Process of writing different forms of essay

college students step-by-step through the process of writing the many different forms of essay that will be required of them during their collegiate career. Though by no means all inclusive, this guide will take you through the process of writing the typical styles of essay that will be assigned in most college curriculums. The guide does not focus on one specific type of essay but rather discusses several different types of essay typically required of college level students.

Writing a college paper is challenging if you aren’t armed with the tools necessary to achieve academic success. Each essay must be crafted and designed with certain content requirements in mind to ensure academic success.

There are many different types of essays you may be required to write while in college. This guide will help dissect each different type of paper or essay, and provide you with critical information regarding structuring the content of the paper to ensure academic success. The guide will first introduce each of the more common types of essay required of college students. The guide will also include a brief discourse revealing the foundation for writing a good paper no matter the style, and will also provide detailed information about citing references.

Admission Essay / Application Essay

An admission essay, often referred to as a personal statement, is simply an essay typically utilized to gain admission to a specific University or similar educational program. An admission essay usually requires that an applicant successfully communicate to a board or community the reasons they believe they are a good candidate for acceptance into the college program. To write an effective admissions essay the applicant should include the following critical components: (1) personal analysis of candidates traits/skills/abilities that make them suitable for the program, (2) brief discourse on experiences and accomplishments that relate to the educational program sought after, and (3) statement of interest and plea to the board for acceptance into the program. Creativity and innovation are essential in this type of essay.

Argumentative Essay

The primary focus of an argumentative essay is to prove a point, assertion, opinion, theory or hypothesis relevant to a given phenomenon or idea. The essay should be structured in a manner that demonstrates why the authors line of reasoning being argued is more correct or truthful than opposing viewpoints. Argumentative essays should begin with the primary topic the author wishes to assert, a brief discourse on its significance and relevance, a review of studies or literature related to the subject material, inclusion of methods used to derive the hypothesis.

Creative Paper

A creative paper is usually a short and concise paper that doesn’t aspire to prove a certain argument or position, but rather serves to tell a story or reveal an interesting anecdote about an issue. The paper should be structured in a manner that includes an introduction, body which consists of topic statements supported by anecdotal information and a conclusion which sums up the main topics or statements made in the work.

Analysis Paper

An analysis paper does just what it describes … It analyzes a particular subject, object, statement or other feature. An analysis paper should begin with an opening paragraph that discusses the importance of the item being analyzed and the researchers approach to analysis. Following this, the body of the paper should consist of several topic sentences and arguments regarding the subject, followed by supporting facts and information. The point of the paper is to determine a conclusion about the subject being analyzed. The paper should conclude with the authors synopsis of the object or item examined and offer a reasonable conclusion based on the evidence provided.

Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay is meant to persuade the reader to adopt the writers point-of-view or purpose. A persuasive essay should consist of a strong opening paragraph that states the main point. This paragraph must be followed by several shorter paragraphs that contain topic sentences, supporting facts and arguments. A persuasive essay should incorporate the use of citations of evidence that correlate with the primary point the author is trying to emphasize throughout the paper. The author should also make an effort to highlight opposing viewpoints, but then also justify why the primary argument of the author is the stronger than others.

Comparison Paper

The focus of a comparison paper is to literally compare things that are alike or different in nature. This type of essay is sometimes referred to as a compare and contrast essay. The structure of the paper can remain flexible. The essay can be set up so that materials flows from topic to topic. The author should compare one object of a situation and then the other for all material that must be covered. Both similarities and differences should be highlighted.

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay typically focuses on a specific event or series of events that tell a story. A narrative structure may be chronological in nature, where a series of events happen over a period of time. The role of the writer is to provide as much detail as possible about the events in question. The beginning of the narrative should inform the reader of the chronological order actions take place in to reveal the context of a story. The essay should describe in detail the events, people and places that are relevant to the story. Typically there is not a standardized structure associated with this type of story. A narrative should incorporate strong imagery while at the same time incorporating points, qualities, traits and qualifications.

Critical Essay

A critical essay is one that evaluates your attitude toward something, whether an article, paper or other written material. For a critical essay to be effective it should begin with a brief statement that expresses your point-of-view or main idea. The body of the essay must contain supporting facts that justify your line of thinking or reasoning, followed by a summary of all the major points in the essay. Finally, the essay should close with a conclusion re-affirming the thesis or main idea statement.

Book Report

Much like a review, a book report is meant to give the reader insight into a particularly literary work by summarizing key points and features of the work. A book report should consist of an opening paragraph where the writer introduces the subject being talked about, followed by a three to five paragraph body where the writer summarizes the main features and points of the work in question. The summary should include a brief synopsis of the material and include the writers views of the work whether positive or negative.


The traditional essay may take many different forms but can follow a basic structure. Namely any essay should begin with a main point or argument often referred to as a thesis statement, which is followed by supporting evidence or documentation to support this statement. Usually a minimum of two to three points are required to support the primary statement. The author must then bring each of the points to conclusion and redirect the reader to the primary thesis by restating it in a manner that informs but does not simply repeat what is stated in the introduction.


A dissertation is the one of the most complex forms of essay, with the purpose of introducing new findings or bringing to light new discoveries or theories about a particular topic that the writer has investigated. There are several key components to a dissertation including the following: Abstract, Introduction, Statement of the Problem, Background of the Problem, Significance of the Study, Limitations, Assumptions, Literature Review, Methodology, Findings, Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations. A dissertation traditionally requires investigative or field research be conducted that correlates with information gathered from a literature review, or collection of previous research into a theoretical matter.

Term Paper

A term paper is synonymous with a research paper, thus the two contain similar structures. A term paper usually requires some research and is meant to share information about knowledge gained over a specific period of time. A term paper can reflect the knowledge an author has gained of a particular subject matter. A term paper should begin with a thesis statement followed by supporting arguments and facts supporting the thesis and close with a conclusion that sums up the primary points and returns the reader to the main argument.

Research Paper

A research paper is a paper aimed at exploring a unique idea, fact or notion about a particular subject. All research papers must begin with a thesis statement or main idea/argument. A research paper is in some respects similar to a persuasive paper because your aim is to prove or disprove a particular point or argument. Always begin your research paper by stating your thesis. The body of the essay should consist of evidence supporting your thesis. You should include academic support for your statement. Finally, your research paper should include a conclusion where you summarize your main points and once again return the reader to your thesis statement.


A thesis paper, much like a research paper, focuses on presenting a unique and original idea to the audience which the author intends to prove. The thesis paper should begin with an introduction of the subject matter being explored, provide background information related to the subject and provide the reader with information regarding the significance of the subject. The author should present a hypothesis and then present the reader with supporting documentation that either proves or disproves the theory being presented. A discussion of the findings and conclusions sums up the paper.

Research Proposal

A research proposal presents an idea, theory or question to an academic body for approval. The aim of the author should be to present a new question to the audience to gain acceptance for research to be conducted. The research proposal should include an introduction of the question the author intends to explore, a summation of its significance or relevance to the body it seeks approval from, a brief discourse on the manner in which the research intends to collect information to prove or disprove the information and the methods the author will utilize.


A poem is much the same as any creative piece of writing. Unlike the traditional essay however, the aim of a poem is to express a though, emotion, idea or experience to the audience. A poem can take many different forms, but usually consists of a series of statements metaphorically crafted to reveal a certain internal imagery to the reader. The poem should leave the reader questioning the authors purpose and cause them to draw conclusions from their own life experiences.


A review is simply a synopsis of a body of information. The review paper should start with an opening statement that discusses the work being examined and include the authors primary thought regarding the work. A review may or may not be critical in nature, thus the author may or may not include supporting facts or documentation to support their opinions of the work. The body of the review paper should however consist primarily of objective summary statements of the work being examined. The final paragraph may include the authors opinion of the work and statements or facts supporting this notion.

Case Study

A case study is an examination of a historical event or sequence of events. The paper should begin with a brief introduction of the primary players or individuals involved in the study. This can be followed with a discussion of the incidents that occurred in the study. A second section can be devoted to analysis of the case study. This section can include a brief summary of the main idea of the case study, the authors view point or opinion of the study and finally conclusions regarding the study.


A journal is a type of personal essay that expresses the authors thoughts and recollections of a specific event or events. It is one of the least rigid or structured forms of essay. A journal can be a series of words, thoughts or even fragmented paragraphs that include a collection of the authors ideas. Each journal entry should be dated so that the event is recorded with reference to a particular date and time.

Writing a Paper From Start to Finish

No matter what type of paper you are writing, there are certain steps you can take to ensure writing success.

Step 1: Choose Your Topic

Your topic should be narrow in focus so that your paper is detailed and to the point. Most papers that fail do so because the topic selected is not refined enough. If for example the subject you are interested in writing about is World War I, narrow your focus very definitively to cover one small topic of the war, such as “The Battle of Stalingrad: Why Defeat Was Imminent.”

Step 2: Research the Topic

Before you consider writing anything you have to research a topic fully and comprehensively. You should gather information from books, journals, newspapers, critical essays and commentaries to ensure the information you reach is representative of many different perspectives. While researching the topic, take detailed notes, making sure you record the page numbers, title and other relevant information about sources you plan on citing in your paper.

Step 3: Outline

Next create an outline for your pa-per. Your outline should be a rough estimation of the main points you would like to make in your paper. You should also develop your theme or primary point in the outline that your paper will stem from.

Step 4: Create a Rough Draft

From your outline you should be able to create a rough draft for your pa-per. Your rough draft should include any critical components including thesis, supporting statements, facts and conclusions.

Step 4: Revise and Amend

You are not done your paper when you have written a rough draft. You must then go back and revise your document. Proofread to check for spelling errors and be sure you cited any information you quoted directly from sources throughout your work.

Your paper should include a reference page or bibliography at the end that gives credit to any authors you borrowed from to create your paper.

General Resources

There are many resources and writing style guides you can use when writing your paper. The three most common style guides used for writing papers are provided below.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers — This guide written by Joseph Gibaldi, outlines the proper style for writing research papers (Bedford, 2003). It includes detailed information about citing parenthetical citations within the text and at the end of the paper. This guide is used primarily by writers in the following fields: literature, language, arts and the humanities. Why invest in this guide? You’ll find valuable information about the purpose of your research and suggestions for selecting and refining your topic, researching your paper and composing a paper.

APA — The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001) is another style guide that provides information and insight to writers who are primarily in the social sciences fields (Bedford, 2003). You can use this style guide to help you prepare papers that are scholarly or other manuscripts. Like the MLA handbook, the APA style guide will offer detailed instructions about citing references, organizing, citing references and writing your paper.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (1993) is another popular citation and paper writing guide. The manual provides detailed information for citing Internet sources and bibliographies (Bedford, 2003). The manual also will provide you with guidelines for writing your paper, proofreading and treating citations and other important elements of your document.

Other styles you may be requested to use include Harvard, Turabian and CBE. Which style should you select? This will depend in part upon your instructor. Some will tell you ahead of time which style they require. Be sure to check into the guidelines so you meet the standards required by your instructor.


Writing a paper is a complex task that requires a lot of forethought and planning. Before you write any paper you should always consider first and foremost the type of paper required of you. Once you have determined this you can then proceed with writing the actual paper, which will consist of a series of steps outlined for you in this guide. Be sure to also consult one of the style guides recommended in this work for more information about writing different kinds of papers. Remember when writing a paper planning is the key to success!


‘Admissions Essays.” (2001). October 10, 2004, from: http://www.*****/writing_tips.shtml ‘Argumentative Essays.” (2004). October 11, 2004, from: http://*****/essays/argumentative_essay.php

‘Example Essays.” (1998). October 10, 2004, from:

Bedford St. Martins Style Guide. (2003). October 10, 2004, from:

‘Critical Essay” (n.d.) October 12, 2004, from:

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