The essay is a written piece that aims to present an idea, propose an argument, express emotion or start a debate. It is a tool that is used to present the writer’s ideas in a non-fictitious way. Cuerpo Las múltiples aplicaciones de este tipo de escrito van mucho más allá, proporcionando manifiestos políticos y críticas de arte, así como observaciones y reflexiones personales del autor. The multiple applications of this type of writing go much further, providing political manifestos and art criticisms, as well as observations and personal reflections of the author.

The origins of the trial

Over more than six centuries, the essay was used to question assumptions, argue trivial opinions, and initiate global debates. Let’s analyze the historical progress and the various applications of this literary phenomenon to know what exactly it is.

According to Hamid and Baker (2009), the modern word “essay” has its origin in the French “essayer”, which translates as “try”. This is a fitting name for this form of writing, as the ultimate purpose of the essay is to try to convince the audience of something. The subject of an essay can be very broad and include everything from Shakespeare’s best plays to the joys of April.

This type of writing, has many shapes and sizes; it can focus on a personal experience or a purely academic exploration of a topic. Essays are classified as a form of subjective writing because, although they include expository elements, they can be based on personal narratives to support the writer’s point of view.

The genre includes a wide variety of scholarly writings ranging from literary criticism to meditations on the natural world. Most commonly, the essay is a shorter form of writing; essays rarely have the length of a novel. However, several historical examples, such as John Locke’s landmark work “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, demonstrate that a well-organized essay can be as long as a novel.

Characteristics of the Trial

It can be as short as 500 words, it can also be 5000 or more. However, most essays are around 1,000 or 3,000 words; this range of words gives the writer enough space to thoroughly develop an argument and work to convince the reader of the author’s point of view on a particular topic. The themes are limitless: they can range from the best form of government to the benefits of eating mint leaves on a daily basis.

Thus, according to Browner (1999), an essay is a brief formal writing dealing with a single subject. It is usually written to try to persuade the reader using selected research tests. In general, an academic essay consists of three parts:

An introduction that gives the reader an idea of what they will learn and presents an argument in the form of a thesis statement

A body, or middle section, that provides the evidence used to demonstrate and persuade the reader to accept the writer’s particular point of view

A conclusion that summarizes the content and conclusions of the trial.


First Step

The first step in the research is to develop a topic that is not too broad or narrow. To get started, think about:

What topic(s) are you interested in?

The questions you have about the topic or topics

What would you like to learn more about?

Second Step

To limit or expand the topic, add or remove a time period, place, person, event, or subtopic:


The topic is too general and broad to be dealt with in a short paper

The Metis Nation in Saskatchewan


Add a subtopic and a time period: The politics of the metis in the nineteenth century in Saskwatchewan

Add person(s), event and place: Louis Riel and the Metis rebellion in Saskatchewan


The topic is too specific and limited

Depicting animals in metis artists’ sculpture of two Saskatchewan spirits in the late nineteenth century


Delete the subtopic, person(s) and time period: Visual art of the Metis in Saskatchewan

Eliminate the place and expand the theme and the time period: The representation of politics in the visual art of the Metis of two spirits in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Third Step

It reframes the topic using “who, what, where, why, when, and how” questions. For example:

Why did Louis Riel lead a Metis Nation rebellion in Saskatchewan?

How is politics represented in the visual art of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples?

The essay in the academic field

According to Huth (1990), students are not only required to read a variety of essays during their academic training, but are also likely to have to write several different types of essays throughout their school career. While all require an introduction, body paragraphs in support of the argumentative thesis statement, and a conclusion, academic essays can take several different formats in the way they approach a topic. Common essays required in high school, college, and graduate classes include:

Five-paragraph essay

This is the most common type of formal trial. It is the type of essay that students are often exposed to when they first hear the concept of essay itself. It follows an easy outline structure: an opening introductory paragraph; three paragraphs of the body to expand the thesis; and the conclusion to summarize it.

Argumentative essay

These essays are often assigned to explore a controversial topic. The goal is to identify the main positions on each side and work to support the side the writer agrees with while refuting possible arguments from the opposite side.

Comparison and contrast test

This essay compares two elements, like two poems, and works to identify similarities and differences, discussing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. However, this essay can focus on more than just two elements. The aim of this essay is to reveal new connections that the reader may not have previously considered.

Definition test

It has a single purpose: to define a term or a concept in as much detail as possible. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s not so much. The most important part of the process is choosing the word. Before you approach it under the microscope, be sure to choose something wide so that you can define it under multiple angles. The schematic of the definition test shall reflect these angles and scopes.

Descriptive essay

This essay, perhaps the most fun to write, focuses on describing your subject using the five senses. The writer intends to fully describe the subject; for example, a descriptive essay might aim to describe the ocean to someone who has never seen it or the work of a teacher. Descriptive essays are largely based on detail and paragraphs can be organized by senses.

Illustration essay

The purpose of this type is to describe an idea, an occasion or a concept with the help of clear and expressive examples. The “illustration” itself is dealt with in the paragraphs section of the body. Each of the claims presented in the essay should be supported by several examples. The illustrative essay helps the author connect with his audience by breaking down barriers with real-life, clear and indisputable examples.

Informative essay

Being one of the basic types, the informative essay is as easy as it seems from a technical point of view. High school is where students often encounter the informational essay for the first time. The purpose of this essay is to describe an idea, a concept, or any other abstract topic with the help of proper research and a generous amount of storytelling.

Narrative essay

This type of essay focuses on the description of a certain event or experience, almost always chronologically. It can be a historical event or any day or month in the life of a normal person. The narrative essay proclaims a free approach to writing it, so it doesn’t always require conventional attributes, such as outline. The narrative itself is often developed through a personal lens, so it is considered a subjective form of writing.

Persuasive essay

The purpose of persuasive essay is to provide the audience with a 360-degree view of the conceptual idea or a certain topic, to persuade the reader to adopt a certain point of view. Viewpoints can be very varied, from why it is important to go to the dentist to why dogs are the best pets or why blue is the best color. Strong and persuasive language is a defining characteristic of this type of essay.

The essay in art

Other artistic media have adopted it as a means of communication with their audience. In the visual arts, such as painting or sculpture, sketches of the final product are sometimes considered essays. Directors may also choose to create a film essay, which resembles a documentary in that it offers a personal reflection on a relevant topic. Finally, photographers often create photo essays in which they use a series of photographs to tell a story, similar to a narrative or descriptive essay.

The essay in the literature

The essay enjoys a long and recognized history in literature. It began to gain popularity in the early sixteenth century, and its popularity has continued today with both original writers and ghostwriters. Many readers prefer this brief form in which the writer seems to address the reader directly, presenting a certain statement and striving to defend it through various means. Not sure you’ve ever read a great essay? You can’t imagine how many literary works are actually nothing less than essays, or have evolved into more complex structures from this. Here are some examples:

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon

Notes from a Native Son of James Baldwin

Against interpretation, by Susan Sontag

High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now and Never by Barbara Kingsolver

Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Naked by David Sedaris

Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

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Also you might be interested in: How to write a project

Bibliographic References

Hamid, Sarah, and Jack Raymond Baker (2009). “Writing a Research Paper.” The OWL at Purdue. Accessed 25 Nov. 2011 at:

Huth EJ. How to Write and Publish Papers in the Medical Sciences, 2nd edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1990.

Browner WS. Publishing and Presenting Clinical Research. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 1999.

How to write an essay

How to write an essay. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: David Kennedy

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