Narrative Essay

A narration is simply the telling of a story. Whenever someone recounts an event or tells a story, he or she is using narration. A narration essay recounts an event or tells a story to illustrate an idea. A narration essay may be entertaining or informative.

Five Basic Steps to Writing a Narrative Essay

  1. Purpose: Why are you telling the story? Every narration must have a point or purpose, usually to entertain or to inform.
  2. Context: You should establish the context of your narrative early in the essay. You can follow these basic guidelines: who, what, where, when.
  3. Point of View: A narrative essay may be written in the first-person (I) or third-person (he, she, it) point of view; do not use second person (you). If you were part of the action, the first-person provides the best perspective. If you are relating an event based upon other sources, use the third-person point of view. In some circumstances, you may be forced to choose the point of view (if, for example, you were a witness, but not a participant). Once you have decided upon a point of view, stay consistent with it.
  4. Details: Include enough details for clarity; however, select only the facts that are relevant.
  5. Organization: A narrative usually follows a chronological time line; however, you may find flashbacks a creative option as long as the narrative can be clearly followed by the reader. Most narratives are told in the past tense. You should keep tenses consistent.

Thesis Statements for Narrative Essays

To create a thesis statement, combine the claim and the supporting details in one sentence. The direction of your essay can change depending on the pattern in which you organize the supporting details.

Supporting Details Organized Into Categories  

Laughter has always been an important part of my family; it has helped us to get comfortable after long separations, made it easier to deal with difficult times, and served as a form of entertainment.


Supporting Details Organized Into Time Frames Laughter has always been an important part of my life, supporting me throughout my childhood, teenage years, and my adult life.


Once you have drafted a narrative, it’s always a good idea to ask someone else to read it. And, of course, you yourself will want to review what you have written from the standpoint of a critical reader.

Questions to Keep in Mind When Checking a Narrative

PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE. Does the narrative serve the purpose it is intended to serve? Is it appropriate for its intended audience? Does it need any additional background information or definitions?


THE STORY. Does it consist mainly of actions and events? Do they constitute a plot, with a clear beginning, middle, and end? Is every action in the narrative necessary to the plot? Have any essential actions been left out?


THE POINT. Does the narrative have a clear point to make? What is it? Is it stated explicitly in a thesis? If not, should it be?


ORGANIZATION. Is the storyline easy to follow? Are the events in chronological order? Are there any unintentional lapses in chronology or verb tense? Are intentional deviations from chronology, such as flashbacks, clearly indicated?


TRANSITIONS. Are there clear transitions to help readers follow the sequence of events? Have you checked over each transition to see that it logically connects the adjoining parts of the narrative?


DIALOGUE AND POINT OF VIEW. If there is no dialogue in the narrative, would some direct speech help bring it to life? If there is dialogue, does it sound like real people talking? Is the narrative told from a consistent, plausible point of view?


DETAILS. Does the narrative include lots of concrete details, especially sensory details (visual, olfactory, tactile, and auditory)? Does it show as well as tell?  Can your reader imagine themselves there?


THE BEGINNING. Will the beginning of the narrative get the reader’s attention? How? How well does it set up what follows? How else might the narrative begin?


THE ENDING. How satisfying is it? What does it leave the reader thinking or feeling? How else might the narrative end?

Michael| 2018

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Definition Essay


To effectively communicate with your readers, both you and your readers need to establish shared definitions of terminology.  Definition essays are often one step in a larger process of persuasion, although they can stand on their own as well.

The act of defining something is more than simply going to a dictionary.  Instead, a definition argument seeks to determine which characteristics, ideas, or features a term includes as well as what it excludes for the purpose of your specific argument.

Example: For the purpose of this study, the term “trousers” refers only to those pants that are worn by men, including both pleated and flat fronted styles, and which are made of fabrics other than denim.  

Strategies for Definition

Define by Function: Explain what something does/ how something is done.

Example: A tutor is a person who guides students to master a specific skill that is needed for academic success.

Define by Structure: Describe how something is organized.

Example: A tutoring session begins with tutor and student establishing goals for the meeting, continues as the tutor explains the relevant content, and finishes with the student applying the new knowledge to his or her own work.

Define by Analysis: Compare the term to other members of its class by looking at similarities and differences.

Example: A tutor is a teacher who helps students one-on-one and who provides alternative explanations to concepts introduced in the classroom.


A definition essay explains what a word/a term means. Follow these steps to help develop your definition essay:

  1. Tell readers which term you are defining
  2. Present clear and basic information about the term
  3. Use facts and examples that readers can understand

Once you have a draft of your definition essay, ask a friendly critic to read it and tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Then read it over yourself with an eye for what can be improved.

Here are some questions to keep in mind when checking a definition essay:

PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE. For whom is this definition written? What is its purpose—To define something the reader probably doesn’t know much about? To demonstrate your knowledge to an already knowledgeable reader? How is the reader likely to define the subject? Does the definition confirm a standard definition, or challenge or expand it in some way? How?

THE BASIC DEFINITION. Does the definition identify the general class to which the subject of the essay belongs, plus the distinguishing characteristics that separate that subject from others in the same class? If not, how might the definition be improved?

THE POINT. What is the main point of the definition? Is it stated as a thesis, preferably in the introduction of the essay? How might the main point be made even clearer to the reader?

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS. How does the essay extend the basic definition? Does it introduce essential distinguishing characteristics of the subject? Are the characteristics sufficient to define the subject? Have any essential characteristics been left out? Which characteristics are most informative? Do any need to be sharpened or omitted? Does the definition say what the subject is not? Should it?

SYNONYMS AND ETYMOLOGIES. Are words with similar meanings or word histories used to help define key terms? If not, would either of these devices improve the definition?

OTHER METHODS. What other basic methods of development are used: description? comparison and contrast? Something else? If they are not used, how might such methods be incorporated into the definition?


Kaylan | 2016 

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Compare & Contrast

In a comparison/contrast essay, a writer must do the following:

  1. Identify and explain three or more key points that two or more subjects have in common.
  2. Show the similarities and differences between these points.
  3. Develop a thesis, indicating his or her position regarding the two subjects. The thesis may indicate that one subject is stronger than the other and that both subjects have strengths, or that both subjects possess noteworthy flaws.

There are two ways to organize a comparison/contrast essay.

Subject By Subject

This organizational pattern is most effective when used on short essays, such as in-class essays. The body of such an essay is organized by discussing one subject, point by point, in complete detail before moving on to the next subject. The writer should select points by which both subjects can be examined. The number of body paragraphs will be determined by the number of points discussed in the essay.  Here is an example:

Body #1 Body #2 Body #3 Body #4 Body #5 Body #6
Discuss point #1 of the first subject. Discuss point #2 of the first subject. Discuss point #3 of the first subject. Transition to and discuss point # 1 of the second subject Discuss point #2 of the second subject Discuss point #3 of the second subject


Point By Point

This organizational pattern is most effective when used on longer essays, such as a comparison of two articles, short stories, or novels. The body of such an essay is organized by discussing one point at a time and how it applies to each subject before moving on to the next point. For long works, at least three points should be examined if not more.

Body #1 Body #2 Body #3 Body #4 Body #5 Body #6
Discuss point #1 of the first subject Discuss point #1 of the second subject Discuss point #2 of the first subject Discuss point #2 of the second subject Discuss point #3 of the first subject Discuss point #3 of the second subject


Once you’ve drafted a comparison essay, ask someone else to look over your draft and tell you how effective he or she finds your basic comparison—and why. Then read it over yourself, too, with a critical eye.

Some questions to keep in mind when checking a comparison

SUBJECTS OF COMPARISON. What specific subjects does this essay compare? Are those subjects similar enough to justify the comparison? On what basis are they compared? Does the text emphasize the similarities or the differences between them? Or does it give equal weight to both?

PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE. Who are the intended readers, and what is the general purpose of the comparison—to inform? to evaluate? some other purpose? Does the comparison achieve this purpose? If not, what changes might help? What background information is included, and is it sufficient for the intended readers to fully understand the text? Are there any key terms that readers might need to have defined?

THE POINT. What is the main point of the essay? Has it been made clear to the reader? Is there an explicit thesis statement? If not, should there be

ORGANIZATION. How is the essay organized? Where does it use the point-by-point method of organization? The subject-by-subject method? When comparing subjects point by point, does the essay give more or less equal weight to each subject? When treating first one subject and then the other, does the essay follow more or less the same order in laying out the points of comparison for each subject?

POINTS OF COMPARISON. What are the specific points of comparison in the essay? Are they sufficient to convince the reader that the comparison is valid? Do they cover the same elements in both subjects? Have any important points been omitted—and if so, what are they?

OTHER METHODS. What other methods are used besides comparison and contrast? Does the essay classify subjects? Define them? Make an argument about them? What other methods might support the comparison?


Kaylan | 2016 

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Supporting Details

In a unified paragraph, all of the sentences directly support the main idea or topic sentence.  Including details that are not relevant to the main idea makes your paragraph unclear and distracts your reader from the point you are making.  

The Purpose of Supporting Details

  1. Keep the reader focused on the main idea of the paragraph
  2. Demonstrate that your topic sentence or main idea is accurate and believable
  3. Make your meaning clear and forceful with concrete, specific information

Questions to Consider

  1. Does this sentence directly explain the topic sentence or main idea?  What new information does it add?
  2. Would any essential information be lost if this sentence were deleted?  If not, delete it.
  3. Is this information distracting or unimportant?  If so, delete it.

Types of Supporting Details

  1. Reasons — explanations that tell why an opinion is valid
  2. Facts — statements that can be proved
  3. Statistics — facts expressed in numbers
  4. Examples — specific instances that explain or demonstrate a point
  5. Sensory Details — appeals to one or more of the physical senses
  6. Anecdotes — brief stories about a character or event

NOTE: Using a quote or paraphrasing another author’s ideas is not, in and of itself, a good supporting detail!  To use citation effectively, you need to explain the connection between the citation and your main point in your own words.

Sample Paragraph with Supporting Details

Reality TV shows that followed Survivor had none of the interesting elements that it had.  Big Brother was the first spin-off reality TV show to try to repeat the success of Survivor, but it did not offer the drama that Survivor did.  In Big Brother, contestants were locked in a house without any outside contact for weeks.  As in Survivor, there was a cash prize on the line, but in Big Brother there were not any competitions or struggles.  Contestants were expelled by a viewer phone poll, so the poll gave them no motive to scheme and plot allegiances the way Survivor contestants did.  In fact, the contestants had little to do except bicker and fight.  Viewers lost interest in players who were not up against any challenge except weeks of boredom.  In the end, Big Brother was simply not interesting.


Guidelines for Supporting Details

  1. Focus on who, what, when, where, why, and how questions.

Vague: Some animals hibernate for part of the year. (What animals? Where?)

Specific: Some bears hibernate for three to four months each winter.

  1. Name names.

Vague: When my sixty-three-year-old aunt was refused a job, she became an angry victim of age discrimination.

Specific: When my sixty-three-year-old Aunt Angela was refused a job at Vicki’s Nail Salon, she became an angry victim of age discrimination.

  1. Use action verbs.

Vague: When Silina came on stage, the audience became excited.

Specific: When Silina burst onto the stage, the audience screamed, cheered, and chanted “Silina, Silina!”

  1. Use descriptive language that appeals to the senses (smell, touch, taste, sound, sight).

Vague: It’s relaxing to walk on the beach.

Specific: I walked in the sand next to the ocean, breathing in the smell of the salt water and listening to the rhythmic sound of the waves.

  1. Use adjectives and adverbs.

Vague: As I weeded my garden, I let my eyes wander over the meadow sweets and hydrangeas, all the while listening to the chirping of a cardinal.

Specific: As I slowly weeded my perennial garden, I let my eyes wander over the pink meadow sweets and blue hydrangeas, all the while listening absent-mindedly to the chirping of a bright red cardinal.

NOTE: Use adjectives and adverbs carefully.  A passage filled with too many modifiers will be tiring to your reader.  Think about which modifiers help to make the idea feel concrete and real to your readers and choose wisely.


Kaylan | 2016 

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Reverse Outlining

Some assignments ask you to read and analyze complex information. In these cases, reverse outlining can help you distill the main ideas into short, clear statements. You may also use reverse outlining to revise your own work.

Step One: Highlight or underline the thesis and the topic sentences/main idea sentences in each paragraph.

  • When reading textbooks or articles, these can work as indications of what is important to study or bring up in class.
  • When revising your own work, these sentences should clearly answer the assignment prompt and prove whatever point you are trying to make.

Step Two: In the left-hand margin, write down the topic of each paragraph. Try to use as few words as possible.

  • When reading textbooks or articles, these notes should work as quick references for future study or in-class discussion.
  • When revising your own work, these notes should tell you if each paragraph is focused and clear.  Consider whether or not each paragraph focuses on only one topic.

Step Three: In the right-hand margin, write down how the paragraph topic advances the overall argument of the text. Again, be brief.

  • When reading textbooks or articles, these notes allow you to follow the logic of the essay, making it easier for you to analyze or discuss later.
  • When revising your own work, these notes should tell you if each paragraph fits in the overall organization of your paper. You may also notice that paragraphs should be shifted or split apart after completing this step.

You should be able to summarize the topic and the manner of support quickly; if you can’t, revise the paragraphs until you can.

Questions to Ask:

  1. Does every paragraph support the thesis?
  2. Do all of your supporting details relate to your topic sentences or main idea?
  3. Does one paragraph try to juggle several topics?
  4. Where might a reader have trouble following the order of ideas?
  5. Are any paragraphs too long or too short?


Kayla| 2016

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Transitions can ultimately better help the flow of any paper. Below are examples of signal words that can indicate to the reader that you are connecting ideas, concepts, or claims.

Addition — And

also in addition indeed
besides in fact moreover
furthermore moreover next


Cause & Effect — So, For

accordingly hence                                       then
as a result thus                                       therefore
consequently  since                                      it follows then


Comparison — Or

along the same lines                    likewise     similarly
in like manner                    by the same token     in similar fashion



admittedly                                                         granted naturally
to be sure                                                         although it is true that of course


Conclusion — So

as a result in short thus
consequently in sum to sum up
hence it follows, then to summarize
in conclusion therefore


Contrast — But, Yet

although                    even though regardless
by/in contrast                    nevertheless whereas
conversely                    on the contrary however
despite                    on the other hand while


actually that is                                    to put it bluntly
by extension in short                                    to put it succinctly
in other words ultimately                                    to put it another way



after all  for example                                         specifically
as an illustration  for instance                                        to offer a case



indeed  in fact                                          certainly
of course  to repeat                                          undoubtedly
without doubt  surely                                          by all means



so far    then                                              simultaneously
at length    afterwards                                              subsequently
meanwhile/ while    this time                                              until now


Kaylan | 2016

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