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How to Write an Expository Essay

Published by at August 17th, 2021 , Revised On June 29, 2022

Expository means “to describe or explain something”. It is related to the words ‘exposition’, ‘expound’, and ‘expose’ – to explain or reveal the meaning, to lay open, speak one’s mind.

Whenever there is a need to gather research and describe an idea, a topic, or a process clearly and logically, it is done in the form of an expository essay.

An expository essay requires the writer to take a balanced approach to the subject matter rather than justifying a particular point of view.

Expository essays are assigned to students to evaluate their subject knowledge and composition skills. When compared with argumentative essays, they involve a lot less research.

Definition of Expository Essay

“The expository essay is the type of essay that involves an investigation of an idea or topic, appraises relevant supporting evidence material, and presents an argument in a clear and concise manner. ”

When to Write an Expository Essay

Your school or university could assign an expository essay to you as coursework or as part of an online exam.

However, the guidelines may or may not clearly state that your assignment is an expository essay. If that is the case, then look for keywords like ‘explain’, ‘describe’, ‘define’, etc., to be sure that what has been asked for is an expository essay.

You might even be asked to explain and emphasise a particular concept or term. Writing a simple definition will not be enough because you will be expected to explore the ideas in detail.

Writing an Expository Essay

An expository essay should not be based on your personal experiences and opinions. It rather takes an objective approach. You will be expected to explain the topic in a balanced way without any personal bias.

Make sure to avoid the first and second person (“I” and “You”) when writing an expository essay.

How to Structure an Expository Essay

The structure and format of your expository essay assignment will depend on your school’s guidelines and the topic you are investigating. However, it is always a good idea to develop an outline for your essay before starting to work.

The Five-Paragraph Essay Writing Approach

An expository essay will require you to take the five-paragraph essay approach: an introductory paragraph, main body paragraphs, and the concluding paragraph. This is often referred to as the hamburger style of essay because like a hamburger, it contains five main parts: the introduction and conclusion being the bun that encapsulates everything.

Rationale and Thesis Statement

Start your essay with a rationale and thesis, also known as the thesis statement, so your readers know what you set out to achieve in your expository essay assignment.

Make sure the thesis statement is narrow enough to follow the guidelines provided in the assignment brief. If the thesis statement is weak and too broad, you will struggle to produce a flawless expository essay.

The Framework

Construct a framework, so you know what elements will constitute the basis of your essay.

Expository Essay Introduction

Like other essay types, an expository essay begins with an introduction, including a hook, background to the topic, and a thesis statement. Once you have grabbed the readers’ interest, it will be easier to get them to read the remaining essay.

Expository Essay Main Body

The main body should have a minimum of three paragraphs, each consisting of a topic sentence, an explanation of one general idea, and a concluding sentence.

Each body paragraph should share a logical relationship with the introduction paragraph’s thesis statement to create ease of readability and understanding for the readers.

Main body paragraphs allow the writer to provide an in-depth explanation of the topic. The main body should include a minimum of three paragraphs, although you can add more paragraphs for more extended essays.

There should be clear and logical transitions between the main body paragraphs. Transitions are the cement that holds your essay together. If your essay doesn’t progress logically, the readers will find it hard to grasp the argument you have presented.

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Expository Essay Conclusion

The conclusion paragraph consists of a “summary sentence,” which provides a broad summary of your research on the topic, one or more overview sentences that must be connected to the key theme of the essay, and a key takeaway emphasizing the importance of the research work completed. The “key takeaway” sentence summarises the key point that you want the readers to take away from your essay.

Avoid presenting any new information in the conclusion section. Here, you must only reinforce the points made in the earlier sections.

Purpose of an Expository Essay

So what is the purpose of an expository essay?

Expository essays explain an idea or a set of ideas, a topic, or a process. An expository essay does not require you to provide your personal opinion about the subject matter. You need to explain the subject matter in a clear and concise manner through research and argumentation.

Expository Essay Checklist

It depends on what you are studying for. While you might or might not write any more expository essays after your formal education has ended, the skill will be very useful in certain careers, such as business reports, journalism, and in scientific and technical writing.

An argumentative essay is usually longer and requires more research. It starts with a claim about something that will need supporting evidence. And both sides of the argument need to be discussed. In an expository essay, there is no requirement to make an original argument and defend/support it.

This style of essay is necessary when you have to showcase your knowledge on a given subject, or your ability to gather research on one and present your findings.

There is no fixed length but an expository essay could be part of an exam, in which case it might only be 1,000 words or less. They are usually shorter than argumentative essays. It can depend on the subject under discussion. You will likely be given instructions on the required word count.

There are six different types of expository essay, each with a different purpose.

The six types are:

Process essay – describing a task, a method, how to complete something Cause and effect essay – why something happened and its effects Problem-solution essay – provide analysis of problems and their solutions
Compare and contrast essay – describe the similarities and differences between two subjects
Definition essay – define the topic in detail and explain the how, what, and why
Classification essay – separate the topic’s categories and define them in detail

When you are assigned your essay, you should be able to distinguish which of these approaches you are required to take.

About Grace Graffin

"Grace has a bachelor's and a master's degree from Loughborough University, so she's an expert at writing a flawless essay. She has worked as a professional writer and editor, helping students of at all academic levels to improve their academic writing skills."