6 Types of Essays You’ll Get in College Part 1

We’re going to go over some of the different types of essays you may end up writing, either for this paper or for any of your classes throughout your academic career. It’s important to understand the different types of essays because you need to understand how to structure them and what type of information to look for.

You’ve got your topic ready to go, but you need to know where to go next. Sometimes the specific type of paper will be given to you by your professor, and other times you’ll have a bit more freedom to
choose the format that works for you. Regardless of how you get to this point, it’s important to make sure you’re going in the right direction from here. You can’t make a good outline if you’re not sure how to structure it.

There are 6 main types of papers that fall under the essay umbrella that we’re going to discuss here.

Argumentative Essays

An argumentative essay is exactly how it sounds. In this essay, you’re arguing a specific viewpoint on your topic, and trying to convince the reader that they should agree with you. This paper will need to touch on both sides of an argument with enough evidence to show why your side is the right side.

There are two main components to an argumentative essay: solid evidence for your perspective and a rebuttal to opposing viewpoints. Pretend you’re having a written debate with someone. You’ll have to present the argument in a way that doesn’t leave room for further questions or confusion. What do you need to do in order to prove them wrong? Show them the evidence and make sure that it’s credible, believable, and strong.

Even though you’re arguing your perspective on something, you still need to avoid using first-person pronouns. Instead of saying “I believe that…” your thesis statement should say “This paper will argue that…” or “This paper will provide conclusive evidence to prove that…” This is a much more formal and professional approach. Here are some very basic examples of argumentative essay topics:

  • Online courses in university are helpful and beneficial for post-secondary learning
  • Voting should be mandatory for all citizens of legal age
  • Animal testing should be completely banned from all industries
  • The legal drinking age should be lowered
  • Climate change is a growing problem caused by human activity
  • The music industry is not fair to recording artists and bands
  • Health care should be free for everyone
  • The laws need to be changed to include more policing for cyberbullying
  • Batman is not a real superhero
  • Abraham Lincoln was the best American president

Expository Essays

An expository essay is very similar to an argumentative essay, but your job here is to explain something to your reader in a clear and concise way.

Instead of arguing one perspective or side of an argument, you are adapting a more neutral and objective tone to present the facts and evidence. Assume that you’re writing for an audience that doesn’t really know that much about your topic and needs an explanation. Think of it as if you’re presenting the solution to a problem that the audience doesn’t really realize they have.

Here’s another way to think about expository essays: your friend has asked you a question about something and you need to provide them with a helpful answer that gives them everything they need to know.

Be sure to be descriptive in your expository essay and make sure you present enough information so the audience can form their own opinion. Expository essays take a lot of research, and you need to make sure that all of your information is coming from credible academic, primary, or scholarly sources. Here are some examples of very basic expository essay topics:

  • What qualities make a real leader?
  • What are the negative effects of gender-based stereotypes in the media?
  • Why is peer pressure a bad thing in high school?
  • How do people with anxiety learn to cope in society?
  • Why is it important for politicians to be transparent in their platforms and campaigns?
  • How does a democracy work?
  • What steps can civilians take to reduce their individual carbon footprint?

Compare and Contrast Essays

In simple terms, a compare and contrast essay points out the similarities and differences between two topics. You could compare and contrast two different people, books, journal articles, historical perspectives, or even types of governments. The options are seemingly endless. For example, you could compare and contrast how two of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes embody a specific theme, such as Macbeth and Hamlet and their descent into madness.

Sometimes you’ll have to use more than two topics, but it’s most common to focus on two things. The more topics you have to compare and contrast, the less detail you can include about each specific one. If you have to eliminate details, this could weaken your argument. If you’re choosing how many topics to include, be conscious about your word count or page count and the requirements in the provided rubric.

When brainstorming for a compare and contrast essay, it’s helpful to make a Venn diagram when you get started. This will give you a clear idea of where your topics overlap so you can find the similarities
right away, and then expand your research further. Here are some examples of compare and contrast essay topics you could test out if you’re stuck coming up with something:

  • The film and book versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Leadership styles of different presidents
  • Comparing themes in two different Shakespeare plays
  • Literary devices used in Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories
  • How women are presented in historical fiction and modern fiction
  • Marvel characters versus DC characters
  • The death penalty versus restorative justice
  • Democracy versus socialism