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Definition Essay Examples and Topic Ideas

definition of "definition essay" restated from the article

A formal definition essay defines a term or concept. Definition essays are a form of expository writing in which the writer provides information about the term to their audience. They typically follow a standard essay format and include both a definition and an analysis of the term. Review the example essays below and try exploring some of the suggested essay topics, too.

Definition Essay Structure

You can follow the general structure for an expository essay when writing a definition essay.

full text essay example from the article with labeled parts

While the basic pieces of the essay are the same, definition essays should include some key elements.

Example Essay: Wi-Fi (Concrete Concept)

There are basically two types of definition essays. They can define concrete concepts or abstract concepts. They should also provide a larger understanding of the term as a concept. Here first is an example of a definition essay for a concrete concept.

You know the feeling: You’re reading a website or streaming a movie when your Wi-Fi goes out. What is Wi-Fi, and why do we depend on it so much? Understanding the concept of Wi-Fi is important for users of modern technology because it connects us to the world. Wi-Fi is the wireless local network between nearby devices, such as wireless routers, computers, smartphones, tablets, or external drives. It is part of the LAN (local area network) protocols and has largely replaced the wired Ethernet option. When your device has Wi-Fi turned on, it can find the nearest router. If the router is connected to a modem and works with an Internet service provider (ISP), your device can now access the Internet and other devices on the network. Wi-Fi covers a much more limited area than a cell phone tower. However, Wi-Fi does not use expensive cellular data like LTE or 4G. Many people believe that Wi-Fi is short for “wireless fidelity.” The founding members of Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance needed a name that was easier to remember than “wireless ethernet,” and much easier than Wi-Fi’s actual original name, “IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence.” They added the slogan “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity,” but dropped it after people mistook the meaning of Wi-Fi. The name is a play on the term “hi-fi,” which is a high-quality reproduction in stereo sound (“high fidelity”), and not related to Wi-Fi at all. The IEEE 802.11b standard has since been upgraded to faster protocols, including 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac. Because of Wi-Fi’s widespread use and popularity, Merriam-Webster added “Wi-Fi” to its dictionary in 2005, only eight years after it was invented. Today, most modern computers depend on Wi-Fi for Internet access. Free Wi-Fi is available in many restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops. It is also easy to install in your home for private use. However, even private Wi-Fi connections should be password-protected. Joining an unprotected Wi-Fi network, or allowing others to join your network, could compromise your online safety and privacy. Understanding what Wi-Fi really is can protect you and your information. When used correctly and safely, Wi-Fi is an essential part of the 21st-century experience. Whether you’re watching your favorite show or finishing up a research paper, you should know more about how data travels to and from your device.

Example Essay: Bravery (Abstract Concept)

The basic structure of a definition essay is the same whether you’re defining a concrete or abstract concept. Here is an example definition essay for an abstract concept.

Everyone feels afraid from time to time. From feeling the jitters to facing a lifelong phobia, it’s difficult to put fears aside when trying to accomplish a goal. But, one doesn’t need to forget that they are afraid in order to be brave; in fact, bravery doesn’t exist without real fear behind it. Bravery is the mindset one takes when facing a challenge that could be dangerous or difficult. The task could be objectively dangerous, such as engaging in battle or driving in adverse conditions. A person could also perceive a seemingly harmless situation as challenging, such as climbing a flight of stairs or talking to someone they’d like to date. A brave act requires one to face and embrace the task rather than withdraw from it. There are examples of bravery in every community. Look no farther than your local fire station or police station to see acts of bravery. Community heroes help others in small and large ways every day, often at great risk to their own lives. Students are brave when they stand up to a bully or present a project in front of the whole class. Practicing small acts of bravery can prepare a person to lead a heroic life. “Fearlessness” can be a connotation of bravery, but it’s not a true synonym (although bystanders may believe that a brave person acts without fear). If a task does not seem frightening in some way, it would be simple to complete, requiring no bravery at all. Heroes who exhibit bravery often put themselves at risk to help others. The closest synonym for bravery would be “courage.” The ability to do what’s right despite a real or perceived threat requires strength, making “fortitude” another near-synonym for bravery. Bravery doesn’t exist without fear. No matter how challenging or dangerous a task can be, bravery allows a person to work alongside their fear rather than forget about it. The next time you see someone acting heroically, remind yourself that they are probably terrified in that moment – and that makes them even braver.

Sample Definition Essay Topics

You just need to ask a question when finding a prompt for a definition essay. Here are some possible topics for your next definition essay. Note that the list includes both concrete and abstract terms and spans a range of subjects.

More Essay Options

Now that you’ve got the definition essay down, take a look at more writing resources. Get some tips on writing essays or read additional examples of different essay types . If your writing is getting a bit long, learn how to write clear, concise sentences .


Jan 15, 2019

3 Excellent Definition Essay Examples

Besides 3 excellent definition essay examples, you’ll find extremely helpful tips and tricks for writing definition essays.

Defining any term is like looking at it under magnifying glass. Sometimes even the best guideline isn’t enough to explain how to write definition essay, which is where definition essay examples will become your ultimate tool for getting the work done right.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

This is the flow of our guide:

Definition essay pro tips

Definition essay example 1 — business ethics, definition essay example 2 — emotional intelligence, definition essay example 3 — cultural appropriation.

Before focusing on definition essay examples, let’s review some practical tips that will help you figure out the process of writing a definition essay:

1.Picking the right word

To write a great definition essay you need to pick the right topic or term to focus on. To choose the best term for your definition essay, make sure that it is:

2. Creating a catchy hook

Let’s face it, certain definition essay examples can be boring because such terms as love, friendship, and creativity, have been discussed too many times. To get readers’ attention and take your essay to the next level, create a catchy hook! A good hook is:

3. Writing solid thesis statement

In thesis statement, you’ll provide the main idea of your essay to readers and usually it is one sentence in the introduction of your essay. Your thesis statement should:

4. Presenting conflicts and arguments

We figured out that a term of your choice should be disputable and can mean different things for different people, which is why best definition essay examples are about terms that are negotiable and cause conflict of opinions. Something undecided and arguable will make a great essay! Make sure to:

5. Concluding and proofreading

Whatever you do, never underestimate the importance of writing conclusions and then proofreading the whole thing. In conclusion, you will:

While proofreading:

Now you’ve learned all the pro tips, let’s proceed to 3 excellent definition essay examples focusing on business ethics, emotional intelligence, and cultural appropriation to see all of them in action!

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Should businesses be ethical and socially responsible or is it too much to ask? As a society, we are highly aware of the role and impact of businesses in social, economic, ecological, and cultural environments, which is why we expect companies to act responsibly and think ahead instead of focusing solely on corporate gains. The concept of business ethics means applying moral principles to decision making processes, while ethical decisions have far-reaching implications (Woiceshyn, 2011). Businesses do not operate in vacuum and inevitably interact with numerous internal and external stakeholders on a daily basis, which suggests that companies should have a guideline or framework to ensure ethical decision making at all times. The fact that the concept of business ethics is not regulated by law and is rather broad results in that every business entity defines it differently.

While analyzing the concept of business ethics it is important to understand that businesses need to balance their own corporate gains and potential long-term benefits from ethical decision making. In the article by Galbreath (2010) we find evidence that ethical responsibility comes third after economic and legal responsibilities. In particular, the first and foremost responsibility of enterprises is to create products that customers want, create jobs, and generate profits, while the second responsibility is to comply with all relevant laws (Galbreath, 2010). Ethical responsibility in business in this perspective refers to meeting social expectations not written as law (Galbreath, 2010). The major issue in defining business ethics is similar to the definition of ethics as a whole, to be exact the fact that each company can have different moral compass and different evaluation of what is wrong and right. Therefore, one way or another business ethics is about following certain moral principles.

Business ethics is generally associated with doing the right thing, which is ultimately good in case of ethical decisions. Nyberg (2008) states that ethics is ambiguous and it is difficult to evaluate whether a decision is good or bad due to the vast variety of consequences. In companies, everyday activities are not about solving major ethical dilemmas, but completing mundane tasks, which is why business ethics is drastically different from ethics as a whole. In fact, large companies can have ethical codes not to ensure ethical decision making, but to improve their image and create symbolic value for stakeholders (Nyberg, 2008). In addition, having an ethical code does not prevent companies from making unethical decisions, which is suggested by numerous corporate scandals. Overall, business ethics is not about claiming to follow ethical principles, but making practical steps in ethical decision making and taking responsibility for long-term effects of current actions.

Consequently, business ethics is difficult to define because this term differs for each business entity and can mean different things depending on the environment businesses operate in. Ethical responsibilities are not a priority for corporations, unlike economic and legal responsibilities, while having ethical code does not ensure ethical decision making. Overall, business ethics implies three crucial elements, namely doing what is right, awareness about long-term effects of present actions, and practical ethical decision making.

Galbreath, J. (2010). How does corporate social responsibility benefit firms? Evidence from Australia. European Business Review , 22 (4), 411–431.

Woiceshyn, J. (2011). A model for ethical decision making in business: Reasoning, intuition, and rational moral principles. Journal of business Ethics , 104 (3), 311–323.

Nyberg, D. (2008). The morality of everyday activities: Not the right, but the good thing to do. Journal of Business Ethics , 81 (3), 587–598.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” (Tredgold, 2016). Indeed, humans are creatures of emotion rather than logic and emotions are critical for us in everyday life, which means that the concept of emotional intelligence is especially important. Communicating with other people and interpreting their emotions is essential for us to make effective decisions based on this information. Defining emotional intelligence is a difficult task because this concept includes variety of skills and abilities, while the process of their development is not fully clear.

As a rule, emotional intelligence definitions include the concept of cognitive abilities of processing information about emotions. In the article by Mayer, Roberts, and Barsade (2008) we find a notion that emotional intelligence refers to the “ability to carry out accurate reasoning focused on emotions” as well as the ability to use emotional knowledge to enhance thought (p.507). In other words, this definition refers to evaluating emotions of other people in a certain way that ultimately helps improve the process of decision making by providing additional information about the environment and situations. However, in definition provided by Salovey, Mayer, Caruso, and Yoo (2008) indicates that emotional intelligence refers not only to the ability to process information about emotions of other people, but to perceive, appraise, and express emotion accurately and adaptively. To be exact, this stance on emotional intelligence refers to a broader spectrum of skills and abilities because it addresses the role of expressing emotions in response to the environment. Overall, the concept of emotional intelligence does not have a generally accepted definition.

Despite variety of definitions, emotional intelligence is about the ability to effectively adapt to the environment. Nelis, Quoidbach, Mikolajczak, and Hansenne (2009) state that emotional intelligence has four dimensions, including emotional knowledge, emotional identification, emotional utilization, and emotional regulation. This definition of emotional intelligence determines this ability as a way people respond to pressure, which is another aspect of adaptation. While intelligence is defined as the ability to learn and reason about specific information, emotional intelligence refers to the mental ability to reason about information about emotions (Mayer et al., 2008). The relationship between emotional intelligence and adaptation is important to include in the definition of this concept because this ability creates the basis for understanding other people’s emotions and express our own emotions.

Consequently, emotional intelligence refers to a broad spectrum of skills and abilities, including identification and understanding of emotions, their utilization, and developing relevant and adequate emotional response. The value of emotional intelligence is immense because this ability helps us adapt, which is why emotional intelligence should be defined as effective adaptation skill based on reasoning of information about emotions.

Tredgold, G. (2016). 55 inspiring quotes that show the power of emotional intelligence. Inc. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/55-inspiring-quotes-that-show-the-importance-of-emotional-intelligence.html

Mayer, J. D., Roberts, R. D., & Barsade, S. G. (2008). Human abilities: Emotional intelligence. Annu. Rev. Psychol. , 59 , 507–536.

Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D., Caruso, D., & Yoo, S. H. (2008). Chapter 11: The positive psychology of emotional intelligence. Counterpoints , 336 , 185–208.

Nelis, D., Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Hansenne, M. (2009). Increasing emotional intelligence:(How) is it possible?. Personality and individual differences , 47 (1), 36–41.

Cambridge dictionary defines cultural appropriation as taking or using elements of other cultures, especially without showing respect and understanding. The concept of cultural appropriation sets no boundaries as to what exactly is respectful or disrespectful, while in the age of social media any case of using an element of other culture becomes an issue for the society. There is a thin line between admiring and celebrating other cultures and disrespecting them, which is why the concept of cultural appropriation is extremely difficult to define.

Today, globalization processes develop and grow extensively, triggering intense cultural exchange worldwide. As a rule, the concept of cultural appropriation refers to cases when ethnic groups that are dominant take and use elements of minority cultures, which makes cultural appropriation a form of racism and discrimination (Rodriguez, 2006). However, the concept of cultural appropriation as we know it does not provide any explanation of how to distinguish discrimination and celebration or another culture. In diverse world, it is critical to be able to differentiate between intentional abuse and using elements of other cultures as a form of admiration (Young & Haley, 2009). In this perspective, it is essential to turn to moral principles and use moral compass to determine whether every particular case is indeed cultural appropriation, which implies misuse, misrepresentation, and theft of cultural elements, or their ethical use (Matthes, 2016). In other words, increase of the use of the concept of cultural appropriation in recent years is associated with misunderstanding of this term, especially in terms of distinguishing ethical and unethical use of elements of other cultures.

The concept of cultural appropriation has been transformed into a tool to attack anyone who takes and uses elements of other cultures, regardless of the underlying motives and reasoning behind it. O’Neill (2015) states that lack of clarity of this term causes conflicts and deteriorates universalism, which is one of the defining features of present day society. While the numbers of articles and posts about cultural appropriation cases has skyrocketed in recent years, it is essential to take them with a grain of salt and evaluate whether they are truly about unethical actions. The real meaning of cultural appropriation, which is indeed harmful for minority cultures, is being lost behind the current trend of branding everything that is taken from other culture as racist. Büyükokutan (2011) states that cultural exchange is inevitable element of human society development and it can be best understood only as reciprocal exchange. However, distortion of the concept of cultural appropriation results in misunderstanding, conflicts, and false accusations of people for cultural exchange. In addition, it is also important to note that cultural appropriation can occur when people both knowingly and unknowingly use elements of other cultures. Overall, lack of concise definition of cultural appropriation results in variety of negative outcomes.

As a result, cultural appropriation is a concept that has been widely used in recent years to condemn taking and using elements of other cultures. However, lack of understanding of this concept results in conflicts and accusations of cultural exchange as cultural appropriation. Therefore, cultural appropriation should be defined as unethical taking and using, knowingly or unknowingly, elements of other cultures.

Cambridge Dictionary. (2018). Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/cultural-appropriation

Matthes, E. H. (2016). Cultural appropriation without cultural essentialism?. Social theory and practice , 343–366.

Young, J. O., & Haley, S. (2009). ‘Nothing Comes from Nowhere’: Reflections on Cultural Appropriation as the Representation of Other Cultures. The ethics of cultural appropriation , 268–289.

Rodriquez, J. (2006). Color-blind ideology and the cultural appropriation of hip-hop. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography , 35 (6), 645–668.

O’Neill, B. (2015). This obsession with ‘cultural appropriation’ is leading us down a very dark path. Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/cultural-appropriation-appreciation-difference-meaning-fashion-examples-chinese-prom-dress-a8332176.html

Büyükokutan, B. (2011). Toward a theory of cultural appropriation: Buddhism, the Vietnam War, and the field of US poetry. American Sociological Review , 76 (4), 620–639.

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The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 6, 2021.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

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A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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I. What is an Essay?

An essay is a form of writing in paragraph form that uses informal language, although it can be written formally. Essays may be written in first-person point of view (I, ours, mine), but third-person (people, he, she) is preferable in most academic essays. Essays do not require research as most academic reports and papers do; however, they should cite any literary works that are used within the paper.

When thinking of essays, we normally think of the five-paragraph essay: Paragraph 1 is the introduction, paragraphs 2-4 are the body covering three main ideas, and paragraph 5 is the conclusion. Sixth and seventh graders may start out with three paragraph essays in order to learn the concepts. However, essays may be longer than five paragraphs. Essays are easier and quicker to read than books, so are a preferred way to express ideas and concepts when bringing them to public attention.

II. Examples of Essays

Many of our most famous Americans have written essays. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson wrote essays about being good citizens and concepts to build the new United States. In the pre-Civil War days of the 1800s, people such as:

Through each era of American history, well-known figures in areas such as politics, literature, the arts, business, etc., voiced their opinions through short and long essays.

The ultimate persuasive essay that most students learn about and read in social studies is the “Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Other founding fathers edited and critiqued it, but he drafted the first version. He builds a strong argument by stating his premise (claim) then proceeds to give the evidence in a straightforward manner before coming to his logical conclusion.

III. Types of Essays

A. expository.

Essays written to explore and explain ideas are called expository essays (they expose truths). These will be more formal types of essays usually written in third person, to be more objective. There are many forms, each one having its own organizational pattern.  Cause/Effect essays explain the reason (cause) for something that happens after (effect). Definition essays define an idea or concept. Compare/ Contrast essays will look at two items and show how they are similar (compare) and different (contrast).

b. Persuasive

An argumentative paper presents an idea or concept with the intention of attempting to change a reader’s mind or actions . These may be written in second person, using “you” in order to speak to the reader. This is called a persuasive essay. There will be a premise (claim) followed by evidence to show why you should believe the claim.

c. Narrative

Narrative means story, so narrative essays will illustrate and describe an event of some kind to tell a story. Most times, they will be written in first person. The writer will use descriptive terms, and may have paragraphs that tell a beginning, middle, and end in place of the five paragraphs with introduction, body, and conclusion. However, if there is a lesson to be learned, a five-paragraph may be used to ensure the lesson is shown.

d. Descriptive

The goal of a descriptive essay is to vividly describe an event, item, place, memory, etc. This essay may be written in any point of view, depending on what’s being described. There is a lot of freedom of language in descriptive essays, which can include figurative language, as well.

IV. The Importance of Essays

Essays are an important piece of literature that can be used in a variety of situations. They’re a flexible type of writing, which makes them useful in many settings . History can be traced and understood through essays from theorists, leaders, artists of various arts, and regular citizens of countries throughout the world and time. For students, learning to write essays is also important because as they leave school and enter college and/or the work force, it is vital for them to be able to express themselves well.

V. Examples of Essays in Literature

Sir Francis Bacon was a leading philosopher who influenced the colonies in the 1600s. Many of America’s founding fathers also favored his philosophies toward government. Bacon wrote an essay titled “Of Nobility” in 1601 , in which he defines the concept of nobility in relation to people and government. The following is the introduction of his definition essay. Note the use of “we” for his point of view, which includes his readers while still sounding rather formal.

 “We will speak of nobility, first as a portion of an estate, then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy, where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business’ sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion, and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects. The united provinces of the Low Countries, in their government, excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes, more cheerful. A great and potent nobility, addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well, when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them, before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty, and inconvenience in a state; for it is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity, that many of the nobility fall, in time, to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion, between honor and means.”

A popular modern day essayist is Barbara Kingsolver. Her book, “Small Wonders,” is full of essays describing her thoughts and experiences both at home and around the world. Her intention with her essays is to make her readers think about various social issues, mainly concerning the environment and how people treat each other. The link below is to an essay in which a child in an Iranian village she visited had disappeared. The boy was found three days later in a bear’s cave, alive and well, protected by a mother bear. She uses a narrative essay to tell her story.

VI. Examples of Essays in Pop Culture

Many rap songs are basically mini essays, expressing outrage and sorrow over social issues today, just as the 1960s had a lot of anti-war and peace songs that told stories and described social problems of that time. Any good song writer will pay attention to current events and express ideas in a creative way.

A well-known essay written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, was made into a popular video on MTV by Baz Luhrmann. Schmich’s thesis is to wear sunscreen, but she adds strong advice with supporting details throughout the body of her essay, reverting to her thesis in the conclusion.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen

VII. Related Terms

Research paper.

Research papers follow the same basic format of an essay. They have an introductory paragraph, the body, and a conclusion. However, research papers have strict guidelines regarding a title page, header, sub-headers within the paper, citations throughout and in a bibliography page, the size and type of font, and margins. The purpose of a research paper is to explore an area by looking at previous research. Some research papers may include additional studies by the author, which would then be compared to previous research. The point of view is an objective third-person. No opinion is allowed. Any claims must be backed up with research.

VIII. Conclusion

Students dread hearing that they are going to write an essay, but essays are one of the easiest and most relaxed types of writing they will learn. Mastering the essay will make research papers much easier, since they have the same basic structure. Many historical events can be better understood through essays written by people involved in those times. The continuation of essays in today’s times will allow future historians to understand how our new world of technology and information impacted us.

List of Terms

How to Write a Definition Essay: Writing Guide with Sample Essays

define essay with example

What Is a Definition Essay?

This type of paper involves writing a formal explanation of one specific word. It is important to note that this is an essay, which means you most likely cannot pick a simple term that can be described in a few words.

A definition essay is meant to describe a complex term that has significant background and historical origin, and is a relatable term. The word “love” is an excellent example of such a term — as it is seemingly impossible to explain this concept very briefly. This gives us room to write a definition essay about it, which would give it an accurate representation.

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Types of Definitions Commonly Used in Essays

So, you have found an exciting term with a complex background worth delving into? Before you decide to make it the subject for your definition essay, consider what you can do with it.

Here are some ways to approach your definition essay from our rewrite essay service :

Interesting Topics

Now that you have an understanding of what a definition essay is, it is time to choose your topic. It is important to consider an interesting topic that grabs your reader’s attention. Your intention is to make the topic catchy, so that the reader does not think of it as mundane, and will keep reading. Our dissertation writing help has some topics for you to consider, which are grouped by general categories. Feel free to pick any of them and twist it around if you need to.

Definition Essay on Love

Love is the most wonderful feeling there is. Talking about love, especially defining it, can be a very challenging task, so brace yourself and take a look at these topics we suggest. Despite the complexity of the matter, a definition essay on love is the most popular subject when it comes to defining terms in academic papers.

Happiness Definition Essay

At some point, everyone in their lives feels happy. Whether it is just a short moment or a continuous feeling, it is known as a strong emotion that makes life worth living. A happiness definition essay is a good option to consider because it is familiar and relatable.

Family Definition Essay

In a family definition essay, you can either define some family values, its members, or other related things. It is a very versatile topic because it is relatable to any reader out there. Make it sound personal and include the family traditions and values you hold most dear, in order to achieve the expected result.

Freedom Definition Essay

Freedom has many disguises: freedom of choice, freedom of speech, and free will. In an essay about freedom you are given an opportunity not only to define it, but also argue about having too much or too little of it, or to discuss freedom in various settings and societies. A freedom definition essay is a popular assignment in US schools. You may combine history and culture to succeed with this one.

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Easy Definition Essay Topics

When you are in doubt which topic to choose—because they all seem too complicated—refer to our list of easy topics. They allow you to talk about things you are very familiar with as a college student; writing them will be a piece of cake.

Extended Definition Essay Topics

In the extended definition essay topics, you should discuss words with broad meanings only. Avoid terms with a single interpretation. These topics allow you to have a very elaborate argument with a broad spectrum of ideas.

Definition Essay Ideas for Business

Majoring in Business? Here is a wide range of essays that will be easy and interesting for you to write about. Even if it is not the case, economics, business, and e-commerce have plenty of interesting terms to explain. Some of the best ideas include:

Definition Essay Ideas for Science & IT

Here are some bonus definition topics related to information technology & science. They might be useful if you like to discuss innovations and forecasts for the future.

These are just some common examples of definition essay topics, questions that are commonly asked on tests, and coursework assignments. The goal here is to pick the best essay topic, that as a student, you feel most comfortable explaining and portraying.

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Pre-Writing Steps

Here is the guide from our custom essay service on how to write a definition essay.

steps definition essay

1. Choosing a Proper Term ‍

When choosing a topic, it is necessary to choose a word that is not simple, and does not have a solid precise definition. A word with a concrete meaning will not give you much room to write about. When your word has an abstract meaning, it is possible to write a lot about it. The terms that should not be used for a definition essay are nouns referring to a person or a place. It is easy to define and describe them, but these topics do not have a lot of potential.

✅Term "Writing"

⛔️Term "Pencil"

2. The Word Should Be Multi-Dimensional ‍

This means that you need to choose a word that has different meanings for different people. For example, the word “love” has different feelings and associations for everyone. A definition essay can be a very subjective endeavour, as it allows a writer to showcase their own interpretation on the matter. Although, you should stay away from the meaning that everyone else has of your subject, as it might only be confirming the feelings and knowledge of other people—presenting no new arguments. ‍

✅Terms "Hello" or "Telephone"

⛔️Term "Desk"

3. Choose a Word That You Know Well ‍

Writing an essay on a word you simply picked up from a dictionary is extremely difficult. You need to have personal experience related to it, or good knowledge of the word you are defining. It is always better to choose a word that you are familiar with. This gives you leverage to be able to elaborate on the matter and show your credibility as an author.

✅Term "Intimacy"

⛔️Term "Thermodynamics"

4. Use the Word’s Background History ‍

The origin, or etymology, of a word has some historical reason for being what it is. Make sure you familiarize your readers with that, as it has a very significant role in the word’s current usage. Explore the history of the term using dictionaries, and online resources, to elaborate on the general definition. Publish your findings in your definition paper.

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Definition Essay Outline

Every essay should be written in the classic Intro-Body-Conclusion format. According to the definition essay structure, the introduction should address the central question with a thesis statement.

Your outline is a draft for your actual paper, so it has to be planned out extremely carefully. You need to include your main points and highlights as a building blocks for your paper. Your outline will aid you in creating a well-organized essay, and will ensure its high quality.

Depending on the term, however, the body of a definition essay outline may vary in length and should include all of the points made by the writer. The conclusion should summarize all the main ideas, and suggest possible future associations with the word.


In a definition essay, the introduction has two goals. You must give a standard, or the most common, explanation of the term. You can do so by searching for it in a dictionary, or simply on the web. If a word has multiple meanings, it is wise to choose the one that suits your ideas the most and go on from that. As with any other essay, you need to have an “attention grabber” to make sure that your reader is interested and eager to proceed reading your essay. It can be a famous quote, a joke, statistics, information, or simply a fun fact about your term.

Next, move to your thesis statement—while keeping the initial meaning of the word in mind. It is important to stick to this strategy to not confuse the reader, and have a logical coherent flow to your paper.

Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is a part of the introduction. For a definition paper, the thesis is your version of what the term means. This can be a mix of the standard explanation, your personal experiences, and your interpretation style. Keep it short; do not try to describe too much in this section. This is where you transition into the body of the paper.

Body Paragraphs

Usually, there are three body paragraphs in a definition essay. We suggest you organize them the following way:

An example of a good body paragraph structure:

Break down the term into its core parts in the body of your essay. Analyze the term from different angles and provide a relevant explanation. More than three paragraphs may be necessary, depending on the nature of your assignment.

Although, feel free to alter this format anyway that suits your word better, as, depending on the complexity of your word, you can add more paragraphs, or switch the order around.

Keep in mind, that as a writer of a definition essay, you need to jot down all the expansive definitions available to you to give the reader the full array of your term’s beauty and depth. It is your job to do extensive research and fully understand it. You need to support your claims with examples, as well as give your opinion and share the experiences you might have had.

Keep the conclusion simple. The main goal here is to summarize the main points of your argument. Rephrase your thesis, as well as the main parts of the explanation, and sum up everything you said in the body of your definition paper.

The last thing that should be mentioned in your definition paper outline is how this term has impacted you. If you were, for example, writing about the concept of love, you can say that being in love, and expressing that love to another person, made you more compassionate. It changed your character in a positive way and showed you new side of yourself. Usually, before even writing an essay, there is a reason a specific word is picked, and part of the reason has to do with personal experience—in this case, falling in love.

How to Write a Definition Essay: Video Guide

Now, take a break from all the reading and thinking, kick back and watch our awesome video from our research paper writer . It will give you useful tips for picking your topic and for writing an excellent definition essay. You might want to take notes to make sure you get everything you can out of it.

Post-Writing Tips

Now, we would like to give you some tips on what to do after you are done with your paper.

definition essay tips

If you need a hand in nursing essay writing, or physics help, or any other writing /proofreading services, leave us a message.

Definition Essay Examples

Here are some samples of definition paragraph examples for college. Pay attention to the structure of these papers. Any of these definition essay examples can also be used as a definition essay template, if you wish to have the same structure and format for your paper.

Different people have different definitions of success. In order to critically define the real meaning of success – perhaps the first and most significant recognition which any person can make – is that no single defined formula exists which outlines the way to personal success.
The term hero has been in social use for the longest time in history. The main characters of most fairy tales, such as Disney productions, revolve around the title. People use the term hero as a compliment in different contexts.

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Definition Essay

Who? What? How? Purpose? and Who?

Definition is a rhetorical style that uses various techniques to impress upon the reader the meaning of a term, idea, or concept. Definition may be used for an entire essay but is often used as a rhetorical style within an essay that may mix rhetorical styles. For example, you may need to use definition in order to fully explain a concept before you make an argument about that concept.

A definition essay is structured around the goal of defining a term, concept, or idea. While you may start off with a simple dictionary definition, your essay will, ultimately, contain an extended definition. There are many techniques you can use to extend a definition in a definition essay (to be discussed further).

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define essay with example

Definition Essay Samples

Using dictionary definitions to write your essay won’t cut it. Check out our examples of definition essays to grasp what it really means to write one.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is often the scare of dieters. It is recommended almost universally to cut back on gluten and sugars when trying to lose weight. What…

What is Love?

This is the question that has boggled the minds of philosophers, theologians, scientists, and many more types of people—including the everyday man or woman. Why…

What is Diwali?

As one of the most searched-for questions on Google in 2018, “What is Diwali?” has a simple and not-so-simple answer. Diwali is primarily a Hindu…

What is Good Friday?

A holiday observed by many Christian denominations, such as Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed traditions, Good Friday is a day…

Green Space

Green space is a term that can mean a vast amount of things. Various disciplines and individuals define it to be various focus points. However,…

When people speak about twilight, they usually think of it as an eerie time, the popular novels named after the term, and the Twilight Zone…

“Hunger” is a common word with many implications. It has an expansive etymology, a multitude of definitions, and psychological as well as physically references. Let…

The word “holiday” is always pleasant to hear, whether we are participating in one or we are hearing about one from something else. We might…

By Johannes Helmold Philosophy is usually used in a grandiose sense. To philosophize is something that sets us apart from other animals, it seems. If…

By Johannes Helmold “Heat” is a loaded word. It crosses with physics, slang, everyday language, and more. As a term, “heat” is fairly old and…

By Johannes Helmold The word “student” is common not only in English, but also in Afrikaans, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Latin, Lower Sorbian, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian…

Definition of Fashion

By Johannes Helmold The fashion industry has been “fashionable” since the Industrial Revolution, but clothing fashion has been around since humans have existed. Technically, fashion…

Definition of Health

By Johannes Helmold The word “health” seems to be straightforward. However, each word has a history and nuances in definition, and the word “health” is…

By Johannes Helmold There are many “isms,” and sexisim is one of the most vile ones. It is often talked about in relation to the…

By Johannes Helmold Terrorism is affecting countless countries in the world right now. The topic is hotly debated and a part of the collective fear…

With so many opinions used in the news, in our personal conversations, and in debates, it is worth knowing more about this word. Though we…

The word “zombie” is not as clear cut as one might think. It can infer a fictional, undead creature, a state of stupor, or an…

How would one find out what types of atoms there were? Today, it does not seem like it should have been difficult to work out…

The Gravitational Field

Given that fields of force are real, how do we define, measure, and calculate them? A fruitful metaphor will be the wind patterns experienced by…

Electrical circuits can be used for sending signals, storing information, or doing calculations, but their most common purpose by far is to manipulate energy. We…

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What Is an Essay? Different Types of Essays with Examples

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There will be many times during your life where you might be asked to write an essay. This can be an intimidating prospect, especially if you are not clear on exactly what an essay is and how it is meant to be written. In this article, we are going to be looking a little more closely at what an essay is and what it’s purpose is as well as looking at the various types of essay. We are also going to be looking at some examples to give us a further understanding on the subject.

Table of Contents

What Is An Essay?

In the most simple terms, an essay is a short piece of writing which is set around a specific topic or subject. The piece of writing will give information surrounding the topic but will also display the opinions and thoughts of the author.

Often times, an essay is used in an academic sense by way of examination in order to determine whether a student has understood their studies and as a way of testing their knowledge on a specific subject. An essay is also used in education as a way of encouraging a student to develop their writing skills.

Types Of Essays

When it comes to writing an essay, there is not simply one type, there are in fact, quite a few types of essay and each of them have their own purpose and function. We are now going to take a look at each of these in a little more detail.

Narrative Essays

A narrative essay is one which details a story, often times from a particular point of view. When writing a narrative essay, you should include a set of characters, a location, a good plot and a climax to the story.

You will use the plot as a way of detailing events within the story and whilst these are commonly in time order, you may feel free to time hop and include flashes from history or the future.

It is vital that, when writing this type of essay you use fine details to do allow the reader to feel emotion and use their senses but also give the story the chance to make a point. The point of the essay should be mentioned early on, preferably in the opening line, but if not certainly within the introduction paragraph . You should also write this type of essay in either the third or first person and unlike a creative writing story, should always be based around fact. Let’s now take a look at an extract from a narrative essay, this is from A Ticket To The Fair written by David Wallace Foster.

It is press day today at the state fair in Springfield, Illinois and I am meant to be there in the fairground at 9am in order to get my credentials. I think of these as a small card in the band around a hat. I had never been thought of as press until now. But my true interest in the credentials is being able to get onto the rides and into the shows for free. I have come in from the East coast, fresh and ready for one of their magazines. It isn’t clear to me why they have an interest in this state fair but I expect that the editors realise, from time to time that most of the USA live away from the coast and that they will employ someone like me to do a spot of rural reporting. I’m thinking that they had asked me to report this as I grew up here. I had never been to the state fair. In fact I have not been back here for quite some time and I cannot say that I have missed it.

Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay will describe something in great detail. The subject can be anything from people and places to objects and events but the main point is to go into depth. You might describe the item’s colour, where it came from, what it looks like, smells like, tastes like or how it feels.

It is very important to allow the reader to sense what you are writing about and allow them to feel some sort of emotion whilst reading. That being said, the information should be concise and easy to understand, the use of imagery is widely used in this style of essay. We will now take a look at a passage from a descriptive essay, this one is from The Orchestra Played On written by Joanna Lipman .

The hinge creaks as I open the decrepit case. I am greeted by flowing cascades of horsehair-the bow is a victim of the mites. It is agony when I twist my fingers to the position, but to my surprise and the surprise of my children-who were yet to hear me play- I was still able to make a sound.

Expository Essay

An expository essay is used as a way to look into a problem and therefore compare it and explore it. For the expository essay there is a little bit of storytelling involved but this type of essay goes beyond that. The main idea is that it should explain an idea giving information and explanation.

Your expository essay should be simple and easy to understand as well as giving a variety of view points on the subject that is being discussed. Often times this type of essay is used as a way to detail a subject which is usually more difficult for people to understand, in a clear and concise manner. Let’s take a look at this excerpt from How Chinese Mothers Are Superior written by Amy Chua.

I am using the phrase Chinese mom loosely. I know of some Indian. Irish, Jamaican, Ghanaian and Korean parents who fit the bill too. I also know Chinese moms, mostly born in the west that are not Chinese moms. I am also using the phrase parents of the west loosely. These come in many varieties. That being said, even the parents of the west believe that they are strict, they’re not nearly as strict as Chinese moms. For example, my friends from the west who think of themselves as strict, make their kids play instruments for just half an hour each day. For a Chinese mom, the first sixty minutes are the easiest, it’s the second and third hours that are tough.

Argumentative Essay

When writing an argumentative essay , you will be attempting to convince your reader about an opinion or point of view. The idea is to show the reader whether the topic is true or false along with giving your own opinion. It is very important that you use facts and data to back up any claims that made within the essay. We will now look at a passage from the argumentative essay titled The Flight From Conversation written by Sherry Turkle.

We have become used to this new concept being alone, together. Enabled by technology, we can be with each other as well as being somewhere else, we can be connected to anywhere we wish to be. We wish to be able to customise our life. We wish to be able to move in or out of anywhere we are as what we most value is having control over where our attention is focused. We are used to the concept of being, loyal to our own and in a tribe.

Other Types Of Essays

Whilst there are four main types of essay, there are some more, less common types. Despite not being within the main four, these types of essay are still important and each serve their own purpose. We are now going to take a look at each of these in a little more detail.

Definition Essays

This is a type of essay which is used to define an idea, thing or concept.

Simple Essays

This is, as its name would suggest, a simple essay which is made up from five paragraphs and can be written on any subject.

Persuasive Essays

The persuasive essay is one which can be used as a way of convincing the readers of an idea. It might also be used in order to convince the reader not to do a particular thing, or indeed to do it..

Rhetorical Analysis Essays

This type of essay is used as a way of analysing a piece of rhetoric or a speech and looks at any rhetorical devices which have been used.

Analytical Essays

As the name of this type of essay might suggest, it is an essay which is used to analyse something. This could be a piece of writing, a movie or anything else. The idea is that the analytical essay will look at what it is analysing from various viewpoints allowing the reader to form their own opinion.

Compare And Contrast Essays

When writing a compare and contrast essay , the author will be using it as a way of creating a comparison between two things or finding a contrast between them. But it is not limited to one or the other, you can also write a compare and contrast essay to do both of these things in one.

Cause And Effect Essays

This is a type of essay which allows the author to explain the cause of a certain thing as well as being able to explain the effects of it.

Critical Essays

When writing a critical essay, the author will be writing about a piece of literature and evaluating it. They will use the good and bad points of the piece in order to do this.

Process Essays

The process essay is a way of outlining or detailing a process. This is done by breaking down the process so that the readers are able to understand it and even perform the process themselves once they have read the essay.

Synthesis Essays

This is a type of essay which is used as a way to synthesis various concepts in order to create a judgement on their good and bad points.

Review Essays

The review essay is one which looks at a piece of literature and gives a review on it based around the good and bad points within it.

Research Essays

The research essay is one which is written based on a research question and aims to give a specific answer to it. The author will research the subject as a way of providing an answer to the question that was posed.

Explanatory Essays

This type of essay is used as way to explain any given piece of written work or literature. They can be written on a variety of types of literature such as poetry, novels or a short story.

Essay Infographic


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Definition of Essay

Essay is derived from the French word essayer , which means “ to attempt ,” or “ to try .” An essay is a short form of literary composition based on a single subject matter, and often gives the personal opinion of the author. A famous English essayist, Aldous Huxley defines essays as, “a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything. ” The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “ a short piece of writing on a particular subject. ” In simple words, we can define it as a scholarly work in writing that provides the author’s personal argument .

Types of Essay

There are two forms of essay: literary and non-literary. Literary essays are of four types:

Examples of Essay in Literature

Example #1: the sacred grove of oshogbo (by jeffrey tayler).

“As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice . A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees — the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae’d stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.”

Example #2: Of Love (By Francis Bacon)

“It is impossible to love, and be wise … Love is a child of folly. … Love is ever rewarded either with the reciprocal, or with an inward and secret contempt. You may observe that amongst all the great and worthy persons…there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love: which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion…That he had preferred Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas. For whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection quitted both riches and wisdom.”

Example #3: The Autobiography of a Kettle (By John Russell)

“ I am afraid I do not attract attention, and yet there is not a single home in which I could done without. I am only a small, black kettle but I have much to interest me, for something new happens to me every day. The kitchen is not always a cheerful place in which to live, but still I find plenty of excitement there, and I am quite happy and contented with my lot …”

Function of Essay

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essay , an analytic , interpretative, or critical literary composition usually much shorter and less systematic and formal than a dissertation or thesis and usually dealing with its subject from a limited and often personal point of view.

Some early treatises—such as those of Cicero on the pleasantness of old age or on the art of “divination,” Seneca on anger or clemency , and Plutarch on the passing of oracles—presage to a certain degree the form and tone of the essay, but not until the late 16th century was the flexible and deliberately nonchalant and versatile form of the essay perfected by the French writer Michel de Montaigne . Choosing the name essai to emphasize that his compositions were attempts or endeavours, a groping toward the expression of his personal thoughts and experiences, Montaigne used the essay as a means of self-discovery. His Essais , published in their final form in 1588, are still considered among the finest of their kind. Later writers who most nearly recall the charm of Montaigne include, in England, Robert Burton , though his whimsicality is more erudite , Sir Thomas Browne , and Laurence Sterne , and in France, with more self-consciousness and pose, André Gide and Jean Cocteau .

At the beginning of the 17th century, social manners, the cultivation of politeness, and the training of an accomplished gentleman became the theme of many essayists. This theme was first exploited by the Italian Baldassare Castiglione in his Il libro del cortegiano (1528; The Book of the Courtier ). The influence of the essay and of genres allied to it, such as maxims, portraits, and sketches, proved second to none in molding the behavior of the cultured classes, first in Italy, then in France, and, through French influence, in most of Europe in the 17th century. Among those who pursued this theme was the 17th-century Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián in his essays on the art of worldly wisdom.

Keener political awareness in the 18th century, the age of Enlightenment , made the essay an all-important vehicle for the criticism of society and religion. Because of its flexibility, its brevity , and its potential both for ambiguity and for allusions to current events and conditions, it was an ideal tool for philosophical reformers. The Federalist Papers in America and the tracts of the French Revolutionaries are among the countless examples of attempts during this period to improve the human condition through the essay.

The genre also became the favoured tool of traditionalists of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge , who looked to the short, provocative essay as the most potent means of educating the masses. Essays such as Paul Elmer More’s long series of Shelburne Essays (published between 1904 and 1935), T.S. Eliot ’s After Strange Gods (1934) and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), and others that attempted to reinterpret and redefine culture , established the genre as the most fitting to express the genteel tradition at odds with the democracy of the new world.

Whereas in several countries the essay became the chosen vehicle of literary and social criticism, in other countries the genre became semipolitical, earnestly nationalistic, and often polemical, playful, or bitter. Essayists such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote with grace on several lighter subjects, and many writers—including Virginia Woolf , Edmund Wilson , and Charles du Bos —mastered the essay as a form of literary criticism .


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