How To Conquer the Expository Essay

How To Conquer the Expository Essay

November 1, 2011  |  How to, Writing Tips

Technology has vastly changed the educational landscape in recent decades. The introduction to the classroom of tablets, easy internet access, and learning management systems (LMS) has altered the way teachers present new material and students process it. Nevertheless, some things about formal schooling show no signs of changing anytime in the next couple generations. Children will always have to read and write. They will always be taught certain basics in math and history. And, at least based on how things currently stand, they will always have to write the expository essay.

The expository essay is both loved and hated by those in the education world. Some claim that it instructs children in the fundamentals of writing, instilling in them the central abilities to analyze, interpret, and tie everything together. Others deride expository essays as limiting and formulaic, arguing that it restricts a child’s writing ability and breeds generations of youngster’s who have no love for the art.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard to say that the expository essay is not conquerable. By being aware of its structure and following a few key steps, there’s really no reason why you can’t excel on your expository assignment – whether you love it or hate it. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

The Thesis is Everything
The most important part of writing a successful expository essay is coming up with a strong and clear thesis statement. The thesis must be arguable, you must be able to support it with evidence, and that evidence must be able to be broken down into body paragraphs. Ultimately, every element of the essay revolves around the thesis: the introduction builds to it, the body paragraphs aggregately support it, and the conclusion considers its implications.

Build Body Paragraphs Around Your Evidence
Whether your essay discusses a work of literature or a political controversy, you’re going to want to break it down into pieces of evidence in order to support your argument and fit the expository context. When planning a body paragraph, make sure to build it around that paragraph’s key piece of evidence. Then, set-up the evidence with a sentence beforehand and explain it with a sentence or two afterwards. Then, once the evidence is in the paragraph and enclosed by your analysis, add a topic and concluding sentence that best connect the evidence to your surrounding paragraphs and to the thesis.

Separate Yourself From the Rest
In the likely case that you’re writing this expository essay for a class, there’s a good chance that you’ll come up with a solid thesis and decent supporting paragraphs and a perfectly acceptable conclusion – just like many of your classmates. To truly separate yourself from the rest, look to make your transitions as smooth as possible and your conclusion as strong and far-reaching as you can. Organize your paragraphs in a way that naturally lead to seamless transitions for example, and don’t be afraid to discuss larger implications of your argument at the end of your conclusion. It is also helpful to have a wide repertoire of transitions from which to pull. If done right, your essay will be greatly strengthened as a result.

There are many other methods and means of improving your skills as an expository writer. Although a sometimes boring and formulaic essay approach, the expository assignment certainly forces you to think about structure. In any piece of writing, it’s undeniably an important component to consider.

About the author

ABDERISAK ADAM is an author, blog writer and a PhD candidate in the institution of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. He is also the owner and webmaster of, a website dedicated to the discussion of study techniques in the context of higher education. Adam is the author of a number of publications including 'The Study Guide PRO'. You can connect with him through Google+, Linkedin or by submitting a form.