How to Write an Expository Essay
What Is an Expository Essay?
An expository essay explores various angles of a specific topic to provide information in an objective manner to the reader. For example, if the subject is universal healthcare, the paper would provide information on what universal healthcare is, how it works, which countries use it and how it differs from privatized healthcare. All of these issues would be expressed in a neutral tone, without trying to convince the reader of either one side or the other.
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Expository vs Argumentative
Many students confuse these types of essays. An argumentative essay has a different goal than the expository one which is to convince the reader of their chosen position. In the same example of universal healthcare, the writer would choose either to convince the reader that universal healthcare is the better healthcare system or that privatized healthcare is better. In short, the main difference between the expository and argumentative types is that one is objective while the other is subjective.
Steps on Writing an Expository Essay
Before you start, you may need some tips on how to cope with your work successfully. Here are some steps to follow.
Step 1: Choose a Topic
Your teacher may have already assigned you the topic, but in case they didn’t and it’s all up to you, you’ll need a system to help you choose the best topic for your paper. It would be great if you already know something about the issue. Writing a paper on something that’s a complete mystery to you could be challenging and make it difficult for you to do research, let alone explain the topic to the reader.
Example: If you have a coin collection and know a lot about collecting rare coins, it could be easier for you to find credible resources and identify themes that are common to this subject than if you chose to write about an issue you know nothing about, say rebuilding a BMW motor.
Making a list of topics that you’re interested in can help you choose your topic.
- Coin collecting
- Social media
After you’ve made your list, narrow it down to the one that would be the easiest for you to write about and find research on. Be aware that this may not necessarily be the one that’s most interesting to you. You might be a robotics buff, but it might be difficult to explain robotics in layman’s terms for the average reader. When choosing consider:
- Your level of interest and previous knowledge on the subject
- The ease of finding credible sources on the topic
- Your ability to explain the issues to the reader
Step 2: Do Your Research
Now that you’ve decided what topic you’re writing about, it’s time to do your research. Even if you already know a lot about this topic, don’t skip this step. You will need to cite some sources and by researching, you might even learn more about this topic and discover things you didn’t know before.
When researching, start broadly by reading a variety of articles on the topic to see which themes are most commonly researched and discussed on it. Then start to narrow your research to include only credible subjects (respected publications, websites written by experts in the field). As you research, take notes on all of the possible topics you might want to cover in your work.
Step 3: Choose your examples
Your research may have provided you with a dozen or more areas to cover on your chosen topic, but you’re not going to be able to write about all of them in a standard 500-word essay. The best way to choose your examples is to do a mix of the most common issues discussed about the topic along with some of the more rarely discussed areas of this topic.
Example: if you’re writing about crypto-currencies, you could write about Bitcoin and its evolution but you could also cover some of the newer cryptocurrencies that are on the rise and gaining popularity in the wake of Bitcoin or some cryptocurrencies that might be surprising such as Christcoin, the cryptocurrency that gives you credit for reading the Bible. In this sense, the article will give a more complete picture of the topic and give the reader some information that they may not already be aware of.
Step 4: Write an Outline
Once you’ve chosen your examples, you’re now ready to write your outline. A sample of an outline would look like this:
- Introduction. Where you introduce your topic in an interesting way by telling a compelling story, citing a shocking statistic or a quote that eloquently sums up the main theme of your paper. The introduction will also include your thesis statement.
- Example paragraph 1. Where you give your first example of your thesis.
- Example paragraph 2. Your second example of your thesis.
- Example paragraph 3. Your third example of your thesis.
- Conclusion. Wow the reader with a knock-out conclusion that drives home the significance of your topic and, if relevant, suggests further research or discussions that should be conducted.
Step 5: Craft Your Thesis Statement
Students used to writing argumentative papers may be tempted to take a strong position on their topic or argue a point about it in the thesis statement. That’s not necessary for an expository essay. Instead, the thesis statement for it is more about letting the reader know what you’re going to write about and why they should care. If your topic concerns social media, for example, a good thesis statement could look the following.
Example: The use of social media has had a significant impact on how we communicate both with friends and family as well as with institutions and businesses.
This thesis statement lets the reader know that you’re going to talk about how social media has changed the way we communicate with various groups of people without arguing a specific point about it.
Step 6: Write Your First Draft
With your outline and thesis in place, it’s time to put your preparation and research into practice and write your first draft. As you write each paragraph, it may be helpful for you to refer to your thesis statement to make sure you’re staying on track and not veering off onto tangents. Make sure to use transition words. They are helpful to the reader and help reinforce when you are stating a supporting fact (furthermore, in addition, moreover) or an opposing idea (however, but, instead, on the other hand).
Step 7: Edit
When your first draft is finished, take a breather and put your work aside for at least a few hours before taking a look at it again. Some helpful editing tips:
- Get an A-level student to read over it
- Read it out loud - this helps you to identify awkward phrasing, grammar issues and other problem areas
- Put it through an editing app or service that checks for a variety of grammar and spelling issues and also rates the essay’s readability and grade level
As you write your expository essay: keep in mind the differences between an expository and argumentative essay, remember that great research goes a long way; add a variety of examples of your topic, including some that might not be so common; craft a solid thesis statement and make sure to give yourself time to edit.
Good luck and happy writing!