How to Write an Expository Essay
There are three main types of expository essays: scholarly writing used mainly for academic purposes, which describe or examine a process in a comprehensive way; analyzing a concept, describe and explore a written work or an event; or set out and explain detailed instructions or a description of a method or procedure.
It is not always easy to separate these three types. It does become clearer after one has decided on a topic and found a way to present an argument about it. An expository essay is exactly the same as any other when it comes to structure and composition: it must have an introduction that includes a strong thesis statement, a paragraph for each salient point in the argument, and a summarizing conclusion to close it off.
Steps for Writing an Expository Essay
- Choose a topic in which you already have some interest. The more you know, the better, and reading about a subject that you like will ensure you remember more, make sensible notes, and enjoy the writing. Your topic should be specific, not general, so that the essay is interesting, and the supporting references will support the argument well.
- Germane material from which allusions can be drawn must be found. Journals, books, articles and online material are suitable, as long as the references are scholarly, not popular.
- Write a thesis sentence that articulates the overriding idea. This must capture all elements of the concept you intend to express.
- Decide on a system or style of development. You can choose among the following, making sure your method matches your topic:
- Making an example
- Using cause and effect
- Assembling a classification
- Comparing and contrasting
- Analyzing a process
- Defining and clarifying
- Start drafting. Devise a number of points, research support for them, and use the source and reference as support for each point you make.
- Write a topic sentence for each body paragraph, and provide a well-written topic sentence that directly relates to the thesis sentence. Then proceed to fill out each body paragraph with clear reasoning. After this:
- Write a summarizing conclusion by making sure you mention your thesis and points.
- Close the essay in an effective manner, supplying an afterthought for your readers to keep their curiosity about your chosen subject.
- Make sure you do not introduce new material in the last paragraph.
- Write the introduction last, because it must state the underlying thesis of the essay, introduce what is discussed in the body paragraphs of the essay, and interest the reader from the very first words.
There are actually a lot of topics that you can choose from when writing an expository essay. You can pick among issues, questions, and trends, that exist in such fields as politics, economy, history, culture, science, health, programming, and so on. Several possible topics for an expository essay are listed below:
- The unstudied impacts of cellular phones on health
- The problem of childhood obesity in Texas
- Social tensions of foreigners in Japan with locals
- Threats posed by countries with nuclear weapons
- Bullying as a serious problem in modern American schools
Key Points to Consider
- Describing a procedure or process need not be boring or turgid. Find an interesting way to present material to the reader without overwhelming details.
- Compare and contrast aspects of your topic in two ways: different methodology found in the literature, or alternative ways used by different scholars or experts.
- If you are using the ‘cause and effect’ method, ensure you match each pair correctly and support each example with a citation to demonstrate its reliability. It must also have indisputable relevance to your topic.
- When attempting to classify, write in a clear and simple way. It is not a good idea to introduce too much complication, which might bore or confuse the reader.
- Examples chosen to demonstrate or illustrate an argument must be suitable and pertinent. A good way to decide if an example is appropriate is to try to argue against it yourself. If you succeed, it was not a good example.
- Defining is not as simple as finding its definition in a dictionary and copying out the description. Dictionaries are not among the most relevant of scholarly references. Good definitions can be sought in sources from relevant literature. Many authors start a book or journal article by writing a good definition without resorting to dictionaries, so they provide excellent quotes if used judiciously.
Dos and Don’ts
- Building a whole exposition based on a single opinion: yours. You need to introduce an alternate perspective, which is well-supported by reputable references.
- Styling the essay in an emotive way: all language you use needs to be as calculated and unemotional as possible, with reasoning based on research.
- Couching the essay in conversational language. Having a verbal debate with others is not the same as writing a cohesive and persuasive expository essay. There are rules to which a careful student must conform. Showing ignorance of these rules is unwise.
- Changing perspective the during development of your argument. Being swayed by one piece of research, and then showing a conflicting argument in a subsequent paragraph is showing a lack of mental discipline.
- Lack of planning: this is always detectable by the examiner. Lack of structure and evidence of poor research costs valuable marks.
- Use of irrelevant or inaccurate vocabulary. The vocabulary of an expository essay needs to conform to the topic and discipline. Engineering and English literature, for example, are two subjects that employ vastly different language and terminology. Understanding this is a long step towards planning a successful essay.
- Poor language skills and lack of editing. Writing one or two drafts is not nearly enough, and proofing never takes place of proper substantive editing, which looks into the sense of each sentence, as well as whether all the commas are in the right places.
- Too few or too many references. Students must take care not to overload an essay with too many facts and quotes from the literature. Short essays of less than 2000 words rarely need the support of more than four sources. By the same token, long research works of over 5000 words need the backing of more than just four sources.
Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic expository essay writing tips and rules, you can check our best expository essay samples to link theory with practice.