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How to Write an Expository Essay – Expose Something!

October 27, 2015 - Posted toWriting

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How to Write an Expository Essay – Expose Something!

Expository essays are probably the most common form of essay assignment, and if you are struggling with expository essay writing, it may be because you are not familiar with the term. Or, you may just struggle with essay writing in general, no matter what the type. Perhaps after reading through this piece, you will feel less threatened by essay writing, and decide that there really are many things worse than creating a piece of writing.

Defining the Expository Essay

The “operative word” in a definition of expository writing is “investigate.” You will be investigating an idea, an event, a circumstance, etc., provide information that explains it in detail, and reach some general conclusions. Because it is rather broad in definition, your expository essay may be one of definition, comparison/contrast, example, or cause and effect. So when you wonder, “What is an expository essay,” think in terms of exposing a topic, so that your reader has a clear understanding of that topic. Often they are written in response to writing prompts that you might find on an essay test, but they are just as given assignments in almost any course you might take.

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The Process for Producing One of These Puppies

  1. Topic Selection: Often you will be given some expository essay prompts and asked to select one for you essay. If, for example, you have just studied the Great Depression, an instructor may provide some options – the causes, the response of the Hoover Administration; the response of the Roosevelt Administration; urban life during the Depression; rural life during the Depression; and so forth.
  2. The Investigation: While you may have some general knowledge about your topic, writing an essay on it will probably require more than your textbook and lecture notes. Your instructor will definitely not be impressed if that is all you use. Get online and dig a little deeper into your topic.
  3. Organize your information so that you have at least 3 major points to make. If, for example, you have selected the causes of the Depression as a topic, you will no doubt come up with three causes: too much speculation and buying on the margin in the Stock Market, which caused companies to be over-valued; risky lending policies on the part of banks; and too much credit. Hmmm…almost sounds like the first 8 years of the 21st century.
  4. Create an Outline – nothing formal and elaborate here – just a listing of the 3 points and the details you plan to include for each one of them. This is called your “evidence.”
  5. Develop a Thesis Statement: This is the main point you intend to make, based upon the 3 points you will address. A possible thesis statement for the causes of the Depression might be something like: “The Great Depression was really the result of capitalism on steroids.”
  6. Write the Three Body Paragraphs: You know “the drill” here. Each paragraph will provide a full explanation of one of the causes you will present.
  7. Getting to that Introduction: You know that your introduction will state your topic and that your thesis statement will come somewhere as well. You can also hint at your three causes. One thing you want to do in that introduction is begin with a really startling statement. What was the unemployment rate at the height of the Depression? How many banks failed at the beginning of the Depression? A good opener might be something like: “How would you feel if you had a savings account with $1000 in it, and when you went to withdraw that money, it was gone?”
  8. Getting to that Conclusion: You know you are not supposed to add any new information in a conclusion, but you can repeat your thesis statement in a different way. You can also say that because of our experience, restraints were put in place so that this would never happen again – or not. You conclusion might want to point to the fact that we got a bit lax about the restraints and almost brought on another one of these disasters in 2008.

There is your 8-step process.

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Do’s Don’ts
  • Do the research you need to do to be a bit of an expert on your topic
  • Don’t turn an expository essay into an argumentative one – your purpose is to inform and explain, not rant.
  • Do be clear, simple and directed and revise your rough draft
  • Don’t try to impress your instructor with long, complex sentences and big vocabulary

Some Final Points

  1. If you are still struggling with your topic, do get online and read some expository essay examples on that topic.
  2. Essay writing is a complex process. If you don’t feel you really know how to write an expository essay or any other type of essay for that matter, understand that the only way to get better is to practice. Get some help if you need it, keep writing, and you will get results.
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