Academic Writing Tutorial: The Meaning Of An Illustration Essay


When you are asked to write an illustration essay, your teacher expects you to provide specific examples and comparisons to fully examine and explain an issue. This style requires you to be very descriptive in your choice of language. You will need vivid adjectives that will appeal to the senses. Rich language provides depth to your work, however you need to remember you are working on non-fiction and everything you say must be verifiable by quality research.


Unlike in a narrative essay where you are expected to fit your non-fiction into a narrative arc, here you will be analyzing a problem while using clear and colorful examples. These can include anecdotes from your own experience or something you have read as a way of connecting with your reader.


What to think about when choosing a topic


  1. Make it interesting to your reader. Which is another way of saying, thoroughly research your audience.

  2. Choose a subject you find interesting. It is very difficult to write convincingly if you are bored.

  3. Make sure all the examples you find are solid, it is hard to build an argument on abstract ideas.

  4. Always make sure before you start writing that you have enough examples to make your point. Too narrow a topic and your argument will run dry.

How to structure your work


  1. Introduction. In this section you will open with general statements of the area you intend to illustrate. It will end with a very simple thesis statement such as “There is a lot of violence on television shows”. You need not provide any more than that; you are not being asked for an opinion, your paper is merely to provide examples that violence happens on TV shows. The keywords are “a lot”, “violence”, and “television shows”.

  2. Main body. In your research you provide strong examples that match up to the keywords and make connections with the reader. This can be by relating personal experience – you have watched a lot of violent shows and your reader probably has as well. Perhaps you want to include that your grandmother says that more of the shows on television are violent these days – your reader is likely to have a grandmother who says things were better in the old days. Or maybe you have read a learned magazine article – your reader can respect the authority of the journal.

  3. Conclusion. Restate your thesis and draw a conclusion allowing your reader to see that from your examples the problem exists.

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