Types of Essays

“Exposition” means explanation. The purpose it to set forth an idea and explain
it. Your audience will largely determine what you include, how you arrange your
information, and your diction. You will set forth and explain who, what, how, or
why some part of life is the way it is. If you like, choose a famous quotation or
idea and explain why it is true, false, or both.
Here are some examples of expository essays: “What I Have Lived For,” in which Bertrand
Russell explains what his personal philosophy is, “Who Killed Benny Paret?” in which Norman
Mailer explains who should be blamed for deaths in professional boxing, and “Jailbreak
Marriage,” in which Gail Sheehy explains why some young women marry.
Other options are:
How do day-care centers help working mothers to be independent?
What legal remedies are there for battered women?
Why are male-oriented words being revised?
Who was Margaret Fuller?
Asking What? Where? When? Who? How? or Why? has several advantages. The question will
emphasize the need for an explanation that will satisfy your readers.
Check for some topic ideas here:
A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. Some terms
have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such
as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person's point
of view.
Choose a word, concept, or abstract idea to define more fully. What is it? What is it not? Does it
need to be redefined from how it was originally defined?
Three Steps to Effective Definition
1. Tell readers what term is being defined.
2. Present clear and basic information.
3. Use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand.
Here are the examples of popular definition essay topics:
 Kindness
 Team Player
 Sense of
 Optimism
 Beauty
 Love
 Respect
 Charisma
 Ambitions
Whatever essay topic you choose, you should be interested in the subject and familiar with it. It
would be great if you had your personal experience in the matter you are going to define.
(source: http://essayinfo.com/essays/definition_essay.php)
In an observation essay you write about things you’ve noticed—a part of the human experience
you have some insight into. What pattern do you see in life? About people? About personalities?
About society? About nature? It includes an actual observation (or almost a “photograph”) of an
object or incident with good sensory details as an example or as a jumping off point.
Possible topics:
How do people behave in a shopping mall?
How does poverty encourage people to commit crimes?
How is it more socially acceptable for girls to take on traditionally male roles than the opposite?
How are freshmen different than seniors?
How do we change our eating habits when we are alone verses when we are with others?
How have the shapes of automobiles changed in the last decade?
How something is done, was done, or should be done. You
need LOTS of transitions telling what is done first, next,
then, finally, etc. Also be sure to explain why this is
important to your reader, which most generally will be me. Why should I care how to do this or
how it was done?
Start with a personal anecdote or story that gives some meaning to the process. Then move on to
what kinds of preparations, cautions, or tools one needs in order to complete the task, as well as
an estimate of how long it will take if that is important. Then go through the actual steps. End
with something interesting/personal. Maybe some variations on the project would be a suitable
Here is a great list of topics to choose from: http://www.surfturk.com/expos/processtopics.html
In this assignment, your purpose is to explain what has given rise to a particular phenomenon.
Mostly this is about cause and effect—this does this, which leads to that. It may or may not have
a judgment attached such as good or bad. Consider good or bad parts about life, the world, our
society, being a teenager, or just about anything else. Think about topics you know about
personally or are interested in. Generally they might be: specific teenage behaviors, favoritism
by authority figures, poverty, what has caused someone (or a particular group) success in
something, divorce rates, or any type of social problem.
Start with a basic diagram. These will most likely be your body paragraphs.
This causes something
Which causes the effect –
something about life you
want to write about
Which causes something else
You may do research, but be sure you document it correctly in MLA style with parenthetical
Why there are more male professional
sports or athletes than female
Why relationships start or break up
What causes friction between two
roommates, or two friends
Sources of pressure on students to get good
The fact that more couples are choosing to
have only one child, or none
The fact that most Americans can
communicate in no language other than
What causes people to dislike teenagers
Source: http://www.wiredprof.com/100h/100assign/causal/causal-assign.htm
Your reasons why something is true, untrue, good, or bad. Remember to always
address the opposing side. Give the reasons you are right, and explain why the
opposition is wrong. Close with a caution of what will happens if your reader
or the general public doesn’t agree with you, or explain what your readers
need to do in order to make the situation better.
Here are to good lists of topics: http://www.suite101.com/content/greatpersuasive-speech-topics-a12084 and
Division and
-Tell what they have in common. Make sure it is something new and interesting that we have not
thought about before.
Set it up: either talk about one item in each paragraph and how it fits into your thesis, or talk
about what the items have in common for two paragraphs and how they differ in one, or talk
about how they are different in two paragraphs and how they are alike in one.
(i.e. – there are only three kinds of…people, cars, homes, reactions to…, teens, jobs, stores, gifts,
games, fear, handwriting, religion, addictions, pizza, shoes)
Tell how two things are similar and different.
Possible options for set up: #1 alike #2 alike #3 different,
#1 different #2 different #3 alike,
#1 how one aspect of the topic is alike and/or possibly different #2 how
one aspect of the topic is alike and/or possibly different #3 how one aspect
of the topic is alike and/or possibly different.