The word “critical” has positive as well as negative meanings. You can write a critical essay that agrees entirely with the reading. The word “critical” describes your attitude when you read the article. This attitude is best described as “detached evaluation,” meaning that you weigh the coherence of the reading, the completeness of its data, and so on, before you accept or reject it.
A critical essay or review begins with an analysis or exposition of the reading, article-by-article, book by book. Each analysis should include the following points:
- A summary of the author’s point of view, including
a brief statement of the author’s main idea (i.e., thesis or theme)
an outline of the important “facts” and lines of reasoning the author used to support the main idea
a summary of the author’s explicit or implied values
a presentation of the author’s conclusion or suggestions for action
- An evaluation of the author’s work, including
an assessment of the “facts” presented on the basis of correctness, relevance, and whether or not pertinent facts were omitted
an evaluation or judgment of the logical consistency of the author’s argument
an appraisal of the author’s values in terms of how you feel or by an accepted standard
Once the analysis is completed, check your work! Ask yourself, “Have I read all the relevant (or assigned) material?” “Do I have complete citations?” If not, complete the work! The following steps are how this is done.
Now you can start to write the first draft of your expository essay/literature review. Outline the conflicting arguments, if any; this will be part of the body of your expository essay/literature review.
Ask yourself, “Are there other possible positions on this matter?” If so, briefly outline them. Decide on your own position (it may agree with one of the competing arguments) and state explicitly the reason(s) why you hold that position by outlining the consistent facts and showing the relative insignificance of contrary facts. Coherently state your position by integrating your evaluations of the works you read. This becomes your conclusions section.
Briefly state your position, state why the problem you are working on is important, and indicate the important questions that need to be answered; this is your “Introduction.” Push quickly through this draft–don’t worry about spelling, don’t search for exactly the right word, don’t hassle yourself with grammar, don’t worry overmuch about sequence–that’s why this is called a “rough draft.” Deal with these during your revisions. The point of a rough draft is to get your ideas on paper. Once they are there, you can deal with the superficial (though very important) problems.
Consider this while writing:
- The critical essay is informative; it emphasizes the literary work being studied rather than the feelings and opinions of the person writing about the literary work; in this kind of writing, all claims made about the work need to be backed up with evidence.
- Criticism does not mean you have to attack the work or the author; it simply means you are thinking critically about it, exploring it and discussing your findings.
- The difference between feelings and facts is simple–it does not matter what you believe about a book or play or poem; what matters is what you can prove about it, drawing upon evidence found in the text itself, in biographies of the author, in critical discussions of the literary work, etc.
- The literary essay usually employs a serious and objective tone. (Sometimes, depending on your audience, it is all right to use a lighter or even humorous tone, but this is not usually the case).
- In many cases, you are teaching your audience something new about the text.
- Using evidence from the text itself is often your best option. If you want to argue, “isolation drives Frankenstein’s creature to become evil,” back it up with events and speeches from the novel itself.
- Use a “claims and evidence” approach. Be specific about the points you are making about the novel, play, poem, or essay you are discussing and back up those points with evidence that your audience will find credible and appropriate. If you want to say, “The War of the Worlds is a novel about how men and women react in the face of annihilation, and most of them do not behave in a particularly courageous or noble manner,” say it, and then find evidence that supports your claim.
- Another form of evidence you can rely on is criticism, what other writers have claimed about the work of literature you are examining. You may treat these critics as “expert witnesses,” whose ideas provide support for claims you are making about the book. In most cases, you should not simply provide a summary of what critics have said about the literary work.
- In fact, one starting point might be to look at what a critic has said about one book or poem or story and then a) ask if the same thing is true of another book or poem or story and 2) ask what it means that it is or is not true.
- Be sure your discussion is well organized. Each section should support the main idea. Each section should logically follow and lead into the sections that come before it and after it. Within each paragraph, sentences should be logically connected to one another
- Do not try to do everything. Try to do one thing well. And beware of subjects that are too broad; focus your discussion on a particular aspect of a work rather than trying to say everything that could possibly be said about it.
- If you quote or summarize (and you will probably have to do this) be sure you follow an appropriate format (MLA format is the most common one when examining literature) and be sure you provide a properly formatted list of works cited at the end of your essay.
- Remember that in most cases you want to keep your tone serious and objective.
- Be sure your essay is free of mechanical and stylistic errors.
It is easy to choose the topics for critical essay type. For example, you can choose a novel or a movie to discuss. It is important to choose the topic you are interested and familiar with. Here are the examples of popular critical essay topics:
- Shakespeare “The Merchant of Venice”
- The Educational System of US
- Home Scholl
- “The Match Point” by Woody Allen
- The Politics of Obama
- My Favourite Movie
What is a Classification Essay?
In a classification essay, a writer organizes, or sorts, things into categories.
Three Steps to Effective Classification:
- Sort things into useful categories.
- Make sure all the categories follow a single organizing principle.
- Give examples that fit into each category.
This is a key step in writing a classification essay. To classify, or sort, things in a logical way, find the categories to put them into. For example, say you need to sort the stack of papers on your desk. Before you would put them in random piles, you would decide what useful categories might be: papers that can be thrown away; papers that need immediate action; papers to read; papers to pass on to other coworkers; or papers to file.
Thesis Statement of a Classification Essay
The thesis statement usually includes the topic and how it is classified. Sometimes the categories are named.
(topic)…(how classified)…(category) (category) (category)
Ex: Tourists in Hawaii can enjoy three water sports: snorkeling, surfing, and sailing.
How to Write an Effective Classification Essay
- Determine the categories.Be thorough; don’t leave out a critical category. For example, if you say water sports of Hawaii include snorkelling and sailing, but leave out surfing, your essay would be incomplete because surfing is Hawaii’s most famous water sport. On the other hand, don’t include too many categories, which will blur your classification. For example, if your topic is sports shoes, and your organizing principle is activity, you wouldn’t include high heels with running and bowling shoes.
- Classify by a single principle.Once you have categories, make sure that they fit into the same organizing principle. The organizing principle is how you sort the groups. Do not allow a different principle to pop up unexpectedly. For example, if your unifying principle is “tourist-oriented” water sports, don’t use another unifying principle, such as “native water sports,” which would have different categories: pearl diving, outrigger, or canoe racing.
- Support equally each category with examples.In general, you should write the same quantity, i.e., give the same number of examples, for each category. The most important category, usually reserved for last, might require more elaboration.
Common Classification Transitions
- The first kind, the second kind, the third kind
- The first type, the second type, the third type
- The first group, the second group, the third group
Remember: In a classification essay, the writer organizes, or sorts, things into categories. There are three steps to remember when writing an effective classification essay: organize things into useful categories, use a single organizing principle, and give examples of things that fit into each category.
Below are some sample classification essay topics:
- Countries classification (territory, popularity, etc)
- Classification of Physiological Diseases
- Classification of historical events in US
- Most Popular TV Shows in America
- Sport Cars Classification
You can choose essay topic for your classification essay you are familiar with.
What is a cause and effect essay?
Cause and effect essays are concerned with why things happen (causes) and what happens as a result (effects). Cause and effect is a common method of organizing and discussing ideas.
Follow these steps when writing a cause and effect essay
- Distinguish between cause and effect. To determine causes, ask, “Why did this happen?” To identify effects, ask, “What happened because of this?” The following is an example of one cause producing one effect:
You are out of gas.
Your car won’t start.
Sometimes, many causes contribute to a single effect or many effects may result from a single cause. (Your instructor will specify which cause/effect method to use.) The following are examples:
liked business in high school
salaries in the field are high
have an aunt who is an accountant
am good with numbers
choose to major in accounting
reduce work hours
employer is irritated
more time to study
more time for family and friends
However, most situations are more complicated. The following is an example of a chain reaction:
Thinking about friend…forgot to buy gas…car wouldn’t start…missed math exam…failed math course.
- Develop your thesis statement. State clearly whether you are discussing causes, effects, or both. Introduce your main idea, using the terms “cause” and/or “effect.”
- Find and organize supporting details. Back up your thesis with relevant and sufficient details that are organized. You can organize details in the following ways:
- Details are arranged in the order in which the events occurred.
- Order of importance. Details are arranged from least to most important or vice versa.
- Details are arranged by dividing the topic into parts or categories.
- Use appropriate transitions. To blend details smoothly in cause and effect essays, use the transitional words and phrases listed below.
because, due to, on cause is, another is, since, for, first, second
consequently, as a result, thus, resulted in, one result is, another is, therefore
When writing your essay, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Remember your purpose. Decide if your are writing to inform or persuade.
- Focus on immediate and direct causes (or effects.) Limit yourself to causes that are close in time and related, as opposed to remote and indirect causes, which occur later and are related indirectly.
- Strengthen your essay by using supporting evidence. Define terms, offer facts and statistics, or provide examples, anecdotes, or personal observations that support your ideas.
- Qualify or limit your statements about cause and effect. Unless there is clear evidence that one event is related to another, qualify your statements with phrases such as “It appears that the cause was” or “It seems likely” or “The evidence may indicate” or “Available evidence suggests.”
To evaluate the effectiveness of a cause and effect essay, ask the following questions:
What are the causes? What are the effects? Which should be emphasized? Are there single or multiple causes? Single or multiple effects? Is a chain reaction involved?
Choosing the essay topic for cause and effect essay type is not difficult, here are some sample essay topics:
- Effects of Pollution
- The Changes in the Ocean
- The Civil Rights Movement and the Effects
Please, make sure you choose the essay topic that is really important for you. Choosing the correct essay topic makes your cause and effect essay more interesting and successful.
This essay is used to learn more about your reasons for applying to the course, university or company and your ability to benefit from and contribute to it. Your answers will let you state your case more fully than other sections of the application, and provide the evaluator with better insight about you and how you differ from the other applicants. In marginal cases, the essays are used to decide whether an applicant will be selected. The purpose of the admissions essay is to convey a sense of your unique character to the admissions committee. The essay also demonstrates your writing skills as well as your ability to organize your thoughts coherently.
Sample admission essay topics
There are hundreds of possible topics that you can be asked to write an essay on. Given below are some of the more common ones.
- Describe a situation in which you had significant responsibility and what you learned from it.
- What events, activities or achievements have contributed to your own self-development?
- Your career aspirations and factors leading you to apply to this course at this time. Describe a challenge to which you have successfully responded. What did you learn about yourself as you responded to this challenge? Describe a challenge you anticipate facing in any aspect of college life. On the basis of what you learned from your earlier response, how do you expect to deal with this challenge?
- Describe your strengths and weaknesses in two areas: setting and achieving goals, and working with other people.
- Describe and evaluate one experience that significantly influenced your academic interests. The experience might be a high school course, a job, a relationship, or an extracurricular activity. Be sure to explain how this experience led to your setting the goals you now have for yourself, and why you think the academic program for which you are applying will help you to reach those goals.
- Describe your educational, personal or career goals.
- Describe your strengths and weaknesses in two areas: setting and achieving goals, and working with other people.
- Role Model – If you could meet/be/have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
- Past Experience – Describe an event that has had a great impact on you and why?
- Forecast important issues in the next decade, century – nationally, globally.
- Why do you want to study at this university?
- What was your most important activity/course in high school and why?
- How would your room, computer or car describe you?
- Tell us something about yourself, your most important activities?
List all your activities for the past four years. Include school activities; awards, honours, and offices held; community services; jobs; and travel. Record major travel experiences. Note your strongest impressions and how they affected you. If you loved the Grand Canyon, for example, write down three specific reasons why, aside from the grandeur and beauty that everyone loves. Describe an accomplishment that you had to struggle to achieve. Include what it was, how you tackled it, and how it changed you.
Think of one or two sayings that you’ve heard again and again around your house since childhood. How have they shaped your life? What personality traits do you value most in yourself? Choose a few and jot down examples of how each has helped you. Think of things that other people often say about you. Write about whether or not you agree with their assessments and how they make you feel.
Brainstorm “top ten” lists in a few selected categories: favourite books, plays, movies, sports, eras in history, famous people, etc. Review your list to see which items stand out and describe what they’ve added to your life. Describe “regular people” who have motivated you in different ways throughout your life. It could be someone you only met once, a third-grade teacher, or a family member or friend.
Starting your essay
The most common topic–particularly if only one essay is required–is the first, “tell us about you.” Since this kind of essay has no specific focus, applicants sometimes have trouble deciding which part of their lives to write about. Beware of the chronological list of events that produces dull reading. Remember, also, to accent the positive rather than the negative side of an experience. If you write about the effect of a death, divorce, or illness on your life, tell about but don’t dwell on your bad luck and disappointments.
Instead, emphasize what you have learned from the experience, and how coping with adversity has strengthened you as an individual.
- Tie yourself to the college: Why are you interested in attending and what can the institution do for you? Be specific. Go beyond “XYZ College will best allow me to realize my academic potential.
- Read the directions carefully and follow them to the letter. In other words, if the essay is supposed to be 500 words or less, don’t submit 1000 words.
- Consider the unique features of the institution, e.g., a liberal arts college will be impressed with the variety of academic and personal interests you might have, while an art institute would be most interested in your creative abilities.
- Emphasize what you have learned, e.g. provide more than a narration when recounting an experience.
- Be positive, upbeat and avoid the negatives, e.g. I am applying to your school because I won’t be required to take physical education or a foreign language.
- Make certain you understand the question or the topic. Your essay should answer the question or speak directly to the given topic.
- Sort through ideas and prioritize. You cannot tell them everything, Be selective
- Write about something you know, something only you could write.
- List all ideas. Be creative. Brainstorm without censoring.
- Be persuasive in showing the reader you are deserving of admission. Remember your audience.
- Be persuasive in showing the reader you are deserving of admission. Remember your audience.
- Choose information and ideas which are not reflected in other parts of your application. This is your chance to supplement your application with information you want them to know.
Argumentative essays are most often used to address controversial issues – i.e. serious issue over which there is some evident disagreement. An argument is a position combined with its supporting reasons. Argumentative papers thus set out a main claim and then provide reasons for thinking that the claim is true.
Imitation essays are essays in which the writer pulls out the main thesis and outline of a particular paper, and then writes an essay in his or her own style.
Definition: In this kind of essay, we not only give information but also present an argument with the PROS (supporting ideas) and CONS (opposing ideas) of an argumentative issue. We should clearly take our stand and write as if we are trying to persuade an opposing audience to adopt new beliefs or behaviour. The primary objective is to persuade people to change beliefs that many of them do not want to change.
Choosing an argumentative topic is not an easy task. The topic should be such that
- it should be narrowed down
Marijuana should be considered illegal. (Not a good topic because it is too general, In some medical cases, marijuana is prescribed by the doctors and the patients are encouraged to use it in case of suffering from too much pain)
Selling and using marijuana in public places should be considered illegal.
- it should contain an argument
We should decide whether we want a bicycle or a car. (Our stand is not clear: do we support having bicycles or cars?)
If we are under the age of 30 and want a healthy life, we should definitely get a bicycle instead of a car.
Are you one of those who thinks cheating is not good for students? (a question cannot be an argument)
Cheating helps students learn.
Considering its geological position, Turkey has an important geopolitical role in the EU. (Facts cannot be arguments)
Considering its geopolitical role, we can clearly say that the EU cannot be without Turkey.
- It should be a topic that can be adequately supported (with statistics, outside source citations, etc.)
I feel that writing an argumentative essay is definitely a challenging task. (Feelings cannot be supported; we cannot persuade other people)
If you believe that you can find enough evidence to support your idea and refute others effectively, you can choose challenging topics as well. You can enjoy writing about such topics:
- For women, there is no need for men.
- Cheating is beneficial for students.
- Murat 124 is a very good choice for conscientious drivers.
- Stress is good for the human body.
- Polygamy is quite natural.
Organization: All argumentative topics have PROs and CONs. Before starting writing, it is imperative to make a list of these ideas and choose the most suitable ones among them for supporting and refuting.
There are three possible organization patterns:
- PRO idea 1
- PRO idea 2
- CON(s) + Refutation(s)
- CON(s) + Refutation(s)
- PRO idea 1
- PRO idea 2
- CON idea 1 —–> Refutation
- CON idea 2 —–> Refutation
- CON idea 3 —–> Refutation
Thesis: Do Reiki instead of taking medicine.
|1.||People should trust medicine since it is effective and scientifically proven.||—–>||Reiki is also scientifically proven and does not have side effects. (refutation method: insufficient claim)|
|2.||Serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer cannot be treated without medicine.||—–>||Medicine also cannot treat serious illnesses if not diagnosed at an early stage. (refutation method: opponents are partially correct)|
|3.||Reiki, like alternative healing methods, requires a lot of time.||—–>||Reiki requires less time if done regularly. (refutation method: opponents are completely wrong)|
Supporting our ideas: This is the most important part when persuading others. we are asking some people to change their beliefs or actions. We should be supporting our ideas with such facts, statistics and/or authorities that there should not be room for any doubts. Here are some faulty supports we should avoid:
Thesis: Leaving the university and starting to work is good for the adolescent because …
- Feelings, emotional arguments (… it makes one feel much better.)
- Irrelevant examples (wandering off the topic) (… he would then be able to take his girlfriend to expensive restaurants.)
- Oversimplification (… only then would he understand what it means to be an adult.)
- Hasty generalizations (… it is a widely known fact that all adolescents look forward to earning money.)
- Unreliable, even false outside sources (… according to www.doubtme.com, 80% of working men wish they quit school when they were at university and started working at an earlier age.)
Refuting opposing arguments: Before we start saying that the opponents are wrong, we should specify their opposing ideas. Otherwise, it would be like hitting the other person with eyes closed. We should see clearly what we are hitting and be prepared beforehand so that he cannot hit us back. We can do this by knowing what we are refuting.
E.g. X some people may say that adolescents should not leave university education; however, they are wrong. (What they say is not wrong. Maybe their supporting idea is wrong /irrelevant /insufficient. We should state their supporting idea specifically to be able to refute it.)
√ Some people may say that adolescents should not leave university education because they are not physically and psychologically mature enough to cope with the problems of the real world. However, they forget one fact: adolescents can vote or start driving at the age of 18 (in some countries even before that age!), which proves that they are considered physically and psychologically mature at that age.
Language: Signposts gain importance in the argumentative essay. They enable the readers to follow our arguments easily.
When pointing out opposing arguments (CONs):
Opponents of this idea claim / maintain that …
Those who disagree / are against these ideas may say / assert that …
Some people may disagree with this idea.
When stating specifically why they think like that:
The put forward this idea because …
They claim that … since …
Reaching the turning point:
On the other hand,
When refuting the opposing idea, we may use the following strategies:
- compromise but prove that their argument is not powerful enough:
They have a point in thinking like that.
To a certain extent they are right.
- completely disagree:
After seeing this evidence, there is no way we can agree with what they say.
- say that their argument is irrelevant to the topic:
What we are discussing here is not what they are trying to prove.
Their argument is irrelevant.
Sample argumentative essay:
HEALTH AND HEALING AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Throw out the bottles and boxes of drugs in your house. A new theory suggests that medicine could be bad for your health, which should at least come as good news to people who cannot afford to buy expensive medicine. However, it is a blow to the medicine industry, and an even bigger blow to our confidence in the progress of science. This new theory argues that healing is at our fingertips: we can be healthy by doing Reiki on a regular basis.
Supporters of medical treatment argue that medicine should be trusted since it is effective and scientifically proven. They say that there is no need for spiritual methods such as Reiki, Yoga, Tai Chi. These waste our time, something which is quite precious in our material world. There is medicine that can kill our pain, x-rays that show us our fractured bones or MRI that scans our brain for tumors. We must admit that these methods are very effective in the examples that they provide. However, there are some “every day complaints” such as back pains, headaches, insomnia, which are treated currently with medicine. When you have a headache, you take an Aspirin, or Vermidon, when you cannot sleep, you take Xanax without thinking of the side effects of these. When you use these pills for a long period, you become addicted to them; you cannot sleep without them. We pay huge amounts of money and become addicted instead of getting better. How about a safer and more economical way of healing? When doing Reiki to yourself, you do not need anything except your energy so it is very economical. As for its history, it was discovered in Japan in the early 1900s and its popularity has spread particularly throughout America and Western Europe. In quantum physics, energy is recognized as the fundamental substance of which the universe is composed. Reiki depends on the energy within our bodies. It is a simple and effective way of restoring the energy flow. There are no side effects and it is scientifically explained.
Opponents of alternative healing methods also claim that serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer cannot be treated without drugs. They think so because these patients spend the rest of their lives in the hospital taking medicine. How can Reiki make these people healthy again? It is very unfortunate that these patients have to live in the hospital losing their hair because of chemotherapy, losing weight because of the side effects of the medicine they take. Actually, it is common knowledge that except for when the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, drugs also cannot treat AIDS or cancer. Most of the medicine these patients use are to ease their pain and their sufferings because of the medical treatment they undergo. Instead of drugs which are expensive and have many side effects, you can use your energy to overcome the hardships of life, find an emotional balance, leave the stress of everyday life and let go of the everyday worries. Most of the chronic conditions such as eczema or migraine are known to have causes such as poor diet and stress. Deep-rooted anger or other strong emotions can contribute to viral infections as well. Since balancing our emotions and controlling our thoughts are very important for our well-being, we should definitely start learning Reiki and avoid illnesses before it is too late.
Some people may still maintain that in our material world, everything depends on time. It is even “lacking time” that causes much of the stress that leads to the illnesses we mentioned. How would it be possible to find time to do Reiki to ourselves and the people around us when we cannot even find time to go to the theater? This is one good thing about Reiki; it does not require more than 15 minutes of our time. There is no need for changing clothes or special equipment. It is a wonderfully simple healing art, an effective method of relaxation and stress-relief. Most important of all, it is less time consuming than medicine if we think of all the time we spend taking medicine for some complaints and taking some more for the side effects as well.
In a persuasive essay, the writer tries to persuade the reader to accept an idea or agree with an opinion. The writer’s purpose is to convince the reader that her or his point of view is a reasonable one. The persuasive essay should be written in a style that grabs and holds the reader’s attention, and the writer’s opinion should be backed up by strong supporting details.
What is a /argument and persuasive essay?
Argument essay, also known as the persuasive writing, utilizes logic and reason to show that one idea is more legitimate than another idea. It attempts to persuade a reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action. The argument must always use sound reasoning and solid evidence by stating facts, giving logical reasons, using examples, and quoting experts.
When planning a persuasive essay, follow these steps
- Choose your position. Which side of the issue or problem are you going to write about, and what solution will you offer? Know the purpose of your essay.
- Analyze your audience. Decide if your audience agrees with you, is neutral, or disagrees with your position.
- Research your topic. A persuasive essay must provide specific and convincing evidence. Often it is necessary to go beyond your own knowledge and experience. You might need to go to the library or interview people who are experts on your topic.
- Structure your essay. Figure out what evidence you will include and in what order you will present the evidence. Remember to consider your purpose, your audience, and you topic.
The following criteria are essential to produce an effective argument
- Be well informed about your topic. To add to your knowledge of a topic, read thoroughly about it, using legitimate sources. Take notes.
- Test your thesis. Your thesis, i.e., argument, must have two sides. It must be debatable. If you can write down a thesis statement directly opposing your own, you will ensure that your own argument is debatable.
- Disprove the opposing argument. Understand the opposite viewpoint of your position and then counter it by providing contrasting evidence or by finding mistakes and inconsistencies in the logic of the opposing argument.
- Support your position with evidence. Remember that your evidence must appeal to reason.
The following are different ways to support your argument:
Statistics – These can provide excellent support. Be sure your statistics come from responsible sources. Always cite your sources.
Facts – A powerful means of convincing, facts can come from your reading, observation, or personal experience.
Note: Do not confuse facts with truths. A “truth” is an idea believed by many people, but it cannot be proven.
Quotes – Direct quotes from leading experts that support your position are invaluable.
Examples – Examples enhance your meaning and make your ideas concrete. They are the proof.
Here are some ideas of popular persuasive essay topics:
- Anorexia or model body
- School uniform
- Encouraged abortions
These essay topic examples are debatable, it is important to choose the topic that is interesting for you.
The aim of a compare and contrast essay is to develop the relationship between two or more things. Generally, the goal is to show that superficial differences or similarities are inadequate, and that closer examination reveals their inconspicuous, yet significant, relations or differences.
This handout will help you first to determine whether a particular assignment is asking for comparison/contrast and then to generate a list of similarities and differences, decide which similarities and differences to focus on, and organize your paper so that it will be clear and effective. It will also explain how you can (and why you should) develop a thesis that goes beyond “Thing A and Thing B are similar in many ways but different in others.”
In your career as a student, you’ll encounter many different kinds of writing assignments, each with its own requirements. One of the most common is the comparison/contrast essay, in which you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas—usually two of them—are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to make connections between texts or ideas, engage in critical thinking, and go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis: when you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them.
RECOGNIZING COMPARISON/CONTRAST IN ASSIGNMENTS
Some assignments use words—like compare, contrast, similarities, and differences—that make it easy for you to see that they are asking you to compare and/or contrast. Here are a few hypothetical examples:
- Compare WWI to WWII, identifying similarities in the causes, development, and outcomes of the wars.
- Contrast Wordsworth and Coleridge; what are the major differences in their poetry?
- Compare and contrast Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression.
Notice that some topics ask only for comparison, others only for contrast, and others for both.
But it’s not always so easy to tell whether an assignment is asking you to include comparison/contrast. And in some cases, comparison/contrast is only part of the essay—you begin by comparing and/or contrasting two or more things and then use what you’ve learned to construct an argument or evaluation. Consider these examples, noticing the language that is used to ask for the comparison/contrast and whether the comparison/contrast is only one part of a larger assignment:
- Choose a particular idea or theme, such as romantic love, death, or nature, and consider how it is treated in two Romantic poems.
- How do the different authors we have studied so far define and describe oppression?
- Compare Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression. What does each imply about women’s collusion in their own oppression? Which is more accurate?
- In the texts we’ve studied, soldiers who served in different wars offer differing accounts of their experiences and feelings both during and after the fighting. What commonalities are there in these accounts? What factors do you think are responsible for their differences?
USING COMPARISON/CONTRAST FOR ALL KINDS OF WRITING PROJECTS
Sometimes you may want to use comparison/contrast techniques in your own pre-writing work to get ideas that you can later use for an argument, even if comparison/contrast isn’t an official requirement for the paper you’re writing. For example, if you wanted to argue that Frye’s account of oppression is better than both de Beauvoir’s and Bartky’s, comparing and contrasting the main arguments of those three authors might help you construct your evaluation—even though the topic may not have asked for comparison/contrast and the lists of similarities and differences you generate may not appear anywhere in the final draft of your paper.
DISCOVERING SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas. To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you’re considering. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common. Assign each one of the areas that doesn’t overlap; in those areas, you can list the traits that make the things different. Here’s a very simple example, using two pizza places:
To make a chart, figure out what criteria you want to focus on in comparing the items. Along the left side of the page, list each of the criteria. Across the top, list the names of the items. You should then have a box per item for each criterion; you can fill the boxes in and then survey what you’ve discovered. Here’s an example, this time using three pizza places:
As you generate points of comparison, consider the purpose and content of the assignment and the focus of the class. What do you think the professor wants you to learn by doing this comparison/contrast? How does it fit with what you have been studying so far and with the other assignments in the course? Are there any clues about what to focus on in the assignment itself?
Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. These are by no means complete or definitive lists; they’re just here to give you some ideas—you can generate your own questions for these and other types of comparison. You may want to begin by using the questions reporters traditionally ask: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? If you’re talking about objects, you might also consider general properties like size, shape, colour, sound, weight, taste, texture, smell, number, duration, and location.
Two historical periods or events
When did they occur—do you know the date(s) and duration? What happened or changed during each? Why are they significant? What kinds of work did people do? What kinds of relationships did they have? What did they value? What kinds of governments were there? Who were important people involved? What caused events in these periods, and what consequences did they have later on?
Two ideas or theories
What are they about? Did they originate at some particular time? Who created them? Who uses or defends them? What is the central focus, claim, or goal of each? What conclusions do they offer? How are they applied to situations/people/things/etc.? Which seems more plausible to you, and why? How broad is their scope? What kind of evidence is usually offered for them?
Two pieces of writing or art
What are their titles? What do they describe or depict? What is their tone or mood? What is their form? Who created them? When were they created? Why do you think they were created as they were? What themes do they address? Do you think one is of higher quality or greater merit than the other(s)—and if so, why? For writing: what plot, characterization, setting, theme, tone, and type of narration are used?
Where are they from? How old are they? What is the gender, race, class, etc. of each? What, if anything, are they known for? Do they have any relationship to each other? What are they like? What did/do they do? What do they believe? Why are they interesting? What stands out most about each of them?
DECIDING WHAT TO FOCUS ON
By now you have probably generated a huge list of similarities and differences—congratulations! Next you must decide which of them are interesting, important, and relevant enough to be included in your paper. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s relevant to the course?
- What’s relevant to the assignment?
- What matters to the argument you are going to make?
- What’s interesting and informative?
- What’s basic or central (and needs to be mentioned even if obvious)?
- Overall, what’s more important—the similarities or the differences?
Suppose that you are writing a paper comparing two novels. For most literature classes, the fact that they both use Calson type (a kind of type face, like the fonts you may use in your writing) is not going to be relevant, nor is the fact that one of them has a few illustrations and the other has none; literature classes are more likely to focus on subjects like characterization, plot, setting, the writer’s style and intentions, language, central themes, and so forth. However, if you were writing a paper for a class on typesetting or on how illustrations are used to enhance novels, the typeface and presence or absence of illustrations might be absolutely critical to include in your final paper.
Sometimes a particular point of comparison or contrast might be relevant but not terribly revealing or interesting. For example, if you are writing a paper about Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” pointing out that they both have nature as a central theme is relevant (comparisons of poetry often talk about themes) but not terribly interesting; your class has probably already had many discussions about the Romantic poets’ fondness for nature. Talking about the different ways nature is depicted or the different aspects of nature that are emphasized might be more interesting and show a more sophisticated understanding of the poems.
The thesis of your comparison/contrast paper is very important: it can help you create a focused argument and give your reader a road map so she/he doesn’t get lost in the sea of points you are about to make. As in any paper, you will want to replace vague reports of your general topic (for example, “This paper will compare and contrast two pizza places,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in some ways and different in others,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in many ways, but they have one major difference”) with something more detailed and specific. For example, you might say, “Pepper’s and Amante have similar prices and ingredients, but their atmospheres and willingness to deliver set them apart.”
Be careful, though—although this thesis is fairly specific and does propose a simple argument (that atmosphere and delivery make the two pizza places different), your instructor will often be looking for a bit more analysis. In this case, the obvious question is “So what? Why should anyone care that Pepper’s and Amante are different in this way?” One might also wonder why the writer chose those two particular pizza places to compare—why not Papa John’s, Dominos, or Pizza Hut? Again, thinking about the context the class provides may help you answer such questions and make a stronger argument. Here’s a revision of the thesis mentioned earlier:
Pepper’s and Amante both offer a greater variety of ingredients than other Chapel Hill/Carrboro pizza places (and than any of the national chains), but the funky, lively atmosphere at Pepper’s makes it a better place to give visiting friends and family a taste of local culture.
You may find our handout Constructing Thesis Statements useful at this stage.
ORGANIZING YOUR PAPER
There are many different ways to organize a comparison/contrast essay. Here are two:
Begin by saying everything you have to say about the first subject you are discussing, then move on and make all the points you want to make about the second subject (and after that, the third, and so on, if you’re comparing/contrasting more than two things). If the paper is short, you might be able to fit all of your points about each item into a single paragraph, but it’s more likely that you’d have several paragraphs per item. Using our pizza place comparison/contrast as an example, after the introduction, you might have a paragraph about the ingredients available at Pepper’s, a paragraph about its location, and a paragraph about its ambience. Then you’d have three similar paragraphs about Amante, followed by your conclusion.
The danger of this subject-by-subject organization is that your paper will simply be a list of points: a certain number of points (in my example, three) about one subject, then a certain number of points about another. This is usually not what college instructors are looking for in a paper—generally they want you to compare or contrast two or more things very directly, rather than just listing the traits the things have and leaving it up to the reader to reflect on how those traits are similar or different and why those similarities or differences matter. Thus, if you use the subject-by-subject form, you will probably want to have a very strong, analytical thesis and at least one body paragraph that tie all of your different points together.
A subject-by-subject structure can be a logical choice if you are writing what is sometimes called a “lens” comparison, in which you use one subject or item (which isn’t really your main topic) to better understand another item (which is). For example, you might be asked to compare a poem you’ve already covered thoroughly in class with one you are reading on your own. It might make sense to give a brief summary of your main ideas about the first poem (this would be your first subject, the “lens”), and then spend most of your paper discussing how those points are similar to or different from your ideas about the second.
Rather than addressing things one subject at a time, you may wish to talk about one point of comparison at a time. There are two main ways this might play out, depending on how much you have to say about each of the things you are comparing. If you have just a little, you might, in a single paragraph, discuss how a certain point of comparison/contrast relates to all the items you are discussing. For example, I might describe, in one paragraph, what the prices are like at both Pepper’s and Amante; in the next paragraph, I might compare the ingredients available; in a third, I might contrast the atmospheres of the two restaurants.
If I had a bit more to say about the items I was comparing/contrasting, I might devote a whole paragraph to how each point relates to each item. For example, I might have a whole paragraph about the clientele at Pepper’s, followed by a whole paragraph about the clientele at Amante; then I would move on and do two more paragraphs discussing my next point of comparison/contrast—like the ingredients available at each restaurant.
There are no hard and fast rules about organizing a comparison/contrast paper, of course. Just be sure that your reader can easily tell what’s going on! Be aware, too, of the placement of your different points. If you are writing a comparison/contrast in service of an argument, keep in mind that the last point you make is the one you are leaving your reader with. For example, if I am trying to argue that Amante is better than Pepper’s, I should end with a contrast that leaves Amante sounding good, rather than with a point of comparison that I have to admit makes Pepper’s look better. If you’ve decided that the differences between the items you’re comparing/contrasting are most important, you’ll want to end with the differences—and vice versa, if the similarities seem most important to you.
Our handout on Organization can help you write good topic sentences and transitions and make sure that you have a good overall structure in place for your paper.
CUE WORDS AND OTHER TIPS
To help your reader keep track of where you are in the comparison/contrast, you’ll want to be sure that your transitions and topic sentences are especially strong. Your thesis should already have given the reader an idea of the points you’ll be making and the organization you’ll be using, but you can help her/him out with some extra cues. The following words may be helpful to you in signalling your intentions:
like, similar to, unlike, also, similarly, likewise, in the same way, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, on the contrary, contrasted, with however, although, yet, , but, nevertheless, even though, still, conversely, regardless ,at the same time, despite, while, on the one hand … on the other hand.
For example, you might have a topic sentence like one of these:
- Like Amante, Pepper’s offers fresh garlic as a topping.
- Despite their different locations (downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro), Pepper’s and Amante are both fairly easy to get to.
- Compared to Pepper’s, Amante is quiet.
The aim of a narrative essay is to describe a course of events from a subjective vantage point, and may be written in first-person present or first person past tense. Though not always chronological, narrative essays do follow the development of a person through a series of experiences and reflections. The focus of the essay is often to more clearly identify the point of view of the narrator, and to express common features of subjectivity.
As a mode of expository writing, the narrative approach, more than any other, offers writers a chance to think and write about themselves. We all have experiences lodged in our memories, which are worthy of sharing with readers. Yet sometimes they are so fused with other memories that a lot of the time spent in writing narrative is in the prewriting stage.
When you write a narrative essay, you are telling a story. Narrative essays are told from a defined point of view, often the author’s, so there is feeling as well as specific and often sensory details provided to get the reader involved in the elements and sequence of the story. The verbs are vivid and precise. The narrative essay makes a point and that point is often defined in the opening sentence, but can also be found as the last sentence in the opening paragraph.
Since a narrative relies on personal experiences, it often is in the form of a story. When the writer uses this technique, he or she must be sure to include all the conventions of storytelling: plot, character, setting, climax, and ending. It is usually filled with details that are carefully selected to explain, support, or embellish the story. All of the details relate to the main point the writer is attempting to make.
To summarize, the narrative essay
- is told from a particular point of view
- is filled with precise detail
- uses vivid verbs and modifiers
- uses conflict and sequence as does any story
- makes and supports a point
- may use dialogue
The purpose of a narrative report is to describe something. Many students write narrative reports thinking that these are college essays or papers. While the information in these reports is basic to other forms of writing, narrative reports lack the “higher order thinking” that essays requires. Thus narrative reports do not, as a rule, yield high grades for many college courses. A basic example of a narrative report is a “book report” that outlines a book; it includes the characters, their actions, possibly the plot, and, perhaps, some scenes. That is, it is a description of “what happens in the book.” But this leaves out an awful lot.
What is left out is what the book or article is about — the underlying concepts, assumptions, arguments, or point of view that the book or article expresses. A narrative report leaves aside a discussion that puts the events of the text into the context of what the text is about. Is the text about love? Wealth and power? Poverty? Life in the fast lane? Society? In other words, narrative reports often overlook the authors’ purpose or point of view expressed through the book or article.
Once an incident is chosen, the writer should keep three principles in mind.
- Remember to involve readers in the story. It is much more interesting to actually recreate an incident for readers than to simply tell about it.
- Find a generalization, which the story supports. This is the only way the writer’s personal experience will take on meaning for readers. This generalization does not have to encompass humanity as a whole; it can concern the writer, men, women, or children of various ages and backgrounds.
- Remember that although the main component of a narrative is the story, details must be carefully selected to explain, support and enhance the story.
Conventions of Narrative Essays
In writing your narrative essay, keep the following conventions in mind.
- Narratives are generally written in the first person, that is, using I. However, third person (he, she, or it) can also be used.
- Narratives rely on concrete, sensory details to convey their point. These details should create a unified, forceful effect, a dominant impression. More information on the use of specific details is available on another page.
- Narratives, as stories, should include these story conventions: a plot, including setting and characters; a climax; and an ending.
Here are some popular essay topic examples for your narrative essay type:
- First Day at College
- The Moment of Success
- A Memorable Journey
The essay topic you choose should be interesting and important to you, because the best essays are written on the topics that really matter to the writer.
The aim of descriptive essays is to provide a vivid picture of a person, object, location, debate, or event. It will give details that will enable the reader to imagine the item described.
Essential Tips on Writing a Descriptive Essay
Writers use the descriptive essay to create a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing. Unlike a narrative essay, which reveals meaning through a personal story, the purpose of a descriptive essay is to reveal the meaning of a subject through detailed, sensory observation. The descriptive essay employs the power of language and all the human senses to bring a subject to life for the reader.
If readers come away from a descriptive essay with the feeling that they have really met a person, gone to a particular place, or held a certain object, the writer has done a good job. If readers also feel an emotional connection and deep appreciation for the subject’s significance, the writer has done a great job.
The Five-Step Writing Process for Descriptive Essays
Professional writers knows one thing: Writing takes work. Understanding and following the proven steps of the writing process helps all writers, including students. Here are descriptive essay writing tips for each phase of the writing process:
1. Prewriting for the Descriptive Essay
In the prewriting phase of descriptive essay writing, students should take time to think about who or what they want to describe and why. Do they want to write about a person of significance in their lives, or an object or place that holds meaning? The topic doesn’t have to be famous or unusual. The person could be a grandparent, the object, a favourite toy, and the place, a tree house.
Once a topic is chosen, students should spend time thinking about the qualities they want to describe. Brainstorm about all the details associated with the topic. Even when not writing about a place, reflect on the surroundings. Where is the object located? Where does the person live? Consider not just physical characteristics, but also what memories, feelings, and ideas the subject evokes. Memory and emotion play an important role in conveying the subject’s significance. Plan the focus of each paragraph and create an outline that puts these details into a logical sequence.
2. Drafting a Descriptive Essay
when creating the initial draft of a descriptive essay, follow the outline, but remember, the goal is to give the reader a rich experience of the subject. Keep in mind, the most important watchword of writing a descriptive essay is show, don’t tell. One of the best ways to show is to involve all of the senses—not just sight, but also hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Write so the reader will see the sunset, hear the song, smell the flowers, taste the pie, or feel the touch of a hand.
Use descriptive and figurative language, as well as concrete images to describe the subject. Similes and metaphors work well. Here are some examples:
The house was old.
The house frowned with a wrinkled brow, and inside it creaked with each step, releasing a scent of neglected laundry.
He was smart.
If you had to pick a study buddy, you would pick this guy.
The clock had been in our family for years.
The clock stood by our family, faithfully marking the minutes and hours of our lives.
Enjoy the process of describing the subject—it can be a rewarding experience. A descriptive essay doesn’t rely on facts and examples, but on the writer’s ability to create a mental picture for the reader.
3. Revising a Descriptive Essay
In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can be. In revising a descriptive essay, students should reread their work with these considerations in mind:
• Does the essay unfold in a way that helps the reader fully appreciate the subject? Do any paragraphs confuse more than describe?
• Does the word choice and figurative language involve the five senses and convey emotion and meaning?
• Are there enough details to give the reader a complete picture?
• Has a connection been made between the description and its meaning to the writer? Will the reader be able to identify with the conclusion made?
Always keep the reader in mind from opening to concluding paragraph. A descriptive essay must be precise in its detail, yet not get ahead of itself. It’s better to go from the general to the specific. Otherwise, the reader will have trouble building the image in their mind’s eye. For example, don’t describe a glossy coat of fur before telling the reader the essay is about a dog!
4. Editing a Descriptive Essay
At this point in the writing process, writers proofread and correct errors in grammar and mechanics. It’s also the time to improve style and clarity. Watch out for clichés and loading up on adjectives and adverbs. Having a friend read the essay helps writers see trouble spots and edit with a fresh perspective.
5. Publishing a Descriptive Essay
Sharing a descriptive essay with the rest of the class can be both exciting and a bit scary. Remember, there isn’t a writer on earth who isn’t sensitive about his or her own work. The important thing is to learn from the experience and take whatever feedback is given to make the next essay even better.
What does an academic Essay mean?
An academic essay is a piece of writing, usually from an author’s personal point of view. Essays are non-fictional but often subjective; while expository, they can also include narrative. Essays can be literary political manifestos, criticism, and learned arguments, recollections, observations of daily life and reflections of the author.
The definition of an essay is vague, overlapping with those of an article and a short story. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (A very good example is Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man).
While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population provide counterexamples.
1) Interpreting Essay Questions
So, you’ve been given an essay question and you’re not sure where to begin?
These guides will essential aid you understand how to gain a better understanding of your essay question.
The first step with an essay question is to identify what exactly you are being asked to do. Most essay questions contain directives as to what is required, and the most common ones are defined below:
Common essay questions:
- Account for: Clarify, explain and give reasons.
- Assess: Determine the value of, weigh up (similar to evaluate).
- Analyse: Resolve into component parts. Examine minutely and critically.
- Criticise: Make judgments (backed by the discussion of the evidence or reasoning involved).
- Compare: Look for differences and similarities between, perhaps reach conclusions about which is preferable Contrast Set in opposition in order to bring out the differences.
- Describe: Give a detailed or graphic account.
- Define: State the exact meaning of a word or phrase. Sometimes it could be desirable or necessary to study different possible meanings or often used definitions.
- Discuss: Explain, and then give two or more sides of the question and any implications.
- Explain: Make plain, interpret and account for, give reasons.
- Evaluate: Make an appraisal of the validity or worth or effectiveness of something in the light of its truth or usefulness (similar to assess).
- How far.?: Determine to what extent – usually this requires looking at arguments for or evidence or against, and weighing them up.
- Interpret: Explain the meaning of, make clear and explicit, and usually giving judgment.
- Illustrate: Make clear and explicit. Use distinctively chosen examples.
- Justify: Show adequate grounds for decisions or conclusions, answer the main objection likely to be made about them.
- Outline: Give the main features or general principles of the subject, omitting minor details and emphasising structure and argument (similar to summarise).
- Summarise: Give a concise, clear explanation or account of – present the chief factors and omit minor details and examples (similar to outline).
- State: Present in a brief, clear form.
(Source: Open University: Assessment Guide 1, W100)
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THE FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY
A lot of students’ first exposure to the genre is the five paragraph essay, a highly structured form requiring an introduction presenting the thesis statement; three body paragraphs, each of which presents an idea to support the thesis together with supporting evidence and quotations; and a conclusion, which restates the thesis and summarizes the supporting points.
Lengthier academic essay (often with a word limit of between 2,000 to 6,000 words) are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review.
Lengthier essay may also be composed of an introductory page in which words and phrases from the title are closely defined. Most academic institutions will require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material used in an essay be referenced in a bibliography at the end of the text. This scholarly convention allows others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of the facts and quotations used to support the essay’s argument, and thereby help to evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student’s ability to present their thoughts in an organised way and tests their intellectual capabilities. Some types of essays are: