The Essay: a Basic Guide

Learning the basic characteristics of the essay

The essay
If you are reading this guide about the essay, this probably means that at school teachers are already requesting this kind of writing from you and your classmates. But, have you ever wondered what an essay really is? What is the point when writing one? Are all the essays the same? What is their structure like?
All the essays are not the same. For example, while Prep school students are given a topic by their teacher to write about, in academic writing the teachers ask students to demonstrate an argument, collect enough data to prove a point, or prove that they have understood the multiple meanings of a text they have assigned. But even when they seem different, in all cases, the writing process is the same. You, as the student, always need enough evidence and you have to make a conclusion in order to prove a thesis.

Basic essay structure

Every essay needs at least five paragraphs to be complete. These are an introduction, in where the writer establishes the purpose of the essay some body paragraphs, a very important part, since it is the development of every argument what makes the essay sustainable; and an appropriate conclusion, which sums up the essay’s main ideas and provides direction to future work on the topic.
Of course, if you should write a 3000 word essay, five paragraphs may be too few and you may need to add more. The essay organization, however, remains unchanged.

Essay types

Of course, once you know that the essay is a short piece of non-fictional writing often written from its author point of view, at least you know what you are supposed to hand in. But this essay definition alone may not be enough, since there are many different essay types and each of them has its own characteristics. Here we will list the most common essay types you may be asked to write:
A narrative essay: In such an essay, you are supposed to tell a story. Not any story, though. You should tell a valuable experience that makes a point –leaves a certain message in the reader-.
An argumentative essay: It is meant to persuade readers to adopt the same point of view as the writer. In some cases, even to take an action based on the reading.
A compare and contrast essay: This essay is characterized by a basis for comparison, developed in different point or sequences, and analogies, always between two (or sometimes more) terms.
A definition essay: This work explains what a certain term means, such as fear, glory or patriotism. Your essay should provide a personal, extended definition of such terms by linking or comparing the term to a previous definition and by illustrating how your term of choice should be applied.
A research essay: One of the most difficult essays to prepare. You need to write about a certain topic, answering a question or controversy related to the topic, but sustaining your answer with a deep research.

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