A journal is a written personal response which usually includes opinions, feelings, and impressions. An example journal entry is “What I Miss Most About My Home Country”:

  • Although I miss many things about my home country, I would have to say I miss my family most of all. The smells, sights, sounds, and tastes are all very different for me in China, but the aches of the heart are much stronger than those differences. When I first arrived, I was very excited at what I saw and smelled and tasted. It was an entire new world to me. I saw bright colors and many, many Chinese people. This was strange for me to be the only American in a crowd of people. The Chinese language also sounded funny to my ears. though I had taken a little Chinese, the language was too fast for me to understand all that was being said around me. I was very sensitive to any English words that I heard at all. The tastes were also incredible and different—seaweed, rice, many flavors of tea, leche, yellow watermelon, and different kinds of fish. I was in awe! All that was familiar to me was gone. After about a month I adapted to the flavors, language, and smells, but could not grow used to being away from my family. I still missed them; although we e-mailed and spoke on the phone often, nothing replaced them being with me. I miss them very much.


An essay is about one to five paragraphs. An essay is very clear and concise, and includes a brief introduction and conclusion. Usually essays are requested on tests or for short response papers.

Here is an example:

Which of your possessions would be the most difficult for you to give up? Describe why.

  • The one possession which would be most difficult for me to lose is my journal. In many ways it would be like losing a part of myself, because it contains so much of what I am. In addition to a record of daily events, it contains a history of my life, mementos from things I have done, and a record of my thoughts and feelings.

    I use my journal to help me remember parts of my past that I enjoy living over in my mind. I often pick it up to scan a particular trip or event, or to reread and savor a particular incident. My favorites are the trips we have taken as a family across the United States and throughout Europe. As a read these entries I can almost feel and see and smell the campgrounds, hear the cuckoos and cowbells, picture the mountains and cool streams. It is almost like being there.

    One of my major reasons for writing my journal is for my children. As we took these trips, they were too young to write their own records. But I wrote for them so that they too can relive and enjoy these times over and over. When they do read, their most frequent comment is “Oh, yeah. I had forgotten all about that.” I'm glad that I can help keep these precious memories alive for them.

    The children also figure in another reason that I write daily. I want them to get to know me better. As we go through the trials of daily family life, sometimes we're not as close as we'd like to be, but the journal can serve as a bridge to bring us closer together. When they read about my trials in growing up, they know that I can understand some of what they are going through.

    The last reason I write may be the most important. I write for me. I write so that I can know who I am and what I am becoming. I include in my journal my ups and downs, my disappointments as well as my triumphs. I include my negative feelings as well as positive, and I record my failures as well as my successes. This gives me a record on which I can judge myself. Am I making progress? Am I a better person today than I was ten years ago? I can look back and see how I handled a similar situation and learn from it. I can see where disappointments gave way to triumphs and I can hold on through today's trials as well. I can even read of the great times that came to an end and know that the current high will also subside and not be devastated when it does.

    My journal is my most important material possession, the one I would hate to lose the most.


A report is usually a formal explanation of a topic. It can vary in size anywhere from three to ten or more pages. It does not use a reference style like MLA or APA. Here is an example paragraph.

  • Economics is the study of how people choose among the alternatives available to them. It's the study of little choices and big choices. It's the study of individual choices, choices by firms, and choices by governments. Life presents each of us with a wide range of alternative uses of our time and other resources; economists examine how we choose among those alternatives. (taken from Lansford, 2001. The Everyday Writer. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, p. 44).

Descriptive Paper

A descriptive paper or paragraph is one which uses very specific details and imagery to “paint a picture” in the reader's mind. Papers are usually very specific and capture a very brief moment of time. Here is an example paragraph:

  • The professor's voice began to fade into the background as my eyes wandered around the classroom in the old administration building. The water-stained ceiling was cracked and peeling, and the splitting wooden beams played host to a variety of lead pipes and coils. My eyes followed these pipes down the walls around the corners until I eventually saw the electric outlets. I thought it was strange that they were exposed and not built in, until I realized that there probably had been no electricity when the building was built. Below the outlets the sunshine was falling in bright rays across the hardwood floor, and I noticed how smoothly the floor was worn. Time had taken its toll on this building. (taken from Lunsford, 2001. The Everyday Writer. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, p.43).

Compare and Contrast

This type of paper is used to show the differences between to topics or objects. For example, a teacher might ask students to compare and contrast the differences between the U.S. today and fifty years ago. Words such as “in comparison” or “in contrast” or “differing in opinion/view” are often used. Conclusions are not drawn, but differences can be shown. Here is an example paragraph:

  • You could tell the veterans from the rookies by the way they were dressed. The knowledgeable ones had their heads covered by kerchiefs, so that if they were hired, tobacco dust wouldn't get in their hair; they had on clean dresses that by now were faded and shapeless, so that if they were hired they wouldn't get tobacco dust and grime on their best clothes. Those who were trying for the first time had their hair freshly done and wore attractive dresses; they wanted to make a good impression . But the dresses couldn't be seen at the distance that many were standing from the employment office, they were crumpled in the crush. (taken from Lunsford, 2001. The Everyday Writer. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, p. 45).


This type of paper is usually used to persuade the audience of a certain viewpoint. An example topic is “Why People Should Not Smoke.” (example — coming soon!)

Research Paper

A research paper is the most formal paper which explicitly states a thesis and supports details with previous research citations. See examples here.

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