How to Write an Expository Essay

If you have an expository essay prompt, first of all, get ready to spend a while finding all types of information sources and conducting in-depth research. Students often get frustrated when they are assigned an expository writing assignment. Although essays have never been a piece of cake in the first place, this version of the task appears to be one of, if not the, hardest one(s).

What is expository writing? Why is it so complicated? And how can you write an A-level paper with ease? In this article you are going to find answers to all of these, and many other, common questions, as well as find a step-by-step guide for creating a flawless essay.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is an Expository Essay?

To get to the point of the expository essay definition, let’s start with the basics — the word “expository” is a derivative of the word “exposition.” As you can already understand from the name, the core task behind an expository essay is to expose information. Simply put, to expose something means to lay something bare, uncover, or discover information in a way to make it understandable for a reader.

Thus, an expository essay is a structured academic paper that investigates an idea, expands on it, provides argumentation, and presents everything in simple language to make the concept clear for everyone.

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Expository Essay Structure

As a rule, expository writing is done in MLA format and typically has a standard 5-paragraph essay structure:

  • Paragraph 1: Introduction with a hook to grab your readers’ attention, and a thesis statement that clearly presents the main concept and goal of your paper.
  • Paragraph 2: Body, 1st point/argument with supporting evidence.
  • Paragraph 3: Body, 2nd point/argument with supporting evidence.
  • Paragraph 4: Body, 3rd point/argument with supporting evidence.
  • Paragraph 5: Conclusion with a concise summary of your key points/arguments and a thesis restatement.

Expository Essay Purpose

When are such tasks assigned? An expository essay, with its “explain, inform, describe” form, is a perfect way to test students’ knowledge. Due to this reason, such essays are often found at the end of various tests or exams. Also, it’s possible that you will be assigned such an essay for in-class writing, for example, at the end of your semester to show what you’ve learned from the course.

Another reason why this type of essay is often assigned in schools and colleges is that it is a good introduction to expository writing — one of the 4 major rhetorical modes. Expository writing, in its turn, branches out into a wide array of disciplines, including:

  • Business
  • Journalism
  • Scientific writing

To give you a few examples, such written pieces like news articles, press releases, business letters, scientific journals, and term papers are all embodiments of the expository essay.

Finally, it is worth saying that expository writing is a vital life skill. Most careers have it as a daily requirement. Thus, another purpose of writing this type of essay is to acquire that vital skill.

5 Main Types of Expository Writing

There are 5 main types of expository essays:

  • Descriptive Essay: This is an essay in which the writer is asked to describe something.This could be a person, place, experience, situation, etc. Descriptive Essays are unique in the sense that you have a lot of freedom when it comes to the content. You should present something exciting or beautiful, all the while keeping the reader interested.
  • Process Essay: The classic “How To” assignment. The purpose of this essay is to teach the reader about a learning process: how to build a car, how to edit a paper, or even how to flirt with a girl.
  • Comparison Essay: As the name suggests, a comparison essay makes you critically analyze any two subjects, finding and explaining their similarities and/or differences.
  • Cause and Effect Essay: The “Knee-Jerk” reaction assignment. Cause and effect essays are concerned with why and/or how things happen, and what happens as a result.
  • Problem/Solution Essay: The universal standard prompt assignment. In this situation, we have a problem and are looking for solutions. The essay is broken down into a brief introduction to the problem, and filled with content about solutions.

The 5-Step Process for Expository Writing

Now, when you have a clear understanding of the key terms, know the basic structure, and the purpose of this work, you may wonder how to write an expository essay.

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Below you can find a list of 5 proven steps that will guide you through the process of expository writing and help you succeed:

1. Prewriting: Expository Essay Topics

The first phase of the writing process involves brainstorming for ideas and choosing a topic. In most cases, you will be provided with some essay prompts and instructions. Carefully read them to make sure you are on the same page with your teacher. Then, when you have a good idea of what you are expected to do, you can start searching for a perfect topic.
A good topic for an expository essay should not be too broad or narrow.

Examples:

The Negative Influences of Video Games – is too broad, but if you make it more specific, for example, mention some classification of group studied, like age, gender, or other details, you will be able to narrow it down.
How Excessively Playing Video Games Can Provoke Teen Violence – is narrow becauue the subject of study and the group studied are quite specific.

The topic should be manageable, so make sure you pick something you can address in a 5-paragraph paper. Also, it should be relevant and significant. Finally, pick a topic that you are interested in and one you know you will be able to explain (after all, that’s the main purpose of this type of essay).

A topic can investigate pretty much anything from history to space or technology. Just find whatever engages you and go for it. To give you a little kickstart, we’ve collected a list of top 10 relevant ideas for a good expository essay:

  1. Explain how excessively playing video games can provoke teen violence
  2. Describe the likely consequences of procrastination
  3. Explain how overpopulation can influence our lives
  4. Investigate the change of education in the era of technology
  5. Explain the goal of space exploration
  6. Does the organization of a workplace influence its workflow? How and why?
  7. Explain the perspectives of Mars colonization
  8. What are the major stress triggers among college students? What are the ways to manage them?
  9. Explain the role of Astronomy in Ancient Greece
  10. Define the consequences of the invention of the Internet

2. Expository Essay Outline

Creating an outline is vital, regardless of the type of paper you were assigned to do. First of all, it helps to organize your thoughts and to put them in a logical sequence. Secondly, having an outline will make the writing process simpler.

As you already know, an expository essay should consist of five paragraphs:

  • Intro – the opening clause that engages the readers, reflects the topic and main idea, and guides the reader to the main part of the text;
  • Body (3 paragraphs) – the main three paragraphs that provide the author’s key points with supporting sentences (such as facts, evidence, and examples);
  • Conclusion – the last part of the paper that summarizes everything and highlights the larger significance of the paper.

Sample expository essay outline on the topic How Excessively Playing Video Games Can Provoke Teen Violence:

1. Introduction

  • Hook – a statement, dilemma, or question that gets readers’ attention, for example: 72% of teens are playing video games, with 9 out of 10 of them engaging in this pastime as a form of addiction;
  • Background and context for the topic: Over 200,000 homicides take place worldwide among youth between 10-29 years old. Homicide is the fourth leading cause of teen death. Psychologists insist that those 72% of teen gamers are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, which sparks teen violence;
  • Thesis statement: Excessively playing video games can result in higher levels of violence among teens.

2. Main Body: 1st Paragraph

  • Topic sentence clearly defining the main point: Violent video games increase the risk of having aggressive behavior;
  • Supporting fact + example: Studies proving this statement;
  • Supporting fact + example: Real-life examples proving this statement;
  • Statement that analytically summarizes everything from the paragraph.

3. Main Body: 2nd Paragraph

  • Topic sentence clearly defining the main point: Video games addiction can result in social isolation and depression;
  • Supporting fact + examples: X% of teens report being addicted to video games;
  • Supporting fact + example: X% of youth report having depression;
  • Statement that analytically summarizes everything from the paragraph.

4. Main Body: 3rd Paragraph

  • Topic sentence clearly defining the main point: Isolation caused by gaming addiction can grow into actual social phobia;
  • Supporting fact + example: Facts backed by science;
  • Supporting fact + example: Stats proving the statement;
  • Statement that analytically summarizes everything from the paragraph.

5. Conclusion

  • Make a summary of your main ideas: The negative outcomes of excessive gaming, such as depression, isolation, violence, and social phobia, can influence each other and turn into aggression;
  • Restate the thesis (but do not repeat it word for word);
  • Connect the dots between your ideas/arguments and the broader topic;
  • Highlight the value of your research and reveal any unanswered questions (if needed).

3. Drafting

Once you have a defined topic and a detailed outline, you can start working on the first draft of the paper. It shouldn’t be hard to create a draft if you follow the outline. All you need is to expand the points from your outline and logically tie them together in the paper.

This is always the most important part of your paper, as it is what grabs a reader’s attention and smoothly directs them into the content of the essay. To get an A for an expository essay, you need to make sure that your introduction is concise, straight to the point, and eye-catchy.

Here are the main tips for shaping a flawless introduction:

  • Create a hook with a disputable question or an interesting dilemma, to attract attention;
  • Reveal the idea of your topic and purpose;
  • Make a powerful thesis statement.

Follow these prompts for writing a thesis statement:

  • Make it well defined;
  • Provide facts;
  • Help readers get the main idea of your essay;
  • Define the intention of your writing.
  • Focus on a single point in each of your three body paragraphs;
  • Make what each paragraph focuses on clear;
  • Provide supporting examples, facts, and arguments;
  • Make smooth transitions between paragraphs;
  • Where appropriate, explain the value and importance of your arguments.

To end your essay with a strong conclusion and leave a lasting impression on the reader, use these tricks:

  • Start with a brief overview of key points, ideas, and arguments;
  • Restate your thesis;
  • Offer possible solutions (when appropriate);
  • Explain the value of your research.

Extra tip: avoid first-person pronouns such as “I” or “you” in the essay. An expository essay strives to interpret and clarify something, which is why it is more appropriate to write it in the third-person.

4. Editing

Writing a draft for your expository essay is just the first step. Next, you will have to carefully proofread and polish your work until it looks perfect. The best way to approach proofreading and editing is to give yourself a few days off after you have written the draft. This way, you will get back to your essay rested and will be able to look at it with a fresh mindset.

While editing, you need to focus on grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It is always a good idea to use grammar checking tools to ease the process and save some time. However, do not rely on such software heavily, as a machine still won’t be able to assess the quality of a text as well as a human can. Some of its suggestions may be incorrect and it may not be able to detect all gaps and errors.

Apart from grammar and mechanics, pay close attention to the clarity, readability, tone, and style of your text. Is it easy to read and understand? Have you neglected to include something? Is it engaging and does it convey the main message? Ask all these questions to make sure that you end up with an excellent paper.

Extra tip: have someone read your essay. This will help you collect additional feedback and polish your text with a fresh perspective.

5. Revising: Expository Essay Rubric

How can you know for sure that you’ve nailed your expository essay? Follow this comprehensive checklist to determine whether your work is good enough or still needs improvement:

  • Is the thesis statement clear and concise? Does it appear near to the end of the introductory paragraph? Does it state your topic and motives for writing?
  • Does the paper follow a logical flow of information and give an unbiased analysis of the topic?
  • Do you use relevant evidence and examples to support your thesis?
  • Does every paragraph in the main body focus on a single point? Does each include a topic sentence and supporting evidence?
  • Are all facts and supporting arguments valid? Do they add value?
  • Are there any divergences from the topic or unnecessary information?
  • Does the conclusion highlight the significance of the thesis and summarise the key points?
  • Are there smooth transitions between sentences and paragraphs?
  • Is the word choice good and precise?
  • Are there any errors or gaps left after editing?
  • Is the essay engaging, clear, easy to read, and effective?
  • Is it formatted according to the instructions given?

Asking the questions from this rubric will help you double-check if your expository essay is good and ready for submission.

Example of an Expository Essay

Following the instructions given above should help you get on the right track for your essay writing process. However, looking at a few samples has always been the best way to learn how to write a specific type of assignment. Thus, to help you get started, we have prepared a few excellent expository essay examples:

Gaining knowledge on various issues is a continuous part of human existence.Learning helps us make sense of the world. In Hsun Tzu’s ‘Encouraging learning’ he gives various metaphors on how education can mold human beings into virtuous creatures. Education also determines the paths many of us follow in life, and if we want to live fully, then we can never stop learning. Through his writing, Tzu was able to shape an entire aspect of history. He gave different analogies describing how learning could change perspectives and better the human race in general. A gentleman, according to him, is anyone who seeks education for the betterment of self and uses it to do well. As the gentleman says, “Learning never ceases” (Tzu 1).

Do You Have an Expository Essay Prompt but Have No Idea Where to Start?

Essay writing is never as easy as ABC, it takes time, knowledge, skill, attention, and dedication to handle the task well. And, in the case of an expository essay in particular, it also requires conducting an in-depth investigation on the given topic. With the tips, tricks, and guidelines from this article, you should be able to handle this task quickly and fairly easily.
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