How to Write an Illustration Essay (2019 Guide)

illustration essay
  • Published Date: October 22, 2018


An illustration essay sounds like something design or arts-focused students would have to do. Illustration essays describe the best way to compose pictures for books, right? Lol, no (but the name does make it sound like that’s what they should be doing). Illustration essays are sometimes called “example essays” by some teachers because they provide insight into the steps or processes of a phenomenon or give greater detail about something. And still other teachers will call them “descriptive essays.” If you feel your teacher might be mixing terminology, make sure to ask for clarification about his/her expectations. Some experts think that an illustration essay is the easiest type to write because many of these essays don’t require a thesis (often, not always) but really just ask the student to demonstrate their understanding of some issue or concept. Regardless, after reading this article you will fully understand how to write the perfect illustration essay and earn a passing grade or higher.

What is an Illustration Essay?

The definition of an illustration essay would be an essay that describes how something exists or works, offering both explanations, evidence and illuminations to shed light on a concept, phenomenon or series of processes. For example, the essay question: What does a baker do? could be answered by an illustration essay. This essay would go into all the details, tasks, responsibilities and jobs of the baker—the relevant information. Illustration essays really can be that simple. On the other hand, an essay that asks, Discuss racial discrimination. Support the viewpoint that non-white candidates are promoted less often and paid less than their white counterpoints, offering examples from reputable sources or personal experience. This too, is an example of an illustration essay, but a more complex one. In the first example, the essay doesn’t really ask you to create a thesis (though you could). An acceptable essay would just be to describe and discuss the life and times of bakers. However, a stronger essay would describe the duties and goals of a baker around an overarching thesis (for example: a baker seeks to create freshly baked goods so that they are both tasty and comforting). Tangentially, the essay topic that asks you to discuss racial discrimination has already provided you with a thesis (non-white people are paid less and receive few opportunities in the workplace). This is also common: sometimes for an illustration essay the teacher will just hand you a thesis to write about or expand. Essentially, when you’ve been assigned this type of paper, you need to be able to pinpoint if you should develop a thesis or work with one you’ve been given.

Need help finding illustration essay topics?

Illustration Essay Outline

To some students, illustration essays will seem so simple that an outline isn’t even necessary. However, that’s just not the case. Since the bulk of the essay will require you to explain or describe something in a lucid manner, you will need to keep your points organized. An outline, in this case, is always a good idea. The outline you create doesn’t need to be sophisticated: some of the best outlines that students use are little more than glorified lists of points they jotted down.

Outline Example

  1. Hook: interesting fact, anecdote or statistic about subject.
  2. Introduction to subject.
  3. Explain why exploring this subject further is important
  4. State thesis
  5. First Body paragraph: provide the most important description aspects about the subject.
  6. Second Body paragraph: offer the next most crucial facts or descriptive information about the subject.
  7. Third body paragraph: offer details and nuances about the subject to help tie things together.
  8. Conclusion: restate your thesis using new language. Recap your main points without using repetitive vocabulary. Connect the subject to a larger issue in human existence or the greater world.

Illustration Essay Example

If you ask the average New Yorker what they think about gun ownership, they’ll probably attest to the necessity of strict guns laws. If you ask the average Texan the same question, you’ll probably get the opposite answer. Gun control and gun usage is one of the most polarizing topics in America today. People have strong viewpoints about whether or not guns keep us safe or contribute to violence. One thing is for certain, guns used to be a bigger part of American society. In New York City for example, it was common to have shooting clubs in high schools up until 1969: students would take their firearms with them on the subways on the way to school and turn them over to their teacher or gym coach, simply so the unwieldy firearms would be out of the way (Lott, 2003. After school, young people would pick up their firearms when it was time to hone their skills within the confines of their gun clubs (Lott, 2003). Nowadays, a high schooler bringing a gun to school would cause widespread panic and pandemonium. One can’t help but wonder, how, as a nation, did we go from teenagers peacefully engaged in target practice as extracurricular clubs, to a violent society where school shootings have become more and more normalized? The answer can easily be traced in the media. As film, television and video games have become more violent, it has impacted the mental programming of children and adults. This paper will examine how violence in the media has evolved and become more intensive and overt, and with it, youths have come to view guns as a tool for their abject frustrations via methodological violence.

Copious research has demonstrated that the connection between exposure to violent media and violent youths is very direct and rather damning. The research indicates: “(1) playing violent electronic games is the strongest risk factor of violent criminality and (2) both media-stimulated and real experiences of aggressive emotions associated with the motive of revenge are core risk factors of violence in school and violent criminality. The results of our study show that the more frequently children view horror and violence films during childhood and the more frequently they play violent electronic games at the beginning of adolescence the higher will these students’ violence and delinquency be at the age of 14” (Hopf et al., 2008). This study offers scathing, detailed data which paints a very clear picture of how exposing children to violence during their most impressionable ages, when their brains are still developing can influence how they handle stress and perceived threats. Children who see repeated examples that portray violence as an acceptable means of handling conflict have such a message imprinted on their brains. It’s no wonder that children who are exposed to violence in the media have higher rates of delinquency. It’s almost as if the repeated exposure to violence in the media these children have had to absorb have provided a form of instruction to them. The teenagers of the 1940s and 1950s who were members of gun clubs in their high schools in New York had no such exposure to this kind of violence in the media—the difference is so remarkable it’s almost absurd. The teenagers of that generation were watching Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy—programs devoid of all portrayals of violence. This created a nation devoid of school shootings.


Some experts have argued that the connection between violence in the media and hostile behavior from youths offers such a concrete connection that one could even say that engaging with violent media is a predictor of hostile behavior in youths. “Exposures to violence in the media, both online and off-line, were associated with significantly elevated odds for concurrently reporting seriously violent behavior. Compared with otherwise similar youths, those who indicated that many, most, or all of the Web sites they visited depicted real people engaged in violent behavior were significantly more likely to report seriously violent behavior” (Ybarra, 2008). This research further underscores the influence that violence online or through video games can have on the minds and actions of impressionable young people. While it might sound overly simplistic to some, the reason why school shootings didn’t exist in the 1950s was because things like The Purge franchise didn’t exist either. There weren’t sources of media that offered realistic depictions of horrific carnage and frustrated people letting off steam or “seeking justice” through the torture and mass murder of those around them. Adults can process these facets of the media because their adult brains have learned the differences between reality and fantasy, and are well acquainted with the fact that there are very real consequences for violent behavior. Teenagers and children have not learned those lessons. Furthermore, their brains haven’t fully developed: their brains are more like receptive sponges that can be irreparably influenced by what they see on television. Hence, teenagers of the 1940s and 1950s had no inclination to murder their classmates, regardless of their personal unhappiness: this was because nothing in the media indicated that such a thing would be acceptable behavior. There was nothing in the media (nor society) to stimulate their minds in such a way and hence, such incidences never happened. In our society, on the other hand, the violent stimuli are almost unavoidable and we have far too many tragedies to count.

A truly fascinating study looked at what violence in the media was doing to subjects from a biophysical perspective. The researchers gathered a participant groups of subjects that had either aggressive or non-aggressive tendencies and showed them both violence in the media over a period of two days. There were notable differences in the biological reactions of each distinct group when they were forced to consume violent media. The aggressive group “…had less brain activity than the non-aggressive group in the orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region associated by past studies with emotion-related decision making and self-control. The aggressive subjects described feeling more inspired and determined and less upset or nervous than non-aggressive participants” (, 2014). This is such a provocative description as it indicates that the aggressive participants viewed violence in the media as something almost validating and soothing. The violence that was shown before them was something that they liked: it was something that almost calmed them, by offering the promise of an outlet for venting their aggression that they could use. This is indeed an eerie finding that suggests there are real dangers in promoting violence as a legitimate form of story-telling. Some people out in the world have naturally aggressive impulses and one really shouldn’t intend to stimulate these impulses in any way, as it’s akin to nurturing a garden of criminals. The conclusions of this study are equally disturbing, as they found that aggression is a form of personality characteristic that grows with the nervous system over the child’s development: “… patterns of behavior become solidified and the nervous system prepares to continue the behavior patterns into adulthood when they become increasingly coached in personality.  This could be at the root of the differences in people who are aggressive and not aggressive, and how media motivates them to do certain things” (, 2014). This conclusion clearly demonstrates that violence in the media can motivate aggressive people to act out their aggressions. The dangerous implications of this cannot be underestimated and must be heeded with extreme caution.

In summary, one can conclude that the anger towards gun accessibility is often misplaced. Rather than get angry at the tools that troubled youths use to commit heinous crimes, one should focus attentively on the factors that motivate them to do such things and the stimuli that suggest such behavior is permissible. This paper has demonstrated repeatedly that the media can negatively influence young people in this regard and teach them, and program them to think that this form of ugliness and hostility is a natural or satisfactory way to deal with one’s own frustrations, anxiety or depression. As a society we need to demand better forms of entertainment for young people. Violence remains a derivative and predictable aspect in most forms of media. There needs to be much better guidance from parents to children, screening the type of content they are allowed to consume. Permitting young people to absorb disturbing violent forms of media is akin to programming them for antisocial behavior later in life. It will take a unified nation in order to cause substantial changes in the programming made available for public consumption.


And thus, writing an illustration essay helps you to convey the overall picture of a subject or issue using detail, facts and your interpretation. It’s no wonder why so many teachers refer to this type of writing as an “example essay” as you have to offer so many examples when you write your descriptions. Essentially, this type essay helps the reader understand how or why something is the way it is. Your reader should really finish your essay with a deeper understanding of a subject and a more lucid sense of clarity. Our writers have completed hundreds of these types of essays and know what teachers are looking for and like. If you find yourself needing help, we have tons of writers happy to guide your work to completion.


Hopf, W. H., Huber, G. L., & Weiß, R. H. (2008). Media Violence and Youth Violence. Journal of Media Psychology20(3), 79-96. doi:10.1027/1864-1105.20.3.79 (2014, September 10). New Study Examines Impact of Violent Media on the Brain | Mount Sinai – New York. Retrieved from

Ybarra, M. L., Diener-West, M., Markow, D., Leaf, P. J., Hamburger, M., & Boxer, P. (2008). Linkages Between Internet and Other Media Violence With Seriously Violent Behavior by Youth. PEDIATRICS122(5), 929-937. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-3377


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