While there are many different types of essays, an expository essay is perhaps one of the most systematic. These essays require students to explore an idea, evaluate the evidence, elaborate on the main idea, and state their argument on the idea in a coherent manner. In short, the main focus is to explain the facts.
You'll most likely come across expository essays in the classroom. They're a great way to test critical thinking skills. Teachers may ask this of students after they've completed a novel or studied a new idea. It's a great way for students to express their opinions and for teachers to assess their writing skills.
The essays that you'll be required to write during your SATs are expository essays. The goal is to take an idea, reflect on your opinion on the matter, and deliver a clear and cohesive argument on the subject.
Some common topics for expository essays include personal experiences, literature, history, social issues, and science and technology. Each of these areas allow students to reflect on something they're already knowledgeable about and develop a coherent stance.
The best way to approach an expository essay is to take the five-paragraph approach. That works out to be somewhere between 500 and 800 words, which is typically - although not always - the length of an essay on a standardized test.
Here's what the five-paragraph approach should look like:
You might want to scribble down a brief outline before you begin writing. Consider your stance on the subject, craft a one-line summary of your stance, and list three items you can discuss in support of your ideas.
The introduction is where you'll place your thesis statement. Your thesis statement will summarize what your essay is about or the argument you're trying to make in one sentence. Be sure it adheres to the assignment guidelines.
As you enter into the body of your essay, keep your transitions in mind. Transitions are the thread that sews the entire essay together. They must be clear and express a logical unfolding of your main ideas. Above all else, the reader must be able to follow your train of thought. This is why an outline is the best place to begin any type of essay.
The body of your essay is where you'll find the most meat. Limit each paragraph to one general idea. Think of it like the arc of a story. You must rise to a climax and end with a resolution. Therefore, you want to select three strong ideas and use each one to build momentum to the final thought that's going to sway readers. Just remember that, no matter the idea, it must harken back to your thesis statement. Ask yourself, "Is this doing something to prove or support my thesis statement?"
Facts and statistics are also an important element to any essay. Use the "don't just take my word for it" approach and bolster your argument with facts, statistics, or quotations from relevant people. However, with expository essays, you're often asked to create them on the spot. That's why the SATs are basically expository essays. In this case, you wouldn't be tied to any outside research. Rather, you'll be tied to your ability to outlay a clear argument with whatever facts that spring to mind.
Which brings us to the conclusion. A conclusion shouldn't just regurgitate your thesis. Rather, it's meant to summarize your main arguments with concision and clarity. If all your main points harken back to your thesis, then there's no need to restate them anyway. Perhaps you'll dash a little bit of your personality into the conclusion and end with a rhetorical question or a call to action.
While the body of your essay provides all the meat, the introduction to your essay is the shining star. It's meant to lure people in and make it clear what's about to come.
Let's say you were asked to write an expository essay on a personal experience. Perhaps you were asked by your music teacher to reflect on music's influence in your life. First, you'd ask yourself if music has any impact on your life. Then, you can jot down three ways in which it has. From there, you're ready to draft your thesis and introduction.
Note: In each of the samples below, the thesis is in bold and it always answers the question of the assignment.
Music has been a part of human history almost from its very inception. It began with crude instruments constructed in the wild and advanced to $50,000 grand pianos. Yet, the end result has always been the same. Music shapes our lives and influences our behavior. It carries us through the dark times by allowing us to understand we're not alone, and it sustains us through the happy times as we rejoice in an upbeat tempo.
Let's look at another example. Say you just wrapped up a new novel in your English Literature class. Don't be surprised if your teacher starts to look for students' opinions on the work. He or she might ask students to outline the significance of the literary work for future generations. Perhaps you'll start with something like this:
In Island of Glass, we learn about the power of tenacity and the possibilities that unfold when we believe in ourselves. The protagonist is a world-renowned archeologist who always bets on herself. She's strong, willful, independent, and brave beyond measure. This novel will shape future generations because readers will remember Riley and choose to push through their own circumstances too. This essay will explore three examples of Riley's bravery and outline its benefit to future generations.
Finally, let's explore an essay surrounding social issues. Perhaps your sociology teacher will want you to flex your powers of deductive reasoning. Let's say you were asked to explain the social precursors to addiction. You might start with a thesis that looks something like this:
Many of the social precursors to drug addiction begin in the home. This is not to say every addict had a terrible upbringing. Addiction sinks its teeth into stable and unstable homes alike. What begins as a crutch can turn into a life sentence, and nobody is immune. In this essay, we'll review three examples of addiction we observed in last week's lesson.
You can see how the introduction sets up everything that's about to come. First, you outline your stance on the subject. Then, you tease the reader with what's to come. This will help you stay on track for the remainder of your essay and develop a strong stance on the subject at hand.
With all these tips and trick in mind, let's briefly review how to write an essay. There are a few basics that will always hold true, no matter the format.
The wording must be concise and clear.
Typically, you want to write an expository essay in an objective, third person perspective ("he," "she," or "it"). However, pay careful attention to the assignment. Sometimes, first person ("I" or "me") or second person ("you") perspective is acceptable, especially if the task is to describe a personal experience.
Write a thesis statement and prepare a topic sentence for each paragraph.
Each body paragraph should cover only one topic and present a new idea.
Consider starting with your weakest argument and building up to your strongest argument.
Use transition words and sentences to make your essay flow smoothly. Connect sentences with words like "however," "for example," or "such as."
Connect paragraphs by having the topic sentence refer back to the preceding paragraph or the thesis statement.
A successful essay will highlight the main idea, will be factual and not subjective, and contain verifiable information.
The conclusion must restate your argument, summarize your facts, or even propose the next steps for further research or discussion.
Expository essays are a gift. They allow learners to express their minds without the fear of being told they're wrong. Essentially, they're your opinion on the subject matter. The only way you might be "wrong" is if you don't support your claim with logic, reasoning, and facts.
For example, in our hypothetical essay on Riley from Island of Glass, how can anyone disprove your stance on her bravery if you specifically cite some of her moments of bravery from the text? They can't. From there, you can easily make the argument that she will shape future generations.
Remember to start with a rough outline: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. From there, own your thesis statement, making sure it harkens back to the assignment. And finally, express yourself! Your opinions are valuable and powerful.
Need any assistance as you begin your next expository essay? Feel free to leave a note in the comments below!