Notes Essays

Class 9 Notes Essay — Reid Hoffman, John Lilly, Chris Yeh, and Allen Blue’s CS183C Technology-enabled Blitzscaling course

Here is an essay version of my class notes from Class 9 of Stanford University’s CS183C — Technology-enabled Blitzscaling — taught by Reid Hoffman, John Lilly, Chris Yeh, and Allen Blue. Errors and omissions are my own. Credit for good stuff is Reid, John, Chris Yeh, and Allen’s entirely.

This class was a talk with Allen Blue and Reid Hoffman— two of the co-founders of LinkedIn — on lessons learned from scaling LinkedIn.

I wasn’t actually able to attend this class in person so a big thank you to Ryan McKinney for helping to record this class and share the audio with me.*

Video of the class, notes are below:

I. The change from OS1 to OS2 to OS3

  • During OS1 (The Family) — You are trying to figure out if you can create something customers want, that is unique.
  • At OS2 (The Tribe) — You are trying to figure out if you have product market fit, and when to put on the gas to occupy the full market
  • OS3 (The Village) — This is when you decide to scale up. When the company reaches 150 people is usually when you go through the next substantial shift.

II. Why scale?

  • 150 people is Dunbar’s number— a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships — this is estimated to be ~150 people.
  • Once your company goes beyond 150 people, this is the time when people at your company don’t know everyone else in the company and coordination becomes challenging.
  • At OS3 the company has a sense of real traction, company scale, and either has a revenue stream or can see where the revenue stream will come from.
  • The coordination challenges causes the company to need to scale up and support the larger organization.
  • If the organization is scaling 50–100% per year, you are essentially building an unstable organization. Typically companies will change their organization structure many times over during this period.

III. Key considerations of when to scale

  • This is when market size becomes an important consideration. One question is if your company scales up, does it grow into a market that is worth taking over?
  • At this point you need a plan for access to large pools of capital — This can either be revenue (in Google’s case) or fundraising (Airbnb, Dropbox, Uber, etc).
  • Companies scale fast usually because competition becomes much more intense. However there are examples — for example in the Minted Story Mariam Naficy decided not to hyperscale because her competition were the old school stationery companies. No one was trying to “take her out.” LinkedIn was very similar in this regard.
  • During the first stages (OS1 and OS2), competition is less important because the market opportunity is not obvious. Once you get to OS3 — other companies can see more of the opportunity you can see (it becomes less contrarian) and this turns on the clock to compete.
  • The decision of when to scale is very much a judgement decision — depends on competitive circumstances, market opprotunity, the value of being first to market, access to capital, etc.

IV. How and why LinkedIn made the choice to scale, in 2008

  • LinkedIn launched in May 5th, 2003. They decided to scale 5 years into the creation of the product.
  • During LinkedIn’s initial launch they made a decision to keep things trim (very much the same decisions Miriam made) — and they were very selective about hiring and raising capital.
  • Before 2008 it was difficult to articulate what they were doing. In 2003 there was a site that launched called Friendster, and the only way to get the press interested in LinkedIn was to say they were “Friendster for Business.”
  • After Friendster and Myspace came around, the average user started to understand what networks were and how to use them. In LinkedIn’s case, users started to understand how to keep a profile updated, why profiles were valuable, and the ability to use networks to find a job, etc.
  • LinkedIn started off as a consumer company and moved towards enterprise because they found out businesses wanted to pay LinkedIn for recruiter access — moved towards hiring account managers, sales, customer success, etc — started to see early signs of product market fit.
  • In 2008, they made a conscious decision that now was the time to move fast into the market opportunity — and win both the consumer and enterprise market.

V. The LinkedIn plan of how to scale

  • Much of the below comes from a presentation that Jeff Weiner gave in 2010, while they were in the middle of the village stage, to the whole company.
  • When Jeff joined (more on this below) he wanted to bring to the table the foundation for scaling. In OS1 and OS2 you don’t need as clear of a plan because everyone can work together directly. In the OS3 stage you need a far sharper and succinct business plan to manage a large organization — past Dunbar's number.
  • The mission of LinkedIn which Jeff laid out was to “create economic opportunity for every professional in the world.” This became the same mission they had followed for the last 6 years.
  • A mission is important because it becomes the touchstone which guides decisions. When you get to 400, 1,000, 10,000+ people, the key is to create a common language to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Once communication moves past 100’s of people — there are many conversations within the organization that you can’t be a part of — how can you resolve conversations you aren’t a part of? You need a way to articulate things.
  • Bringing in executives brings in a whole new set of skills which the LinkedIn team didn’t have before.

VI. Strategy of scaling LinkedIn

  • The strategy of LinkedIn (as laid out by Jeff) was to connect talent with opportunity at massive scale.
  • This includes both the growth of people joining LinkedIn and product market fit with recruiters who were paying for the product. The value to the recruiters was a large pool of passive candidates.
  • They decided to find customers primarily with the creation and scaling of a sales force.
  • Secondarily to their strategy also included “greater engagement across LinkedIn” and “developing secondary monetization strategies.”

Competitive advantage

  • The competitive advantages are the “moats” which are hard for others to copy.
  • In LinkedIn’s case, their moats were: a focus on the individual vs. the businesses, continuing to grow to critical mass, network density, concentration on data (profile completeness), and using data to drive their recruiter business.
  • In the middle of their strategic bullseye was their hiring solutions product (aka recruiters). After this was developing products for marketing professionals, sales professionals, etc.

VII. The operating priorities of LinkedIn were

  • Build a world class team
  • Focus on product
  • Monetize
  • Expand globally

Question from audience: What were the most surprising things when Jeff came in and did this?

Reid Hoffman: The things which stood out were:

  • The clarity and sharpness in which he expressed the plan
  • He made this plan rock solid and kept improving and reworking it.
  • This plan was the same plan we used internationally and externally. He repeated the key points of this plan over and over again (See Mozilla section)
  • Jeff had a strong focus on culture and the mechanisms for driving culture. He used these to expand our company while maintaining culture.

Articulating the plan

Reid Hoffman: The difference with articulating the plan in OS3 vs. OS2 or OS1 was this. Here's how I was articulating LinkedIn before:

  • We were building a network as a platform
  • On this platform everyone's identity would be real
  • We could use this platform for a number of different applications — helping people find and match with each other, helping people form connections, etc.

Jeff’s insight was these ideas work well with geeks but we were trying to build a company with 1,000’s of people. For this you need to articulate the plan with much more concrete and succinctness. We were still doing the same core thing but needed to come up with a way to rationalize all of this and get anyone to understand what we were doing quickly.

There are ways to fail as a 450 person company which just don’t apply during a small organization. The current tech giants (Facebook, Apple, Google, etc) aren’t there just because they had the right app, the right market opportunity, and just hung on.

There is a bunch of art and science on how you build an organization. How do you articulate a plan in which most people know how to understand and can coordinate amongst themselves? Also how do you build a culture which defines parallel action amongst a large number of people?

Question from the audience — Which of these things would be inappropriate in OS2?

Reid Hoffman: In the plan, things like “world class team” mean something different in OS3 vs OS2 or OS1. At LinkedIn we hired very smart people before — but now we had to operationalize things and put processes into place. For example, with hiring, we needed to create on-boarding processes, videos to help teach culture, interviewing practices, etc. We had to bring on executives who are managers of managers and so on.

The “world class team” means people who can adopt and create these kinds of practices. We aren’t saying the people we had weren’t a “world class team” — we were saying we needed to focus on people who understood and could implement scale mechanisms.

We noticed that the key pivotal roles — which were once occupied by generalists — either had to become more specialized or they would have to move into different roles. Generalists tend to be flexible, love to experiment, could figure it out on their own, weren’t afraid to take risks and attack new problems, etc.

During OS3 when we needed to take this part of the organization, grow it by 300%, develop dashboards and metrics to manage this part of the organization, all while improving operational efficiency — this kind of work tends to be done better by people who have high expertise in this particular field (specialists) rather than by generalists.

VIII. Scaling in the engineering function

Allen Blue: During the OS1 and OS2 our technical platform had been optimized for agility, being able to experiment quickly, abandoning failures, etc.

During OS3, we needed to shift to being able to increase our capacity and load by 10x-100x and build the systems to support what was working. During this period the attitude towards building software is very different than before.

Question from the audience: Going back to the generalist / specialists divide, how can you determine which type of person someone is? How do you know if a generalist could become a specialist?

During the OS1 family stage, everyone we hired were generalists. Good generalists were people who could: tackle a new problem, know how to sort it out, and were comfortable with different things. For example generalist engineers can work on the server side then move over to building an iOS app.

With specialists during hiring you want to ask:

  • What specific projects have they worked on in the past?
  • What did they learn from those projects?
  • How would they reproduce those same results in a different org.?

For example in hiring a sales generalists you would ask what would happen if I threw you in this circumstance? For hiring a sales specialists you would ask: how do you define a territory? How do you manage your sales pipeline? How do you measure your pipeline? You want to look for people who have done these things before and can do them again.

Question from the audience: Do you classify people as generalists and specialists? Do you interview differently for each type of person?

Reid Hoffman: Yes we do.

Question from the audience: Have you made bad hiring decisions?

Reid Hoffman: Yes we have made lots of bad decisions. Generally companies have one of two choices when they decide to scale:

  1. Hiring anyone quickly, monitoring their performance, then firing fast.
  2. Be more careful on hiring and more careful on firing.

Most organizations which I have seen scale — do the second strategy instead of the first. They do this because they need to build a community within the team, and its hard to do this if you are firing a lot of people.

There are organizations which do the first pattern though.

One of the goals for this class is if you hire someone for the family, think if they would make sense for the tribe — it’s important to start to think about these kinds of questions early. Part of the challenge is if you have someone you really want to keep but doesn’t work for later levels — the only chance of keeping them is to start these conversations early.

If you can see issues coming up in the future you can take preemptive steps today — coaching, mentoring, learning from others, talking directly, etc. People can understand if you need to hire a person above them if they understand the decisions around it — better to have these conversations early.

This is also part of the reason why scaling is a lot of real work.

Allen Blue: Founders are a little different in the fact that they associate their success with the success of the company — not a given role. Founders tend to be willing to make changes (with their own role) and continue to do this over time for the benefit of the org.

Reid Hoffman: The short answer on hiring over stages:

  • Now that you more data about the person from the stage before — would you hire this person in this role today?
  • If you don't answer this question 100% yes — you need to figure it out or make a change.

Question from audience: For LinkedIn, 60M users in 2008 seems like a lot, why did LinkedIn not have to scale until this point?

Reid Hoffman: Before they knew how to massively grow the revenue line we were only investing what we made back into the company — primarily to grow the user base. In 2008 they got to a point where they knew how to scale in terms of capital.

I wrestled a lot with the term “blitzscale” which we got from the word “blitzkrieg.” I don’t like the word but it has a lot of good parallels.

Prior to blitzkrieg, all of the war was done through supply chains. You would extend your front to only what the supply chain would handle — it had a max speed.

The innovation in blitzkrieg was, it said screw the supply chain, whatever you could carry you carried to go fast without the slow supply chain behind you. Once you got the battle you either won big or lost big. If you lost, you collapsed because you had no supply chain (no backup, no ammo, no food). It was very much a gamble.

Similarly in a startup when you scale — you are really going to crank up the burn rate — hire a lot more people, really make a go at it. If you are wrong, it’s very painful, most likely the death of the company. Before you scale you really have to know where investment will come from (either revenue or VC) before scaling.

Question from the audience: Do you have a thesis about if bringing on an outside leader is critical for blitzscaling (Jeff Weiner, Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt) or can the old team adapt?

Reid Hoffman: Roughly speaking it should be a combination of internal and external.

If it’s all internal you tend to drink your own koolaid, unless you have a lot of experience in scaling. This is tough because very few people have the experience of going early to late stage.

If it’s all external you tend to lose all of the people who care deeply about the problems you are working on, the people who are emotionally committed, work 100’s of hours a week.

The art is to balance between these two. Some of it comes down to the founders recognizing what their key strengths and weaknesses are. External people (investors/board) can help with this dialog and critique with the founder.

When you are founding a company the question to your board/investors isn’t “am I doing a good job?” it’s — "What could I be doing better? What do I need to be doing that I am not doing?" You need to have an accurate judgement about this and about yourself.

One of the things which was impressive about Mark Zuckerberg (Reid was an angel in Facebook) was watching Mark grow. He was trading out execs as he was scaling along the different stages to figure out what skills complimented him best. At the end he found Sheryl who excelled in many areas Mark didn’t have expertise in.

IX. Execution plan

Reid Hoffman: One thing to add is in OS1 and OS2, we were focusing on lots of experiments. One of the key execution components in OS3 was to pick a few things to focus on.

Allen Blue: One of these components was going international. Going international was something that didn’t play a role in OS1 or OS2.

For LinkedIn the critical components were:

  1. Product
  2. Go-to-Market
  3. Engineering

Each of these plans were presented on by a new executive, people we specifically brought on for OS3.

Product Plan

The background for the product plan was LinkedIn had been working on many of these items before, but never constructed it into a plan which 500 people would work on together.

The product plan included:

  • Member growth
  • Professional identity (profile)
  • Search (for recruiter product)
  • Knowledge sharing (Q&A, groups, etc)
  • Hiring solution (the paid product of LinkedIn
  • Marketing solution (the secondary paid product of LinkedIn)
  • Monetization (payments, invoicing, etc)

Go to market plan

  • Primary sales broken up by field sales teams

Another new component of the go to market plan and the OS3 stage in general is using dashboard and analytics to manage the company and forecast projections. You don’t really need this in the OS1 or OS2 stage.

Engineering Plan

  • The engineering plan was to scale our product lines 10x.
  • This happened primarily through focusing on developer productivity which included building our own internal tools.
  • Before this, we would just build things for product market fit — now we had to build systems in place for engineers and operations — uptime, distributed computing, disaster recovery, security, etc.
  • We had to change our whole stack and infrastructure, continue building our product, and scale our sales team all at once — it was very difficult.

Question from audience: How many engineers were you at, at this point?

Allen Blue: We were at about 200 engineers. One other reason why process is important is to to ensure we didn’t lose coherency across the product, tech, and sales offerings.

X. The CEO question

Reid Hoffman: Once you identify the scale challenges, one of the tough questions to ask yourself is: “Do we have the right CEO? Am I the right CEO?”

This isn’t a question about just now but it’s a question about what happens when you are 1,000 people, 2,000, 3,000, etc. The classic path is to wait till things are broken then try to fix it — this is much harder with organization problems. It’s better to anticipate where the organization is moving towards and then make the adjustments while you are going there.

The CEO directs how the whole organization works at scale. The two options are to either go into the steep learning curve or bring in a CEO/COO who has done this before. This is the same question with all of the other executive functions as well.

We fixed the ones which were absolutely critical — then used some of the early founders/employees who were generalists to fill in some of the other roles.

For myself personally (Reid), I was good at product and strategy but not so much in growing an organization. We originally hired Dan Nye as CEO when LinkedIn was 65 people. Dan was a good enterprise excellence person but after talking further, LinkedIn was at its core a consumer centric company and needed a CEO who had an affinity to this problem. Reid moved back into the CEO role then brought in Jeff Weiner to help. Very quickly Reid realized Jeff would be a good CEO and transitioned him to that role.

Allen Blue: Jeff knew we were going to need to grow fast — he worked to make sure our culture was relayed in the correct way. The challenge is when you hire in a distributed way — to make sure everyone hired the same in terms of quality, fit, match, interviewing style, etc. Jeff helped articulate a vision, mission, plan, etc but he also articulated a set of values and put these values into the hiring process. With these kinds of things, you can’t just talk about it either, they have to be embedded in how you manage on a regular basis.

People recruiting was also the #1 thing the engineers were worried about. When you are a small company, part of the pitch to engineers is to be able to define the tribe, the culture, processes, etc. When you are scaling up, this pitch doesn’t exist anymore. How do you now talk about the mission to get high quality people excited about LinkedIn?

Reid Hoffman: Another part of scaling is to make sure we had enough capital — enough money in the bank while they were about to throw on the gas and blitzscale.

The thought was to raise enough capital to smooth out our scaling challenge. This is much easier to do before scaling thann to do while you are scaling. Reid went out and raised the LinkedIn Series-D which was the last round before they went public.

Many people might be familiar with the LinkedIn Series B deck. Once you get to scale, the pitch changes to become much more succinct.

In the LinkedIn Series D deck was a:

  • summary of revenue growth
  • summary of user growth
  • revenue model (for LinkedIn it was mean revenue per member)
  • key execs and backgrounds

In later stage companies, the pitches are more succinct and much more model driven than in early stage companies.

For LinkedIn why we were so interested were:

  1. No cost of customer acquisition (users not recruiters)
  2. High margin on their recruiter product
  3. Highly scalable model (able to replicate to many users and recruiters)
  4. Network effects
  5. Huge market (recruiting, marketing, sales, business media)

Question from audience: How many companies fail at this stage? Is failing at this stage fatal?

Reid Hoffman: It depends on the competitive landscape. Many companies fail at this stage — sometimes it's product market fit, sometimes it's technology (Friendster failed in this way). I don’t know what the exact percentage is, we in technology tend to have a success bias and only look at the successful ones. At least in the social space there were Friendster, Orkut, Myspace, etc.

Question from audience: How did you approach new locations especially with the viral loop of email address, was this the same everywhere?

Reid Hoffman: We didn’t change the viral loop in other markets. Even in the early days we had a 50% international user base and we never tried going after people. It was only in the past couple years we have started doing specific changes for certain countries.

Question from audience: In terms of fundraising — how do you not fall into the temptation of just raising early and outspending the competition?

Reid Hoffman: By default, companies tend to raise more capital than less — more capital brings you more optionality.

The problem with raising too much capital are: less exit options, less discipline, setting too high expectations for new investors, it can complicate things.

On the other hand, a bigger war-chest is better than a smaller war-chest. The obvious tradeoff is dilution. In today’s market, it’s easier to get capital so founders are saying "let's go for it." Even if your valuation is above where it should be, you can use the capital to grow into the valuation.

This strategy works, only if when winter comes and financing dries up — you can get to a break-even state — because when you look badly capitalized, it's hard to raise money.

Allen Blue: Sometimes raising money at this stage is different than others — for example raising for acquisitions — common to start looking at acquiring companies during OS3 — LinkedIn didn’t, but it is common.

Question from audience: When you are at family or tribe stage, were you only hiring people who could make it to later stage? If not, did you have a discussion with them in the beginning?

Reid Hoffman: The short answer is, with very few people you have 100% confidence they can make it through multiple stages. Looking back on LinkedIn — some people broke earlier than expected and some lasted much longer than expected.

If you have the conversation — “there is no entitlement — even I’m not going to be the CEO forever" — we are defined by our mission and how well as a team we are reaching that mission. My job as a manager is to give you feedback, start the conversation, help you understand what you are good at and not good at, and helping you to find the best role possible.

For other uses, see Essay (disambiguation).

For a description of essays as used by Wikipedia editors, see Wikipedia:Essays.

"Essai" redirects here. For other uses, see Essai (disambiguation).

An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Formal essays are characterized by "serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length," whereas the informal essay is characterized by "the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme," etc.[1]

Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g., Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples. In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills; admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants, and in the humanities and social sciences essays are often used as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

The concept of an "essay" has been extended to other mediums beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions.


An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse".[2] It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject.[3] He notes that "the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything", and adds that "by tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece". Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference". These three poles (or worlds in which the essay may exist) are:

  • The personal and the autobiographical: The essayists that feel most comfortable in this pole "write fragments of reflective autobiography and look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description".
  • The objective, the factual, and the concrete particular: The essayists that write from this pole "do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists of setting forth, passing judgment upon, and drawing general conclusions from the relevant data".
  • The abstract-universal: In this pole "we find those essayists who do their work in the world of high abstractions", who are never personal and who seldom mention the particular facts of experience.

Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays "...make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist."

The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, "to try" or "to attempt". In English essay first meant "a trial" or "an attempt", and this is still an alternative meaning. The Frenchman Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) was the first author to describe his work as essays; he used the term to characterize these as "attempts" to put his thoughts into writing, and his essays grew out of his commonplacing.[4] Inspired in particular by the works of Plutarch, a translation of whose Œuvres Morales (Moral works) into French had just been published by Jacques Amyot, Montaigne began to compose his essays in 1572; the first edition, entitled Essais, was published in two volumes in 1580. For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. Francis Bacon's essays, published in book form in 1597, 1612, and 1625, were the first works in English that described themselves as essays. Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in 1609, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.



English essayists included Robert Burton (1577–1641) and Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682). In France, Michel de Montaigne's three volume Essais in the mid 1500s contain over 100 examples widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern essay. In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il Cortigiano. In the 17th century, the JesuitBaltasar Gracián wrote about the theme of wisdom.[5] During the Age of Enlightenment, essays were a favored tool of polemicists who aimed at convincing readers of their position; they also featured heavily in the rise of periodical literature, as seen in the works of Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public. The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English – William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays (e.g., T.S. Eliot). Whereas some essayists used essays for strident political themes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote lighter essays. Virginia Woolf, Edmund Wilson, and Charles du Bos wrote literary criticism essays.[5]


Main article: Zuihitsu

As with the novel, essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas. Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre. Notable examples include The Pillow Book (c. 1000), by court lady Sei Shōnagon, and Tsurezuregusa (1330), by particularly renowned Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshida Kenkō. Kenkō described his short writings similarly to Montaigne, referring to them as "nonsensical thoughts" written in "idle hours". Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.

Forms and styles

This section describes the different forms and styles of essay writing. These forms and styles are used by an array of authors, including university students and professional essayists.

Cause and effect

The defining features of a "cause and effect" essay are causal chains that connect from a cause to an effect, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order. A writer using this rhetorical method must consider the subject, determine the purpose, consider the audience, think critically about different causes or consequences, consider a thesis statement, arrange the parts, consider the language, and decide on a conclusion.[6]

Classification and division

Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts.[7]

Compare and contrast

Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. It is grouped by the object (chunking) or by point (sequential). The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects. When writing a compare/contrast essay, writers need to determine their purpose, consider their audience, consider the basis and points of comparison, consider their thesis statement, arrange and develop the comparison, and reach a conclusion. Compare and contrast is arranged emphatically.[8]


Descriptive writing is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader's emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description. A description is usually arranged spatially but can also be chronological or emphatic. The focus of a description is the scene. Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language, metaphor, and simile to arrive at a dominant impression.[9] One university essay guide states that "descriptive writing says what happened or what another author has discussed; it provides an account of the topic".[10]Lyric essays are an important form of descriptive essays.


In the dialectic form of the essay, which is commonly used in philosophy, the writer makes a thesis and argument, then objects to their own argument (with a counterargument), but then counters the counterargument with a final and novel argument. This form benefits from presenting a broader perspective while countering a possible flaw that some may present. This type is sometimes called an ethics paper.[11]


An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes. Writers need to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay.[12]


An essayist writes a familiar essay if speaking to a single reader, writing about both themselves, and about particular subjects. Anne Fadiman notes that "the genre's heyday was the early nineteenth century," and that its greatest exponent was Charles Lamb.[13] She also suggests that while critical essays have more brain than the heart, and personal essays have more heart than brain, familiar essays have equal measures of both.[14]

History (thesis)

A history essay sometimes referred to as a thesis essay describes an argument or claim about one or more historical events and supports that claim with evidence, arguments, and references. The text makes it clear to the reader why the argument or claim is as such.[15]


A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks, flash-forwards, and transitions that often build to a climax. The focus of a narrative is the plot. When creating a narrative, authors must determine their purpose, consider their audience, establish their point of view, use dialogue, and organize the narrative. A narrative is usually arranged chronologically.[16]


An argumentative essay is a critical piece of writing, aimed at presenting objective analysis of the subject matter, narrowed down to a single topic. The main idea of all the criticism is to provide an opinion either of positive or negative implication. As such, a critical essay requires research and analysis, strong internal logic and sharp structure. Its structure normally builds around introduction with a topic's relevance and a thesis statement, body paragraphs with arguments linking back to the main thesis, and conclusion. In addition, an argumentative essay may include a refutation section where conflicting ideas are acknowledged, described, and criticized. Each argument of argumentative essay should be supported with sufficient evidence, relevant to the point.


An economic essay can start with a thesis, or it can start with a theme. It can take a narrative course and a descriptive course. It can even become an argumentative essay if the author feels the need. After the introduction, the author has to do his/her best to expose the economic matter at hand, to analyze it, evaluate it, and draw a conclusion. If the essay takes more of a narrative form then the author has to expose each aspect of the economic puzzle in a way that makes it clear and understandable for the reader


A reflective essay is an analytical piece of writing in which the writer describes a real or imaginary scene, event, interaction, passing thought, memory, or form — adding a personal reflection on the meaning of the topic in the author's life. Thus, the focus is not merely descriptive. The writer doesn’t just describe the situation, but revisits the scene with more detail and emotion to examine what went well, or reveal a need for additional learning — and may relate what transpired to the rest of the author's life.

Other logical structures

The logical progression and organizational structure of an essay can take many forms. Understanding how the movement of thought is managed through an essay has a profound impact on its overall cogency and ability to impress. A number of alternative logical structures for essays have been visualized as diagrams, making them easy to implement or adapt in the construction of an argument.[17]


Main article: Free response

In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, essays have become a major part of a formal education in the form of free response questions. Secondary students in these countries are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and essays are often used by universities in these countries in selecting applicants (seeadmissions essay). In both secondary and tertiary education, essays are used to judge the mastery and comprehension of the material. Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay. In some courses, university students must complete one or more essays over several weeks or months. In addition, in fields such as the humanities and social sciences,[citation needed] mid-term and end of term examinations often require students to write a short essay in two or three hours.

In these countries, so-called academic essays also called papers, are usually more formal than literary ones.[citation needed] They may still allow the presentation of the writer's own views, but this is done in a logical and factual manner, with the use of the first person often discouraged. Longer academic essays (often with a word limit of between 2,000 and 5,000 words)[citation needed] are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review.[citation needed]

Longer essays may also contain an introductory page that defines words and phrases of the essay's topic. Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention helps others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of facts and quotations the author uses to support the essay's argument and helps readers evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and is designed to test their intellectual capabilities.

One of the challenges facing universities is that in some cases, students may submit essays purchased from an essay mill (or "paper mill") as their own work. An "essay mill" is a ghostwriting service that sells pre-written essays to university and college students. Since plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty or academic fraud, universities and colleges may investigate papers they suspect are from an essay mill by using plagiarism detection software, which compares essays against a database of known mill essays and by orally testing students on the contents of their papers.[18]

Magazine or newspaper

Main article: Long-form journalism

Essays often appear in magazines, especially magazines with an intellectual bent, such as The Atlantic and Harpers. Magazine and newspaper essays use many of the essay types described in the section on forms and styles (e.g., descriptive essays, narrative essays, etc.). Some newspapers also print essays in the op-ed section.


Employment essays detailing experience in a certain occupational field are required when applying for some jobs, especially government jobs in the United States. Essays known as Knowledge Skills and Executive Core Qualifications are required when applying to certain US federal government positions.

A KSA, or "Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities," is a series of narrative statements that are required when applying to Federal government job openings in the United States. KSAs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for the successful performance of a position are contained on each job vacancy announcement. KSAs are brief and focused essays about one's career and educational background that presumably qualify one to perform the duties of the position being applied for.

An Executive Core Qualification, or ECQ, is a narrative statement that is required when applying to Senior Executive Service positions within the US Federal government. Like the KSAs, ECQs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The Office of Personnel Management has established five executive core qualifications that all applicants seeking to enter the Senior Executive Service must demonstrate.

Non-literary types


A film essay (or "cinematic essay") consists of the evolution of a theme or an idea rather than a plot per se, or the film literally being a cinematic accompaniment to a narrator reading an essay.[citation needed] From another perspective, an essay film could be defined as a documentary film visual basis combined with a form of commentary that contains elements of self-portrait (rather than autobiography), where the signature (rather than the life story) of the filmmaker is apparent. The cinematic essay often blends documentary, fiction, and experimental film making using tones and editing styles.[19]

The genre is not well-defined but might include propaganda works of early Soviet parliamentarians like Dziga Vertov, present-day filmmakers including Chris Marker,[20]Michael Moore (Roger & Me (1989), Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)), Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line (1988)), Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me: A Film of Epic Portions) and Agnès Varda. Jean-Luc Godard describes his recent work as "film-essays".[21] Two filmmakers whose work was the antecedent to the cinematic essay include Georges Méliès and Bertolt Brecht. Méliès made a short film (The Coronation of Edward VII (1902)) about the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII, which mixes actual footage with shots of a recreation of the event. Brecht was a playwright who experimented with film and incorporated film projections into some of his plays.[19]Orson Welles made an essay film in his own pioneering style, released in 1974, called F for Fake, which dealt specifically with art forger Elmyr de Hory and with the themes of deception, "fakery," and authenticity in general. These are often published online on video hosting services.[22][23]

David Winks Gray's article "The essay film in action" states that the "essay film became an identifiable form of filmmaking in the 1950s and '60s". He states that since that time, essay films have tended to be "on the margins" of the filmmaking the world. Essay films have a "peculiar searching, questioning tone ... between documentary and fiction" but without "fitting comfortably" into either genre. Gray notes that just like written essays, essay films "tend to marry the personal voice of a guiding narrator (often the director) with a wide swath of other voices".[24] The University of Wisconsin Cinematheque website echoes some of Gray's comments; it calls a film essay an "intimate and allusive" genre that "catches filmmakers in a pensive mood, ruminating on the margins between fiction and documentary" in a manner that is "refreshingly inventive, playful, and idiosyncratic".[25]


In the realm of music, composer Samuel Barber wrote a set of "Essays for Orchestra," relying on the form and content of the music to guide the listener's ear, rather than any extra-musical plot or story.


A photographic essay strives to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small notes to full-text essays with a few or many accompanying photographs. Photo essays can be sequential in nature, intended to be viewed in a particular order — or they may consist of non-ordered photographs viewed all at once or in an order that the viewer chooses. All photo essays are collections of photographs, but not all collections of photographs are photo essays. Photo essays often address a certain issue or attempt to capture the character of places and events.

Visual arts

In the visual arts, an essay is a preliminary drawing or sketch that forms a basis for a final painting or sculpture, made as a test of the work's composition (this meaning of the term, like several of those following, comes from the word essayJA's meaning of "attempt" or "trial").

See also


  1. ^Holman, William (2003). A Handbook to Literature (9 ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 193. 
  2. ^Gale – Free Resources – Glossary – DEArchived 2010-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  3. ^Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays, "Preface".
  4. ^"Book Use Book Theory: 1500–1700: Commonplace Thinking". Archived from the original on 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  5. ^ abessay (literature) – Britannica Online EncyclopediaArchived 2009-12-04 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  6. ^Chapter 7: Cause and Effect in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  7. ^Chapter 5: Classification and Division in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  8. ^Chapter 6: Comparison and Contrast in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  9. ^Chapter 2: Description in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  10. ^Section 2.1 of the Simon Fraser University CNS Essay Handbook. Available online at:
  11. ^"How to Write an Ethics Paper (with Pictures) - wikiHow". Archived from the original on 2016-08-28. Retrieved 2016-07-01. 
  12. ^Chapter 4: Exemplification in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  13. ^Fadiman, Anne. At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays. p. x. 
  14. ^Fadiman, At Large and At Small, xi.
  15. ^History Essay Format & Thesis Statement, (February 2010)
  16. ^Chapter 3 Narration in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  17. ^"'Mission Possible' by Dr. Mario Petrucci"(PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-10-26. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  18. ^Khomami, Nadia (20 February 2017). "Plan to crack down on websites selling essays to students announced". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. 
  19. ^ abCinematic Essay Film GenreArchived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  20. ^(registration required) Lim, Dennis (July 31, 2012). "Chris Marker, 91, Pioneer of the Essay Film"Archived 2012-08-03 at the Wayback Machine.. The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  21. ^Discussion of film essaysArchived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine.. Chicago Media Works.
  22. ^Kaye, Jeremy (2016-01-17). "5 filmmakers that have mastered the art of the Video Essay". Medium. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
  23. ^Liptak, Andrew (2016-08-01). "This filmmaker deep-dives into what makes your favorite cartoons tick". The Verge. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
  24. ^Gray, David Winks (January 30, 2009). "The essay film in action". San Francisco Film Society. Archived from the original on March 15, 2009. 
  25. ^"Talking Pictures: The Art of the Essay Film". Retrieved March 22, 2011.

Further reading

  • Theodor W. Adorno, "The Essay as Form" in: Theodor W. Adorno, The Adorno Reader, Blackwell Publishers 2000.
  • Beaujour, Michel. Miroirs d'encre: Rhétorique de l'autoportrait'. Paris: Seuil, 1980. [Poetics of the Literary Self-Portrait. Trans. Yara Milos. New York: NYU Press, 1991].
  • Bensmaïa, Reda. The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text. Trans. Pat Fedkiew. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987.
  • D'Agata, John (Editor), The Lost Origins of the Essay. St Paul: Graywolf Press, 2009.
  • Giamatti, Louis. "The Cinematic Essay", in Godard and the Others: Essays in Cinematic Form. London, Tantivy Press, 1975.
  • Lopate, Phillip. "In Search of the Centaur: The Essay-Film", in Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film. Edited by Charles Warren, Wesleyan University Press, 1998. pp. 243–270.
  • Warburton, Nigel. The basics of essay writing. Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0-415-24000-X, ISBN 978-0-415-24000-0

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Essays.
University students, like these students doing research at a university library, are often assigned essays as a way to get them to analyze what they have read.
An 1895 cover of Harpers, a US magazine that prints a number of essays per issue.
"After School Play Interrupted by the Catch and Release of a Stingray" is a simple time-sequence photo essay.

One thought on “Notes Essays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *