You Want Us to Write What? Understanding the Task Assigned
Which academic essay writing types we use depends upon which
disciplines (or classes) we write for. Each instructor or
professor will assign papers that invite us to reveal in
writing what we have learned/what we think about the
material for that particular class:
* ANALYTIC-A classic style used in art, science, history,
psychology, education, and most other disciplines across the
curriculum to explore and investigate an idea, process,
person, action, or attitude.
* ARGUMENTATIVE-Used in more advanced English classes, in
philosophy, and in courses which include theory.
*COMPARATIVE/CONTRASTIVE-Used in most courses where specific
analysis of like and unlike elements, characters, and ideas
lend themselves to comparison.
*DEFINITIONAL-Written when we apply a more thorough study to
a topic, especially an abstract one.
*DESCRIPTIVE-Used to more intensively, more concretely cover
an idea, item, or subject.
*EVALUATIVE-Often confused with analytical, the evaluative
essay moves beyond the what and how to the how much…we put
a value on the topic here.
*EXPLANATORY-Also called the expository essay (though I tend
to see all essays as expository, as exposing a truth about
something). With this type we further our own and our
readers’ understanding of the subject.
*PERSONAL-Also called the response essay, the personal style
essay is still well written (readable for an audience other
than the writer), but is more informal–containing narrative
details that entertain.
*RESEARCH-While most essay types will include references or
will quote authorities, the research essay is mostly
informational, using the findings–the stats and facts–we
made investigating the findings of others.
Modes and Types and Modes…Oh Crimeny! Avoiding Confusion
We need not panic when called upon to do a specific type of
college paper writing. Why? Because we already use the
types…on a smaller scale.
That is, we use miniature versions of the essay types when
we write paragraphs for the complete essay. A type and a
mode are the same thing, then. One is just smaller, while
the other is an extension of the smaller.
For example, we write about the forms and functions of
gossip for a sociology paper. We open with a definition
paragraph that shows how the word “gossip” originated from
the word “gospel.” Then we continue to discuss how gossip
brings people closer–emotionally, spiritually, and even
Go Easy on Yourself: Your Confusion is Understandable
Just as we might call all writing expository, we call one
type and one mode an expository type of essay and an
expository mode of writing. So is the piece I’m writing
explanatory, definitional, comparative? I include
explanatory elements. I use definition and example. I slip
a comparison in, too.
Here’s one way to look at types/modes:
–We write a paragraph or passage in a certain mode. –We
can then turn that smaller piece into a whole essay, into
one long, extended mode.
Here’s another way to look at types/modes:
We buy a box of gourmet chocolates. We lift one from the
box: we understand that the thing we hold in our hands is a
chocolate. It also has chocolate in it.
Here’s one more way to look at types/modes:
You own a Camaro with a Corvette engine. They’re both
You’re Going to What, Now? Confuse Us All Over Again?
No. Now that we have the types/modes separated enough to
understand the difference, I’ll just remind you of one more
thing: we can and usually do overlap the modes. No one
piece of academic essay writing exists in one isolated mode
alone. It includes many varied sub-styles to make it more
engaging, entertaining, and expository.
And it requires a number of major parts–an opener, a main
body of text, and a closer. And you know what? These parts
are written in the modes.
I’ll add more pages on academic essay writing. Much more.
So if you haven’t had enough, come back again for monthly
freebies. But for now, if you want to check out samples you
can use as models for modes/types, click here for mode
samples written by college students.
One more thing about college paper writing:
Enjoy the process. Find one thing in it you like and are