How to Answer a Discuss Essay

When an essay title includes the word ‘Discuss’, this means that you are being asked to debate the subject of the essay. In other words, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have understood and evaluated both sides of the topic, problem, or opposing views in a theoretical perspective. At the same time, you need to be able to show, through rational evaluation of the evidence why you favour a particular view.

From this definition, it is clear that a ‘discuss’ essay is looking for balance, not bias or persuasion. In other words, the essay is not starting from one perspective and aiming to confirm this. Rather the intent of a ‘discuss’ essay is to deliver a work that clearly separates facts and opinions. The skills required for this include paraphrasing, summation, and the clear evaluation of different viewpoints. Common titles for a discuss essay include the format “AI is killing natural innovation from engineers. Discuss”, “Highlight and examine the advantages and disadvantages of home schooling for toddlers”, “Examine the arguments for and against the widespread mandatory delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine”. All of these titles require a discuss essay to be produced.

  • A discuss essay of the highest standard will be logical, flow well and make arguments and statements based on knowledge and evidence, covering all perspectives.
  • You should include all the most important (key) factors or issues in a subject area, highlighting where there is debate over these, ensuring that both sides of the argument are presented.
  • Make statements and deliberations that are based only on credible and viable research, that has been previously well presented.

Structure of a Discuss Essay

Introduction.

In all essays the best introductions are those which draw in the reader with a strong statement from the outset.  The remainder of the introduction should give a brief indication of the subject being covered, the key points that will be discussed, and if you wish, anticipated conclusions. You should also incorporate any acronyms, or industry specific terms that will be covered in the essay.

Main Body of the work

The main body (or the meat of the essay) should be divided into separate paragraphs that each cover one distinct point or statement.  A discuss essay requires presentation of evidence, so each paragraph should be focused on one point with both for and against perspectives, before a final summary point identifying one or the other as being justified.  In all cases, any points made should be backed up by evidence, correctly cited and referenced at the end of your work.

Important point: The evidence provided, and references cited should only come from valid, credible sources, preferably peer-reviewed articles, and fully referenced. It is vital to ensure that the views expressed are not opinions but have been delivered based on evidence of wider reading in the field.

To ensure a logical flow, you should raise the main or key points of an arguments first, and then move onto sub-arguments, ensuring that all the paragraphs are well linked to deliver a cohesive, essay that flows in a logical way.

A discuss essay conclusion should contain two elements.  Firstly, a summary of the core ideas, returning to the evidence presented and the points made, along with an indication of which you believe delivered the strongest arguments for or against the statement in the title.

Secondly, a discuss essay should give your opinion, which should be grounded in the presented evidence, to demonstrate your ability to draw a conclusion from the data considered.  In other words, following an internal debate with yourself, evaluating the information available, you should demonstrate that you have an informed opinion on the subject under discussion.

To help you in the construction of your discussion essay, we have put together a list of key words and phrases that can be used to ensure you deliver a first-class piece of work.

Key Discussion Essay Vocabulary

When presenting evidence:.

  • It is suggested that…
  • Evidence available indicates that….
  • It has been indicated that…
  • Aspects of the work suggest that…
  • The evidence presented supports the view that…
  • The evidence presented however overlooks…
  • Closer examination suggests….

For summarising, the following phrases are useful:

  • The most important

When introducing an opinion:

  • There is no doubt that…
  • A key argument in favour is that…
  • I believe that…

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Discussion essays Considering both sides of the argument

Discussion essays are a common form of academic writing. This page gives information on what a discussion essay is and how to structure this type of essay. Some vocabulary for discussion essays is also given, and there is an example discussion essay on the topic of studying overseas.

What are discussion essays?

Many essay titles require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour. These are known as discussion or for and against essays. In this sense, the academic meaning of the word discuss is similar to its everyday meaning, of two people talking about a topic from different sides. For a discussion essay, a balanced view is normally essential. This makes discussion essays distinct from persuasion essays , for which only one side of the argument is given. When writing a discussion essay, it is important to ensure that facts and opinions are clearly separated. Often you will examine what other people have already said on the same subject and include this information using paraphrasing and summarising skills, as well as correct citations .

The following are examples of discussion essay topics.

  • Examine the arguments for and against capital punishment.
  • Schools should teach children not only academic subjects but also important life skills. Discuss.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of technology in the classroom?

Although the structure of a discussion essay may vary according to length and subject, there are several components which most discussion essays have in common. In addition to general statements and thesis statement which all good essay introductions contain, the position of the writer will often be stated, along with relevant definitions . The main body will examine arguments for (in one or more paragraphs) and arguments against (also in one or more paragraphs). The conclusion will contain a summary of the main points, and will often conclude with recommendations , based on what you think are the most important ideas in the essay. The conclusion may also contain your opinion on the topic, also based on the preceding evidence.

An overview of this structure is given in the diagram below.

Discussion vocabulary

When summarising the stages in a discussion or in presenting your arguments, it can be useful to mark the order of the items or degrees of importance. The following words and phrases can be used.

  • First..., First of all..., The most important...
  • Second..., In the second place...
  • Finally..., Lastly...

The following can be used when introducing your opinion.

  • There is no doubt that...
  • I believe that...
  • One of the main arguments in favour of/against X is that...

It is important in English writing, including academic writing, to use synonyms rather than repeating the same word. The following are useful synonyms for 'advantage' and 'disadvantage'.

  • advantage: benefit, a positive aspect/feature, pro (informal)
  • disadvantage: drawback, a negative aspect/feature, con (informal)

Example essay

Below is an example discussion essay. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay.

Title: An increasing number of students are going overseas for tertiary education. To what extent does this overseas study benefit the students?

Most people spend around fifteen years of their life in education, from primary school to university study. In the past, students only had the opportunity to study in their own country. Nowadays, however, it is increasingly easy to study overseas, especially at tertiary level. Tertiary education, also called post-secondary education, is the period of study spent at university. As the final aspect of schooling before a person begins their working life, it is arguably the most important stage of their education. While there are some undoubted benefits of this trend, such as the language environment and improved employment prospects , there is also a significant disadvantage, namely the high cost . The first and most important advantage of overseas study is the language learning environment. Students studying overseas will not only have to cope with the local language for their study, but will also have to use it outside the classroom for their everyday life. These factors should make it relatively easy for such students to advance their language abilities. Another important benefit is employability. Increasing globalisation means that there are more multinational companies setting up offices in all major countries. These companies will need employees who have a variety of skills, including the fluency in more than one language. Students who have studied abroad should find it much easier to obtain a job in this kind of company. There are, however, some disadvantages to overseas study which must be considered, the most notable of which is the expense. In addition to the cost of travel, which in itself is not inconsiderable, overseas students are required to pay tuition fees which are usually much higher than those of local students. Added to this is the cost of living, which is often much higher than in the students' own country. Although scholarships may be available for overseas students, there are usually very few of these, most of which will only cover a fraction of the cost. Overseas study therefore constitutes a considerable expense. In summary, studying abroad has some clear advantages, including the language environment and increased chances of employment , in addition to the main drawback, the heavy financial burden . I believe that this experience is worthwhile for those students whose families can readily afford the expense. Students without such strong financial support should consider carefully whether the high cost outweighs the benefits to be gained.

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Below is a checklist for discussion essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.

Bailey, S. (2000). Academic Writing. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer

Cox, K. and D. Hill (2004). EAP now! Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia

Jordan, R.R. (1999). Academic Writing Course. Cambridge: CUP

Roberts R., J. Gokanda, & A. Preshous (2004). IELTS Foundation. Oxford: Macmillian

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Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.

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How to Critically Discuss in An Essay

Published by Carmen Troy at September 19th, 2023 , Revised On January 5, 2024

Writing an essay often involves more than just relaying information or expressing an opinion. For many academic and professional purposes, you are required to critically discuss topics, demonstrate an understanding of various perspectives and showcase your analytical skills. 

So, what does it mean to critically discuss something in an essay? And more importantly, how can you do it effectively?

What is Critical Discussion?

Before diving into the how-to, grasping what critical discussion entails is essential. Essay writing help often emphasises the importance of this step. Critical discussion requires a deeper level of analysis where you explain a topic and evaluate and dissect its various facets.

Imagine an object in the middle of a room, with observers standing at different points around it. Each person sees the object from a unique angle. Similarly, when you critically discuss a topic, you are trying to view it from multiple angles, considering various perspectives and arguments and avoiding biases where certain perspectives might be overlooked.

How to Critically Discuss

Consider the following steps to critically discuss an essay. 

Start with Thorough Research

To critically discuss a topic, you need to understand its nuances. This requires in-depth research:

  • Diverse Sources: Instead of relying on a single type of source, such as books, expand your horizons. Use academic journals, reputable news articles, podcasts, interviews, and more. Essay services can be an invaluable tool in this stage for collating resources.
  • Contrasting Opinions: Deliberately seek out sources that disagree with each other. This will provide a more holistic view of the topic and help you understand the key debates in the field. 

Organise your Thoughts

Begin by brainstorming. Jot down the key points, arguments, counterarguments, and evidence you have gathered. Categorise them and try to identify connections or patterns.

Structure your Essay for Critical Discussion

Critical discussion typically follows this essay structure :

  • Introduction of an Essay : Introduce the topic and highlight its significance. Outline the main points you intend to discuss, backed up by scholarly source references.
  • Main Body: This is where the meat of your critical discussion will lie and where techniques like the rhetorical analysis of an essay can be invaluable.
  • Present Different Angles: Every paragraph should tackle a unique perspective or argument. Discuss its strengths and weaknesses. If you are discussing a controversial topic, you might delve into the argumentative essay.
  • Use Evidence: Always back up your statements with evidence. Quotations, statistics, and examples can bolster your claims.
  • Contrast and Compare: Highlight how different perspectives agree or differ from one another. This comparative approach will enrich your analysis.
  • Conclusion: Summarise the main points discussed and reiterate their significance. You might also want to mention areas for further research or exploration.

Question Everything

When critically discussing, you are essentially playing the devil’s advocate. Some questions to pose include:

  • What are the underlying assumptions here?
  • How might someone oppose this perspective?
  • Are there any weaknesses or limitations?
  • What real-world implications does this have?

Avoid Bias and Stay Objective

While it is challenging to be entirely free from biases, strive for objectivity. Remember, a critical discussion is not about what you believe; it’s about presenting a rounded view of the topic.

Write with Clarity

Complex topics demand clear writing. Avoid jargon unless it is essential, and ensure your sentences are concise and straightforward. Each paragraph should have a clear focus, and the flow from one paragraph to another should be logical.

Incorporate Feedback

Once you have written your essay, share it with peers, mentors, or tutors. Their feedback will provide fresh perspectives and highlight areas requiring more clarity or depth.

Revise and Refine

Like any essay, the first draft might not be perfect. Dedicate time to revising your work, refining your arguments, and ensuring the essay flows smoothly.

Conclude with Forward-Thinking

A hallmark of an excellent critical discussion is leaving the reader with something to ponder. Highlight areas where research is still ongoing, or propose questions that have not been addressed adequately.

What Critical Discussion is Not

Critical discussion is essential for deepening understanding, stimulating creative thought, and promoting a collaborative environment. However, certain behaviors and attitudes are not conducive to critical discussion. Here is what critical discussion is not:

Ad Hominem Attacks

A critical discussion does not involve attacking a person’s character, motives, or other personal attributes. The focus should be on the content of the argument, not on the person making it.

Appeal to Emotion

While emotions can be involved, a critical discussion should not be based solely on emotional appeals, nor should it be used to manipulate participants.

Straw Man Fallacy

Misrepresenting or oversimplifying an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack is not genuine discussion.

Dodging questions, changing the topic abruptly, or not addressing the central issues is not a part of critical discussion.

Closed-mindedness

A true critical discussion requires participants to be open to new ideas and willing to change their minds if presented with compelling evidence.

Talking Over Others

Dominating the conversation, interrupting, or not allowing others to speak does not foster a healthy discussion.

Confirmation Bias

Only seeking out or acknowledging information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs is not the essence of critical discussion.

Appeal to Authority

Simply stating that an authority figure believes something does not make it true or end the discussion.

Overgeneralisations

Making broad statements without sufficient evidence or specifics undermines a constructive dialogue.

False Dichotomies

Presenting issues as if there are only two sides or solutions when there might be a spectrum of possibilities, in reality, is not conducive to critical exploration.

Circular Arguments

Arguing a point by merely restating it in different words does not add depth or clarity to a discussion.

Unwillingness to Listen

Entering a discussion with the intent to lecture rather than also to listen, learn, and potentially adjust your views stifles genuine discourse.

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Critical Discussion Example

let’s set up a scenario for a critical discussion:

Topic: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Participants: Alex and Jamie

Alex: I have read a lot of articles recently that suggest social media has a negative impact on the mental health of users, particularly young people. There’s a correlation between increased social media use and increased rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Jamie: That is a valid point, Alex. There have been studies that suggest that. However, correlation does not imply causation. People who are already feeling lonely or depressed may be simply more likely to spend time on social media. How do we know that social media is the cause and not just a symptom?

Alex: That is a fair point. Some studies have shown that excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy, especially when people compare their lives to others. The constant barrage of highlight reels from other people’s lives can make users feel like they’re not doing enough or not leading fulfilling lives.

Jamie: True, comparison can be detrimental. But social media also has its benefits. It is a way for people to connect, especially those who might feel isolated in their real lives. For some, it offers a community and a sense of belonging. Shouldn’t we consider these positive aspects as well?

Alex: Absolutely, I agree that social media can provide vital connections for many. But there is also the element of screen time. Being constantly connected can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce face-to-face social interactions, which are crucial for emotional and social development.

Jamie: Yes, moderation is key. Users need to be self-aware and ensure that their online interactions enhance their lives rather than detract from them. Healthy social media use education might be more beneficial than demonising the platforms.

This is a simplified example, but it highlights some features of critical discussion, similar to what you would find in a discursive essay :

  • Respectful Exchange: Both participants listened to each other’s viewpoints.
  • Exploration of Ideas: The participants delved into the complexities of the issue.
  • Use of Evidence: Alex and Jamie provided reasons and evidence for their perspectives.
  • Open-Mindedness: Both were open to adjusting their views or considering the other’s viewpoint.

Seeking Understanding: Instead of trying to “win” the argument, they aimed for a clearer understanding of the topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does critically discuss mean.

“Critically discuss” means analysing and evaluating a topic or argument thoroughly, considering its strengths and weaknesses. It involves a detailed assessment rather than a mere description, often requiring one to question assumptions, recognise biases, and provide evidence to support the analysis. It is a deep, balanced examination of a subject.

How to answer a critically discuss question?

To answer a “critically discuss” question:

  • Introduce the topic briefly.
  • Present key arguments or points.
  • Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • Use evidence to support your analysis.
  • Consider alternative viewpoints.
  • Conclude with a balanced assessment.
  • Ensure clarity, coherence, and proper referencing throughout.

How to critically discuss a theory?

To critically discuss a theory:

  • Outline the theory’s main propositions.
  • Examine its historical and academic context.
  • Evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Compare with alternative theories.
  • Highlight empirical evidence supporting or refuting it.
  • Analyse underlying assumptions.
  • Conclude with a balanced perspective, acknowledging its relevance and limitations.

How to critically discuss a topic?

To critically discuss a topic:

  • Introduce the topic succinctly.
  • Present key facts or arguments.
  • Analyse strengths and limitations.
  • Reference relevant evidence or research.
  • Consider opposing views or counterarguments.
  • Assess the implications or significance.
  • Conclude with an informed perspective, reflecting a comprehensive understanding.

How to critically discuss in psychology?

  • Introduce the psychological concept/theory.
  • Detail its historical development and key proponents.
  • Evaluate empirical evidence supporting and opposing it.
  • Examine methodological strengths and limitations.
  • Compare with alternative theories or explanations.
  • Discuss real-world implications or applications.
  • Conclude, reflecting on its overall validity and relevance.

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Written Assignments

Explore what different task words mean and how they apply to your assignments

You'll need to understand what your assignments are asking you to do throughout your studies. Your assessments use 'task words' that explain what you need to do in your work.  

Task words are the words or phrases in a brief that tell you what to do. Common examples of task words are 'discuss', 'evaluate', 'compare and contrast', and 'critically analyse'. These words are used in assessment marking criteria and will showcase how well you've answered the question.

None of these words have a fixed meaning. Your lecturers may have specific definitions for your subject or task so you should make sure you have a good idea of what these terms mean in your field. You can check this by speaking to your lecturer, checking your course handbook and reading your marking criteria carefully.

Task words and descriptions

  • Account for : Similar to ‘explain’ but with a heavier focus on reasons why something is or is not the way it is.
  • Analyse : This term has the widest range of meanings according to the subject. Make a justified selection of some of the essential features of an artefact, idea or issue. Examine how these relate to each other and to other ideas, in order to help better understand the topic. See ideas and problems in different ways, and provide evidence for those ways of seeing them. 
  • Assess : This has very different meanings in different disciplines. Measure or evaluate one or more aspect of something (for example, the effectiveness, significance or 'truth' of something). Show in detail the outcomes of these evaluations.
  • Compare : Show how two or more things are similar.
  • Compare and contrast : Show similarities and differences between two or more things.
  • Contrast : Show how two or more things are different.
  • Critically analyse : As with analysis, but questioning and testing the strength of your and others’ analyses from different perspectives. This often means using the process of analysis to make the whole essay an objective, reasoned argument for your overall case or position.
  • Critically assess : As with “assess”, but emphasising your judgments made about arguments by others, and about what you are assessing from different perspectives. This often means making the whole essay a reasoned argument for your overall case, based on your judgments.
  • Critically evaluate : As with 'evaluate', but showing how judgments vary from different perspectives and how some judgments are stronger than others. This often means creating an objective, reasoned argument for your overall case, based on the evaluation from different perspectives.
  • Define : Present a precise meaning. 
  • Describe : Say what something is like. Give its relevant qualities. Depending on the nature of the task, descriptions may need to be brief or the may need to be very detailed.
  • Discuss : Provide details about and evidence for or against two or more different views or ideas, often with reference to a statement in the title. Discussion often includes explaining which views or ideas seem stronger.
  • Examine : Look closely at something. Think and write about the detail, and question it where appropriate.
  • Explain : Give enough description or information to make something clear or easy to understand.
  • Explore : Consider an idea or topic broadly, searching out related and/or particularly relevant, interesting or debatable points.
  • Evaluate : Similar to “assess”, this often has more emphasis on an overall judgement of something, explaining the extent to which it is, for example, effective, useful, or true. Evaluation is therefore sometimes more subjective and contestable than some kinds of pure assessment.
  • Identify : Show that you have recognised one or more key or significant piece of evidence, thing, idea, problem, fact, theory, or example.
  • Illustrate : Give selected examples of something to help describe or explain it, or use diagrams or other visual aids to help describe or explain something.
  • Justify : Explain the reasons, usually “good” reasons, for something being done or believed, considering different possible views and ideas.
  • Outline : Provide the main points or ideas, normally without going into detail.
  • Summarise : This is similar to 'outline'. State, or re-state, the most important parts of something so that it is represented 'in miniature'. It should be concise and precise.
  • State : Express briefly and clearly. 

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How to Write a Discussion Essay

Last Updated: June 27, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 437,794 times.

Jake Adams

Discussion Essay Outline and Example

discuss in an essay meaning

Planning Your Essay

Step 1 Work through the...

  • For instance, maybe the question is, "Immigration has been a heated topic on the national level for many years. With issues like the DREAM Act and President Trump's stances on policy, it's likely to remain a central issue. Using authoritative resources to back up your argument, take a stance on immigration policy, establishing whether you think it should be more or less strict and why."
  • You can establish that the main topic is immigration policy from the sentence, "Take a stance on immigration policy."
  • If you're having trouble understanding the question, don't be afraid to talk to the professor. They can help you better understand what they're asking for.

Step 2 Perform initial research to understand the issue.

  • If your essay will be based off a discussion had in class, ask your instructor if you can use class notes as a primary source.
  • Look for respected news sources, as well as websites with ".edu" and ".gov" extensions.
  • You may need to look up information on the DREAM Act or President Trump's policies to help you understand the question, for example. For this part, you don't need to take extensive notes, as you're just trying to get a feel for the subject.

Step 3 Take a side on the issue to begin outlining your essay.

  • If you were given a text to base your essay on, make sure that text has enough evidence to support your chosen position.

Step 4 Add the main points you'd like to cover to your outline.

  • Use Roman numerals on your page to mark your main ideas. Write a main point by each Roman numeral. You should only cover 3 to 4 main points in a relatively short essay, such as one that's 3 to 5 pages.

Step 5 Find research to support your points.

  • Your main sources should be books or ebooks, journal articles from academic journals, and credible websites. You can also use high quality news articles if they're applicable to your topic.

Step 6 Take notes that include citations.

  • For a book, you should include the author's name, the editor's name (if applicable), the title of the book, the publication year, the publication city, the edition, and the title of the book chapter in an anthology by multiple authors.
  • For a journal, include the author's name, the journal title, the article title, the digital object identifier (DOI), the ISSN, the publication date, the volume (if applicable), the issue (if applicable), and the page numbers for the journal article.
  • If you're searching in a database, you can often ask the database to save this information for you, but you should include identifiers on your notes.

Step 7 Fill in your outline to finish planning your essay.

  • For example, if one of your main points is "Immigration increases diversity," some of your points underneath might be "Brings in new cuisines," and "Brings in new art."
  • Find examples from your research, and add notes to each point to fill them in.

Writing the Introduction

Step 1 Begin with a hook such as a quotation or anecdote to engage readers.

  • For an example or anecdote, start by telling a short story about something relevant to your topic. For instance, you might write the following for an essay on immigration, "When I was 4-years-old, my parents told me we were going on a long trip. After a bus ride, we spent nights walking, my dad carrying me most of the way. One day, we crossed a river. That day marked our first day in our new country."

Step 2 Introduce your topic in your transition sentences.

  • For example, you might write, "Immigration is a highly-debated issue. It is controversial because some people fear how it affects the resources of the country the people are immigrating to, while others believe the improved quality of life for immigrants is what’s most important."

Step 3 Work on a thesis statement to establish your argument.

  • For instance, your thesis statement might be, "Immigration is good for the country because it increases diversity, infuses the country with new talent, and broadens the population's perspective, and it should be encouraged with a few basic safeguards in place."

Composing the Body of Your Essay

Step 1 Limit each paragraph to 1 idea.

  • For instance, if you're writing a short research paper, one paragraph might be your main point "Immigration increases diversity," where you cover all your bullet points in that paragraph.
  • If you're digging deeper, you might create a section about diversity, and then use a paragraph to cover "brings in new cuisines," another to cover "brings in new art," and so on.

Step 2 Acknowledge the other side of the issue.

  • Try not to set up a "straw man" argument, where you don't give the other side a fair chance. You should be able to support your position without purposefully creating a weak position on the other side.

Step 3 Keep your whole argument in mind as you write.

  • For instance, maybe you want to transition between a section about increasing diversity to one about bringing in new talent. You might write a sentence like, "Increasing diversity in our country doesn't just bring in new cuisines and art, it also brings in hard workers that have fresh perspectives on old problems in the workforce."

Step 4 Support your ideas with research.

  • You can paraphrase other ideas or use direct quotes, but only use a direct quote if the author said something in a unique way. Otherwise, put it in your own words.
  • You may want to begin body paragraphs with a quote from a relevant source. Then, explain or provide commentary on the quote and show how it supports your position.
  • You can also use statistics to back up your research. For instance, if one of your arguments is that immigration doesn't increase crime, use statistics to back that up.

Concluding Your Essay

Step 1 Synthesize the information from your essay.

  • For instance, you might write, "A truly great country is one that celebrates differences and welcomes new ideas and perspectives. While immigration has some negative effects on a country, overall, allowing people from other countries to come in helps to spark new ideas and make the country a better and more interesting place to live. Rather than being a drain on society, immigrants are motivated to work hard and our citizens can only benefit from listening to their perspectives."

Step 2 Avoid restating your introduction.

  • Once you have the flow down, read it again to check for grammatical mistakes and typos. It can help to read it aloud, as it slows you down and forces you to read every word.

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

  • Remember you can't research forever. Often, the research stage absorbs a student so fully that the upcoming submission date seems unimportant. Make sure to leave yourself at least a few days to write your essay. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://student.unsw.edu.au/answering-assignment-questions
  • ↑ https://student.unsw.edu.au/essay-and-assignment-planning
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-11-developing-a-convincing-argument/
  • ↑ https://student.unsw.edu.au/organising-your-ideas
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
  • ↑ https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/essay-introductions
  • ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/how-to-write-a-thesis-statement.html
  • ↑ https://www.student.unsw.edu.au/writing-your-essay
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/establishing_arguments/organizing_your_argument.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/establishing_arguments/research_and_evidence.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/conclusion
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

About This Article

Jake Adams

To write a discussion essay, start by taking a side on the issue you're writing about, like "Immigration is good for the country." Then, outline the main points that made you decide to take that position and do research to find evidence that backs them up. Look for credible sources that can help you make your argument, and don't forget to cite them. Then, when you're writing your essay, devote 1 paragraph to each main point and include your evidence. For help writing the introduction and conclusion to your essay, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Understanding instruction words in academic essay titles

Posted in: essay-writing

discuss in an essay meaning

Instruction or command words indicate what your tutor wants you to do in your written assignment. It's vital that you understand exactly what these instruction words mean so you can answer all parts of the essay question and provide a complete response.

Here's a list of some of the most common instruction/command words you'll see in essay questions (and examination questions as well), together with an explanation of what they mean.

Describe: Give a detailed account of…

Outline: Give the main features/general principles; don't include minor details.

Explain, account for, interpret: Describe the facts but also give causes and reasons for them. Depending on the context, these words may also suggest that you need to make the possible implications clear as well. For example: 'Explain X and its importance for Y'.

Comment on, criticise, evaluate, critically evaluate, assess: Judge the value of something. But first, analyse, describe and explain. Then go through the arguments for and against, laying out the arguments neutrally until the section where you make your judgement clear. Judgements should be backed by reasons and evidence.

Discuss, consider: The least specific of the instruction words. Decide, first of all, what the main issues are. Then follow the same procedures for Comment on, Criticise, Evaluate, Critically Evaluate and Assess.

Analyse: Break down into component parts. Examine critically or closely.

How far, how true, to what extent: These suggest there are various views on and various aspects to the subject. Outline some of them, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, explore alternatives and then give your judgement.

Justify: Explain, with evidence, why something is the case, answering the main objections to your view as you go along.

Refute: Give evidence to prove why something is not the case.

Compare, contrast, distinguish, differentiate, relate: All require that you discuss how things are related to each other.  Compare suggests you concentrate on similarities, which may lead to a stated preference, the justification of which should be made clear. These words suggest that two situations or ideas can be compared in a number of different ways, or from a variety of viewpoints. Contrast suggests you concentrate on differences.

Define: Write down the precise meaning of a word or phrase. Sometimes several co-existing definitions may be used and, possibly, evaluated.

Illustrate: Make clear and explicit; usually requires the use of carefully chosen examples.

State: Give a concise, clear explanation or account of…

Summarise: Give a concise, clear explanation or account of… presenting the main factors and excluding minor detail or examples (see also Outline).

Trace: Outline or follow the development of something from its initiation or point of origin.

Devise: Think up, work out a plan, solve a problem etc.

Apply (to): Put something to use, show how something can be used in a particular situation.

Identify: Put a name to, list something.

Indicate: Point out. This does not usually involve giving too much detail.

List: Make a list of a number of things. This usually involves simply remembering or finding out a number of things and putting them down one after the other.

Plan: Think about how something is to be done, made, organised, etc.

Report on: Describe what you have seen or done.

Review: Write a report on something.

Specify: Give the details of something.

Work out: Find a solution to a problem.

Adapted from: Coles, M. (1995), A Student’s Guide to Coursework Writing,   University of Stirling, Stirling 

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So wonderful can anyone get the information

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Thanks Josphat!

This is a life saver, do you have a youtube channel where you talk about all this stuff? If so I would love to know about it 🙂 Rachelle

Hi Rachelle, Thanks for your comment. We don't have a youtube channel but stay tuned for more posts and also check out the new My-skills portal (go.bath.ac.uk/My-skills) for lots more skills support. Tom

Quite helpful. I would definitely check this before my next essay.

Thank you, Dan.

Very helpful now I understand how construct my assignments and how to answer exam questions

I have understood it clearly;)

it is very useful for us to understand many instruction word and what we need to write down

There are some define of some words,and I find that there do have many common things for some words,but not all the same.Such as compare, contrast, distinguish, differentiate, relate,they all need people to compare but foucs on different ways.

Very helpful. Listed most of the words that might be misunderstood by foreign students. Now I know why my score of writing IELTS test is always 6, I even didn't get the point of what I was supposed to write!

I have already read all of this. And it gave me a brief instruction.

There are varied instruction words in essay questions. It's a good chance for me to have a overview of these main command words because I could response to requirements of questions precisely and without the risk of wandering off the topic.

When i encounter with an essay title with these instruction words above,I should understand exactly what these words mean so that i could know what my tutor would like me to do in the assignments.Also,these words may help me make an outline and read academic articles with percific purposes.

These words are accurate and appropriate. It is really helpful for me to response some assignment questions and I can know the orientation of my answers . I can also use these words to make an outline of my essay. However, in my view, for some instruction words which are confusing and hard to understand, it is better to give an example to help us understand.

It's the first time for me to recognise these instruction words , some of them are really similar with each other.

it is very helpful to my future study. it will be better to have some examples with it.

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Home » Language » English Language » What is the Difference Between Explain and Discuss

What is the Difference Between Explain and Discuss

The main difference between explain and discuss is that we explain something by clarifying what, why and how something happened while we discuss something by examining it in detail, taking into account different issues or ideas.

Explain and discuss are two verbs you may come across in essay questions. However, there’s a distinct difference between explain and discuss. It’s important to know the difference between these essay question words in order to write a good essay.  

Key Areas Covered

1.  What Does Explain Mean      – Definition, Features, Examples 2.  What Does Discuss Mean      – Definition, Features, Examples 3.  Difference Between Explain and Discuss      – Comparison of Key Differences

Difference Between Explain and Discuss - Comparison Summary

What Does Explain Mean

The verb explain means to make a concept or situation clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts. It clarifies what happened, why it happened and how it happened. ‘What’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions will help you to structure a clear and coherent answer to essay questions that ask you to explain something.

Difference Between Explain and Discuss

Some examples of such questions are as follows.

Explain why a Cold war developed after 1945.

Explain how smoking adversely affects a person’s life.

Describe a challenge you have faced in your life. Explain how you faced this challenge positively.

When you are responding to this type of question, you also have to provide definitions to your keywords and jargons, as much as possible. You should also back your claims with solid evidence whenever possible. In this type of answer, it’s important to demonstrate that you have a very good understanding of the topic. If you present a clear interpretation of the topic, your answer will reflect your knowledge and understanding of the topic convincingly.

What Does Discuss Mean

The verb discuss means to talk or write about something in detail, taking into account different issues or ideas. The basic meaning of ‘discussion’ is a conversation between two or more parties; therefore, when you are discussing something, you should look at different perspectives. When the term ‘discuss’ occurs in an essay question or a research title, you have to write an in-depth answer, considering different accepts of the topic. Moreover, this type of titles or essays usually has two sides. Therefore, you have to make a case for or against the title. Furthermore, his type of question tests the reasoning skills of the writer.

Main Difference - Explain vs Discuss

Some examples of such essay questions are as follows.

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of modern technology.

A person should learn to speak more than one language – Discuss.

Furthermore, in this type of answer, you have to examine the topic in detail and include different perspectives held by various parties. Important to remember is that discussing does not involve only stating facts or describing something. Instead, it is an evaluation, considering different perspectives of the topic.

Difference Between Explain and Discuss

The word explain means to make a concept or situation clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts while the word discuss means to talk or write about something in detail, taking into account different issues or ideas.

We explain something by clarifying what, why and how something happened while we discuss something by examining it in detail, taking into account different issues or ideas.

Type of Essay Question Word

Explain questions require descriptive answers while discuss questions require critical answers.

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Essay writing

Understanding essay questions.

The following guide has been created for you by the  Student Learning Advisory Service , for more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an  appointment  or join one of our online  workshops . 

Understanding the essay question is the first and most important step you will undertake with any assignment, as without fully understanding the task you cannot respond to it. Consider the key elements in the question e.g.  Examine the role of women in Parliament since 1918, with reference to key Equality legislation  and ask yourself:

  • What is the main subject of the question? (e.g. Parliament )
  • Is there a particular aspect of that subject the question is asking you to consider? (e.g. the role of women in Parliament)
  • Does the question indicate any limits to your answer? (e.g. the role of women in Parliament since 1918 )
  • What is the ‘instruction verb’ in the question asking you to do? (e.g. Examine the role of women in Parliament since 1918)
  • In addition, is the question asking you to demonstrate any specific areas of module knowledge? (e.g. Examine the role of women in Parliament since 1918 , with reference to key Equality legislation )

Identifying and understanding these different elements of your question will allow you to answer it confidently, directly and fully. If a question is long and complicated break it down into its component parts and consider what each is asking you to do.

Above all, do what the instruction verb is telling you to do:

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1. Choose Your Topic

2. outline your essay, outline your points, 3. draft your introduction, 4. good discussion in the body of your essay, 5. conclude your essay, how to write a discussion essay.

A discussion essay presents and discusses issues surrounding a particular topic--usually one that is debatable and open to argument. A good argumentative essay must include a thorough discussion of both sides of the issue, including main points to support your argument and its counterargument. It should also provide a well-rounded understanding of the issues before the writer presents their personal own opinions and conclusions.

What is an IELTS Discussion Essay?

The International English Language Testing System is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers.

Example of an IELTS Discussion essay

Some believe language provides cohesion to a country, while others believe diverse languages bring diversity and vibrancy. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

As with most persuasive essay formats, the essay's quality relies primarily on the writer's ability to provide solid research and evidence to present different views of the topic.

Practicing your writing skills as you write a discussion essay is a great way to grow as a writer. Let’s dive into the essay structure and components of a successful discussion essay.

Choose your discussion essay topic. When choosing this topic, make sure it is one that you're interested in personally since this will be easier for you to write. You'll need to discuss both sides of the argument surrounding the discussion essay topic, so ensure that you have access to good research that provides pertinent information. Writing only one side of the argument will result in an undeveloped discussion essay, which probably won’t receive a good score.

Outline your discussion essay. This outline should include a rough draft of your thesis statement, main argument, opposing argument, other main points and a rough draft of your conclusion. Your goal at this point is to get your thoughts on the discussion essay topic organized and in writing.

You can write a detailed outline for your discussion essay, using traditional outline format--letters and numbers to separate key points--or you can simply jot down a list of the main discussion points you plan to cover in order to answer the essay question or address the essay topic.

Next, write your introduction. According to the Open University, your goal in the introduction of your discussion essay is to introduce the issues relating to the topic and to provide your reader with important background information. Your introduction is essentially setting the scene for your reader so they are prepared to digest the argument you’ll be presenting. Providing your reader with a simple overview of how your discussion essay is organized will ensure that she understands your flow of thought throughout the body of the essay.

Most importantly, at the end of your introductory paragraph you must include a well developed thesis statement. One of the most common mistakes made when writing introduction paragraphs is leaving out the thesis statement, which is one sentence that firmly asserts what side of the argument you will be arguing throughout the work. Be specific in your points and make sure it is a strong closing to this first paragraph, as it will set the tone for the rest of your essay.

Write the body paragraphs of your discussion essay using any research sources that you have collected. Typically, you should present each issue individually and impartially, discussing first one side of the argument and then the other side of each argument that relates to your topic. Ensuring that each paragraph is roughly the same size as the other will make the presentation of facts seem balanced to the reader as well. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that smoothly transitions from the previous paragraph while simultaneously introducing the new topic covered in the upcoming one.

Progress through your body arguments in order, starting with your weakest argument or issue and progressing to the strongest. This structure allows your reader to follow your flow of thought easily without getting distracted. When deciding how to use sources, try to use the same number of quotes and sources for each argument. If you use three quotes to support your main argument, strive to use three quotes to present the opposing view as well.

Write your discussion essay conclusion. Your goal with your conclusion is to summarize the overall information from the body of the discussion essay, leading the reader to mentally review the pros and cons of the topic argument. Although you don't technically have to be in favor of one side of the discussion yourself, if you are, be sure to present your own conclusions in this paragraph rather than earlier in the essay.

Once you have finished your conclusion, part of wrapping up your essay is going back through it and checking for grammatical errors. Check to make sure you have not copied any quotes directly from other sources, as this would result in a plagiarism charge, especially if your professor screens your essay through a writing service that checks for plagiarized work. Always write using your own words. Using your own words not only saves you from plagiarism issues, but also helps with essay coherence since the rest of the work has been written in your tone of voice.

On the final page of your discussion essay you will also include all of the citations for sources you quoted or summarized information from. Whether citing in MLA or APA format, double check the style and order of your citations for accuracy before turning it in.

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. She has produced content for various websites and graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?

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The term essay comes from the French for "trial" or "attempt." French author Michel de Montaigne coined the term when he assigned the title Essais to his first publication in 1580. In "Montaigne: A Biography" (1984), Donald Frame notes that Montaigne "often used the verb essayer (in modern French, normally to try ) in ways close to his project, related to experience, with the sense of trying out or testing."

An essay is a short work of nonfiction , while a writer of essays is called an essayist. In writing instruction, essay is often used as another word for composition . In an essay, an authorial voice  (or narrator ) typically invites an implied reader  (the audience ) to accept as authentic a certain textual mode of experience. 

Definitions and Observations

  • "[An essay is a] composition , usually in prose .., which may be of only a few hundred words (like Bacon's "Essays") or of book length (like Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding") and which discusses, formally or informally, a topic or a variety of topics." (J.A. Cuddon, "Dictionary of Literary Terms". Basil, 1991)
  • " Essays are how we speak to one another in print — caroming thoughts not merely in order to convey a certain packet of information, but with a special edge or bounce of personal character in a kind of public letter." (Edward Hoagland, Introduction, "The Best American Essays : 1999". Houghton, 1999)
  • "[T]he essay traffics in fact and tells the truth, yet it seems to feel free to enliven, to shape, to embellish, to make use as necessary of elements of the imaginative and the fictive — thus its inclusion in that rather unfortunate current designation ' creative nonfiction .'" (G. Douglas Atkins, "Reading Essays: An Invitation". University of Georgia Press, 2007)

Montaigne's Autobiographical Essays "Although Michel de Montaigne, who fathered the modern essay in the 16th century, wrote autobiographically (like the essayists who claim to be his followers today), his autobiography was always in the service of larger existential discoveries. He was forever on the lookout for life lessons. If he recounted the sauces he had for dinner and the stones that weighted his kidney, it was to find an element of truth that we could put in our pockets and carry away, that he could put in his own pocket. After all, Philosophy — which is what he thought he practiced in his essays, as had his idols, Seneca and Cicero, before him — is about 'learning to live.' And here lies the problem with essayists today: not that they speak of themselves, but that they do so with no effort to make their experience relevant or useful to anyone else, with no effort to extract from it any generalizable insight into the human condition." (Cristina Nehring, "What’s Wrong With the American Essay." Truthdig, Nov. 29, 2007)

The Artful Formlessness of the Essay "[G]ood essays are works of literary art. Their supposed formlessness is more a strategy to disarm the reader with the appearance of unstudied spontaneity than a reality of composition. . . . "The essay form as a whole has long been associated with an experimental method. This idea goes back to Montaigne and his endlessly suggestive use of the term essai for his writing. To essay is to attempt, to test, to make a run at something without knowing whether you are going to succeed. The experimental association also derives from the other fountain-head of the essay, Francis Bacon , and his stress on the empirical inductive method, so useful in the development of the social sciences." (Phillip Lopate, "The Art of the Personal Essay". Anchor, 1994)

Articles vs. Essays "[W]hat finally distinguishes an essay from an article may just be the author's gumption, the extent to which personal voice, vision, and style are the prime movers and shapers, even though the authorial 'I' may be only a remote energy, nowhere visible but everywhere present." (Justin Kaplan, ed. "The Best American Essays: 1990". Ticknor & Fields, 1990) "I am predisposed to the essay with knowledge to impart — but, unlike journalism, which exists primarily to present facts, the essays transcend their data, or transmute it into personal meaning. The memorable essay, unlike the article, is not place or time-bound; it survives the occasion of its original composition. Indeed, in the most brilliant essays, language is not merely the medium of communication ; it is communication." (Joyce Carol Oates, quoted by Robert Atwan in "The Best American Essays, College Edition", 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1998) "I speak of a 'genuine' essay because fakes abound. Here the old-fashioned term poetaster may apply, if only obliquely. As the poetaster is to the poet — a lesser aspirant — so the average article is to the essay: a look-alike knockoff guaranteed not to wear well. An article is often gossip. An essay is reflection and insight. An article often has the temporary advantage of social heat — what's hot out there right now. An essay's heat is interior. An article can be timely, topical, engaged in the issues and personalities of the moment; it is likely to be stale within the month. In five years it may have acquired the quaint aura of a rotary phone. An article is usually Siamese-twinned to its date of birth. An essay defies its date of birth — and ours, too. (A necessary caveat: some genuine essays are popularly called 'articles' — but this is no more than an idle, though persistent, habit of speech. What's in a name? The ephemeral is the ephemeral. The enduring is the enduring.)" (Cynthia Ozick, "SHE: Portrait of the Essay as a Warm Body." The Atlantic Monthly, September 1998)

The Status of the Essay "Though the essay has been a popular form of writing in British and American periodicals since the 18th century, until recently its status in the literary canon has been, at best, uncertain. Relegated to the composition class, frequently dismissed as mere journalism, and generally ignored as an object for serious academic study, the essay has sat, in James Thurber's phrase, ' on the edge of the chair of Literature.' "In recent years, however, prompted by both a renewed interest in rhetoric and by poststructuralist redefinitions of literature itself, the essay — as well as such related forms of 'literary nonfiction' as biography , autobiography , and travel and nature writing — has begun to attract increasing critical attention and respect." (Richard Nordquist, "Essay," in "Encylopedia of American Literature", ed. S. R. Serafin. Continuum, 1999)

The Contemporary Essay "At present, the American magazine essay , both the long feature piece and the critical essay, is flourishing, in unlikely circumstances... "There are plenty of reasons for this. One is that magazines, big and small, are taking over some of the cultural and literary ground vacated by newspapers in their seemingly unstoppable evaporation. Another is that the contemporary essay has for some time now been gaining energy as an escape from, or rival to, the perceived conservatism of much mainstream fiction... "So the contemporary essay is often to be seen engaged in acts of apparent anti-novelization: in place of plot , there is drift or the fracture of numbered paragraphs; in place of a frozen verisimilitude, there may be a sly and knowing movement between reality and fictionality; in place of the impersonal author of standard-issue third-person realism, the authorial self pops in and out of the picture, with a liberty hard to pull off in fiction." (James Wood, "Reality Effects." The New Yorker, Dec. 19 & 26, 2011)

The Lighter Side of Essays: "The Breakfast Club" Essay Assignment "All right people, we're going to try something a little different today. We are going to write an essay of not less than a thousand words describing to me who you think you are. And when I say 'essay,' I mean 'essay,' not one word repeated a thousand times. Is that clear, Mr. Bender?" (Paul Gleason as Mr. Vernon) Saturday, March 24, 1984 Shermer High School Shermer, Illinois 60062 Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed... But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club (Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson, "The Breakfast Club", 1985)

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There’s no difference between “evaluate” and “discuss.”

Travis Dixon August 1, 2017 Assessment (IB) , Curriculum , Revision and Exam Preparation

discuss in an essay meaning

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Before I explain why an evaluation and a discussion in a student’s IB Psychology exam answer would look exactly the same, I should first mention that Christos Halkiopoulos was aware of this long before I was and has been saying this for quite some time. It was only recently when I gave this some more thought that I realized I completely agree.

When we think about these terms in the abstract, they’re different, but the practical reality in student essay answers is that we would not be able to tell the difference from a discussion or an evaluation in an excellent answer.

So how are these command terms the same?

Let’s use questions that address a theory or a model, as these are the most common types of questions that use the command term “evaluate.”

A good evaluation of a theory would follow this order:

  • Introduction
  • Describe the theory (needed for context an to show knowledge)
  • Explain one or two studies that demonstrate core claims of the theory (needed for evidence of said theory and also shows strengths)
  • Explain one or two applications of the theory (needed for a full “review” of the theory, which is also more strengths )
  • Explain one or two limitations of the theory ( needed to make the review “balanced,” but also shows limitations )

If a student followed this order and wrote well-developed explanations, it would be an excellent essay.

What about a discussion? The IB definition of a discussion is a “balanced review.” The key word here is balanced. Students obviously must go beyond describing the theory, and they need to use research effectively so they should use studies. Showing applications of the theory shows a deeper understanding. But where does the “balance” come from? It comes from the counter-argument in the essay, which in the case of an essay on a theory would be the limitations.

So a well-written discussion of a theory would look like this:

  • Describe the theory
  • Explain one or two studies that demonstrate key claims of the theory
  • Explain one or two applications of the theory
  • Explain one or two limitations of the theory

The only difference that might exist, would be an evaluation should specifically state the words “strengths” and “limitations,” to make the arguments clearly sign-posted to show that they’re following the command term. A discussion might have the same arguments, but not necessarily sign-posted with these terms.

So when writing about a theory or a model, discuss and evaluate mean the same thing. In fact, in all essays students should be aware that they’re writing one central argument and then balanced with a counter-argument, regardless of the command term. Once I realized this basic concept, my teaching of essay writing became much simpler and more effective.

I don’t introduce writing discussion and evaluation essays until the second year of my course, after students have had heaps of practice with SARs. I also only introduce essay writing in the end of year one, starting with the most basic “to what extent…” essays.

What about other types of questions?

If you think about it, students will probably only be asked to evaluate the following:

  • Theories or models
  • Research methods

There’s an outside chance that they’d be asked to evaluate “explanations of disorders,” (or a similar topic that uses the word “explanations” specifically) but it’s more likely the command term here would be discuss, anyway. When the topic is about a particular variable or behaviour, discuss is more likely to be used. For instance, it would be weird to see a question like this:

  • Evaluate one or more examples of how emotion can influence cognition. 

So let’s look at what an evaluation of the use of research methods looks like:

  • Explanation of how and why research method is used
  • Explanation of how one or two studies exemplify the use of the research method
  • Explanation of one or two limitations of the research method

If the question was “discuss” the use of a research method, the structure would look identical because you need the limitations in order for the review to be “balanced.” Without offering an explanation of limitations, you’d only be offering one side to the story, which is unbalanced.

In any question that could be asked for an evaluation, the discussion would look the same as it requires a “balanced review,” which means offering a core  and  counter -argument.

Hopefully from this post you can see how discussion and evaluation, in practice, mean exactly the same thing and it all comes down to that word “balanced.”

Sure  we could split hairs and discuss the connotations of these terms and come up with some really vague and nuanced differences, but I’d prefer to spend my time teaching kids things that are relevant and useful, and I don’t see knowing arbitrary distinctions (that don’t exist) between command terms as being a key ingredient for success in life; I’d rather spend more time teaching psychology and other more widely applicable writing skills.

Agree? Disagree? I’m keen to hear some thoughts in the comments.

Travis Dixon

Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.

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IELTS Discussion Essays [Discuss Both Views/Sides]

Posted by David S. Wills | Jun 14, 2021 | IELTS Tips , Writing | 2

IELTS Discussion Essays [Discuss Both Views/Sides]

In this lesson, I’m going to explain what an IELTS discussion essay is and how you can write a good one. I will talk about structure and content, as well as looking briefly at discussion essay thesis statements, which many people find tricky. I’ve also written a sample essay, which you can find at the bottom of this page.

What is a Discussion Essay?

As the name suggests, a discussion essay is an essay that discusses things! More specifically, it is a type of IELTS writing task 2 essay that requires you to look at two different points of view . You can easily recognise these essays by the following phrase:

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Sometimes it is phrased a little differently. It might say:

Discuss both sides and give your opinion
Discuss both points view and give your opinion

The important thing is that these all mean the same. When you see any of these, you know that you need to write a discussion essay. Importantly, this instruction tells you that you need to do two things:

  • Discuss both views (there will have been 2 views mentioned in the previous sentence(s))
  • Give your opinion (i.e. state which view you agree with)

If you failed to do either of these things, you would not have satisfied the basic criteria for Task Achievement .

Example Discussion Essay Questions

Here is a list of 5 discussion essay questions either from the IELTS exam, reportedly from the IELTS exam, or from reputable publications that have copied the IELTS question style. (Not that you absolutely should avoid fake IELTS questions when practising.)

Some people say that parents should encourage their children to take part in organised group activities in their free time. Others say that is important for children to learn how to occupy themselves on their own. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.
Some people prefer to spend their lives doing the same things and avoiding change. Others, however, think that change is always a good thing. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Some people feel that manufacturers and supermarkets have the responsibility to reduce the amount of packaging of goods. Others argue that customers should avoid buying goods with a lot of packaging. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Some people believe that higher education should be funded by the government. Others, however, argue that it is the responsibility of individuals to fund their higher education. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
Some people believe that it is important for children to attend extra classes outside school, while others believe that they should be allowed to play after school. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

You can see in these questions that there is a similar pattern. In each case, the question phrase (“Discuss both views and give your own opinion”) is the same and in the previous sentence or sentences, there are two opposing views. This, then, makes “discuss both views” questions a sort of opinion essay .

How to Answer IELTS Discussion Questions

First of all, it is important when answering any IELTS task 2 question that you read the question carefully so that you understand it, then provide an answer that directly responds to the question, following its instructions carefully.

As discussed above, you are required to do two things: 1) Discuss both views, and 2) Give your own opinion. You absolutely must do both of those. It doesn’t really matter what your opinion is or whether you give equal weighting to both sides of the argument. Instead, you must cover both sides and also give some sort of opinion. (It is important, though, according to the marking rubric , that you are consistent in your opinion.)

Your answer of course should be structured carefully so as to present your ideas in a thoroughly logical way that is easy for your reader to interpret. I almost always use a four-paragraph structure in my essays, but some people prefer to use five paragraphs in this sort of essay. The difference would look like this:

You might be wondering why I have given my opinion in the body of the five-paragraph essay but not in the four-paragraph essay. Well, actually I would give my opinion in the body of both. However, my opinion would be more subtly woven into the text of the four-paragraph essay. I personally find this to be a better method, but it is equally possible that you could write an amazing five-paragraph essay. That issue is discussed further in this video:

Discussion Essay Thesis Statement

In academic writing, a thesis statement (sometimes called an essay outline ) is the part of the essay where you insert your opinion. It typically comes at the end of the introduction and guides the reader by explaining your opinion on the issues that have been introduced.

But do you really need to provide one in such a short essay? Well, a 2018 study into successful IELTS essays concluded that thesis statements were “obligatory” – i.e. you absolutely do need one. In fact, that study found that thesis statements appeared in 100% of successful IELTS discussion essays! Therefore, we can conclude they are very important.

Because a discussion essay will tell you to “Discuss both views and give your opinion,” you must introduce the two views and then give your opinion in the introduction. Here is an example:

Introductory paragraph:

In some parts of the world, children are forced to go to cram schools and other facilities of extracurricular learning, but many people believe that this is unfair and that they should be allowed to enjoy their free time instead. This essay will look at both perspectives and then conclude that it is indeed unfair.

My first sentence clearly introduces two different ideas:

  • Children should do extra classes
  • Children should not do extra classes

Note how I have successfully used synonyms to avoid repeating anything from the question. I have also framed the issue in a new way so that I am not just paraphrasing. (You can learn why paraphrasing is not always helpful here .)

My second sentence is the thesis statement. In this sentence, I outline what the essay will do (“look at both perspectives”) and then give my opinion (“it is unfair”). This is a simple but effective thesis statement.

Thesis Statement Advice

Your IELTS discussion essay thesis statement should do two things:

  • Tell the reader what the essay will do
  • Present your opinion

Because this is a formal essay, it is best not to be too personal. Instead of saying “I will…” or “I think…” it is better to say “This essay will…” Here are some simple templates that you can follow most of the time:

  • This essay will look at both sides and then argue that…
  • This essay will discuss both views but ultimately side with…

Just make sure to avoid being overly vague. You are required to give your opinion consistently throughout the essay, so don’t say “This essay will look at both sides and then give my opinion .” It is not really the best approach because the examiner wants to see that you can be consistent in presenting an opinion. That is clearly stated in the marking rubric. For band 7, it says:

  • presents a clear position throughout the response

It could be concluded, then, that your opinion is not clear from the start and so you have not done enough to warrant a band 7 for Task Achievement.

Body Paragraphs

As I mentioned above, there are really two main approaches you could take to the body paragraphs:

  • Discuss one view per paragraph and incorporate your opinion into each.
  • Discuss one view per paragraph and then have another for your opinion.

I suppose there is also a third option:

  • Compare and contrast the two viewpoints in each paragraph.

This last one may be a little harder to do successfully without jeopardising your score for Task Achievement or Coherence and Cohesion , but advanced candidates may find it useful.

Remember that there is no single perfect formula for an IELTS essay. That’s not how languages work and that’s not how IELTS works. Different people could come up with different ways to present a successful essay. The most common essay structures are mere guidelines for particularly useful methods of approaching an essay.

discuss in an essay meaning

Does a Discussion Essay Have to be Balanced?

Because the question says “Discuss both views,” it is quite logical to think that you must provide some degree of balance, but you certainly don’t need to give equal weighting to both sides. Remember that you are also going to give your opinion, so if you come down strongly on one side of the issue, it might be odd to give equal attention to both.

If you do feel very strongly about one side, you might want to present your discussion of the other side as quite negative. However, IELTS is a thinking exam as well as an English exam and an intelligent person can always look at both sides of an issue and explain – at the very least – why someone might believe a thing that is different to his own view. This seems quite important, but there is nothing explicitly mentioned in the marking rubric.

I would suggest that if you think a two-sided issue is basically one-sided (i.e. you strongly disagree with the other view), you should still write one or two sentences about why people believe that and then devote the rest of your essay to disputing their view.

Another approach is to write BP1 as a very short paragraph that explains why people might think one thing, but then have BP2 as a very long paragraph that debunks the opposing view and then explains why the other is correct.

(You can read more about IELTS essays and balance here .)

Sample Answer

Here is my full sample answer to the above question about whether or not children should be made to do extracurricular activities:

In some parts of the world, children are forced to go to cram schools and other facilities of extracurricular learning, but many people believe that this is unfair and that they should be allowed to enjoy their free time instead. This essay will look at both perspectives and then conclude that it is indeed unfair. In countries like South Korea, most children are made to go to an array of cram schools outside of regular school hours. Their parents do this in order to give their child a better future because it helps the child to learn more and thus gives them the academic advantages needed to apply to the best universities or jobs in future. These schools often provide children with an advantage over their peers because they improve their foreign language or math skills more quickly, and thus the children who do not attend these schools might have comparatively poor grades. However, whilst this attitude may result in better academic performance, it is certainly not good for the mental health of these children. It is no coincidence that places like South Korea have the highest rates of suicide among their young populations. The fact is that children are not equipped to spend fourteen or sixteen hours per day in classrooms, memorising facts and figures. In a sense, it is a form of child abuse. Children should be allowed to go home and spend time with friends and family to build social skills. They should be allowed to occupy themselves in order to become more creative and learn how to understand their own mind instead of being trained to repeat what they are told. In conclusion, it is understandable that some parents want their children to go to extra classes, but this is damaging to children and they should be given the freedom to play and socialise outside of regular school hours.

In BP1, I have looked at the topic of cram schools (ie the side of the argument in favour of extra lessons). I explored why parents might want their kids to do this and show the supposed benefits. Note that I never embraced any of these benefits. I was careful to use language that distanced these ideas from my own opinion, which was the opposite, so I said “Their parents do this in order to…”

In BP2, I looked at the opposite side. I was careful to make sure that my first sentence linked to the previous paragraph, highlighting that the benefits are quite minor compared to the drawbacks. All of my sentences here justify my position, which is that it is cruel to force these extra lessons on children.

My conclusion ties all of this together. The first clause references BP1 and the second summarises the main argument in BP2.

You can find two more sample essays here:

  • A discussion essay about sports facilities
  • A discussion essay about sports abilities

About The Author

David S. Wills

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural Cambodia and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. David has worked in many different countries, and for several years designed a writing course for the University of Worcester. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing and he has since written two other books about IELTS. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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DIRWAN

It is sometimes debatable whether asking children to get extra education after school or letting them play that is actually beneficial for them. Even though both viewpoints have benefits and drawbacks but I believe ,in the childhood age, children have to take rough and discipline education after school to be succeed in the future.

To begin with, many educational experts believe that playing is one of the essential aspects that have to be gotten by children to grow and happy. By using the playing approach, children can have a good mental and psychic health. Besides, letting children play after school can also support them to increase their emotional stimuli and get a positive social interaction. With this way, experts believe children can grow as a better adult in the future and have a freedom to get a better life in the upcoming times.

However, I completely contra with the first idea because I believe childhood is a better time to train children about academic or other skills that benefits them in the future. Based on scientific journal that I read, the ability of children in learning new things are more spectacular compared to adults. A lot of artists, scientist, and even football player who currently becoming a superstar in this era is a string of process that is began since their in the childhood. For instance, nowadays, I am working in the field of election supervision, it because since in my childhood my father love to force me learning about social and political issues by getting additional class. Thus, making children to get extra class after school is an appropriate preference if parents desire to see their son getting a good future.

To conclude, based on experts children have to get a freedom to play after schools but in my viewpoint it will be more advantages if they utilize the playing time with joining additional class after school.

tufail khan

VERY GOOD MR DIRWAN But actually you mixed both of the ideas , you need to take one side for this sort of essay writting, as it is mentioned in the above instruction. By the way WELL DONE . love from Pakistan to my sweet brother.

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EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

A man faces a computer generated figure with programming language in the background

As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

General purpose and generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, would have to comply with transparency requirements:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Limited risk

Limited risk AI systems should comply with minimal transparency requirements that would allow users to make informed decisions. After interacting with the applications, the user can then decide whether they want to continue using it. Users should be made aware when they are interacting with AI. This includes AI systems that generate or manipulate image, audio or video content, for example deepfakes.

On December 9 2023, Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on the AI act . The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law. Before all MEPs have their say on the agreement, Parliament’s internal market and civil liberties committees will vote on it.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

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  • The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples

The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

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Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

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Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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What does it mean to claim the US is a Christian nation, and what does the Constitution say?

FILE - A statue of Benjamin Franklin is seen at The Franklin Institute, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in Philadelphia. Franklin, like some other key founders, admired Jesus as a moral teacher but would not pass a test of Christian orthodoxy. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE - A statue of Benjamin Franklin is seen at The Franklin Institute, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in Philadelphia. Franklin, like some other key founders, admired Jesus as a moral teacher but would not pass a test of Christian orthodoxy. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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Many Americans believe the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and the idea is energizing some conservative and Republican activists. But the concept means different things to different people, and historians say that while the issue is complex, the founding documents prioritize religious freedom and do not create a Christian nation.

Does the U.S. Constitution establish Christianity as an official religion?

What does the constitution say about religion.

“(N)o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (Article VI)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (First Amendment)

FILE- President Joe Biden, with from left, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., pray and listen during the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, at the Capitol in Washington. Johnson has spoken in the past of his belief America was founded as a Christian nation. Biden, while citing his own Catholic faith, has spoken of values shared by people of “any other faith, or no faith at all.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

If it says “Congress,” does the First Amendment apply to the states?

It does now. Early in the republic, some states officially sponsored particular churches, such as the Congregational Church in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Within a few decades, all had removed such support. The post-Civil War 14th Amendment guaranteed all U.S. citizens “equal protection of the laws” and said states couldn’t impede on their “privileges or immunities” without due process. In the 20th century, the Supreme Court applied that to a number of First Amendment cases involving religion, saying states couldn’t forbid public proselytizing, reimburse funding for religious education or sponsor prayer in public schools.

What does it mean to say America is a Christian nation?

It depends on whom you ask. Some believe God worked to bring European Christians to America in the 1600s and secure their independence in the 1700s. Some take the Puritan settlers at their word that they were forming a covenant with God, similar to the Bible’s description of ancient Israel, and see America as still subject to divine blessings or punishments depending on how faithful it is. Still others contend that some or all the American founders were Christian, or that the founding documents were based on Christianity.

That’s a lot to unpack. Let’s start at the top. What about the colonies?

Several had Christian language in their founding documents, such as Massachusetts, with established churches lasting decades after independence. Others, such as Rhode Island, offered broader religious freedom. It’s also arguable whether the colonies’ actions lived up to their words, given their histories of religious intolerance and their beginnings of centuries-long African slavery and wars on Native Americans.

What about the founders?

The leaders of the American Revolution and the new republic held a mix of beliefs — some Christian, some Unitarian, some deistic or otherwise theistic. Some key founders, like Benjamin Franklin, admired Jesus as a moral teacher but would fail a test of Christian orthodoxy. Many believed strongly in religious freedom, even as they also believed that religion was essential to maintain a virtuous citizenry.

Were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution based on Christianity and the Ten Commandments?

References to the Creator and Nature’s God in the Declaration reflect a general theism that could be acceptable to Christians, Unitarians, deists and others. Both documents reflect Enlightenment ideas of natural rights and accountable government. Some also see these documents as influenced, or at least compatible, with Protestant emphasis on such ideas as human sin, requiring checks and balances. In fact, believers in a Christian America were some of the strongest opponents of ratifying the Constitution because of its omission of God references.

Were most early Americans Christian?

Many were and many weren’t. Early church membership was actually quite low, but revivals known as the First and Second Great Awakenings, before and after the Revolution, won a lot of converts. Many scholars see religious freedom as enabling multiple churches to grow and thrive.

Were Catholics considered Christian?

Not by many early Americans. Some state constitutions barred them from office.

How did that change?

Gradually, but by the time of the Cold War, many saw Catholics, Protestants and Jews as God-believing American patriots, allied in the face-off with the atheistic, communist Soviet Union.

Was it only conservatives citing the idea of a Christian nation?

No. Many proponents of the early 20th century social gospel saw their efforts to help the needy as part of building a Christian society. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed on national radio for God’s blessing “in our united crusade ... over the unholy forces of our enemy.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that civil rights protesters stood for “the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

What do progressive Christians say today?

“Christian nationalism has traditionally employed images that advocate an idealized view of the nation’s identity and mission, while deliberately ignoring those persons who have been excluded, exploited, and persecuted,” said a 2021 statement from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, an umbrella group that includes multiple progressive denominations.

What do Americans believe about this?

Six in 10 U.S. adults said the founders originally intended America to be a Christian nation, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey. Forty-five percent said the U.S. should be a Christian nation, but only a third thought it was one currently.

Among white evangelical Protestants, 81% said the founders intended a Christian nation, and the same number said that the U.S. should be one — but only 23% thought it currently was one, according to Pew.

In a 2021 Pew report, 15% of U.S. adults surveyed said the federal government should declare the U.S. a Christian nation, while 18% said the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God.

One-third of U.S. adults surveyed in 2023 said God intended America to be a promised land for European Christians to set an example to the world, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings survey. Those who embraced this view were also more likely to dismiss the impact of anti-Black discrimination and more likely to say true patriots may need to act violently to save the country, the survey said.

Sources: Pew Research Center; Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings; “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” by John Fea.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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My Mother Got on a Bike. It Changed Her Life.

An illustration of a woman with gray hair wearing a yellow shirt and colorful bike shorts, riding a bicycle. Behind her several figures stand in a cloud of dust.

By Caroline Paul

The author of “Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking — How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Life as We Age.”

When my mother was 62 years old, she dusted off a clunky Cannondale with Mary Poppins handles and joined a bicycling group. She was recovering from heartbreak and had just moved to a new town. She had no background as an outdoor activity enthusiast: She did not camp or hike, had never, say, paddled a kayak. But the bike group was made up of 60-, 70- and 80-year-olds. How hard could it be to tag along?

As I approach the age my mother was then, I notice my peers are increasingly galled by their advancing years. And why not? My friends are simply responding to the very real negative messaging around older women: fading looks, frail bones, cognitive decline, no cultural significance. I overheard one woman discussing plastic surgery and remarking, “Who doesn’t want to turn back time?” It’s hard not to get sucked into that mind-set.

Yet the way we look at our own aging predicts what our future holds, as Becca Levy, a professor of public health at Yale, writes in her recent book, “Breaking the Age Code .” We increase our risk of cardiac events and speed up cognitive decline, studies show, if we believe getting older is a time of suffering and diminution. More important, the opposite is also true: Those of us who view later life as a time of growth and vitality are more likely to stay healthy and to keep senility at bay . We may also end up living a whopping seven and a half years longer . In one instance, Dr. Levy looked at data from a longitudinal study and came to this astonishing conclusion: Mind-set was the most significant factor determining individuals’ longevity.

But all around us, the media, dating apps, our youth-obsessed culture and our own preconceived notions lead to one verdict: Aging stinks. It will be a white-knuckle ride, women are told, through increasing frailty and irrelevance. Affirmations and positive self-talk — skimming the surface of our psyches, outnumbered in the scrum — don’t stand a chance. Dr. Levy’s studies show us that we need to believe fervently in the vitality of our future. But how?

My mother joined that bike group. What was initially a distraction spun into a passion. She became a serious cyclist, the kind of serious who wore brightly colored bike shirts, used Lance Armstrong breathing techniques and planned group rides. I rode my bike with my mother once; believe me, there is nothing more disheartening than being trash-talked by one’s mom as she huffs by you on a hill. Pedaling through her 70s, she explored steep mountain roads and new towns. She entered 100-mile races, changed flats and downed electrolytes on the go.

I was envious of her new life. Except for the Metamucil regimens and early bedtimes, she and her fellow seniors resembled any weekend warrior. But unlike so many people I knew, she and her friends didn’t seem to want to be younger. My mother became more fit, more social and more emotionally expressive than I’d ever seen her.

Turns out, my mother’s cycling habit meant that she was checking many of the boxes — health, novelty, community and purpose — needed to age well. (For others, this might come in the form of a language class, a book club, a commitment to mastering a plank.) Yet when my mother went biking, there was something more: She was embracing attributes like exhilaration, exploration, awe, a little bit of recklessness. This provided the final pillar for healthy and fulfilling aging: Dr. Levy’s positive mind-set.

But how? My mom didn’t live in a bubble; she had not escaped subliminal toxic messaging. It was the bicycling, with its demands for physical vitality, the uncertainty of every ride, the grit on the uphill, the inherent “wheeeeee” aspect of fun on the downhill — all powerful proof of that messaging’s mendacity. As her beliefs were being subverted, her biking adventures also drew surprised and admiring reactions from peers and from those much younger (like her own children). “Wow!” and “Badass!” were the elated responses, which boosted her passion for the sport and her life. (Another thing not expected of older women: passion.)

Consider another study , in which Dr. Levy and her co-authors used computers to display positive subliminal phrases about aging (like “spry,” “capable”) to older participants in several sessions over several weeks. The researchers found these participants performed better on physical tests and ended up with a more favorable perception of aging.

Likewise, my mother’s biking adventures served as their own flashing screen. Every pedal uphill was a subliminal shout that she was strong. Every heart skip on a downhill told her she was brave and fun. Every new route she planned showed she was capable. She was being immersed in implicit feedback that upended what she (and others) had been told one could and could not do or be at this age.

Most older women don’t join bike groups. Instead, we begin to pull back on physical activities, risk taking or novel pursuits. Too dangerous for our failing body and mind, we are told in ways both subliminal and overt, and we believe it. But what if danger is found in failing to pursue exhilaration, exploration and physical vitality?

Unwittingly my mother knew: These attributes don’t imperil us. They protect us.

Activating exhilaration, exploration and physical vitality will be different for each of us. In my quest to understand healthy aging. I met a 93-year-old hiker, a 74-year-old BMX biker, an 80-year-old scuba diver and a slew of boogie boarders in their 60s, 70s and 80s. I walked on the wing of a plane at 3,000 feet in the air. But I also went bird-watching. Adventure, it turns out, is in the eye of the beholder and can be had by almost all of us, despite physical restrictions, financial constraints or limited backcountry know-how.

Over and over, these women told me in different ways: Pick an outdoor activity, one that will electrify and engage, because it will change your life. To those who warn you against such foolishness, remind them of what Joan Captain, a player on one of San Diego’s senior women’s soccer leagues, told a journalist when she was 72: “People say, oh, that’s so dangerous, you know, you should take it easy. And I say, well, you see that couch over there? The couch will kill you.”

My mother stopped cycling only as she approached 80. She had begun to feel unsteady on her bike; she was soon diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At some point, then, the messaging has some truth. But this isn’t disheartening. This is just one more reason to embrace everything now. I’m sure my mother would still be pedaling if not for this stroke of bad luck. Instead, she gets outside any way she can, often on a walk around her neighborhood. On a recent amble, she waxed nostalgic but not about her youth. “I wish I was 60 again,” she mused, and we slowly continued down the sidewalk.

Caroline Paul’s books include “Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking — How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Lives as We Age” and “The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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The Chronicle

Duke no longer giving numerical rating to standardized testing, essays in undergraduate admissions

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Duke is no longer giving essays and standardized testing scores numerical ratings in the undergraduate admissions process.

The change went into place this year, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag wrote in an email to The Chronicle. He explained that essays are no longer receiving a score because of a rise in the use of generative artificial intelligence and college admissions consultants.

When asked about how the admissions office determines if an essay is AI-generated or written by consultants and if applicants are hurt if the office determines so, Guttentag answered that "there aren't simple answers to these questions." 

Despite the changes, Guttentag wrote that essays and standardized testing scores are still considered in the admissions process. 

“Essays are very much part of our understanding of the applicant, we’re just no longer assuming that the essay is an accurate reflection of the student’s actual writing ability,” he wrote. “Standardized tests (SAT or ACT) are considered when they’re submitted as part of the application.”

According to Guttentag, essays will now be used to “help understand the applicant as an individual rather, not just as a set of attributes and accomplishments.” He also wrote that the admissions office now values essays that give “insight into who the unique person is whose application we’re reading” and that “content and insight matter more than style.”

“Because of that they are not given a numerical rating, but considered as we think holistically about a candidate as a potential member of the Duke community,” he wrote. 

Previously, the Duke admissions office would assign numerical ratings of one to five on six different categories: curriculum strength, academics, recommendations, essays, extracurriculars and test scores. Applicants would then receive a total score out of 30 by adding up each category’s numerical rating.

According to Guttentag, the only categories given numerical ratings now are the four categories that remain: “the strength of a student’s curriculum, their grades in academic courses, their extracurricular activities and the letters of recommendation.”

“There are naturally many, many more factors that are taken into account when making admissions decisions — these are just a partial but useful way of thinking [of] applicants in the context of the pool as a whole,” he wrote. “I suppose it may be something similar to looking at a player’s various statistics, which only give you a partial picture of the player’s contribution to the team.”

Guttentag noted that historically, numerical ratings have been “valuable in helping to identify competitive applicants.”

Admissions processes for colleges across the country have seen changes and experimentation recently due to a variety of factors, most notably the Supreme Court’s overturning of race-based affirmative action in June 2023 and changes to standardized testing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Supreme Court decision was absolutely not a factor in how we decided to approach essays,” Guttentag wrote. Duke remained test-optional for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. 

'One of the blessings of my life': As Lexi Schmalz's Duke journey nears twilight, her family's Blue Devil legacy holds firm

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  • 05 February 2024

First passages of rolled-up Herculaneum scroll revealed

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Three rows of yellow papyrus with black writing in columns, on a black background.

Text from the Herculaneum scroll, which has been unseen for 2,000 years. Credit: Vesuvius Challenge

A team of student researchers has made a giant contribution to solving one of the biggest mysteries in archaeology by revealing the content of Greek writing inside a charred scroll buried 2,000 years ago by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The winners of a contest called the Vesuvius Challenge trained their machine-learning algorithms on scans of the rolled-up papyrus, unveiling a previously unknown philosophical work that discusses the senses and pleasure. The feat paves the way for artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to decipher the rest of the scrolls in their entirety, something that researchers say could have revolutionary implications for our understanding of the ancient world.

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AI reads text from ancient Herculaneum scroll for the first time

The achievement has ignited the usually slow-moving world of ancient studies. It’s “what I always thought was a pipe dream coming true”, says Kenneth Lapatin, curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. The revealed text discusses sources of pleasure including music, the taste of capers and the colour purple. “It’s an historic moment,” says classicist Bob Fowler at the University of Bristol, UK, one of the prize judges. The three students, from Egypt, Switzerland and the United States, who revealed the text share a US$700,000 grand prize.

The scroll is one of hundreds of intact papyri excavated in the eighteenth century from a luxury Roman villa in Herculaneum, Italy. These lumps of carbonized ash — known as the Herculaneum scrolls — constitute the only library that survives from the ancient world, but are too fragile to open.

The winning entry, announced on 5 February, reveals hundreds of words across 15 columns of text, corresponding to around 5% of a scroll. “The contest has cleared the air on all the people saying will this even work,” says Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and co-founder of the prize. “Nobody doubts that anymore.”

Twenty-year mission

In the centuries after the scrolls were discovered, many people have attempted to open them, destroying some and leaving others in pieces. Papyrologists are still working to decipher and stitch together the resulting, horribly fragmented, texts. But the chunks with the worst charring — the most hopeless cases, adding up to perhaps 280 entire scrolls — were left intact. Most are held in the National Library in Naples, Italy, with a few in Paris, London and Oxford, UK.

A carbonized scroll rests on weighing scales.

This Herculaneum scroll was burnt and buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Credit: Vesuvius Challenge

Seales has been trying to read these concealed texts for nearly 20 years. His team developed software to “virtually unwrap” the surfaces of rolled-up papyri using 3D computed tomography (CT) images. In 2019, he took two of the scrolls from the Institut de France in Paris to the Diamond Light Source particle accelerator near Oxford to make high-resolution scans.

Mapping the surfaces was time consuming, however, and the carbon-based ink used to write the scrolls has the same density as papyrus, so it was impossible to differentiate in CT scans. Seales and his colleagues wondered whether machine-learning models might be trained to ‘unwrap’ the scrolls and distinguish the ink. But making sense of all the data was a gigantic task for his small team.

Seales was approached by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Nat Friedman, who had become intrigued by the Herculaneum scrolls after watching a talk by Seales online. Friedman suggested opening the challenge to contestants. He donated $125,000 to launch the effort and raised hundreds of thousands more on Twitter, and Seales released his software along with the high-resolution scans. The team launched the Vesuvius Challenge in March 2023, setting a grand prize for reading 4 passages, of at least 140 characters each, before the end of the year.

Key to the contest’s success was its “blend of competition and cooperation”, says Friedman. Smaller prizes were awarded along the way to incentivize progress, with the winning machine-learning code released at each stage to “level up” the community so contestants could build on each other’s advances.

The colour purple

A key innovation came in the middle of last year, when US entrepreneur and former physicist Casey Handmer noticed a faint texture in the scans, similar to cracked mud — he called it “crackle” — that seemed to form the shapes of Greek letters. Luke Farritor, an undergraduate studying computer science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, used the crackle to train a machine-learning algorithm, revealing the word porphyras , ‘purple’, which won him the prize for unveiling the first letters in October . An Egyptian computer-science PhD student at the Free University of Berlin, Youssef Nader, followed with even clearer images of the text and came second.

A team of researchers used machine learning to image the shapes of ink on the rolled-up scroll. Credit: Vesuvius Challenge

Their code was released with less than three months for contestants to scale up their reads before the 31 December deadline for the final prize. “We were biting our nails,” says Friedman. But in the final week, the competition received 18 submissions. A technical jury checked entrants’ code, then passed 12 submissions to a committee of papyrologists who transcribed the text and assessed each entry for legibility. Only one fully met the prize criteria: a team formed by Farritor and Nader, along with Julian Schilliger, a robotics student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

The results are “incredible”, says judge Federica Nicolardi, a papyrologist at the University of Naples Federico II. “We were all completely amazed by the images they were showing.” She and her colleagues are now racing to analyse the text that has been revealed.

Music, pleasure and capers

The content of most of the previously opened Herculaneum scrolls relates to the Epicurean school of philosophy, founded by the Athenian philosopher Epicurus, who lived from 341 to 270 bc . The scrolls seem to have formed the working library of a follower of Epicurus named Philodemus. The new text doesn’t name the author but from a rough first read, say Fowler and Nicolardi, it is probably also by Philodemus. As well as pleasurable tastes and sights, it refers to a figure called Xenophantus, possibly a flute-player of that name mentioned by the ancient authors Seneca and Plutarch, whose evocative playing apparently caused Alexander the Great to reach for his weapons.

Lapatin says the topics discussed by Philodemus and Epicurus are still relevant: “The basic questions Epicurus was asking are the ones that face us all as humans. How do we live a good life? How do we avoid pain?” But “the real gains are still ahead of us”, he says. “What’s so exciting to me is less what this scroll says, but that the decipherment of this scroll bodes well for the decipherment of the hundreds of scrolls that we had previously given up on.”

There is likely to be more Greek philosophy in the scrolls: “I’d love it if he had some works by Aristotle,” says papyrologist and prize judge Richard Janko at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, some of the opened scrolls, written in Latin, cover a broader subject area, raising the possibility of lost poetry and literature by writers from Homer to Sappho. The scrolls “will yield who knows what kinds of new secrets”, says Fowler. “We’re all very excited.”

The achievement is also likely to fuel debate over whether further investigations should be conducted at the Herculaneum villa, entire levels of which have never been excavated. Janko and Fowler are convinced that the villa’s main library was never found, and that thousands more scrolls could still be underground. More broadly, the machine-learning techniques pioneered by Seales and the Vesuvius Challenge contestants could now be used to study other types of hidden text, such as cartonnage, recycled papyri often used to wrap Egyptian mummies.

The next step is to decipher an entire work. Friedman has announced a new set of Vesuvius Challenge prizes for 2024, with the aim of reading 90% of a scroll by the end of the year. But in the meantime, just getting this far “feels like a miracle”, he says. “I can’t believe it worked.”

Nature 626 , 461-462 (2024)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-00346-8

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What is an Essay?

10 May, 2020

11 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

Well, beyond a jumble of words usually around 2,000 words or so - what is an essay, exactly? Whether you’re taking English, sociology, history, biology, art, or a speech class, it’s likely you’ll have to write an essay or two. So how is an essay different than a research paper or a review? Let’s find out!

What is an essay

Defining the Term – What is an Essay?

The essay is a written piece that is designed to present an idea, propose an argument, express the emotion or initiate debate. It is a tool that is used to present writer’s ideas in a non-fictional way. Multiple applications of this type of writing go way beyond, providing political manifestos and art criticism as well as personal observations and reflections of the author.

what is an essay

An essay can be as short as 500 words, it can also be 5000 words or more.  However, most essays fall somewhere around 1000 to 3000 words ; this word range provides the writer enough space to thoroughly develop an argument and work to convince the reader of the author’s perspective regarding a particular issue.  The topics of essays are boundless: they can range from the best form of government to the benefits of eating peppermint leaves daily. As a professional provider of custom writing, our service has helped thousands of customers to turn in essays in various forms and disciplines.

Origins of the Essay

Over the course of more than six centuries essays were used to question assumptions, argue trivial opinions and to initiate global discussions. Let’s have a closer look into historical progress and various applications of this literary phenomenon to find out exactly what it is.

Today’s modern word “essay” can trace its roots back to the French “essayer” which translates closely to mean “to attempt” .  This is an apt name for this writing form because the essay’s ultimate purpose is to attempt to convince the audience of something.  An essay’s topic can range broadly and include everything from the best of Shakespeare’s plays to the joys of April.

The essay comes in many shapes and sizes; it can focus on a personal experience or a purely academic exploration of a topic.  Essays are classified as a subjective writing form because while they include expository elements, they can rely on personal narratives to support the writer’s viewpoint.  The essay genre includes a diverse array of academic writings ranging from literary criticism to meditations on the natural world.  Most typically, the essay exists as a shorter writing form; essays are rarely the length of a novel.  However, several historic examples, such as John Locke’s seminal work “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” just shows that a well-organized essay can be as long as a novel.

The Essay in Literature

The essay enjoys a long and renowned history in literature.  They first began gaining in popularity in the early 16 th century, and their popularity has continued today both with original writers and ghost writers.  Many readers prefer this short form in which the writer seems to speak directly to the reader, presenting a particular claim and working to defend it through a variety of means.  Not sure if you’ve ever read a great essay? You wouldn’t believe how many pieces of literature are actually nothing less than essays, or evolved into more complex structures from the essay. Check out this list of literary favorites:

  • The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon
  • Notes of a Native Son by 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

Pretty much as long as writers have had something to say, they’ve created essays to communicate their viewpoint on pretty much any topic you can think of!

Top essays in literature

The Essay in Academics

Not only are students required to read a variety of essays during their academic education, but they will likely be required to write several different kinds of essays throughout their scholastic career.  Don’t love to write?  Then consider working with a ghost essay writer !  While all essays 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 post-graduate classes include:

Five paragraph essay

This is the most common type of a formal essay. The type of paper that students are usually exposed to when they first hear about the concept of the essay itself. It follows easy outline structure – an opening introduction paragraph; three body paragraphs to expand the thesis; and conclusion to sum it up.

Argumentative essay

These essays are commonly assigned to explore a controversial issue.  The goal is to identify the major positions on either side and work to support the side the writer agrees with while refuting the opposing side’s potential arguments.

Compare and Contrast essay

This essay compares two items, such as two poems, and works to identify similarities and differences, discussing the strength and weaknesses of each.  This essay can focus on more than just two items, however.  The point of this essay is to reveal new connections the reader may not have considered previously.

Definition essay

This essay has a sole purpose – defining a term or a concept in as much detail as possible. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not quite. The most important part of the process is picking up the word. Before zooming it up under the microscope, make sure to choose something roomy so you can define it under multiple angles. The definition essay outline will reflect those angles and scopes.

Descriptive essay

Perhaps the most fun to write, this essay focuses on describing its subject using all five of the senses.  The writer aims to fully describe the topic; for example, a descriptive essay could aim to describe the ocean to someone who’s never seen it or the job of a teacher.  Descriptive essays rely heavily on detail and the paragraphs can be organized by sense.

Illustration essay

The purpose of this essay is to describe an idea, occasion or a concept with the help of clear and vocal examples. “Illustration” itself is handled in the body paragraphs section. Each of the statements, presented in the essay needs to be supported with several examples. Illustration essay helps the author to connect with his audience by breaking the barriers with real-life examples – clear and indisputable.

Informative Essay

Being one the basic essay types, the informative essay is as easy as it sounds from a technical standpoint. High school is where students usually encounter with informative essay first time. The purpose of this paper is to describe an idea, concept or any other abstract subject with the help of proper research and a generous amount of storytelling.

Narrative essay

This type of essay focuses on describing a certain event or experience, most often chronologically.  It could be a historic event or an ordinary day or month in a regular person’s life. Narrative essay proclaims a free approach to writing it, therefore it does not always require conventional attributes, like the outline. The narrative itself typically unfolds through a personal lens, and is thus considered to be a subjective form of writing.

Persuasive essay

The purpose of the persuasive essay is to provide the audience with a 360-view on the concept idea or certain topic – to persuade the reader to adopt a certain viewpoint. The viewpoints can range widely from why visiting the dentist is important to why dogs make the best pets to why blue is the best color.  Strong, persuasive language is a defining characteristic of this essay type.

Types of essays

The Essay in Art

Several other artistic mediums have adopted the essay as a means of communicating with their audience.  In the visual arts, such as painting or sculpting, the rough sketches of the final product are sometimes deemed essays.  Likewise, directors may opt to create a film essay which is similar to a documentary in that it offers a personal reflection on a relevant issue.  Finally, photographers often create photographic essays in which they use a series of photographs to tell a story, similar to a narrative or a descriptive essay.

Drawing the line – question answered

“What is an Essay?” is quite a polarizing question. On one hand, it can easily be answered in a couple of words. On the other, it is surely the most profound and self-established type of content there ever was. Going back through the history of the last five-six centuries helps us understand where did it come from and how it is being applied ever since.

If you must write an essay, follow these five important steps to works towards earning the “A” you want:

  • Understand and review the kind of essay you must write
  • Brainstorm your argument
  • Find research from reliable sources to support your perspective
  • Cite all sources parenthetically within the paper and on the Works Cited page
  • Follow all grammatical rules

Generally speaking, when you must write any type of essay, start sooner rather than later!  Don’t procrastinate – give yourself time to develop your perspective and work on crafting a unique and original approach to the topic.  Remember: it’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes (or three) look over your essay before handing in the final draft to your teacher or professor.  Don’t trust your fellow classmates?  Consider hiring an editor or a ghostwriter to help out!

If you are still unsure on whether you can cope with your task – you are in the right place to get help. HandMadeWriting is the perfect answer to the question “Who can write my essay?”

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

Due to human nature, we draw conclusions only when life gives us a lesson since the experience of others is not so effective and powerful. Therefore, when analyzing and sorting out common problems we face, we may trace a parallel with well-known book characters or real historical figures. Moreover, we often compare our situations with […]

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Writing a research paper on ethics is not an easy task, especially if you do not possess excellent writing skills and do not like to contemplate controversial questions. But an ethics course is obligatory in all higher education institutions, and students have to look for a way out and be creative. When you find an […]

Art Research Paper Topics

Art Research Paper Topics

Students obtaining degrees in fine art and art & design programs most commonly need to write a paper on art topics. However, this subject is becoming more popular in educational institutions for expanding students’ horizons. Thus, both groups of receivers of education: those who are into arts and those who only get acquainted with art […]

IMAGES

  1. How to Write a Discussion Essay

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  2. How To Write A Discussion Essay

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  3. How to Write a Discussion Essay

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  4. A Guide to Essay Writing

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  5. Writing a 'discuss issues' essay

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  6. 016 Candideusingquotations Meaning Of Discuss In An Essay ~ Thatsnotus

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  2. Discuss both views essay and give your opinion| Writing task 2 tips and tricks

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  4. Write an Essay Properly ! #essay #speaking #writing #eassywriting

  5. Essay Writing

  6. What is Essay? || Characteristics of A Good Essay || CSS || PMS

COMMENTS

  1. How to Answer a Discuss Essay

    A discuss essay of the highest standard will be logical, flow well and make arguments and statements based on knowledge and evidence, covering all perspectives. You should include all the most important (key) factors or issues in a subject area, highlighting where there is debate over these, ensuring that both sides of the argument are presented.

  2. Analyse, Explain, Identify… 22 essay question words

    And to understand the requirements of the question, you need to have a good hold on all the different question words. For example, 'justify', 'examine', and 'discuss', to name a few. Lacking this understanding is a pitfall many students tumble into. But our guide on essay question words below should keep you firmly above on safe, essay-acing ...

  3. How to Write a Discussion Section

    The discussion section is where you delve into the meaning, importance, and relevance of your results. It should focus on explaining and evaluating what you found, showing how it relates to your literature review and paper or dissertation topic, and making an argument in support of your overall conclusion. It should not be a second results section.

  4. Discussion essays

    Discussion essays are a common form of academic writing. This page gives information on what a discussion essay is and how to structure this type of essay. Some vocabulary for discussion essays is also given, and there is an example discussion essay on the topic of studying overseas. What are discussion essays?

  5. How to Critically Discuss in An Essay

    So, what does it mean to critically discuss something in an essay? And more importantly, how can you do it effectively? What is Critical Discussion? Before diving into the how-to, grasping what critical discussion entails is essential. Essay writing help often emphasises the importance of this step.

  6. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Verbs like analyze, compare, discuss, explain, make an argument, propose a solution, trace, ... • Avoid beginning with a dictionary definition of a term or concept you will be writing about. If the concept is complicated or unfamiliar to your readers, you will need to define it in detail later in your essay. If it's not complicated, you can ...

  7. Essays: Task Words

    perspectives. This often means making the whole essay a reasoned argument for your overall case, based on your judgments. Critically evaluate : As with 'evaluate', but showing how judgments vary from different perspectives and how some judgments are stronger than others.

  8. How to Write a Discussion Essay (with Pictures)

    A discussion essay, also known as an argumentative essay, is one where you take a position on an issue. Start by taking a side, researching your topic, and outlining your essay before launching into the introduction and your thesis statement. [1]

  9. How to Structure an Essay

    Chronological structure. The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go. A chronological approach can be useful when ...

  10. What is an essay?

    An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates. In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills. Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative: you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence ...

  11. Understanding instruction words in academic essay titles

    Discuss, consider: The least specific of the instruction words. Decide, first of all, what the main issues are. Then follow the same procedures for Comment on, Criticise, Evaluate, Critically Evaluate and Assess. Analyse: Break down into component parts. Examine critically or closely.

  12. What is the Difference Between Explain and Discuss

    The verb discuss means to talk or write about something in detail, taking into account different issues or ideas. The basic meaning of 'discussion' is a conversation between two or more parties; therefore, when you are discussing something, you should look at different perspectives.

  13. Understanding Essay Questions

    What is the main subject of the question? (e.g. Parliament) Is there a particular aspect of that subject the question is asking you to consider? (e.g. the role of women in Parliament) Does the question indicate any limits to your answer? (e.g. the role of women in Parliament since 1918)

  14. How to Write a Discussion Essay

    A discussion essay is a paper that requires you to analyze the two sides of a circumstance and to close by saying which side you favor. These are known as discussions for or against essays. In this sense, the scholastic significance of the word discuss is like its ordinary importance of two individuals discussing a theme from various sides.

  15. Essay Structure: The 3 Main Parts of an Essay

    Basic essay structure: the 3 main parts of an essay. Almost every single essay that's ever been written follows the same basic structure: Introduction. Body paragraphs. Conclusion. This structure has stood the test of time for one simple reason: It works. It clearly presents the writer's position, supports that position with relevant ...

  16. How to Write a Discussion Essay

    A discussion essay presents and discusses issues surrounding a particular topic--usually one that is debatable and open to argument. A good argumentative essay must include a thorough discussion of both sides of the issue, including main points to support your argument and its counterargument.

  17. Definition and Examples of Essays or Compositions

    Definitions and Observations. " [An essay is a] composition, usually in prose .., which may be of only a few hundred words (like Bacon's "Essays") or of book length (like Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding") and which discusses, formally or informally, a topic or a variety of topics." (J.A. Cuddon, "Dictionary of Literary Terms".

  18. There's no difference between "evaluate" and "discuss."

    So when writing about a theory or a model, discuss and evaluate mean the same thing. In fact, in all essays students should be aware that they're writing one central argument and then balanced with a counter-argument, regardless of the command term. Once I realized this basic concept, my teaching of essay writing became much simpler and more ...

  19. IELTS Discussion Essays [Discuss Both Views/Sides]

    As the name suggests, a discussion essay is an essay that discusses things! More specifically, it is a type of IELTS writing task 2 essay that requires you to look at two different points of view. You can easily recognise these essays by the following phrase: Discuss both views and give your opinion. Sometimes it is phrased a little differently.

  20. EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

    In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world's first rules on AI.

  21. Opinion

    The special counsel Robert K. Hur's report, in which he declined to prosecute President Biden for his handling of classified documents, also included a much-debated assessment of Mr. Biden's ...

  22. The Four Main Types of Essay

    An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays. Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and ...

  23. Is the US a Christian nation? What the Constitution says

    What does it mean to say America is a Christian nation? It depends on whom you ask. Some believe God worked to bring European Christians to America in the 1600s and secure their independence in the 1700s. Some take the Puritan settlers at their word that they were forming a covenant with God, similar to the Bible's description of ancient ...

  24. Opinion

    Likewise, my mother's biking adventures served as their own flashing screen. Every pedal uphill was a subliminal shout that she was strong. Every heart skip on a downhill told her she was brave ...

  25. Duke no longer giving numerical rating to standardized testing, essays

    "Essays are very much part of our understanding of the applicant, we're just no longer assuming that the essay is an accurate reflection of the student's actual writing ability," he wrote.

  26. First passages of rolled-up Herculaneum scroll revealed

    There is likely to be more Greek philosophy in the scrolls: "I'd love it if he had some works by Aristotle," says papyrologist and prize judge Richard Janko at the University of Michigan in ...

  27. The Deeper Meaning of 'Washington Crossing the Delaware'

    Essay. The Deeper Meaning of 'Washington Crossing the Delaware' The iconic painting by Emanuel Leutze is often criticized today for being historically inaccurate and simplistically patriotic ...

  28. What is an Essay? Definition, Types and Writing Tips by HandMadeWriting

    The essay is a written piece that is designed to present an idea, propose an argument, express the emotion or initiate debate. It is a tool that is used to present writer's ideas in a non-fictional way. Multiple applications of this type of writing go way beyond, providing political manifestos and art criticism as well as personal ...