Different Types of Essays

As we are at the end of the second week of online learning in Ontario, some of you may be writing essays and assignments for school. As a result, I want to touch base on the different types of essays that would be helpful to distinguish as you’ll likely encounter them throughout school.

Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay requires you to investigate a topic through evaluating evidence (normally for or against a debatable topic). In an argumentative essay, both sides of the argument may be presented or the writer may establish a stronger position on one side but still provide representations of both sides. This essay is common in college and university where extensive research is required.

Ex) Do cameras placed in public places infringe on people’s privacy?


An expository essay requires you to investigate an idea by explaining or illustrating something, evaluate evidence, and determine an argument in a clear and concise manner. Some people can mistaken this essay for an argumentative one, but it is different as its tone is often neutral, whereas an argumentative essay is neither objective nor neutral.

Ex) Explain why parents are sometimes strict.


Through a persuasive essay, you can convince readers to do certain things or not. Therefore, the writer will try to make a one-sided argument about a particular topic.

Ex) Why students should eat breakfast every day

Compare and Contrast

Essentially, a compare and contrast essay evaluates the similarities and differences between two things. When planning your essay, make sure to generate a list of similarities and differences and decide which ones you want to include in your essay. Once you decide, your essay will be clearer and more concise.

Ex) Write an essay on a BMW and a Toyota car.

Cause and Effect

A cause and effect essay looks for the causes (or reasons) of something and then determines the effects (or results). You normally use this essay to determine why things happen and what happens after. 

Ex) The causes and effects of World War II


A definition essay essentially provides a thorough definition of a particular word or concept. It’s unlike other essays because it isn’t as long, but it does require a lengthy discussion. It is best to pick an abstract term that can be defined in many ways such as the example below.

Ex) How do people explain love?


A descriptive essay gives detailed descriptions of something such as an object, place, experience, situation, etc. Writing a descriptive essay will give you the artistic freedom to paint a vivid image in your reader’s mind. To do this, you’ll want to use your senses and include vivid language.

Ex) Music and its influence on you


A narrative essay depicts all experiences and characters revolving around a central or focal point. Here, you are either telling a fictional or a personal story.

Ex) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

* It is important to note that narrative essays are rarely written in college or university, because it lacks critical or analytical thinking and may include biased perspectives.


Before I end this post, I have one more tip to help you as you research and put together your essay: be sure to understand the question your teacher is asking first to determine which type of essay you’ll be writing. This will help you organize your ideas better and make researching a smoother process. You can also ask your teacher for clarification.

Got an interesting essay topic to share with us? Please share it in the comment section below!

Happy writing!

Published by

The Literary Tutor

We are English tutors helping students ignite their imagination through reading and discover their unique voice through writing.

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