Expository Essay Guide

Whether you are a high school, college, or university student, the academic curriculum you follow will always include essay writing assignments. And expository writing is no exception. The importance of expository essays can’t be overestimated. Such papers, sometimes also known as informative essays, help students hone their critical thinking and provide unbiased information on a specific topic.

And although expository essays share similar characteristics with informative papers, they still have distinctive features. This guide sheds light on what expository essay writing is, what aims it carries, what types it has, and how to compose it.

What is an Expository Essay? – The Definition

An expository essay is a properly structured written piece that revolves around verified information and explains or describes something to the reader. It requires the writer to distance their own views from the topic and provide only verified and factual information in an objective manner. Furthermore, unlike argumentative writing, an expository paper mustn’t contain personal takes and justifications on the topic.

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Its Purpose

The purpose of expository essay writing is to present some information to the reader in a clear and objective way. As brought up above, expository essays shouldn’t contain personal viewpoints on the topic. Here, the writer’s job is to do factual analysis, find the most reliable sources, and include them in the essay.

When practicing expository essay writing, you want to detach from providing your view and include authoritative thoughts on the subject only. Otherwise, you risk writing an opinionated piece that doesn’t fall into the category of expository writing. 

The verb “expose” here conveys the idea behind this essay very clearly with some of its meanings: “to bring to public notice; disclose; reveal; to introduce (to) or acquaint (with).”

Topic Examples

Since expository essay prompts don’t require students to present an opinion or a stance, topics often include sufficient information one can find on the Internet. If your assignment sheet calls for taking a position and justifying it, you have probably been assigned a different essay—argumentative, for instance. 

Be that as it may, should your instructor allow you to come up with the topic, ensure to write a prompt that doesn’t require arguing, refuting, or taking any step that involves voicing your position. To help you with that undertaking, take a look at the following expository writing ideas:

  1. Explain how the eating habits of American people have changed within the last 50 years.
  2. Illustrate the development of machine learning.
  3. Discuss the three most negative outcomes of racism.
  4. Why do locals of the most prominent tourist destinations dislike the vast majority of tourists?
  5. Describe the process of building a house.
  6. The apparent influence of a particular philosopher: What fields have been changed thanks to them?
  7. Provide three crucial steps to building self-esteem.
  8. Explain what cancel culture is and how it can affect our society.
  9. Compare healthcare in the United States and Australia and find their differences and similarities.
  10. Show causality between junk food and health issues.

6 Main Expository Paper Types

Although having a typical structure (the following section will elaborate on this point), an expository essay is a broad class of writing that has different types that narrow down the paper’s purpose. Below are the six core types of an expository essay. Getting familiar with them will help you decide on your writing strategy. 

1. Descriptive essay – Choosing this type, you need to gather and provide details regarding a situation, event, object, time frame, and so on. This essay requires being as clear and concise as possible, following an academic writing style, and taking neutrality in judging.

2. Definition essay – Some words or concepts may be hard to understand right away. This expository essay variety strives to collect the necessary data, process it, and provide coherent, comprehensive, and accurate information on the subject, defining it in detail.

3. Process essay – A process (how-to) paper shows how something is done from the ground up. This often serves as a step-by-step manual for those who want to know how to do a specific thing—a recipe, for instance—but aren’t aware of the required steps. 

4. Cause and effect essay – In a cause and effect essay, you typically investigate the causality between objects or events. For example, you can explore the cause for a specific decree issued and the effects—both short and long-term—it has already brought and can bring in the future.

5. Problem and solution essay – In a problem-solution essay, you pick a problem—be it related to a social, economic, political, or environmental aspect—and try to find the most effective solutions. Again, you must provide explanations from credible sources.

6. Compare and contrast essay – In compare and contrast writing, you choose two subjects and aim to find how exactly they are different and what similarities they share, if any. Comparing tax laws of two states would be a good example of expository writing of this subtype.

Structure of Expository Essays

When it comes to an expository essay structure or format, it is pretty straightforward. No matter the type you choose to follow, remember that the three main parts of an expository essay are an introduction, body, and conclusion. These are the building blocks of every essay, with their unique functions and aims.

Certainly, it is your instructor who assigns the task. They can customize it, asking you to hit a particular word count, follow a specific citation style, and even include a different number of paragraphs, not the standard five. 

However, if your instructions don’t state the number of sections your paper needs to meet, follow the standard essay writing process; a typical expository essay would have five paragraphs: one intro, three body paragraphs, and one for the ending.

Format Template

Writing an expository essay requires a thoughtful approach. The latter isn’t easy to accomplish, as you need to find sources, identify the paper type you want or need to follow, and develop a thesis statement. However, a template can simplify your writing process. 

Open Template

This format template is a helpful and practical tool that allows you to preserve a series of logical, objective, and accurate statements, thus designing a good expository essay. Moreover, such a layout speeds up the entire writing process and wards off any additional information you might think of including when creating the first draft.

Outline Example

Building an outline is a rather simple activity, mainly if you aren’t requested to attach it alongside your expository essay. You can create an outline unique in format and structure but ensure it is meaningful to your writing session, i.e., it points you in the right direction, helps you work more productively, and eliminates any confusion.

With that in mind, please take a look at the following expository essay outline example to get a grasp of what your five-paragraph essay could look like.

Topic: Foucauldian principle of governmentality

  1. Introduction 
    1. Governmentality: Definition and foundations.
    2. Thesis statement: Governmentality is a pivotal element of governing subjects—people—in various ways and from various places, such as schools, households, and other organizations.
  2. Body paragraphs
    1. A school as a governing utility.
    2. A household as an element to shape the conduct of people.
    3. An organization as an instrument to affect people and their behavior.
  3. Conclusion
    1. The concept of governmentality is crucial and goes way beyond government institutions.
    2. The reinforcement of key points from the body paragraphs and explanation of the effects academia, family, and other organizations (profit, non-profit, NGOs, etc.) have on people’s conduct.
    3. Repercussions of governmentality and its implications these days and in the future.

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How to Write an Expository Essay (in 7 Steps)

Now that you’re aware of what an expository essay is, the purpose it carries, and the types and parts it has, let’s move forward and try to answer how to write it. There is no universal strategy regarding writing an expository essay. What one finds effective might not prove the same for another. 

There are, indeed, elements that often intertwine in various writing approaches, like brainstorming, researching, and thesis writing. These are the three focal things you must do above all else. Other parts can be drafted in any order. Notwithstanding, here are seven steps that will enable you to create a decent expository essay.

1. Brainstorming

Generating thoughts is part and parcel of any essay. Brainstorming allows you to revise what you know about the topic and narrow your focus to several aspects you want to write about. Fortunately, you can employ various brainstorming techniques, such as listing, clustering, freewriting, and rapid ideation–to name a few–and decide which one works for you the best.

2. Researching

Demanding and time-consuming as it might often seem, researching is essential before delving into writing. Not only does it help you locate the necessary sources and include them in your paper, but research also enriches your expertise and makes you more competent on the subject matter. The most efficient, trusted, and easiest way to carry out research is to visit pages like Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Academia.edu, and alike.

3. Thesis

A thesis statement is a constitutive part of every paper. A good thesis helps the writer address the issue and work around it, finding solutions or successfully executing any other purpose the essay strives to achieve. By default, a thesis appears in the introductory paragraph. You can build a thesis in various ways depending on the paper type you choose to follow. Nonetheless, ensure it has a clear claim and supporting details. 

4. Introduction

The introduction’s primary goal is to provide some fundamentals on the topic (to make the audience more cognizant of what your paper is about), explain the essence of the field, and focus on aspects you present in the thesis. You are encouraged to create a gripping opening to catch the readers’ attention and ensure they’re interested in learning more. It can be a quote, exciting and relevant fact, or a rhetorical question.

Note: To learn more about essay introductions, please check this guide: How to Start an Essay

5. Body

While the introductory paragraph starts broad and aims to prepare the audience for the topic, the body part is where your focus shrinks. These (typically) three paragraphs work on your thesis statement, attempting to develop it as profoundly as possible. Regardless of your expository essay type, each of the three paragraphs must comprise five components: a topic sentence, supporting evidence, examination, encapsulation, and transition to the following paragraph.

6. Conclusion

In the final section, your task is to restate your thesis statement and include essential information you’ve provided within the entire paper. While the conclusion predominantly does that, you can also highlight the topic’s development throughout the years and the necessity to investigate the venue. It will help you end on a high note and call for action, for example, start a discussion.

Note: To find out more details regarding conclusions, we invite you to read this guide: How to End an Essay

7. Revision

The editing process is equally demanding and requires a practical attitude. Once you write the draft, take a break and step away from the piece. Then return to an expository essay and start making one step at a time, checking the paper’s structure, citation style, wording, and content. Importantly, pay close attention to a thesis statement and ensure it clearly corresponds with every topic sentence.

Final Tips and Takeaways

As mentioned earlier, expository essay writing focuses on doing adequate research and completing the main goal set by the key verb (explain, discuss, provide, compare, etc.) It would be reasonable to re-emphasize the chief feature of an expository essay. Whatever type of essay an assignment requires you to follow, limiting your engagement in the topic is crucial. Failing to do that will result in you writing an argumentative paper with a completely different purpose.

Also, keep in mind that six types of expository essays exist: descriptive, definition, process, cause-and-effect, problem and solution, and compare and contrast. Although they all lean on one structure (introduction, body, conclusion), they are different in presenting the content, so ensure you choose the right type for your subject.

Composing an outline is the best way to remain focused and productive, especially when writing an expository paper.

Below is a list of additional tips to write an expository essay. Incorporating them with the recommendations from the above will let you write a sound expository essay:

  • Double-check facts: Since you fully bank on sources, make sure they are widely accepted, updated, and authoritative.
  • Watch your tone: Even if you don’t use personal pronouns, your tone may be too forceful and may create an impression that you try to impose an opinion.
  • Keep your thesis in mind: Many forget about a thesis once they write it. Ensure you remember your thesis statement during the whole writing process.


How are a persuasive essay and an expository essay different?

When writing a persuasive paper, the writer aims to convince the receiver. In turn, an expository essay gravitates toward neutrality, making the writer rely on facts and present already established opinions, describe processes, explain notions, etc.

Can an expository essay be written in the first person?

As a rule, students should refrain from using first-person pronouns in their papers, which includes expository essays. But of course, there might be changes, which is why it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with the assignment’s requirements before you get started. Writing an expository essay in the first person is possible only if your educator allows you to do so. 

What should I not do in an expository essay?

If you’ve been assigned a typical expository essay, there are several things you should avoid at all costs, with the first-person pronouns being the first one. Besides that, don’t include informal language; people come from different cultural backgrounds, so what one group finds acceptable might be offensive to another. Finally, learn your word limit and estimate how much info you can include in the paper.

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