academic sense to determine a student’s understanding of a specific subject. They are also widely written in different styles and forms to suit other purposes. We’ll talk more about those in the later sections.

Four Main Types of Essays

Narrative essays

You can think of a narrative essay as similar to telling a story. These essays can be anecdotal, experiential, or personal. It allows the author to express themselves creatively and engagingly.

This type of essay can cover a broad range of topics, but they are generally focused on the author’s personal experience or observations. 

Descriptive essays

Descriptive essays paint a picture in the reader’s mind using exact words, vivid language, and active verbs. Descriptive essays are best when describing a place, event, or people. This can be closely similar to a narrative essay.

Expository essays

This type of essay is a well-balanced analysis of a given topic. The writer must use facts, examples, and statistics to define a topic. Expository essays are generally most useful for readers new to a particular area of study.

Argumentative essays

Argumentative essays present evidence-based arguments to the reader. It must be accompanied by a strong thesis statement or a clearly defined position on your topic.

Using evidence (such as quotations) and analysis, you want to convince the reader to agree with your argument or at least consider it.

Parts of an Essay Paper

An essay is mainly composed of three parts, regardless of the type. These parts of an essay paper are the: IntroductionBody, and Conclusion. Each of these serves a different role in creating a coherent piece.

Introduction

The introduction is the first part of your essay. It covers the purpose of your article and includes the thesis statement, main argument, and background information on the topic. This should compel the reader to want to read the rest of your writing.

Your thesis statement, which is the statement of your main point, should be placed near the end of your introduction. It should then be followed by a transitional sentence leading to the essay’s body.

Body

After your introduction, you will discuss your topic more thoroughly in your essay. Essay bodies are often composed of three paragraphs. And each of them ties back to the thesis statement in your introduction. They should also smoothly transition from one section to the next.

Here’s a look at the function of each paragraph:

First Body Paragraph

  • Presents the strongest argument that supports the thesis statement in your introduction.
  • Gives specific examples that relate to the point you are arguing in the paragraph
  • Transitions into the second argument in the second paragraph

Second Body Paragraph

  • Presents your second most compelling argument in favor of your thesis statement
  • Uses different examples to support this argument
  • Concludes with a transitional sentence.

Third Body Paragraph

  • Presents your weakest argument along with several examples to strengthen it
  • Ends with a concluding statement that lets the reader know it’s your final central point

Conclusion

No essay is complete without a firm conclusion. You need to restate the thesis statement in this paragraph, but it should not duplicate it. It summarizes the three major points you addressed in each paragraph.

Conclusions should provide a clear signal that the essay has ended. They may also remind you of your main findings and conclusions throughout the essay.

Different Essay Structures

An essay structure is an outline for organizing and preparing your writing. When writing an essay, the structure helps guide what information goes into each section and how to manage it.

Compare and contrast structure.

For an essay that contains two or more primary subjects, it’s best to use the compare-and-contrast structure. You can either compare subjects side by side in every paragraph. Or you can compare and contrast them separately in multiple paragraphs.

Chronological structure

A chronological essay is also known as a cause-and-effect structure, and it’s one of the most common ways to organize essays. It discusses a point, event, or research as you go. This is particularly helpful for essays that focus on history or a series of events.

Problems, methods, and solutions structure

The Problems, methods, and solutions essay structure have a lot of value to offer. They focus on specific issues, whether theoretical or practical.

In this format, you discuss a theory or method to resolve a problem. You then analyze the issue using the described method to see if a solution occurs. For theoretical problems, you may propose a solution, or you may present your own research.

Signposting to clarify the structure

Although more common, a signposting essay structure is equally effective. It follows a step-by-step guideline, with a signposting paragraph at the bottom of the paper to clarify details of the entire paper. This structure gives the reader an overview of what is to come within your essay.

Conclusion

An essay requires careful thought and ample evidence to support your main points. And there are many types and structures that you can utilize.

By learning the different parts of an essay paper, you’ll be able to create a more comprehensive paper. You’ll also be able to provide more precise, higher-quality content that will capture the reader’s attention.

A Complete Essay Guide: Types, Parts, Structures

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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