Writing an Effective Expository Essay for Students

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Originally published Dec 28, 2018, updated Feb 18, 2021
Writing an Effective Expository Essay for Students

An expository essay is a type of paper where an author chooses a topic, investigates it by evaluating the evidence, and expounds on it to tell readers about it in more detail.

List of Characteristics

The basic definition of this essay is not that hard to remember. A good expository essay will:

  1. Familiarize readers about the topic.
  2. Describe and explain facts to teach the readers.
  3. Provide extensive information on the topic.
  4. Be concise, logical, and in the third person, with formal language.

For an A-earning essay, you'll need a deep understanding of the topic and research to back it up. This offers readers a detailed rundown and knowledge of the subject. However, your goal with an expository essay is to teach and explain the topic, and as such, you must take a neutral tone.

Types of Expository Writing:

There are 5 kinds of expository writing. They include:

Problem and Solution

This type of essay is to find a problem by giving it a detailed explanation and then suggest one or more solutions. It is possible to choose the best of the answers to present in the essay. However, justify all your solutions with evidence, and explanations about how implementation could work, practical or not, must also be included. As an example, if the topic was the problem of landfills, the essay should explain what landfills are, why they are a problem, and then present and explain one or more of the ways to solve the problem.

Cause and Effect:

This essay is about explaining why and how something happened and what effect that had or may have. Some examples include discussing environmental problems and offering substantiated opinions about the impact of the issue on the future, or what impact a historical event had on the lives of the people it affected. Include research about the effects, whether true or opinion, to back up your explanation.

Compare and Contrast:

This essay has two main features; comparing a topic by detailing the similarities and differences between the two aspects of the topic. For example, if writing an article about the best place for pet cats, indoor or outdoor, you would detail the similarities between them in caring for a cat and then contrast them with the way's that a pet cat's life differs when outside vs. inside.

Definitions and Classification:

This is the kind of essay you're reading now! It explains the topic and then breaks down the types and varieties of the topic. For example, what is a car and how are the different types of car distinguished.

How-to/Process:

This essay walks the reader through how to complete a specific task. For example, to explain how to make tea, you would first explain what tea is and what the result will be. At that point, write a detailed explanation of the steps to complete, as well as substitute options either when explaining the steps or in conclusion.

How to Write an Expository Essay?

When writing an expository essay, you'll have lots of research to do as you want to inform your reader about an issue, a point of view, or a fact. To write an expository essay, you need to understand its aim and follow the steps of academic writing.

Essay Outline Build the Base

The outline builds the base of your essay and is its most important part. It helps to keep your text clean and structured. You'll have a good overview of what you want to cover in your essay without the risk of stray off the subject. Now we'll take a look at the basic outline you should follow when writing an expository essay:

Introduction - try to make a positive first impression. Basic parts of the introduction are:

  • Hook - it´s the first sentence of the essay; it should include a catchy quote, statistics or anecdote which suits your topic
  • Background info/context - give a brief overview of the topic you're about to cover
  • Thesis statement - You need to specify the exact topic you want to write about and the aspects you'll analyze

Body paragraphs - it´s the central part of your essay. Use as many paragraphs as needed to thoroughly analyze the subject. The more, the merrier. It'll only add up to your essay's credibility. Those paragraphs should be written according to the following formula:

  1. Topic 1 - Fact 1 + Evidence, Fact 2 + Evidence ... - start each paragraph with a topic sentence to announce what aspect you're going to discuss first. Within each paragraph, mention the facts you've discovered while researching and support those with trustworthy evidence (several references are also fine). Continue with the next topics in the same manner:
  2. Topic 2 - Fact 1 + Evidence, Fact 2 + Evidence ...
  3. Topic 3 - Fact 1 + Evidence, Fact 2 + Evidence ...

Conclusion - make a summary of the thesis, facts, and evidence you discussed in the main body without repeating every part. Here you can discuss (in short) the importance of the subject and raise more questions to encourage the reader to make up his mind about the topic himself.

Start Your an Expository Essay

After finishing the outline, you're ready to start writing your essay. In the introduction, you'll lay the basic foundation of the essay. The first thing you need to do is to inform the reader about the topic. Gather their attention with a surprising and maybe even unusual fact to keep them reading and interested.

You may also choose a fact to further emphasize the importance of the topic you're about to cover. For example, You're writing about a specific brand, you may mention the fact that this band makes over 10 million dollars a month through a local audience only.

After your fascinating opening sentence, you can now follow with some background info and add context to the topic you're going to discuss. You complement the introductory paragraph with a thesis statement. It´s the reason you're writing this essay. It expresses your main focus and also states an argument. In our particular example, it´d be something like This brand's youthful vibe is why it´ll stay on the market for decades.

The Body Part

The introduction should lead directly into the body paragraphs. Include at least three paragraphs in your body to ensure a somewhat well-grounded and justified conclusion. There´s no cap on how much you should write. Mentioning more arguments and justifying them only adds to the credibility of your conclusion. Each paragraph starts with a sentence related to the main thesis statement in your introduction. You then follow with well researched and credible evidence to support the point you made.

Write a Conclusion

Finally, you end with a definite conclusion related to the thesis statement in your introduction. Don´t simply repeat all arguments you proved to be true, instead, focus on the strongest ones. But your job doesn´t end here. The reader will most likely wonder: "What does this mean for me?" and "Why should I care?". Answer those questions in your conclusion and maybe even ask the reader yourself. Keep the reader thinking about and interested in the topic.

Writing Tips to Follow

An expository essay is an essay that gives a detailed explanation of a topic. Here are some tips to help you create an exemplary expository essay.

  • Try to always use reputable, authoritative sources for your references and evidence for your essay's main points. Reputable sources can be educational organizations, academic studies, professional journals, governmental research data, and other types of authoritative information.
  • Select an attention-grabbing headline for your expository essay. However, make sure that it fits the topic and the thesis statement that your essay will explain.
  • Create a clear and defensible thesis statement. You should ensure that all of your topic sentences and body paragraphs relate to your thesis statement.
  • State the facts about the topic plainly and as objectively as possible. Do not share your thoughts and feelings about your chosen topic.
  • You should present only one topic or main idea for each body paragraph. Otherwise, the reader cannot be sure which view should be the main one to pay attention to.
  • Use neutral and clear language. Avoid discussing the topic in a way that could be considered biased or one-sided.
  • Stay away from confusing or potentially misleading words or language. Each sentence should add clarity and quality to the specific points or the main points of your essay.
  • Academic experts suggest that you start your essay with your strongest point. This makes it easier for the reader to side with you for the remainder of the piece.
  • Do not rush your essay. Write the first draft some days before it is due. Revise and edit the article a day or so later. This allows you to make improvements to the paper with a fresh pair of eyes.
  • Read your essay to yourself, your friends, and your family. Ask for feedback and suggestions on where the essay could be improved or further revised.

Difference Between an Expository Essay and an Argumentative Essay

An expository essay is an orderly explanation or detailed summary of a topic with a neutral tone. An argumentative essay contains a clear stance on a position, and the rest of the paper presents the argument in favor of that position. Expository essays have an objective emphasis. Whereas argumentative essays are inherently personal and subjective in tone.

Can I use "I"?

It is best to use third-person narration for expository essays. The second-person can be useful for expository essays that present instructions or describe processes, however. The first-person perspective is best used in personal narrative essays, where the essay's focus is all about the writer.

Benefits of Writing en essay

  • Why exactly do we write expository essays? As writers, we must practice the ability to transfer information from books to the audience to give our writing more impact. Not only that, but we can share very crucial information with the reader without personal bias and instead focus on the facts.
  • Writing these essays develop some valuable life skills you will need well into the future after school is over.
  • Searching and validating information: This is probably the most important benefit, especially in the modern era, with plenty of unverified articles on the internet. You will be building your research muscles. You will assess information more efficiently, check if the source can be trusted, and discern between what's nonsense and what's right on the internet.
  • Critical thinking: You will often need to approach the topic from several angles, which helps you develop a holistic perspective on other situations in life, and to respect the viewpoints of others.
  • Expressing yourself with clarity and conciseness: You will do copious amounts of rigorous research for your expository essay, yet you must still articulate what you find coherently and concisely. This helps you share what you learn with others and express your ideas more easily in other realms of life.
  • Organization and time management skills: As you write expository essays, you will learn to express your ideas logically. You should be preparing outlines for what you will research, how that relates to the main idea, and how that information can be compacted for the reader to understand. Naturally, the more you practice writing essays, the faster you will become at writing them. Thus, you will end up saving time on your writing projects as well.
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