In the BAWE classification, an Essay is a piece of writing which develops an argument. When you write an Essay, you need to show that you can construct a coherent argument and employ critical thinking skills. You need to support your argument with evidence.

Essays can be structured in many different ways, but they all include your thesis (a statement of the case you are making) and arguments based on evidence to support your thesis, logically organised. You will often be expected to include evidence against your thesis. This will be followed by a conclusion.

exposition discussion challenge factorial consequential commentary
thesis issue challenge state state text(s) introduction
supporting arguments alternative arguments arguments contributory factors ensuing factors comments
restate thesis final position thesis summary thesis summary thesis summary

In an expository Essay, you would start by presenting your thesis – as a statement of the case you can make based on the evidence and your arguments. This would be followed by the evidence to support your thesis.

In a discussion Essay, you would start by presenting the issue - the problem you have to solve. You would then explain and discuss the evidence and different points of view regarding the issue. You would finish by comparing and contrasting the different arguments and making a choice - your final position.

In a challenge Essay, you are challenging a given theory by showing where it is weak and proposing a better theory. You would start by introducing the theory you are challenging. You would then analyse and evaluate it to show where it is weak and propose a better alternative.

Factorial Essays and consequential Essays are similar. Both are organised around the facts that either lead to or are consequences of a state of affairs. In a factorial Essay, you discuss the facts that lead to or cause a state of affairs. In a factorial Essay, you would start by describing the state of affairs you are interested in. You would then present the factors that led to the state of affairs. These would be grouped in some way, analysed and evaluated. You would finish by concluding about, for example, the importance of the factors you have discussed.

In a consequential Essay, you discuss the facts that result from a state of affairs. You would again start by describing the state of affairs you are interested in. You would then present the factors that resulted from or were caused by the state of affairs. These would be grouped in some way, analysed and evaluated. You would finish by concluding about, for example, the importance of the state of affairs in contributing to the consequences you have discussed.

The final Essay type is the commentary Essay. These Essays would normally focus on texts. Your introduction would therefore introduce the text(s). You would then follow this with a series of comments that analyse and evaluate the text(s) given. You may be required to compare and contrast the texts. You would conclude by summarising your comments.

Examples of Essays include:

  • Exposition Essay - thesis, supporting arguments, restate thesis
  • Discussion Essay - issue, alternative arguments, final position
  • Challenge Essay - challenge, arguments, thesis
  • Factorial Essay - state, contributory factors, summary thesis
  • Consequential Essay - state, ensuing factors, summary thesis
  • Commentary Essay - introduction, comments, summary

Try the following tasks to learn more about Essay organisation.

Task 1

Six types of Essay are introduced. While they all have slightly different stages in their overall structure, they all share a basic structure. Drag the stages into the correct order to show this basic structure - put the first one at the top.

Exercise

Task 2

Six types of Essays are mentioned. Match the structure of the essay to the essay type.

Exercise

Task 3

Example 1 shows the first part of an essay on 'words'. The paragraphs are not in the correct order. Drag them into the correct order, putting the first paragraph at the top.

Exercise

Task 4

Read this introduction from an Essay on language planning. On the basis of the introduction, identify the essay type.

Introduction

If half of the 6,000 languages in the world were to disappear within the next 100 years, many people would consider it to be a great loss in respect of the linguistic diversity and cultural heritage of the human race; there are however those that disagree and feel that it might benefit the world to have a more homogeneous linguistic make-up. By looking at declarations of linguistic rights, the aim is to ascertain what the United Nation's stance should be on this debate. The more specific arguments of whether language extinction is problematic or not will then be discussed.

Exercise

Task 5

Read this introduction from an Essay on language planning. On the basis of the introduction, decide the order of the following sections. Put the first section at the top.

Introduction

If half of the 6,000 languages in the world were to disappear within the next 100 years, many people would consider it to be a great loss in respect of the linguistic diversity and cultural heritage of the human race; there are however those that disagree and feel that it might benefit the world to have a more homogeneous linguistic make-up. By looking at declarations of linguistic rights, the aim is to ascertain what the United Nation's stance should be on this debate. The more specific arguments of whether language extinction is problematic or not will then be discussed.

Exercise

Task 6

Look at the essay on language planning - Example 2. Add the headings you ordered in Task 5 to the correct places in the essay. Most places will not require headings.

Exercise

Task 7

Put the sentences from paragraph 2 of Example 2 in order.

Exercise

Task 8

Remembering what you did in Task 5, match the essay sections with the stages of a discussion essay identified above.

Exercise

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Comments

Hello zuhaa khan,

I'm afraid our area of expertise is language, not creativity! I would suggest brainstorming, or perhaps starting by writing out a list of questions which you would like to answer in the essay, but we are not experts in this area.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Oh sorry I didn't realize that. Its just that i've read quite a lot of english novels and stories so i can write descriptive essays. But when the question(essay) asks for my opinion on something I go totally clueless as to how to begin or whether it should be written more like an article or something.
How would you suggest I improve this area? or what would you suggest me to read ? newspaper articles maybe?
Thanks.

Hello zuhaa khan,

You might want to do a bit of research on mind maps. There's lots of information on them on the internet and many people find these really useful for taking notes. They might help you think about a topic and thus help you form an opinion to write about.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

1. Is climate change to blame for Syria's civil war ?
2. Is climate change to be blamed for Syria's civil war ?
Which one is grammatically correct ?

Hello jessica_22,

Both are possible grammatically, but there is a slight difference in meaning, even though in most contexts they are interchangeable. If we use 'to blame' then we are asking about the current situation. If we use 'to be blamed' then we are talking about a possible choice (of who or what to blame) in the future - a proposal, in a sense.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter Sir !!

Thank you, I appreciate you having taken the time to respond.

Hi
Thank you for your response. Would you establish an opinion/ argument in this type of question? An example could be? Critically examine the representation of gender and conformity in ....( a text of your choosing).

Thank you

Hello Happystudy,

This is really a question you need to ask the person who set the essay question, as they will have their own expectations and I would not like to mislead you by trying to guess what they would expect. That said, the question would appear to ask you to describe and evaluate the representation of... Evaluation inevitably involves an opinion, but it does not appear to be asking for a polemic but rather an objective assessment, as far as possible.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can anyone suggest an essay structure for a "critically examine" essay? Thank you.

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