Different Types of Essay Structure

Understanding the different essay structures can help you write better essays.

There are many different types of essay structure. Students may find some of these hard to comprehend and difficult to implement. Fortunately, essays can be categorized into four main groups. Further distinctions within these categories can be appreciated once an understanding of these main types is grasped. Knowing the different types of essay structures can help writers decide upon the most appropriate type for the topic and help organize the structure of the essay.

1 Expository, Descriptive and Narrative Essays

Expository essays explain how to do something. These essays might delineate the necessary steps required to complete a task or how to accomplish a specific activity. For example, essays which describe how to establish a new business or how to sew a dress are expository essays. Descriptive essays use details to paint a visual picture. For example, a descriptive essay might describe what you can expect to find at a beach resort. Narrative essays tell a story and are one of the less common types of essay.

2 Argumentative or Persuasive Essay

An argumentative essay aims to sway opinion.

The argumentative or persuasive essay is one the most common type of essay that students write. It is also one of the most difficult to write well. The argumentative essay requires a thesis that states a position and paragraphs that defend it. The aim is to sway the reader's opinion towards that position. A good argumentative essay will aim to persuade logically and thoroughly. The opposing side of the argument will be anticipated and refuted in the body of the essay.

3 Compare and Contrast Essays

Compare and contrast essays explore similarities and differences. For example, the similar and different features of two different cars, two characters in a novel or two hotels in a vacation resort might be explored. These essays may follow the point-by-point method or the block method. The block method means that all the features of the first item are described, followed by all the similar features of the second item. The differences would then be grouped together in the same way. The point-by-point method involves alternating similar and different features throughout the essay.

4 Analysis or Cause and Effect Essays

Cause and effect essays explore the root causes of situations. These essays attempt to answer the questions "why?" and "what is the result?" For example, if the topic of the essay was on people who drop out of high school, the essay would discuss all the possible reasons why students might drop out of school. These may include learning disabilities, behavior problems and low socioeconomic status." The causal relationship is further explored by probing into the results. In the example, this might mean exploring how the results of low socioeconomic status affect high school drop out rates.

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.