Here we’ve compiled some of the types of writing assignments and concepts that we help students with the most.

We have a simple explanation of what each assignment can involve and some hints for writing it. These pages are not intended to define these types of writing, or to imply that all writing assignments fall into these categories. Remember, these assignments can mean different things in different circumstances, so use this information to help you understand the basic concepts behind the writing and go from there.

Types of Writing Assignments

Analyzing something asks you to dig deeper into the subject, breaking down its parts and investigating how the parts come together as a whole. This can mean:

  • Reading a short story to see how character development, plot line or setting each contribute to the meaning
  • Reading a poem to see what effects are created by line breaks and punctuation
  • Reading a scholarly article to see how outside sources contribute to the author’s thesis
  • Watching a movie to see how cinematography and music help develop the plot.

You can write a meaningful analysis of virtually anything, as long you take the time and effort to read between the lines. A successful analysis reveals the message of the subject, and how that message is being created.

Writing Hints

Sometimes doing analysis can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re analyzing something long or complex.

Writing a detailed description or creating an outline of the subject can help you organize your thoughts, decide exactly what you want to write about and select the elements necessary for your analysis. Remembering that you don’t need to write about every single part of the subject can help you keep your analysis tight and focused.

Writing an argument requires you to choose a specific point or assertion and then systematically argue for its truth or validity, justifying your claims with evidence. You can argue for a certain side of an ethical situation, for a certain interpretation of a text or for the superiority of one thing over the other. To put it simply, you can write an argument for any side of anything that can be argued about.

Writing Hints

  • Keeping your argument clear and organized will lend credibility to what you’re saying, and credibility goes a long way in making a successful argument.
  • It is okay to bring your opinion into an argument, but only if you support it with other facts, statistics or outside sources. You need to show valid reasons behind what you’re arguing for — and “because I think so” is not a sufficient reason.
  • Sometimes it can be a good challenge to argue for the side of an argument that you disagree with, or to create arguments for both sides. And it always helps your own argument if you can show that you understand the “other” side and then show why you think your side is the right or better one.

Comparing or contrasting two or more things — like a book and a movie, or a plane ride and a road trip — involves doing a close reviewing of the subjects and analyzing them for similarities (to compare) or differences (to contrast). If you’re comparing and contrasting the same subjects, then you can look for things like similarities and differences in the meaning or message of the subjects, and similarities and differences in the ways that this meaning or message is created.

Writing Hints

As with analysis and description, you can feel overwhelmed if you try to compare and/or contrast everything in your subjects. Narrow it down to something specific (it can be broad or detailed, like the plot of two novels or the way a certain symbol is used in two poems) and then review your subjects again, drawing out specific elements on which to focus your writing.

Describing something, whether it is a text or an object or an experience, is a way of bringing the subject to life in writing through carefully chosen details and language. When you are asked to describe something, you are usually being asked to portray it in a way that depicts your understanding of it rather than just your ability to re-tell it.

Description can also be helpful in preparing for analysis and interpretation or developing the foundation of an argument, persuasion or comparison and contrast piece.

Writing Hints

Because description is not about retelling, you don’t need to describe every detail and element of the subject.

Think of choosing the details of your written description in the same way you would choose how to describe someone you know to stranger. What is most important about this subject? What characteristics or details stand out to make this what it is?

Along with analysis, interpretation involves drawing meaning from both the parts of the subject and the subject as whole. Your interpretation of something can be seen as your way of understanding its meaning — such as a literary text or a piece of artwork.

Interpretation can come from description and help you to establish your position in an argument or persuasion piece.

Writing Hints

It is important to thoroughly acquaint yourself with a subject before establishing an interpretation of it. Creating an outline of important details before you decide what they mean gives you a way of following your thought process and supporting any conclusions that you draw about the subject.

Like an argument, a persuasive piece requires you to write in an attempt to show the validity of a specific point or conclusion. Persuasive pieces, however, are more focused on bringing the reader into agreement than establishing one argument or opinion over another.

Writing Hints

While the credibility of an argument rests largely on valid reasoning, effective persuasion also often appeals to emotions and desires. If you can make your readers relate to your reasons for believing or accepting something your chances of persuading them are much greater.