The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-11 10:04:15
What is an expository essay?
The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc.
Please note: This genre is commonly assigned as a tool for classroom evaluation and is often found in various exam formats.
The structure of the expository essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the exposition of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. What is more, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
Often times, students are required to write expository essays with little or no preparation; therefore, such essays do not typically allow for a great deal of statistical or factual evidence.
Though creativity and artfulness are not always associated with essay writing, it is an art form nonetheless. Try not to get stuck on the formulaic nature of expository writing at the expense of writing something interesting. Remember, though you may not be crafting the next great novel, you are attempting to leave a lasting impression on the people evaluating your essay.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students will inevitably begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize and come to a conclusion concerning the information presented in the body of the essay.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of the Great Depression and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the exposition in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the Depression. Therefore, the expository essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph Essay
A common method for writing an expository essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of:
- an introductory paragraph
- three evidentiary body paragraphs
- a conclusion
An expository essay is a piece of written work that aims to define and investigate a topic for the reader. This can be accomplished in several ways: defining a term, comparing and contrasting, analyzing a cause and effect, etc. The main objective is to prove a thesis through factual evidence. Putting together an explanation might sound easy, but it is quite a challenge to write a convincing piece that defends your thesis!
Table Of Contents
An easy way to understand what an expository essay is would be to look at it as a debate. When preparing for a debate, your goal would be to When researching and gathering information for your essay, it would be ideal to keep these thoughts in mind. Think about writing with your reader’s questions in mind. When a reader is enlightened, that’s a definite sign that you have created some fantastic literature!
5 Main Types of Expository Writing
There are 5 main types of expository essays:
Descriptive Essay(/blog/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 learning a process: How to build a car, how to edit a paper or even how to flirt with a girl!
Comparison Essay: Simple sounding enough, 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 intro to the problem and filled with content about the solutions.
What is the Purpose?
Spend some time thinking about the purpose of your writing. Why are you writing an expository essay? What are you trying to accomplish with this essay? Find some reasons as to why you are writing it and the overall goal. If it was assigned by your school teacher, read the assignment guidelines scrupulously.
Break the Ice
Before you begin writing a paper, take time and build up your ideas before deciding on an essay topic. If you want to simplify the process, you can try activities such as listing, clustering, freewriting, and questioning. These will help you brainstorm ideas for your essay.
Listing: Put all your thoughts on paper. Look over this list and group similar ideas. This will help you narrow down your options.
Clustering: Take a blank piece of paper and write a brief explanation of the topic and circle it. Then draw three more lines extending from the bigger circle. Write corresponding ideas at the end of the lines. Keep going and build your cluster until you create as many connections as necessary.
Freewriting: Turn on non-stop mode for about 10 minutes. Write whatever comes to your mind. As you finish writing, review what you have written. Underline or highlight the most appropriate information. Then sort out things that you have written by sections. Use this trick until you come up with the most suitable topic.
Questioning: On a piece of paper write: “Who? How? What? Why? When? Where?”. Answer each question with as much detail as possible. This will give you an outline for your writing to build on.
Expository Essay Topics (examples)
- Descriptive Essay:
- Describe a time when you experienced depression, and what you believe led to that?
- Describe a tricky situation you were in, and how you managed to handle it.
- Process Essay:
- Develop a tutorial and describe the process of building a custom computer.
- Create a step by step tutorial of solving a common societal problem, i.e. littering.
- Comparison Essay:
- Compare and Contrast Apple with Windows. Which product is better in which sphere? Which product is more user-friendly?
- Compare and Contrast living standards in the USA and Mexico.
- Cause and Effect Essay:
- What are the causes and effects of procrastination?
- What can be done to improve time efficiency?
- Describe the causes and effect of cheating at school. How do we teach students to avoid this behavior?
- Problem / Solution Essay:
- How can we as a society reduce or even eliminate racism?
- How can we motivate students to increase effort at school?
The Subject Makes or Breaks the Essay
There is a chance that your work may fall flat if you have not chosen one of the really good expository essay topics. Not all topics out there are interesting or meaty enough to be thoroughly investigated within a paper. Make sure you put effort into choosing a topic that has a lot of material to cover it and pique the interest of readers!
- Trending Topics: Are there any hot issues that deserve some deep discussion? If so, consider educating people on this seemingly new occurrence through the use of a well-written essay.
- A topic close to your heart: It is easy much easier to defend a thesis if you find yourself passionately thinking about the topic. If you have an advocacy and want to inform others, choose this path and you might be able to sway beliefs!
Comparing the past and the present is a good way of framing an argument, especially if a lot has been written about it.
Do not Forget to…
Come Up With A Catchy Title
It is often considered the best approach to grab your audiences attention with a catchy title. As we all know it is quite common for people to judge a book by its cover, despite having been told that it is not always the case. Nonetheless, when students are aware of such a challenge they can take the time needed to craft a title that will do their work justice.
Gather research on your Topic
Hey, Sherlock Holmes, it’s time to do some detective work! Before you start out with the content, ponder upon your thesis and gather supporting documents for your paper. This is as important as the people in the courtroom, in the sense that a statement means nothing without sufficient evidence. Research should not only agree with your arguments but come from reputable and credible sources as well. It should also be up to date and relevant to the discussion at hand.
This is an important step that our writers recommend you to take before you start writing. Before you start writing, it is advised to consider the expectations and needs of the readers. If there are guidelines for the expository essay, you need to follow them strictly and write accordingly. Include everything that might have been expected by your instructor.
Create a Thesis
A powerful thesis statement expresses the main argument of the paper. It should take a clear stance in the debate/topic and should not be more than two sentences in length.
Make sure your thesis is debatable. Do not state facts or sentences that have no purpose. For example, "Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States," is not an appropriate thesis because it states a fact.
Your statement should provide enough details. Try to avoid just saying that something is "good" or "effective." Instead of these, say what makes something "good" or "effective”.
The Format / Structure
Even if you are not familiar with writing an expository essay, you will realize that it is like any other academic paper that seeks for you to display your informed argument about a certain topic. This is especially true for the short papers you will experience in examinations, testing you about facts that you should have learned throughout the course. Also, it is very helpful to create a graphic organizer for assistance.
Create an Outline
There might be a lot of things you want to talk about, but in the end, there is a need to get straight to the point. To aid you in the quest of making an expository essay with brevity and straightforwardness, create an outline that corresponds to your points, arguments, and research.
The 5 paragraph format is the universal standard for expository essays, meaning it is recommended to write within this style. The paragraphs follow this order: Introduction, Body Paragraph 1, Body Paragraph 2, Body Paragraph 3 and Conclusion.
Craft an Intriguing Introduction
Expository essays are not meant to be opinionated pieces, so introductions that include a personal plight – as is the usual fare when asked to write an essay - are out of the question. Examples of interesting introductions would be to cite relevant news articles and historical events to introduce your topic. Starting off with a significant occurrence, discovery, or study will give you more points in factual research as well.
Construct an Eloquent and Informative Body
The body paragraphs should have at least 2-3 Arguments and a Counterargument : Each argument deserves its own paragraph. They also need to have supporting documents, like facts and statistics, to make the reader believe what you are trying to say.
While most people have got the argument and evidence part of an essay down, they forget to include another important piece. One way to make a paper more complete would be to address a point that argues against the thesis and then disprove it through logic or statistics. It effectively tells your reader that you have thought about your topic from multiple angles!
What is the number?
The common length of an expository essay is five-paragraphs; however, it can definitely be longer than that. Check your assignment guidelines or ask your teacher if you are not sure about the required length.
Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence
Do it to introduce the main idea of the paragraph. It should introduce the claim that will be defended in said body paragraph.
Present a Claim
A claim is a sentence that can be arguable but is used as a primary point to support or prove an argument. Your claim should be a statement that can relate to the thesis statement and makes it stronger.
After you have started a topic sentence, support it with specific evidence from your research.
Finish With A Concluding Statement
Write how the evidence you have provided in that paragraph connects to your thesis. Explain the significance of the claim in regards to the overall argument.
Keep Things Moving Smoothly
To keep your writing smooth, make sure your paragraphs transition well. Furthermore, the conclusion of each body paragraph should summarize your main point.
Show Assertiveness in the Conclusion
The conclusion answers the questions you have brought out in the reader through the introduction while calling back the arguments you have laid out. An essay conclusion should be a construction made of the past few paragraphs. Don’t repeat your words like a broken record. You need to do a straightforward synthesis that delivers an impact upon your reader.
Bring the final thought or call to action
Imagine that the last sentence of your essay would be your last words. What would you say? How would you call people to action? Spend time thinking about these questions to make your final sentence like a time bomb.
- Explain the significance of your topic;
- Explain how it affects the audience;
- Call them to action;
- Present new questions to think about.
Edit and fact check
Once the expository essay is complete, you should read it over once or twice. Often, people get excited over adding new information, making a messy paper with no direction, so cut down if you need to. Next, recheck all the facts and statistics you cited. You never know, you might end up contradicting yourself if you didn’t look into your sources carefully.
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Dr. Judy, from EssayPro
This article describes the writing process of an expository essay with a focus on some general types of expository essays. A point that I want to articulate is that each paragraph in your expository essay should have its idea. This would allow your essay to be clear and have minimal repetition. Each paragraph should also have a logical connection to the thesis and argument that you are making. A common mistake that newbie writers make is getting off track and adding information that doesn’t connect to the main point of your essay. You can avoid that easily by creating a well-structured outline and linking each of your paragraphs back to your thesis at the end of each paragraph. Another tip that I have for you is to try to be creative in your essay! Academic writing does not have to be boring. The truth is, you may not be writing a creative masterpiece, but you don’t have to be bone-dry with your writing. Leave a lasting impression on your reader!
Do you have an Expository Essay prompt but have no idea where to start?
Then you might need EssayPro’s help! We are the best online essay writing service that delivers high-quality academic papers while hitting all the points you need for a successful piece and an excellent grade.