What Is an Expository Essay? Examples and Guide

By , Staff Writer
definition of "expository essay" from the article
  • DESCRIPTION
    woman with yellow shirt working on laptop with expository essay definition
  • SOURCE
    Prostock-Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus / via Getty created by YourDictionary
  • PERMISSION
    Used under Getty Images license

We all have our different ways of explaining the same things. Ask three people to explain how to eat some corn on the cob, and you’ll get three different explanations. That’s the real beauty of the expository essay, and it means you already have the basic tools to write a great one. So what is an expository essay and how can you refine your approach?

What Is an Expository Essay?

An expository essay is a type of essay that involves explaining an idea or theme within a given subject or topic. That could be an in-depth look at a poem or story, or it could be an explanation of a historical event.

The key word here is exposition, or the act of exposing something. Unlike descriptive or narrative essays, expository essays are about exposing or revealing something deeper in a given subject through research, close reading, and critical thinking. The goal is to explain a subject beyond just a surface level description.

Advertisement

Types of Expository Essays

If that sounds familiar or similar to other essay forms, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The expository essay is an umbrella term that contains other, more specific essay types, including:

Even simple book reports can get into the expository essay zone. If you’ve ever written a traditional five-paragraph essay, you’ve probably written an expository essay. Expository essays are generally objective by nature.

General Structure and Format of an Expository Essay

The format of an expository essay is about as basic as it gets. It’s not exactly the most creative or exciting in its format, but that just gives more opportunity for your actual writing to shine. 

Your expository essay will probably look like:

  • An introduction paragraph that provides a hook, background information, and a thesis statement
  • Three body paragraphs that dive into the actual exposition of the essay (whether that’s specific line reads, research-based evidence, or discussion of themes)
  • A conclusion that restates the thesis, brings things together, and considers themes within a larger context

With longer expository essays or more in-depth topics, you’ll understandably include more body paragraphs. Otherwise, don’t overthink the structure of your essay too much. Focus more on the actual words and sentences.

Advertisement

Expository Essay Examples

Now you know what an expository essay is, and you have a good idea of what it all entails. With a few more tips for writing an expository essay, you’ll be pumping out some award-winning words in no time.

We can’t write your essay for you. Partly because we don’t know what you’re explaining, partly because you probably have better points and thoughts than we could ever come up with. But we can give you a pretty good example of what your completed expository essay might look like.

labeled example of an expository essay, all from the article
  • DESCRIPTION
    full expository essay example with labels
  • SOURCE
    Created by Karina Goto for YourDictionary
  • PERMISSION
    Owned by YourDictionary, Copyright YourDictionary 

Expository Essay Introduction Example

Introductions can feel like a bit of a thankless task. Your reader already knows that they’re reading an essay, so why do you need to introduce it? Well, no one wants to start in the middle of a discussion. Providing some context and background helps to ease your reader in, and the intro is a good way to get a little bit of your voice upfront.

While some teenagers have to deal with zits, math tests, and asking a crush to prom, others wear colored bodysuits and perform martial arts against strange, extra-dimensional evil. Premiering in the U.S. in the early 90s, Power Rangers presented a weird, new form of entertainment, introducing children to martial arts and Japanese culture in the trappings of Saturday morning programming and the after-school special. Despite its often fantastical leanings, Power Rangers presented an integral turning point in children’s programming and media at large.

Advertisement

Example of an Expository Essay Body Paragraph

While every part of an essay is important, you should devote most of your time to the body paragraphs. This is where you’ll do most of your analysis, exposition, and all the other good stuff that goes into figuring out your subject and relaying that to your reader.

Although it presented something new and largely unseen by Western audiences, Power Rangers was anything but. All of the action scenes were taken directly from Japan’s Super Sentai series (specifically Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger), intercut with scenes of an American cast existing within tranquil Angel Grove. The Super Sentai series stayed within the traditions of the long-running line of programming known as tokusatsu, meaning “special effects” (a reference to the use of practical special effects).

Transplanting Japanese cultural media and overlaying it upon an American production and audience posed its own challenges, but the almost immediate success came from its own storytelling. At first blush, winding fantastical adventures and impressive martial arts into the everyday lives of American teens (who dealt with bullying, teamwork, and celebrating birthdays) seems disparate. However, the combination led to instantly relatable stories that resonated with children, imparting ideas of community and selflessness through skills and talents of all forms, physical, mental, and emotional.

Advertisement

Expository Essay Conclusion Example

Much like the intro, the conclusion to an essay can seem ornamental or extraneous. If you think of an essay as a full thought, the conclusion is a space to finish your thoughts. Unlike most of the rest of the essay, it’s an opportunity to show a little emotion and get into some topics that are potentially outside the main bounds of your subject.

In conclusion, Power Rangers presented an amalgam of different cultural ideas to create a new children’s media landscape. The original series has since given rise to ongoing series, along with offshoot books, comics, and other media. For many kids, the show was an introduction to new ideas that were still grounded within the parks, schools, and suburbs of their lives. It was a form of escapism and imagination that stayed within the bounds of a reality that could be cruel, difficult to understand, or full of light. It just took some friends, some martial arts, and the ability to morph into something new.