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How to Write an Expository Essay – Back to the Basics

October 28, 2015 - Posted to How to: Essay writing tips
How to Write an Expository Essay – Back to the Basics

How to Write an Expository Essay – Back to the Basics

You may not recognize the term “expository,” but you will recognize the type of essay, when you are given some example topics – the Cold War, painting my bedroom, friendship, the Electoral College, the life cycle of a fly. This should get you close an expository essay definition. The word “expository” has the word “expose” as its root. So an expository essay explains or describes something, someone, an idea, a process, or a concept. Given this definition, you should understand that an expository essay will not do the following:

  1. It will not attempt to persuade your reader on an issue. It might provide an objective explanation of an issue.

  2. It will not tell a story – that is a narrative essay.

  3. It will not compare and contrast two things

  4. It will not be an argumentative piece in which you press your opinion on an issue and argue against the opposing view

The key to writing an expository essay is to remain objective. It will important, then, that you select a topic that you can treat objectively even if it should be somewhat controversial. Your essay must be based in fact, it may require some research, and its purpose will be to inform the reader on a specific topic.

How to Write a Good Expository Essay

  1. Choose a topic that is of interest to you. If it is something that you know well, then research will not be required. For example, you may know a great deal about horseback riding, you own a horse, and you participate in competitions. A perfect essay topic for you, then, would relate to the care of horses, the events in a riding competition, learning how to ride, etc.

If you choose or are assigned a topic that will require lots of facts and figures, then you will need to conduct some research to get them. Suppose, for example, that you are writing an essay on homelessness in America. You will need to get some data on numbers and local and state laws that relate to this situation. You might then want to narrow your topic to a specific demographic. For example, homeless veterans might be a good breadth for a basic essay.

  1. Develop your thesis statement. Remember that a thesis statement for an expository essay should not put forth an opinion or an argument. This essay is objective and based in fact. So, if you were going to develop a thesis statement on the topic of homeless veterans, you will need to remain objective. Such a thesis may be, “There are 200,000 homeless veterans in America, and local, state and federal governments are attempting to address the issue in a number of ways.” You may think that it is deplorable, and you may want your reader to be upset about it, but you are writing just to present the facts. The reader can draw his/her own conclusions.

  2. List the points you want to cover. What programs currently exist to assist homeless veterans? You may want to take a specific large city, let’s say Los Angeles or New York, and describe local programs. This would be one paragraph. Then, you might focus on state-wide programs, in California or New York – your 2nd paragraph. Your third paragraph would focus on federal efforts. Another focus might be on the causes of homelessness for veterans. You might then have body paragraphs focused on mental health, inability to find employment, and lack of family support.

  3. Write your body paragraphs before your introduction. Your introduction will of course identify your topic and provide your thesis. Try to open that introduction with a startling face that will hook your reader right away. You conclusion should refer back to your introduction and re-state your thesis in another way.

The expository essay is probably the broadest type in terms of topic options. Choose a topic that really interests you, and you will not have a problem writing it. Just be certain that you take the time to review, edit, and clean up your first draft, so that what you turn in is well-written.

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