8 Common College Essay Formats and Their Citation Styles

As a college student, you will be required to write dozens of papers on different topics. Depending on the subject you’re studying, you will use some essay styles more than others. This article gives a short description of the most commonly used forms of college essays and the citation styles that you will need to use for each.

1. The Expository Essay

The expository essay explains something, or describes, or presents information and is used to inform the reader. Your professors will ask you to write this type of essay to help you learn more about the subject, to test your ability to research your topic effectively, and to prove your understanding of the subject. When you write an expository essay, remember that it is an impersonal style of writing and that while you may refer to the audience as ‘you’, you may not refer to yourself as ‘I’. It’s a factual essay, so your opinion is not required. Expository essays require citation. The typical citation styles for these essays are MLA or APA formatting or Harvard modes.

2. The Persuasive Essay

As the name implies, a persuasive essay “persuades” the reader to a point of view. Not only will you need to understand the subject, but you must take a position on it, too. You prove your point by using logical, well-founded reasoning. To accomplish this you must choose a side, as well as discuss alternative opinions. Persuasive essays require citation. Most persuasive essays use the MLA formatting style unless otherwise requested by your professors.

3. The Informal Essay

Compared with the other forms of essay writing, the informal essay is written more for the enjoyment of personal expression. It is written to communicate subjectively in a more relaxed, conversational and expressive style than other types of essay. It can be informative or persuasive and can include personal opinion. However, it must still have a strong structure. No citation styles are required.

4. The Review

The aim of a review is to analyze and present a piece of work, such as a book or a film, and evaluate its overall effects and validity. Though your subjective opinion does play a significant part, a review must still maintain certain objective standards. You will be required to prove any assertions you may make. How formal your review is depends on how much of it is analysis, how much is summary, and how much of it is your opinion. The more you include your opinion, the less formal the review will be. You will use citations if you include any reference material, and will likely need to use the MLA formatting guidelines.

5. The Research Essay

The purpose of a research essay is to analyze a perspective or argue a point of view about a narrow topic. It involves locating or creating extensive quantities of objective source material and sifting through it to find appropriate research that supports your ideas. This will lead you to a greater understanding of your subject, which you will demonstrate in your essay as you interpret and evaluate the material and make your point. Normally a research essay must utilize either footnotes or endnotes or a reference list and may also require a bibliography. Citations are almost always required when writing a research essay. The usual forms of citation styles for research papers are MLA or APA formatting.

6. The Comparison and Contrast Essay

The object of a comparison and contrast essay is to explore and expose the similarities and dissimilarities between two or more ideas or things. You will be expected to use your critical faculties and your powers of analysis to describe what the ideas or things have in common and what makes them different to each other. Scholarly research and specific referencing is not normally required for this type of essay so citation is not required.

7. The Literary Essay

There are similarities between a review and a literary essay insofar as they are both evaluative. However, a literary essay goes into the structure of the subject being reviewed in more depth than a review. The literary essay is used to explore the meaning and construction of a piece and evaluate specifics such as theme, character, style, tone and subtext. You must take a viewpoint on the work you are writing about and use critical analysis to demonstrate how the details of the work support your viewpoint. You may use your own interpretation of the piece or a mixture of opinions and references to other people’s critiques of the work. In such cases, you will include citations, applying either MLA or APA formatting.

8. The Cause and Effect Essay

Cause and effect essays are concerned with how and why things happen, and the effects that happen as a result, such as the causes of water pollution and its effects on the community, or the effects of children eating too much refined sugar and its effects on health. A cause and effect essay must be written in a factual tone and be impersonal. Removing the first person gives more authority to the essay. Your choice of sources will have a bearing on the validity of your paper, so choose them carefully. You will include citations, following the MLA or APA formatting styles.

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
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Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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