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Humanities Libertexts

12.2: Types of Essays and Suggested Structures

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    5636
  • Introduction

    The structural organization of an essay will vary, depending on the type of writing task you’ve been assigned. Below are outline templates for specific types of writing projects. Keep in mind these are just a starting point: there is always room for variation and creativity in how a subject is most effectively presented to a reader.

    Analytical essay

    This is perhaps the most common structure. Examples of this include questions which ask you to discuss, analyze, investigate, explore, or review. In an analytical structure you are required to break the topic into its different components and discuss these in separate paragraphs or sections, demonstrating balance where possible.

      1. Introduction
        • Background information on topic
        • Overall point of view of the topic (thesis)
        • Overview of components to be discussed (structure)
      2. Body paragraphs
        • paragraph 1
          1. Topic sentence outlining first component
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to support topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • paragraph 2
          1. Topic sentence outlining second component
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to back topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • Following body paragraphs
          1. These follow the same structure for as many components as you need to outline
      3. Conclusion
        • Summary of the main points of the body
        • Restatement of the main point of view
        • Justification/evaluation (if required by task)

    Argumentative essay

    Examples of this type of essay include questions which ask you to take a position on a topic, such as a particular decision or policy, and present arguments which support your position. An effective way to argue a point can be to present the opposing view first then counter this view with stronger evidence.

      1. Introduction
        • Background information on topic
        • Statement of your position on the topic (thesis)
        • Overview of arguments to be presented (structure)
      2. Body paragraphs
        • paragraph 1
          1. Topic sentence outlining first argument
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to support topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • paragraph 2
          1. Topic sentence outlining second argument
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to back topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • Following body paragraphs
          1. These follow the same structure for as many arguments as you wish to put forward in support of the topic.
      3. Conclusion
        • Summary of the main points of the body
        • Restatement of the position

    Interpretive essay

    Examples of this type of essay include assignments where you are given data such as a case study or scenario, a diagram, graphical information, or a picture and expected to interpret this information to demonstrate your application of knowledge when answering the task. Based on this data, you may be asked to do a range of things such as provide recommendations or solutions, develop a nursing care plan, a teaching plan, suggest legal advice, or plan a marketing strategy.

      1. Introduction
        • Brief background information on topic
        • Overview of issues to be addressed in the essay (structure)
        • State overall interpretation (thesis)
      2. Body paragraphs
        • paragraph 1
          1. Topic sentence outlining first issue identified from the data
          2. Sentences giving further explanation and providing evidence from both the literature and the data, e.g. the case study to support the topic sentence (it is very important in this types of essays to make reference to the data you have been supplied to give your essay context).
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • paragraph 2
          1. Topic sentence outlining second issue identified
          2. As above
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • Following body paragraphs
          1. These follow the same structure for as many issues as you wish to discuss from the data you have been supplied.
      3. Conclusion
        • Statement of overall interpretation
        • Summary of the main issues from the data supplied
        • Make recommendations or suggest solutions to address the issues arising from the data supplied.

    Comparative essay

    Examples of this type of essay include compare, compare and contrast, or differentiate questions. In this structure the similarities and/or differences between two or more items (for example, theories or models) are discussed paragraph by paragraph. Your assignment task may require you to make a recommendation about the suitability of the items you are comparing.

      1. Introduction
        • Brief background information on topic
        • Outline of two (or more) things being compared or contrasted
        • Purpose for making the comparison / contrast
        • Overview of the specific points to be compared / contrasted
      2. Body paragraphs
        • paragraph 1
          1. Topic sentence outlining first similarity or difference
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to support topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • paragraph 2
          1. Topic sentence outlining second similarity or different
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to back topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – link to next paragraph
        • Following body paragraphs
          1. These follow the same structure for as many items or aspects as you need to compare/contrast
      3. Conclusion
        • Restatement of the main purpose for the comparison / contrast
        • Summary of the main similarities and differences
        • Recommendation about suitability of compared items for purpose (if requirement of assessment task)
        • Overall conclusion

    Problem and solution essay

    These essay questions often require you to structure your answer in several parts. An example may be to ask you to investigate a problem and explore a range of solutions. You may also be asked to choose the best solution and justify your selection, so allow space for this in your essay if needed.

      1. Introduction
        • Background information about the problem
        • Description of the problem and why it is serious
        • Overview of the solutions to be outlined
      2. Body paragraphs
        • paragraph 1
          1. Topic sentence outlining first solution
          2. Explanation of the positive and negative aspects of the solution
          3. Evidence to support explanations
          4. Concluding sentence
        • paragraph 2
          1. Topic sentence outlining second solution
          2. Explanation of the positive and negative aspects of the solution
          3. Evidence to support explanation
          4. Concluding sentence
        • Following body paragraphs
          1. These follow the same structure for as many solutions as you need to discuss
      3. Conclusion
        • Summary of the problem and overview of the solutions
        • Evaluation of solutions and recommendation of best option

    Note: Depending on the topic, body paragraphs in a problem and solution essay could be devoted to discussing the problem in more detail, as well as the solution. It’s up to the writer to assess the needs of the project, in order to decide how much time is spent on each part.

    Cause and effect essay

    Examples of this type of essay include questions which ask you to state or investigate the effects or outline the causes of the topic. This may be, for example, an historical event, the implementation of a policy, a medical condition, or a natural disaster. These essays may be structured in one of two ways: either the causes(s) of a situation may be discussed first followed by the effect(s), or the effect(s) could come first with the discussion working back to outline the cause(s). Sometimes with cause and effect essays you are required to give an assessment of the overall effects, such as on a community, a workplace, an individual. Space must be allocated for this assessment in your structure if needed.

      1. Introduction
        • Background information on situation under discussion
        • Description of the situation
        • Overview of the causes or effects to be outlined
      2. Body paragraphs
        • paragraph 1
          1. Topic sentence outlining first cause or effect
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to support the topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – linking to next paragraph
        • paragraph 2
          1. Topic sentence outlining second cause or effect
          2. Sentences giving explanations and providing evidence to back topic sentence
          3. Concluding sentence – linking to next paragraph
        • Following body paragraphs
          1. These follow the same structure for as many causes or effects as you need to outline
      3. Conclusion
        • Summary of the main points of the body
        • Conclusion, prediction or recommendation

    Conclusion

    Finally, consider that some essay assignments may ask you to combine approaches, especially in more advanced classes. At that point, you may have to vary your body paragraph strategy from section to section.

    This chart gives an idea of what different roles paragraphs can play in a mixed-structure essay assignment.

    Flow Chart. Central idea: Choosing Paragraph Patterns. Radiating from top right: Narration - introduction, to tell a story that makes a point, to give background on people or event, to show sequence of events. Process - to show steps of action, to explain how to do something. Example/Illustration - to clarify a point or concept, to give a picture or specific instance, to make the abstract real. Analogy - to compare scenarios, to compare to a settled outcome, to compare one event to another very different one. Definition - to clarify meaning, to set foundation of argument, to give background. Comparison/contrast - to draw distinction between items, to find common ground. Description - to give details, to create a picture. Cause/effect - to lead from one item to another, to argue logic of evidence of action. Classification/Division - to put items in categories, to clarify comparison of items in a category, to divide items by characteristics.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

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