Writing essays is an important skill for students of all ages, from third graders to degree-seekers. The more adept you become at writing an essay, the better your chances of getting a higher grade or getting into the best schools.
But even in the workforce, having advanced research and reporting skills can be a significant advantage, since your supervisor may ask you to write up reports or present your research on a given topic.
Different kinds of essays require different kinds of content. To review, the most common types of essays include:
In this article, we will be taking a close look at expository essays. (To learn about establishing background information in a story, check out our post on narrative exposition.)
What Is an Expository Essay?
An expository essay is a type of essay wherein the writer investigates and expounds on an idea, evaluates evidence, and presents an argument about that idea in a clear and concise manner.
The word expository comes from exposition, the noun form of “expose,” which means to uncover something to let others know what it is.
6 Types of Expository Essays
Expository essays can come in many different forms, depending on the goal of the writer: do you intend to explain something, or to show how one thing is better than another? Are you tasked with explaining how something works or how to make something?
Here are the most common types of expository essays:
Descriptive or Definition Essays
This type of expository essay is meant to describe a place, an experience, or a concept by appealing to the senses. The topic might be anything from a concrete object like an animal, city, or tree, or it can also be an abstract idea, such as relationships, love, or freedom.
This type of essay can include a discussion of the literal definition of the topic, as well as what it connotes or the ideas that the word might bring to a person’s mind.
Procedure or “How-To” Essays
This type of essay explains the process of doing or making something. An effective way of doing this is to include the steps that the reader can take.
This can include the following topics:
- scientific processes, like a laboratory experiment
- life skills, such as cooking, baking, repairing, or creating something
- natural processes, like the metamorphosis of animals and insects
- mechanical or technological processes, like how a piano or a computer works
This essay compares and contrasts at least two different things, places, people, or ideas. This includes highlighting their similarities, as well as illustrating their differences.
A good way of writing this type of essay is to pick themes around which to make your comparisons. For example, in comparing two cities for livability, you may want to compare populations, the quality of available schools, accessibility and convenience, or pollution and stress levels, among other factors.
This essay attempts to uncover the relationship between two objects, with the goal of determining whether one thing causes another.
You may need to provide supporting evidence to demonstrate the cause and effect relationship between the two ideas.
This type of essay presents a problem and offers a possible solution.
The best way to write this type of essay is by offering several potential solutions. Then, highlight the pros and cons of each.
Based on those pros and cons, present your personal recommendations for the reader, while still leaving room for the reader to decide for themselves.
Alternatively, a problem/solution essay may also have only one solution, and in this case, the reader does not need to make a choice.
How to Write an Expository Essay
You can write an expository essay using the following steps.
1. Define your thesis statement.
Because an expository essay generally goes in-depth on a given subject, it’s important that you specify your thesis statement from the get-go. State it in a clear and concise manner in the first paragraph of your essay.
If you are given free rein to choose your topic, use this time to brainstorm possible ideas and choose one that you are genuinely interested in. This will make the process of researching and writing more engaging for you.
Defining your thesis statement will also let you decide on the type of expository essay you will write.
2. Research on your topic and take notes.
Remember that your expository essay needs relevant facts and support to get your point across to your audience. Research as much as possible, collecting the relevant details in bullet points that you take while reading.
3. Outline your essay.
From your bullet point notes, organize your findings. Form a logical sequence of headings that you can later expand.
A good outline will include the following:
- Body paragraphs
The body of your essay can be anywhere from 2-3 paragraphs to several paragraphs long. As you compose your outline, write down the different headings for your paragraphs so you can see exactly how each one transitions into the next.
4. Write your first draft.
Start with an introduction, where you include your thesis statement. Then, write a sentence that transitions logically into your body paragraphs.
Important: For the body of your essay, remember to include evidential support.
Because an expository essay expounds on your thesis statement, it’s crucial that you include evidence to prove your point. Undeniable facts will back up whatever point you’re making in the essay, rather than a flimsy argument that can easily be dismantled. Your evidential support can come in different ways:
- Factual: Actual facts and can help prove your point. Citing academic sources for those facts will help establish your credibility.
- Logical: Arguments based on logic are formed when you deduce something from given information.
- Statistical: Statistical evidence supports your claim based on research conducted by others, or by a survey that you yourself perform.
- Anecdotal: A qualitative real-life story may also help to support your claim.
Include as much evidence as you can to support your thesis statement. But remember to keep your writing clear and well-directed by focusing on one key idea per paragraph.
Finally, state your conclusion, and restate your thesis to remind your readers of your essay’s purpose.
5. Refine your work.
After you write your first draft, carefully review and proofread your work. Check that your points make sense, and ask yourself whether the current layout is the best, most logical way to present your information.
If you find any paragraphs that do not connect well, either rewrite more effective transitional sentences or find a more suitable place for the paragraph.
Writing Expository Essays
Writing expository essays is a great practice in critical thinking. Not only will you learn important research skills, but you will also be able to gather evidence in support of your claims.
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