How To Write An Expository Essay in 6 Steps

Writing GuidesEssay Writing
Jan 23, 2019

An expository essay, as its name suggests, is a type of essay writing that aims to explain, clarify, illustrate, or define things, ideas, or persons. In other words, it aims to expose something to the reader. All courses and subjects have a use for expository essays . This is an essential type of essay for both high school and college students to learn, and more importantly, for MA and PhD students to master.

The key to writing an excellent Expository Essay Writing lies in the preparation. You have already guessed it—the expository essay requires a lot of research. But before you get to the research part, there is a lot more ground to cover. Let’s go through the process for expository writing.

How to Write an Expository Essay

What is an expository essay?

Before you can be able to perform any type of essay writing, you first need to understand what it is you are writing. You need to know the type of essay it calls for, and what it will need. This will help you properly plan your topic and focus, your thesis, what information you need to find, and how you will write. 

We already know the expository essay definition, but to truly know what is expository writing you need to know the different types of expository writing. Here are the expository essay variations:

  • Definition Essay - this type of expository essay always revolves around a term that seems to be common, or even simple enough, but is in fact difficult to fully understand. These are terms that tend to be interpreted differently by people. In a definition essay, all confusion is dispelled.
  • Process Essay – this type of expository essay details the procedure for performing or producing something. It’s somewhat similar to this article you are reading.
  • Contrast Essay – this type of essay involves comparison of the good and bad things about something or the different aspects of two things or ideas. Often, it aims to help the reader decide which is better or worse.
  • Cause and Effect Essay – this type of expository essay delves into the causes of an event or a phenomenon and its effects on another, such as people. This would be the type of expository essay to utilize if you are writing about global warming.
  • Problem and Solution Essay – this type of essay defines and explicates a problem and the writer’s proposed solution to it. Here, the essay thesis revolves around why or how the proposed solution would be effective.
  • Classification Essay – this type of expository essay organizes or sorts things into categories. Subsequently, each category is defined and explained. Their similarities and differences must be made explicit. Lastly, examples for each category must be provided to help the reader better apply the knowledge.

Expository essay topics selection

More often than not, the professor will assign the topic, and from there you need to identify what type of expository writing you need. The easiest way to do this is to look at the key words used by your professor in the instruction or prompt.

If, on the other hand, your professor does not assign a topic, consider the type of expository writing you need or intend to do, and go from there. You can pretty much write about anything under the sun. What truly makes a difference is what about the topic you will focus on. For example: 

  • What is Global warming and should we be worried about it? - attempts to define global warming.
  • The causes and effects of global warming on biodiversity - would be a cause and effect essay.
  • What urban dwellers can do about global warming -  would be a problem and solution essay.

How to write an expository essay thesis?

The thesis statement is crucial whenever you write an essay. Thesis statements for expository essays are no different from what you were taught in your high school essay writing. However, when writing an expository essay thesis statement, you must make sure that it corresponds to your purpose.

Since an expository essay explains facts, it’s only natural that its thesis statement should not contain any opinion or arguments. You are not trying to convince your reader to agree or believe you, rather you are simply clarifying the meaning or the whole concept of a thing. Thus, there should only be facts in your thesis statement, and these should be expressed in an objective manner. 

When writing an expository essay, it is important to write the thesis statement before beginning with the essay. In fact, it would be better to construct your thesis before you start with the outline . The thesis will determine the focus and depth of your essay. This way, you start the essay you have a clear goal in mind, and you know the major points of your essay.

Expository essay outline

Students often feel that outlines are just unnecessary extra work, but in fact outlines make the writing process easier and faster. With an outline, you know exactly what the contents of each section will be. You also do not need to think too hard about how to best present the information you have while writing. Having an outline also lessens the chances of going off topic while writing. A typical expository essay structure looks like this: 

  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Main Point 1
  • Supporting facts
  • Analysis
  • Main Point 2
  • Supporting facts
  • Analysis
  • Main Point 3
  • Supporting facts
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion

Your main points can be organized based on the information you have. For instance, in a contrast essay, you may opt to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of your topic, then discuss which you think is the better. Another way to organize a contrast essay is to go through the aspects that you want to compare, then discuss which you think is better. 

However, different expository essay variations may be structured in different ways. Your essay structure is entirely up to you, just make sure that it will make the content easy to digest for your readers.

Let’s go through what should each part of an expository essay contain.

  • Expository Essay Introduction– the introduction  is the one that sets the tone of your essay. It should engage your reader—let them know that your topic is worth learning about. In some instances, this is also where you give your reader some relevant background information. This is also where your thesis statement should appear.
  • Expository Essay Main Body – the body of the essay is where your major points will be expounded. As demonstrated above, there are typically three main points, and each point must be explained and supported with evidence.
    Your main body must be well-structured and organized so that your reader can understand your main point and your sub-points. Your reader should be able to understand the sub-points individually but also relate them to each other, and see the whole picture. When writing, it’s easy to lose sight of the larger picture, but you can avoid this by using your outline as a guide. You can make your essay clearer by utilizing topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph.
  • Expository Essay Conclusion – once you are done explaining your main point in the main body, you will proceed to tie everything (including the introduction) together. Here, in the conclusion, is where you recap all important details or points you mentioned in the expository essay to reinforce your thesis statement. You may also opt to drop an additional insight or food for thought. 

Keep in mind that when you write an expository essay, all the parts must be cohesive and contribute to the purpose of the essay. You need to be aware, and to remind your readers, of the purpose of your essay. This way, your essay will not only be easy to understand but will also be a pleasure to read.

Tips and considerations on how to write an expository essay

Now that you know all these considerations for writing an expository essay, it’s time to give you some tips on how to make your expository essay awesome:

  • Read.  Always opt to read a lot of materials about your topic before you even begin your outline. It is best to equip yourself with tons of facts and valid sources before you proceed on writing in order to ensure that your content is correct. Keep in mind that you are writing an informative piece, so keep the information flowing.
  • Know your audience . More often than not, expository essays are aimed toward laypersons, or people who are not privy to scientific research or academic discussions regarding a topic. Nevertheless, there are instances when the expository essay is meant for fellow experts. This often depends on your professor’s instructions. Your paper may be read by your professor only or by your classmates, as well. You should adjust your expository essay’s structure and language. If you are writing for laypersons, you will need to explain some terms and concepts first and use simple language, or define jargon before proceeding to use them. Whereas if you are writing for experts, you may opt to use more complex terminologies and jargon.
  • Formal Language. Expository essays, as with any academic essay, must use formal language . Avoid using colloquialisms and writing in first person as much as possible. Likewise, avoid grammatical and typing errors in your essay, so take the time to proofread them before you submit! Due to the explanatory nature of expository essays, they require unbiased perspective and language, and that can be best achieved through formal language.
  • Objectivity.  Objectivity is indispensable in any academic essay. As mentioned earlier, an expository essay has to be neutral in order to be effective. It must stick to facts only, and they must be presented in an objective, as opposed to an opinionated, manner. Expository essays have no room for personal opinion.
  • When in doubt, research!  We will not discuss how to effectively conduct research here—that’s for another article—but we will reiterate the importance of research. In an expository essay, you always talk about something in depth, so to rely on one’s stock knowledge or articles online would be inadequate. You need to search for peer-reviewed articles and analyze them before you write your expository essay.
  • Cite your sources . This is the basic requirement for any academic essay, it is worth noting that expository essays are not exempted from this rule. In fact, expository writing relies heavily on other sources, which is why in-depth knowledge of academic citation is imperative if you are to avoid plagiarism.
  • Cite credible sources.  This is another basic rule for academic essays. Credible sources are important in establishing your authority as a writer. If your sources are credible, peer-reviewed sources, your reader can be assured that your sources, and in effect your own essay as well, is credible and objective. So, be careful and be very picky with your sources.

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