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An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. 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.
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.