Different essays are designed to do different things. Some essays are designed to find out what you’ve learned about a particular aspect of your course. Some are designed to find out what you’ve learned at a particular stage of your course. Others are designed to see how well you understand and can apply key concepts in your subject. Different varieties of essay will require different types of writing and sometimes a single essay will require more than one type of writing. Here’s a guide to some of the most common sorts of writing and ways of organizing essay material.
Analytical writing, or, what make something what it is
This type of writing makes a detailed examination of something in order to understand its nature and its essential features. In an English Literature essay about Thomas Hardy’s poetry, it isn’t good enough to say ‘The Darkling Thrush’ is a powerful poem. You need to say how and why the poem is powerful by looking at its component parts – e.g. adjectives, images, rhymes – and saying how they work individually and how they work together to achieve particular effects. In a management essay asking you to analyse the relevance of a particular theory to modern organizations, you would need to outline the essential features of the theory and relate them to organizational examples.
Chronological writing, or, what happened and when
This type of writing relates a sequence of events. An obvious place this is used is in history essays but you would also use it in an English Literature essay if you need to say briefly what happens in Oliver Twist or King Lear. To cite to an example discussed elsewhere in this resource, you would also use it in a psychology essay that asked you to describe the development of scientific paradigms.