The Quick and Easy Guide to Essays

What Is an Essay?

This seems like a simple question, but it is not. Merriam-Webster defines an essay as "a) an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view; b) something resembling such a composition." Some consider reports and studies to be essays. Some consider only arguments (Aristotelian or Toulmin) to be true essays. Some consider speeches, presentations and even artwork to be essays. But there are some things we can say are "universal" about essays.

Major Elements of an Essay

Typical Formats

Since there are (or may be) many types of essays, it is difficult to pin down a single pattern. However, most written essays follow a common format:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion
Note that the more traditional and formal style is to give the thesis/claim in the introduction and restate it in the conclusion. However, a writer may want to hold off judgement by the audience until the evidence has been fully presented, followed by the thesis/claim.

Suggestions for Writing Essays

For some good essay examples, see Essays on Science and Society and Essays in Criticism.

For additional information on writing essays, see The Quick and Easy Guide to Arguments and The Quick and Easy Guide to Reports & Studies.


Written By: George Knox © 2017
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