How to Write an Expository Essay

How to Write an Expository Essay

As a student, you should know how to write an expository essay because teachers and professors ask students to write expository essays for different courses in college. Among the courses that involve expository essay writing include English, social sciences and history. An expository essay is an essay that explains a given concept, investigates a specific idea or presents evidence for a specific opinion.

Most exams and in-class assignments entail the use of the format of expository essays. This is because this essay uses a style that does not entail deep research. While developing an expository essay, you can use different patterns to organize it depending on the writing prompt, topic or assignment. Example of an expository essay is an essay in which the prompt requires the student to study and analyze a given work, expose or explain a topic or describe a given process.

What you should know even before knowing how to write an expository essay

An expository essay has certain characteristics that distinguish it from other essays.

They include:

  • An expository essay is written to describe, inform or explain
  • The writer of an expository essay acts like a teacher
  • This essay presents information on the chosen topic exhaustively
  • It is written in third person

A guide on how to write an expository essay in six steps

Step One: Organize your thoughts

Once the instructor, teacher or professor has given you the expository essay writing prompt or assignment, the first thing that you should do is to read it carefully and organize your thoughts. You will most probably have something to say about any topic that the instructor assigns you. Even if you do not know much about the assigned subject matter, you will realize that there is something you have read, heard or experienced about it. It is important that you brainstorm or consider what you already know about the topic. This will enable you to sort out your mind before you start writing.

To organize your thoughts, you can do one of the following:

  • Free write: This entails writing what comes from your mind quickly without editing, stopping or self-correcting.
  • List clustering: This entails allowing ideas to flow freely on the topic. The main topic is at the center of a circle with its associations linked to it.
  • Subject tree: This involves a tree form in which the related ideas are connected to the main topic.
  • Outlining: This entails the use of an essay framework in which the main points are included and sub-points’ breakdown.

While organizing thoughts, do not evaluate your ideas but outpour ideas on what you already know about the topic. With ideas on a paper, organize them into groups of ideas then identify the most important areas.

Step Two: Research the topic

At this step, you can conduct online research or visit a library. Conduct a research of current events but be careful to adhere to the time frames set by your instructor. Use acceptable sources such as books, scholarly articles and reference works. If you use a web site as a source, evaluate it first for reputability and timeliness. It is also important that you consider the purpose of a website, reliability of the sponsors and author’s credibility.

Step Three: Develop a thesis statement

To be effective, your thesis statement should express the major focus of your expository essay while stating an arguable claim. A thesis statement acts like a bridge of your essay. This is because it has a claim and its supporting details. Being able to develop a tentative thesis is an important step of a guide on how to write an expository essay. Therefore, come up with a claim or sentence that takes a stance on the given topic, debatable, and based on generalization. Ensure that your thesis statement tells readers the point that you will be making in the essay. Also include supporting details to reinforce your claim.


Claim: Depression as a condition is complex.

Supporting details: It can be caused by different factors including environmental, genetic and biological factors.

Thesis statement: Depression as a condition is complex because it can be caused by environmental, genetic and biological factors combined.

Step Four: Write the introduction

The introduction of your expository essay should reveal or introduce your topic while establishing a context for your essay to the readers. It is important that you consider your audience while writing the introduction. Make them excited or curious to read your essay. Give readers background information about your topic to enable them to understand the key point in your essay. Use the introduction to establish a roadmap for the analysis or discussion of the essay.

Step Five: Write the body

The body of an expository essay is a detailed part in which you present or address your supporting details in fully-developed, separate paragraphs. It is important that you include relevant information or evidence as gathered from research. Introduce the supporting details of your essay using a topic sentence to open each paragraph.

Generally, the body of an expository essay should have the following:

  • A topic sentence
  • Specific details and their explanation
  • An example such as a quotation
  • A transition paragraph that links one paragraph to the next

A good expository essay should have at least two body paragraphs with each having a minimum of 100 words.

Example of a topic sentence:

There are several factors which cause depression.

Step Six: Write the conclusion

The conclusion should bring your expository essay to a close. Though a conclusion ought to be like an introduction, it should be worded differently. Using the conclusion, you should summarize and reiterate your main points.

A good conclusion should have the following:

  • Relevance: It should repeat the topic’s importance.
  • Review: It should reiterate the main points of the essay.
  • Summary: It should summarize the conclusions made in the essay.


Relevance: Thousands of women, children and men are affected by depression each year and majority of them do not get help.

Review: The focus of this essay was on causes, symptoms and the available depression treatments.

Summary: There are many devastating consequences of depression apart from its effects on the sufferers and those living with them. Through education however, people affected by this painful condition can be reached.

The conclusion should be like an introduction but it should restate the stated thesis statement using different words. Note that no new information should be included in the conclusion. Leave readers with a feeling that your expository essay has come to an end logically by wrapping up the main thoughts while reviewing the main points.

Five bonus tips on how to write an expository essay

  • Structure your expository essay properly

Regardless of the pattern that you choose for organizing your expository essay, include an introduction that has a defined, clear thesis statement at the end. Have body paragraphs that cover your main points. Have a clear topic sentence for each body paragraph. Additionally, make sure that the information that you include in the body paragraphs is factual, statistical, anecdotal or logical. Finally, end your expository essay with a conclusion that reflects your thesis statement and main points of your body paragraphs. To know how to structure an expository essay, use an expository essay sample. Click here for an example of an expository essay.

  • Write about something good

When allowed the freedom to choose the topic of your expository essay, choose something good. For instance, if you are required to write about a short story, read and understand before you start writing your expository essay. While reading, ask yourself questions that will enable you to understand the story better. For instance, what you would do if you were a character in the story? Do you like or hate the characters and why? Such questions will enable you to synthesize the story before you start writing.

  • Make your essay informative

Remember that expository is the same as informative. Therefore, an important tip on how to write an expository essay is to flood readers with ideas or knowledge. However, make sure that they are relevant. Visit the library, read magazine and conduct online research to get detailed information. Be prudent and sensible while conducting research and reference your sources accordingly.

  • Ensure that your brain is a roaring and seething idea-generator

Combine different techniques to generate ideas for your expository essay. Use graphical presentation and clustering to generate ideas. Ask meticulous questions and be self-inquisitive throughout the process of writing an essay.

  • Revise your essay

Once you have written your essay, revise it and rewrite where necessary to ensure coherent flow of ideas and paragraphs. Make sure that each paragraph is developed properly with ideas flowing logically. Make sure that the main thesis statement is supported by the paragraphs of the body directly. The conclusion should match the essay.

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