5 Types of Writing You’ll Encounter in College

If you want to successfully complete college assignments, it can help to know what is expected. Keep reading to learn five types of writing you’ll encounter in college.

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In college, not only are students expected to write at a higher level, they’re also asked to use different writing styles to accomplish various tasks. For one class, you may be asked to write a persuasive essay, while for another you might find yourself writing a long research paper complete with a literature review. In order to feel equipped to complete these assignments, it can help to know what is expected in each writing style. Keep reading to learn five types of writing you’ll encounter in college.

College Writing Type #1: Expository Essay

The term "expository" stems from the purpose of exposing the facts on your subject of choice. This is informative writing in which you’ll provide a balanced portrayal of the facts. This will not be written with emotions or first-person observations. Instead, your essay will attempt to be objective and cite examples and figures to explain your topic. You may often see this type of writing on essay exams, because it can be a good way to test your retention of the course material.

For these essays, you’ll want to follow a structure with an introduction and thesis statement, supporting paragraphs in the body of the essay to back up your thesis, and a conclusion. This doesn’t mean you can’t use any creativity, but the main point of expository writing is to explain the facts at hand.

College Writing Type #2: Persuasive Essay

With this type of writing, your goal is to convince the reader of your point of view. This can take many forms—for example, you may be arguing in favor of a political stance or trying to explain the consequences of a historical event. While you’ll still need to base your argument on facts and research, this is different from expository writing because it aligns with a specific viewpoint or position. Typically, a persuasive essay will follow a similar format to an expository essay—an introduction, thesis statement, body, and conclusion—but you’ll craft your thesis statement with the intention of convincing the readers of your argument, rather than just informing them.

College Writing Type #3: Book or Article Review

This style of writing will require you to summarize key points of a text, but more importantly, provide critical analysis. The point is to make you think more deeply about the meaning of the text and how the author has conveyed the intended message. Most of your writing should focus not on what the book or article is about, but on how effectively you believe it was presented. It’s not enough to express your personal likes and dislikes about the work—you’ll need to relate your reaction to the author’s purpose and how it was or wasn’t achieved. 

College Writing Type #4: Research Paper

This type of writing is generally more in-depth, and your purpose will be to add to the body of research or analysis on a specific topic. You’ll rely on primary and secondary sources to paint a picture of the research or writing previously done on your topic, and then you’ll explore another aspect or provide a new angle of analysis. Research papers can take many different forms depending on your field of study, but they’re set apart from other types of essays because they provide unique analysis.

College Writing Type #5: Compare and Contrast

This type of writing asks you to draw comparisons to help uncover similarities and differences between two events, concepts, or other subjects. In a literature class, you might write a comparative analysis covering the different styles of two writers from the same period. Or, a student in a history class might compare the factors that led to the various wars and how they were similar and different. This type of paper can be structured either by comparing your subjects point by point, or by more widely analyzing subject A followed by subject B.

Regardless of your major area of study, you’ll likely encounter many writing styles during your college career. By understanding the makeup of each type of college writing, you set yourself up for academic success.

Lora Wegman is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.    

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