The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:42:48
This resource begins with a general description of essay writing and moves to a discussion of common essay genres students may encounter across the curriculum. The four genres of essays (description, narration, exposition, and argumentation) are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres, also known as the modes of discourse, have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these genres and students’ need to understand and produce these types of essays. We hope these resources will help.
The essay is a commonly assigned form of writing that every student will encounter while in academia. Therefore, it is wise for the student to become capable and comfortable with this type of writing early on in her training.
Essays can be a rewarding and challenging type of writing and are often assigned either to be done in class, which requires previous planning and practice (and a bit of creativity) on the part of the student, or as homework, which likewise demands a certain amount of preparation. Many poorly crafted essays have been produced on account of a lack of preparation and confidence. However, students can avoid the discomfort often associated with essay writing by understanding some common genres.
Before delving into its various genres, let’s begin with a basic definition of the essay.
What is an essay?
Though the word essay has come to be understood as a type of writing in Modern English, its origins provide us with some useful insights. The word comes into the English language through the French influence on Middle English; tracing it back further, we find that the French form of the word comes from the Latin verb exigere, which means "to examine, test, or (literally) to drive out." Through the excavation of this ancient word, we are able to unearth the essence of the academic essay: to encourage students to test or examine their ideas concerning a particular topic.
Essays are shorter pieces of writing that often require the student to hone a number of skills such as close reading, analysis, comparison and contrast, persuasion, conciseness, clarity, and exposition. As is evidenced by this list of attributes, there is much to be gained by the student who strives to succeed at essay writing.
The purpose of an essay is to encourage students to develop ideas and concepts in their writing with the direction of little more than their own thoughts (it may be helpful to view the essay as the converse of a research paper). Therefore, essays are (by nature) concise and require clarity in purpose and direction. This means that there is no room for the student’s thoughts to wander or stray from his or her purpose; the writing must be deliberate and interesting.
This handout should help students become familiar and comfortable with the process of essay composition through the introduction of some common essay genres.
This handout includes a brief introduction to the following genres of essay writing:
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
An essay is like an empty canvas. So, fill it with vivid and clear ideas! Vivid picture + clear understanding are your top priorities.
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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