What is an expository essay?

An expository essay is a genre of essay that ‘exposes’ a topic to readers. Students are required to investigate an idea, describe, explain, define, inform, evaluate evidence, clarify and expound on an idea in a clear and concise manner.

Sometimes students are not able to differentiate if it is an expository essay or persuasive/argumentative essay.

How Do You Differentiate:

When you are writing an expository essay, you are NOT trying to convince the reader to think in a certain way or to accept a single viewpoint as valid. You are simply explaining a viewpoint that you believe is true.

An example of expository essay:
Explain how the invention of mobile phones has impacted communication between people. This essay requires students to write down the pros and cons (benefits and disadvantages) of the invention of mobile phones and its impact on human’s communication.

An example of persuasive/argumentative essay: Do you think mobile phones have negative effects on human’s communication? This essay requires personal opinion to back up information supporting why mobile phones have negative or positive effects on human’s communication.

Usually, we use third-person pronouns (‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, ‘it’) for expository essays. However if the question is a reflective expository topic, of course you will need to use first person pronoun ‘I’. For example: Reflect on the impact of education on your life. This is very much a cause and effect kind of essay. Focus on showing how education has brought about new changes to your mental, social and physical change.

Some examples of expository topics:
1. How online classes impact learning?
2. What are the impacts of poverty on behaviour?

Structure of Expository Essays:

Similar to the other essays we have discussed earlier, an expository essay in school for young writers follows the typical format of five paragraphs: Introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. Introduction needs thesis statement. Always remember to use Transitional words and phrases as they link the facts and make essays coherent.

1. Introduction
– Start with a hook to stir up the reader’s interest.
– Provide readers with background on the topic so as to allow them to better understand the topic that is being presented.
– State your thesis. Your thesis statement should clearly present the main idea of your essay and make some kind of assertion. (State your position/stand)

2. Body (3 main points)
– Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence.

– Each body paragraph should cover a different idea/information or piece of evidence/reason to support your thesis statement.

(Please note that students in college level are expected to write longer essays. The number of paragraphs is not predetermined. The essay follows this structure: beginning, middle and end)

What is a Topic Sentence?

Every topic sentence will always have a topic and a controlling/supporting idea. (topic sentence = topic + controlling idea)

1. Smoking is bad for everyone because it can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer.
Topic: ‘Smoking is bad for everyone’
Controlling idea: ‘because it can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer.’

2. White blood cells help fight infections by attacking bacteria, viruses and germs that invade the body.
Topic: ‘White blood cells help fight infections’
Controlling idea: ‘by attacking attacking bacteria, viruses and germs that invade the body’

3. Education helps us to lead a good and healthy life.
Topic: ‘Education helps us’
Controlling idea: ‘to lead a good and healthy life’

3. Conclusion
-Restate your topic, thesis/claim.
-Call for action or overview future research possibilities

Types of Expository Essays

Typically, these are the different types of expository essays and we can find such essays in news articles, nonfiction books, textbooks, scientific and medical research papers, instruction manuals and cookbooks.

1. Compare and contrast: The writer explains how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different.

2. Cause and effect: The writer lists one or more causes and the resulting effect or effects.

3. Problem and solution: The writer states a problem and lists one or more solutions for the problem.

4. Processes: Explain how to do something step by step.

5. Classification: Break a subject into smaller, more manageable, more specific parts.

6. Definition: Explains what a term means. Some terms have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person’s point of view.

Check out relevant readings/videos that are helpful for expository essays.