Academic Writing Complete Guide

Expository essays

Expository essays are genres that explain a given topic in a logical and straightforward manner. It gives the reader relevant information whether in speech or writing. Basically, they present a fair and balanced analysis of subjects based on facts without references to the writer’s opinions or emotions. In this essay, you are required to consider an idea, investigate, explain, and then make an argument based on the idea.

Types of expository essay

  • Definition essays
    Also called the descriptive essay or blog essay. They describe the meaning of given words, terms or even concepts. The topic can be concrete, for example, animal or even an abstract term like freedom. They should discuss the words literal or dictionary definition as well as the connotation that a word brings to one’s mind. This essay is unique in a way that the writer has the freedom on what to write especially when it comes to the content of the work being written.
  • Classification essays
    They break down broad subjects into categories or subgroups. The writer of the essay is required to organize it by beginning with the most general category, define and then give examples of each category.
  • Problem essays
    In this essay, you have a problem and you are required to look for its solutions. The essay is broken down into a very brief introduction to the challenge posed and filled with content about its solutions. It is also called the ‘solution essay’.
  • Cause and effect essays
    These essays expound more on the similarities and differences between two or more individuals, places, or things. Comparison always tells how things are alike and contrast shows how they are different from each other. This type of essays is concerned with telling the reader why and or how things happen and what happens as a result of the other.
  • “how to” essays
    Also called ‘process essays’, they explain a procedure, systematic process, or how to do something. They aim at instructing the reader in a specific idea or topic. For example, how to build a car, edit a paper or even how to flirt with a given girl.

Elements of expository essays

Expository essays follow a common formula which gives a five-paragraph essay. This formula is very straightforward for many writers who may have very limited knowledge on how to write the essay. The three main parts to capture include the following;


  1. 1 Introduction
    The introductory paragraph should have a clear thesis that it gives to the reader. It should discuss your topic and is the main idea of your essay as well as the preview to the foundation of your essay.
  2. 2 Body
    You should include three body paragraphs that give evidence and various analyses connecting the proofs to the thesis written in the introductory paragraph. A topic sentence should begin each paragraph. It includes a piece of supporting proof that supports your thesis.
  3. 3 Conclusion
    A precise concluding paragraph should tell the reader everything concerning the paper by evaluating the thesis in light of the evidence discussed in the body. The first sentence of the conclusion should restate your thesis though, without repeating it. Include what evidence you have provided has added to your thesis in this paragraph. Always offer a final thought or call to action of your work.

Before you begin writing your essay, consider the following

  • Listing
    The writer should put all his thoughts on paper. He will be looking over the given list and grouping similar ideas to make the writing process easy. This helps him to narrow down his options on the given prompt.
  • Clustering
    You can take a blank piece of paper and jot down brief explanations of the topic. Then write three or more sentences extending from the bigger circle of writing. At the end of every sentence, you should write the corresponding ideas. Build your cluster until you create as many connections as possible.
  • Freewriting
    In this step, the writer should write all that comes to his mind and later review what he has written. Underlining the most appropriate information is very important than where the writer sorts out things that he has written by sections. This technique is supposed to continue until he comes up with the most suitable topic.
  • Questioning
    You are supposed to answer the following questions:

    ✓ Who
    ✓ How
    ✓ What
    ✓ Why
    ✓ When
    ✓ Where

    The questions should be answered with as much detail as possible as this will give the writer an outline for his writing to build on.

Tasks that your essay should perform

  • It should define your key terms or ideas.
  • Describe specific proofs you gave as examples.
  • Investigate the common characteristic among your examples.
  • It should analyze the given cause-and-effect relationships among your examples.
  • Show the connection between the examples and your central idea, as well as the connections among those examples.

The essay should polish the written work through revision making it original and interesting to the reader. The writer should avoid cliché language or give out the most obvious examples. This helps the reader to learn something new and compelling on your given topic.

Important Steps for expository writing

Being a life skill to write expository essays, more than any other type of writing, this type of essay is a crucial assignment on the academic front. Therefore, one needs to understand and follow the tips of the writing process.

  1. a. Defining your writing purpose
    The writer should think of the reason for writing the essay, and what he hopes to do with his completed work. If he is writing for an assignment, then it is important to read the assigned guidelines carefully. For anything that is unclear, asking the instructor questions is the only way out.
  2. b. Consider your audience
    Consider the needs and explanations that you are going to provide to your readers before writing. Always keep your audience in mind for your audience.
  3. c. Generate ideas for your expository essay
    The writer should take his time generating concepts and writing them down on paper this is very important in making the best writing for your readers and is essential in eliminating boredom from your piece.
  4. d. Make an outline
    Once you have your ideas on paper, you need to organize those facts into an outline before drafting the essay. Write the given outline because it is the skeleton of the whole work. With an outline, it is very hard to forget any idea and you also know where to put the right information and the extent to which you will explain that idea.
  5. e. Find appropriate source
    The writer is also required to look at the guidelines or ask your instructor about the types of sources you can use. The sources may include a book, scholarly articles, journal, magazines, newspaper articles, and trustworthy websites.

Before you decide on the source to use on your work, consider several things to ascertain their trustworthiness. They include;

  • The identity of the author and his credentials
    You are supposed to think what generally qualifies a given author of the source you are using and their subjects. If the source has no author or the author does not have adequate credentials to his work, then this source may not be trustworthy to you as the writer.
  • Check for citations
    This tells you as the writer whether the author has researched more on the topic well enough to be used. In case of minimal references then the source may not be good to use for your work.
  • Always look for bias
    Always think about whether or not the author has presented his ideas in a well- reasoned manner. Ascertain his objectivity or bias in the work. In case of bias by the author then the source is inappropriate for use.
  • Cross-check some of the information on the source you are using
    As the writer, always cross check some of the information against any untrustworthy sources. This will make your paper credible in the first place. Beware of the information especially from internet sources. Most of the websites you see around are not as credible as they look.
  • Read your sources well
    Make sure you understand clearly, what the author is talking about in his work. Take time to look up for concepts that you do not understand otherwise, you will end up misleading and misusing the source.
  • Take notes as you read through your source
    As you read the source, take note of very important information by writing it down in a notebook. Show when you have quoted a source word for word by putting it under quotation marks. Include some of the information; author’s name, article title or book title. Remember to write down the publishing information of each source you use and format the page according to your instructor’s preferences.

Expository essay writing does not have to be a big problem to a student. Good preparation and proper planning can go a long way in writing a perfect piece.


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