Essay Writing Styles Every Student should know

There are various essay styles that every student should know, and they can be broken down into four main groups:

Persuasive Writing (Group 1) – This essay type asks the writer to pick and defend a point of view on a certain position. Argumentative, Research, and Persuasive essays fit into this category.

Expository Writing (Group 2) – This group is all about presenting facts and informing the reader about some topic or idea. Cause & Effect, Research, Informative, and Expository essays fit into this category.

Descriptive Writing (Group 3) – This style asks the author to unleash their inner artist with lively vocabulary and coherent ideas to explain an idea, describe a concept, etc. Definition and Descriptive essays fit into this category.

Narrative Writing (Group 4) – This less common, but still certainly present style requires the author to tell a story or explain a process (something in chronological order). Narrative, Process, and Personal essays are placed into this category.

You have an essay to write… What next?

  • Read the assessment brief carefully to find out what the essay is about, and what you are required to do specifically. What instructions are you given (discuss, explain, explore)? What choices do you need to make?
  • Work through the practical guide to the essays above. This will help you to think about what an essay is and what is required of you.
  • Look at the assignment writing process. How will you produce your essay?
  • Make a plan for when, where, and how you will research, think, draft, and write your essay.
  • Execute your plan.
  • Finish early. Leave a couple of spare days, in the end, to edit and proofread.
  • Hand it in and move on to the next challenge!
  • Features of essay writing

Essays vary a lot between disciplines and specific tasks, but they share several features that are important to bear in mind.

  • They are an argument toward a conclusion. The conclusion can be for or against a position, or just a narrative conclusion. All your writing and argumentation should lead to this conclusion.
  • They have a reader. It is essential that you show the logic of your argument and the information it is based on to your reader.
  • They are based on evidence. You must show this using both your referencing and also through interacting with the ideas and thinking found within the sources you use.
  • They have a structure. You need to ensure your structure is logical and that it matches the expectations of your department. You should also ensure that the structure enables the reader to follow your argument easily.
  • They have a word limit. 1000 words mean ‘be concise and make decisions about exactly what is important to include’ whereas 3500 words mean ‘write in more depth, and show the reader a more complex and broad range of critical understanding’.
  • They are part of a discipline/subject area, each of which has conventions. For example, Chemistry requires third-person impersonal writing, whereas Women’s Studies require the voice (meaning experiential viewpoint) of the author in the writing.

Types of essay

Each essay task is different and consequently, the information below is not designed to be a substitute for checking the information for your specific essay task. It is essential that you check the assessment brief, module handbook, and program handbook, as well as attend any lectures, seminars, and webinars devoted to the essay you are working on.  

Essays in each subject area belong to a faculty (science, social sciences, arts, and Humanities). Essays within the same faculty tend to share some features of style, structure, language choice, and scholarly practices.

  1. Arts and Humanities Essays
  2. Social Sciences Essays

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