How to Write an Expository Essay

How to Write an Expository Essay

An expository essay explains something. This means investigating an idea, looking at evidence, coming to a conclusion, and explaining your thinking. But how do you write a strong expository essay? Our top tips include:

  1. Read the essay prompt carefully and using it to guide your research.
  2. Come up with a thesis statement (i.e. a position that you’ll explain).
  3. Plan the structure of your essay before you start writing.
  4. Once you have a first draft, revise and proofread to make sure it is perfect.

For more advice on how this works, check out the guide below.

1. Read Your Essay Prompt

Most expository essay prompts will ask you to do one of the following:

  • Define and explain a concept or theory.
  • Compare and contrast two ideas.
  • Examine a problem and propose a solution.
  • Describe a cause and effect relationship.
  • Explain a step-by-step process.
  • Analyse a broad subject and classify examples into groups.

When you’ve been set an expository assignment, then, check the prompt or question carefully. You can use the phrasing to guide your research. You may also need to select a topic to write about. If so, try to think of something:

  1. You already know at least something about.
  2. You find interesting enough to research.
  3. That fits with the instructions in the essay prompt (e.g. if you’ve been asked to contrast two things, you’ll need a topic that allows for a comparison).
  4. That is narrow enough to discuss in one essay.

Start by brainstorming topics, then narrow it down to one or two ideas.

2. Come Up with a Thesis Statement

Once you have a topic, you’ll need to do some research and develop a thesis statement. This is the proposition or position that you’ll explain in your essay.

Your thesis statement should be something you can back up with evidence and facts, as well as something that answers the question in your essay prompt. Keep in mind, too, that an expository essay should present a balanced account of the facts available, not personal opinions. For instance, we’ve come up with thesis statements for a few example essay prompts:

Prompt

Thesis Statement

Compare and contrast two approaches to reducing waste in manufacturing.


This essay will compare just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing and lean manufacturing methodologies, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

 

Discuss the causes and effects of adult illiteracy in nineteenth-century England.


This essay will look at how poor education and cultural restrictions contributed to adult illiteracy in nineteenth-century England, as well as how this affected society at large.

 

What is absurdism and how does it differ from existentialism?


In this essay, I will set out the central tenets of absurdism by examining the work of Albert Camus and comparing it with the existentialist thought of Jean-Paul Sartre.

 

When you’ve selected a thesis, make sure you’ve got evidence to back it up! This may mean doing a little more research before you start writing.

3. Structuring an Expository Essay

The exact length and content of your essay will depend on the topic and prompt. However, most expository essays follow a similar basic structure:

  • Introduction – A paragraph where you introduce the essay topic and your thesis statement (i.e. the issue or idea you will explain in the essay).
  • Main Body – A series of short paragraphs in which you explain your thesis statement, providing evidence and arguments to support each point.
  • Conclusion – A final paragraph where you restate your thesis and how your evidence supports this. Try not to introduce any new information here (if it’s important, it should go in the main body).
  • References – If required, include a bibliography of sources you’ve used.

Before you start writing, then, create an essay outline with the structure above in mind and plan what each paragraph will say.

4. Editing and Proofreading

When you have a first draft, take a break and re-read it. Now comes the redrafting! This is where you go back over your essay and look for areas to improve. Do you provide enough evidence? Is your argument clear? Even a few tweaks may increase your mark, so make sure to redraft at least once!

Finally, make sure to have your essay proofread before you submit it for marking. This will ensure your writing is error free and easy to read, giving you an even better chance of getting the grades you deserve.

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