How to Write an Expository essay

April 27, 2018
HandMadeWritings Staff

Mastering the art of writing a good expository essay is the backbone of writing A grade essays. This extensive guide written by Handmade writings team will help define exactly what an expository paper is by examining it in context to other genres of essays as well as giving you a broad view on a range of different essays that fall in this category.

How to write an expository essay

What is an expository essay?

The definition of an expository essay is to expose an idea by explaining the evidence and facts surrounding the topic. Its purpose is to explain or clarify information on a subject. It is important to present the topic in an impartial and non-biased fashion without forming a conclusion.

Expository writing is included in some shape or form in all types of academic papers like the argumentative essay and persuasive essay. Due to this, it can be hard to define where the expository paper ends, and the other papers begin. To get a clear understanding of how expository writing differs it is best to compare it to the different essay genres.

Is an argumentative essay an expository essay?

An expository essay is objective, neutral and focuses on explaining all side of a situation equally. An argumentative essay is about arguing for and supporting one side of the debate by contrasting it to different viewpoints. An argumentative paper will contain elements of an expository writing as it will outline and explain the topic of the argument. Both will also rely on evidence although the types of evidence differ. The graphic below will juxtapose the conventions, and structure of both essay genres.
is an argumentative essay an expository essay

How are a persuasive essay and an expository essay different?

A persuasive essay and an argumentative essay are extremely similar in format and will follow most of the rules outlined for argumentative essays. A persuasive writing is used to persuade. Expository writing is used to inform.

How to write an expository essay

The main points of what an expository essay should contain have been summarized in the graphic above. Good expository writing needs you to know how to present and write the information in the correct format. This guide will take you through the things you need to do to write a fantastic and detailed paper step by step. The first step is understanding what type of expository essay you are required to write.

What are the main types of expository essays?

The best writers understand the purpose of their essay. Identify the type of paper that you are being asked to write and focus on answering the question in the best format available. There are five main types of expository paper:

Main types of expository essays

  1. A Descriptive Essay

The purpose of a description is to describe something in detail. It could be a person you know, a place that you have visited or even describing the steps in a natural process such as photosynthesis. The subject matter should be fully explained and does not require any conclusions or analysis.


  1. A Process Essay

The purpose of a process essay is to recount the steps taken. Good examples are scientific reports of experiments or a guide on how to create something. The essay explains the process that was taken and the results that were gained without judgment.


  1. A Comparison Essay (Compare and Contrast Essay)

A comparison essay’s purpose is to compare and contrast two subjects. Examples of this can be how a theme is present in two books, two perspectives on social theory or even a flowers appearance. The essay should just list the differences without any kind of analysis or argument attached.


  1. A Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay identify the reason why a phenomenon occurs and what happens as a consequence. These essays can be used in social research in topics like “What causes dyslexia and what effects will it have on learning?” Or history topics that discuss the cause of policies and their effects on society. As an expository essay, the causes and effects should be detailed without any further analysis.


  1. A Problem and Solution Essay

A problem and solution essay will identify problems in a system and offer solutions that could fix or lessen the burden of those problems. As an expository paper there shouldn’t be an argument for one solution but an outline of all possible solutions.

Read the question you have been set or the criteria of your assignment and measure it against these expository essay formats to choose the best question for you. For more in-depth advice on how to write the styles of essays detailed above please follow the embedded links!

How to choose a title for an expository essay?

When you are given free reign, it can be hard to decide what to write an essay on. The easiest method of how to start an expository writing is to decide on the topic and title. A simple way of coming up with a basic title for an essay is to insert its type into the title.

  • A description of Stephen King/Harlem/Photosynthesis
  • The process of baking a cake/testing Boyle’s law/of camping.
  • A comparison of Byron’s poetry / international social policy / political stances on taxation.
  • The cause and/or effects of potato blight/obesity/voter apathy
  • The problems and/or solutions to gun regulation / gendered language/stigmatization of mental issues.

Creating a basic title will give your essay direction, and a subject to focus on. It can act as a primary thesis statement as research and can be narrowed and to a more meaningful title later. News channels&papers and websites are sources of current and ongoing issues to discuss.

Formulating a clear title will help clarify the purpose of your paper by giving the reader your topic and the context in which you are reporting on it. When choosing a title and essay type always consider whether they are appropriate to the guidelines and subject matter. The most important thing is to choose a subject you enjoy.
where to look for topic for an expository essay

Expository essay topics for high school and colleges

Being given the freedom to choose an essay topic in high-school or college is a hard assignment. Here are some general expository essay topics for high schoolers and colleges to help you brainstorm and decide on a subject.

Here are some colorful examples of topic titles that we suggest looking into.

Process titles

  • The perfect recipe for an amazing summer vacation
  • How to test the resistance of an electrical current

Comparison titles

  • A comparison of positivism and communist perspectives on social education
  • Compare and contrast the use of technology in Harry Potter and Frankenstein

Cause and effect titles

  • Explain how the Treaty of Versailles contributed to Hitler’s rise to power.
  • What are the causes and consequences of climate change?

Problems and solution titles 

  • What problems arise from the depiction of violence on in the media?
  • What can be done to help someone with a hearing impairment adapt to mainstream education?
  • How is the representation of women a problem in video-gaming and what can game developers do to stop it?

A profile of Christopher Marlowe

Our title pick for this specific article. The person doesn’t have to be Christopher Marlowe, but someone whose life and work you find interesting. We chose Marlowe as we love his poetry and there are lots of fascinating things to discuss his life: reputed as being an English Spy, arrested on false charges for treasons and he died in a mysterious knife fight outside a pub… or did he really run away to become Shakespeare?

If you are going to do expository writing on a person, choose someone you find interesting. Research their background, elaborate on how they became famous, outline their work and how it has impacted the world and the field they work in.

Expository essay Outline

The structure of this essay type is usually five paragraphs in length including the introduction. The best expository writing format is to choose three items about the topic you’ll be discussing.

So, in my examples, it is Marlowe’s work as a playwright, Marlowe’s work as a spy and the reasons why he is believed to be the mastermind behind Shakespeare.

No matter the style or the type of essay  – choose three points about the subject that you can elaborate on and explain in detail.

What should I include in the introduction?

The introduction of an expository essay should have a thesis statement.  The thesis statement here is simply to introduce the subject you are explaining and in what context.

Thesis statement examples

The life and times of Christopher Marlowe

“Christopher Marlowe was an English playwright during the Elizabethan era. Marlowe is renowned for being a famous and controversial playwright, as being a spy for Queen Elizabeth and is often attributed as being the mastermind behind Shakespeare’s work. Christopher Marlowe led a fascinating life that is usually reserved for literary figures.”

That introduction sets up a wide view of Marlowe’s life, as opposed to one that narrows it down to his life as a spy:

Christopher Marlowe: The Elizabethan James Bond

“Christopher Marlowe was an English playwright born in the Elizabethan Era. Marlowe is renowned for being Queen Elizabeth’s master spy. Documentation existing from a Privy Council meeting of the University of Cambridge suggests that Marlowe was acting as a spy from before he graduated university, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his arrest and death only add to the rumors of his spy-craft.”

Narrow the introduction to the specific topic discussed in the essay.

Another important thing to include in the introduction is the three points you’ll be discussing, as this signpost the direction of your article. The introduction should be 10% of the overall word count in length. If you are free to make your own title for the essay, try to narrow that down to the specific subject too. Our title examples above lead to different expectations for the essay and allow you to guide your reader towards your thesis statement earlier.

How should I write the body paragraphs?

Each paragraph of the body paragraph should discuss a single idea on the subject. The first sentence of each paragraph should introduce the topic being discussed. The following sentence should elaborate and describe the subject in detail. Facts, evidence, and quotations should be used to support the statement and elaboration. The final sentence should be conclusive to signal the topic has ended. Writing in this formula will sign-post your work and make it easier to read.

All information should be objective and written in the third person.

An expository writing purpose is to describe subjects in detail to explain and clarify. As such the focus should be on simple, clear sentences with concentrate messages. It is important to stay focused on the topic at hand and not go off on tangents.

How to write a conclusion?

The conclusion of an expository paper should recap all the points made previously and avoid coming to a conclusion about which side of the argument is right or adding new ideas to the essay. You can signal the end of the paper with a final general point, for example:  “Only by evaluating all aspects of homelessness we can come to an understanding of what causes it and how to implement better solutions.”

Do’s and don’ts of expository essays
dos and don'ts of expository essays


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