Common essay types and their structures

Descriptive essay

What is it?

It is rare to find purely descriptive essay, but they do exist. They are the simplest essay in that the writer just needs to describe and explain a theory/event/situation.

Structure

Each paragraph describes a different aspect of the topic.

Argument essay

What is it?

An argument essay gives your opinion on a controversial topic. This is by far the most common type of essay written at university level.

Structure

The thesis statement in the introduction should state your opinion. The paragraphs in the main body give support for your opinion like this:

Opinion – given in thesis statement

Support and evidence – give reasons why your opinion is correct from sources and data to provide evidence

Counter-argument – What do the opposition think and what is their evidence?

Refutation – Why is their evidence wrong whereas yours is right?

Combination essays

Most essays are unfortunately not as simple as those explained above. Many will require a combination of the above essay types, for example you may be asked to explain something before arguing about it. Imagine you were asked to describe how different forms of renewable energy work and suggest which one would be the best for use in the UK. You would need to combine the descriptive essay with the argument essay. Therefore, your essay structure could take many forms, like this:

Example structure 1

Introduction – background information regarding energy sources and increased interest in renewable sources, thesis statement explaining which one is the best for the UK and route map.

Paragraph 1 – describe renewable energy source 1

Paragraph 2 – describe renewable energy source 2

Paragraph 3 – describe renewable energy source 3

Writing-essays
Paragraphs 4 onwards – argue which is the best one and why

Conclusion – summary, restate thesis statement, final comment

Example structure 2

Introduction – background information regarding energy sources and increased interest in renewable sources, thesis statement explaining which one is the best for the UK and route map.

Paragraph 1 – describe renewable energy source 1 and explain the pros and cons for use in U

KParagraph 2 – describe renewable energy source 2 and explain the pros and cons for use in U

KParagraph 3 – describe renewable energy source 3 and explain the pros and cons for use in U

KParagraphs 4 – summary argument of which is the best one and why

Conclusion – summary, restate thesis statement, final comment

Problem solution essay

What is it?

A classic example of the combination essay is the problem solution essay, whereby the problem is described then solutions are described and an argument is made about which is the best solution.

Structure

Paragraph 1 – describe the problem (including the current situation, why it is problematic and what might have caused it). Depending on the problem this may take more than one paragraph!

Paragraph 2 – explain solution 1 to the problem

Paragraph 3 – evaluate solution 1 (what are the advantages and drawbacks?)

Paragraph 4 – explain solution 2 to the problem

Paragraph 5 – evaluate solution 2 (what are the advantages and drawbacks?)

Paragraph 6 – explain solution 3 to the problem

Paragraph 7 – evaluate solution 3 (what are the advantages and drawbacks?)

Paragraph 8 – summarise which is the best solution based on the evaluation sections