An essay is a short text written to express a writer’s interpretation, analysis, opinion, or experience regarding a single topic. Such compositions are perhaps the most popular form of assigned writing because they require the writer to synthesize his or her own knowledge and ideas and present them in a coherent way. Though some college reports include a research component, reports should not be confused with research papers. A research paper investigates a topic or makes an argument by presenting the opinions of several scholars. An essay primarily presents the writer’s own ideas, incorporating research (if necessary) as a way to bolster the writer’s own views.
Essay writing is an art that requires practice, revision, dedication, and—above all—thoughtful consideration. In French, the word essay means “to try.” An essay, then, can be understood as a writer’s attempt to explain, interpret, or depict something and, through doing, both learn and inform. There are several types of reports, but all reports can be divided into two general types: academic and creative.
Academic essays are the reports assigned in most high school and college courses. These can be argument essays, analysis essays, interpretive essays, research essays, position essays, critical essays, and several other types of academic writings. The point of all of these is to approach a topic in a critical way and present the thoughtful views of the writer on that particular topic.
Creative essays are found in books, journals, and English composition classes. Creative essays are personal essays, descriptive reports, humorous essays, and narrative essays. These are texts that present the writer’s individual experiences or perceptions using carefully chosen and aesthetically presented language. Creative essays are also sometimes considered under a larger genre term for true, creative texts called creative non-fiction.
Whether they are academic or creative, most essays will have a thesis—a main point or idea. In academic essays, this thesis should take the form of a claim or argument and articulate the writer’s stance on the topic. In a creative essay, the thesis is more often implied—meaning it is embedded in the themes of the text. Regardless of whether it is academic or creative, however, the thesis of the article should be apparent to the reader and developed through the examples, analysis, and commentary presented in the course. The report should always end by remarking on that thesis in some way without summarizing or repeating it.