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Format Of Writing An Expository Essay

Expository Essays

Summary:

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:

  1. an introductory paragraph
  2. three evidentiary body paragraphs
  3. a conclusion

Expository essays are essays that cover or expose a topic that you’ve selected, in a straightforward away. The purpose is to provide information about the topic, rather than influence what the reader thinks. In an expository essay, you want to explain your topic in a logical, direct manner. Expository essays are informative and should not include your opinion about a subject.

 

The entire purpose of an expository essay is to inform the reader about your selected topic, in a completely non-biased manner. Every student in a school with common core standards will need to know how to complete this type of essay. Take a look at an expository essay outline to help you get started, or consider using a writing tool that can guide you through the creation of a high quality essay.

 

Before you start working on filling in your template, some research is essential. An expository essay requires evidence to prove the point you are trying to make. It's not enough to simply state what you think without evidence. Imagine a scientist is reading your paper. What information would they want to verify? Make sure you have sources for everything that needs it.

 

Above all, these sources or evidence should be reputable. You can’t quote a Wikipedia article and expect that to be good enough. Likewise, a personal blog is not a good place to select your facts from. If you aren’t sure if your source is reputable, ask yourself what credentials they have. A government, educational, or similar source will likely be acceptable. Likewise, scientific publications are good places to start.

 

Choose an Essay Topic

 

Your topic may be assigned, but if you have a chance to select your own, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, look for a topic that interests you. It’s not necessary to know all about the topic, but if you are curious or interested in it, you’ll find it far easier to write.

 

Second, your topic should be fairly narrow. Big topics are better suited to books than an essay. If you have a large topic, consider the various ways you can narrow it down to make it fit into an expository essay. Once you have the topic in mind, you’re ready to start planning out your essay.

 

Structuring Your Essay

 

Whether you are writing for middle school, high school or college the correct expository essay format is important. Ideally, you want an essay that is easy to read and presents the information in a clear manner. That’s why there are specific methods of writing an expository essay.

Most expository essays are just five paragraphs long, with one paragraph each for the intro and conclusion. That leaves you with three paragraphs for the body of the essay.  If you have more information, you can add more body paragraphs, but these will always be sandwiched between the introduction and conclusion. Keep in mind that while it's possible to write a longer essay, it's easiest to stick to the basics unless you have other instructions from your professor.

 

It’s also important to start out with an expository essay outline.An outline gives your writing project structure and keeps it focused. If you’re trying to write a high quality paper, clear, defined paragraphs that cover each section of information should be included. Writing up an outline ahead of time is a good way to ensure you write a great essay that stays on topic.

If you find yourself struggling to create an outline, you may want to start with a template. Working with a template can help you structure your essay and will allow you to create a top quality paper to turn in. Templates give you a prompt for each section, to get you thinking about what you need to cover.

 

Start at the Beginning

 

Your expository essay should start out with an introduction that uses a hook to grab the reader's attention. An interesting fact or an issue that needs a solution can be a useful way to begin. From there, introduce your main idea and provide some context. Without context, the reader is left wondering why they need to know what you have to say.

 

The introduction of the essay presents the topic and lets your reader know exactly what to expect from the essay. Cover the basic points that you’ll be discussing or talk about how you will answer a specific question. This section lets the reader know if they want to keep reading or not.

 

Next up is the thesis statement or the core of the entire essay. Remember that the thesis should not include any bias. Your opinion should not be referenced in the thesis, or anywhere else in the essay. This is what the entire essay will be based around, so give your thesis sentence some serious thought.

 

Flesh Out the Body of the Essay

 

Each of the three paragraphs in the middle of your essay will need to have its own topic sentence that supports the primary topic. These sentences should relate directly to your thesis sentence, so if you aren't sure what to write, keep this in mind. It's essential that you stay on topic and that everything throughout the essay relate back to that singular thesis statement.

 

After every topic sentence, fill out the paragraphs by providing more information to support the starting statement. This may include any evidence in the form of quotes, anecdotes, personal experience, etc. The best evidence will come from highly respected sources that people will believe.

 

Once you've stated your reasons for the thesis, don't forget to explain why the evidence is particularly important and why you chose it for inclusion. Analyze the evidence for the reader to ensure they come to the correct conclusion and understand why you found it essential to support the thesis.

 

Each of these body paragraphs should transition into the next to create flow. Do this through the use of sentences that create continuity. Creating a paper that is easily readable, rather than disjointed and piecemeal is important for success. Go back over it afterwards to ensure that each paragraph flows smoothly into the next.

 

Wrap It All Up in the Conclusion

 

The final paragraph should restate the thesis sentence and summarize the points made throughout the essay. Be careful not to add any new information, as this is only for reviewing what has already been said throughout the body of the essay.

 

Ideally, the conclusion will give the reader something to keep them thinking about the essay topic. What have they learned in the essay? Recap this, as well as adding the thesis statement. This will get them thinking, which is exactly the point of writing the essay.

 

The final step in writing your essay isn’t writing at all. Go back over everything and make sure it is worded correctly and for maximum impact. You should also look for any mistakes that need to be corrected. It can be helpful to have someone not associated with the project to read over it. Fresh eyes can often pick up far more than your own.

Once you've revised and edited the essay to ensure it is free from errors in both spelling and grammar, it's time to share your masterpiece with the world.