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Expository Essay

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Expository Essay

What do you do if you are in the mood to bake some chocolate chip cookies and the recipe you find online is part of a blog post? Do you faithfully read about so-and-so’s wonderful family tradition of making them together every Friday night, or do you skip to what is relevant to you – the recipe? Family traditions are lovely, but sometimes our audience wants an objective view on a topic. An expository essay discusses information about a subject in a neutral tone. They are structured and outlined like other essays, but expository essays are written in a wide variety of formats.

Expository Essay Definition

An expository essay "exposes" information about a subject to educate an audience. Some key words and phrases that give clues that an assignment is asking for expository writing include:

  • "Cause and effect"
  • "Explain how"
  • "Define and explore"
  • "Compare and contrast"

There are different formats when writing expository essays, but they all share some characteristics:

  • Expository essays are logical: Your argument is solid and structured into a clear path for the reader to follow. A vital feature of an effective essay is whether you condense your thesis statement into a coherent outline of the essay topic.
  • Expository essays are analytical: If you include sources, they are thoroughly researched and fact-checked. Make sure to cite your sources following the proper guidelines.
  • Expository essays are unbiased: The essay is written in an academic tone. It features reliable information and excludes personal opinions.
  • Expository essays are explanatory: Do not assume the audience has prior knowledge of the essay subject. Include background information to provide context and define any technical terms.

Expository essays are often used in exams because they help measure the ability to examine evidence and structure a rational argument. You will not always have time to research the assigned topic, so a well-structured thesis statement and an essay that features a balanced view are crucial.

Why is Learning to Write Expository Essays Important?

Learning to navigate the structure and different formats of expository essays teaches you:

  • The value of understanding a subject and being able to explain it to others.
  • How to explain concepts clearly and objectively.
  • How to dissect evidence to determine its validity.

Expository Essay Cartoon woman typing a bright thesis StudySmarterCartoon woman typing, Pixabay.

Expository Essay Format

In the expository essay assignment, you may be asked to:

  • Write a Definition: This is not the same as a dictionary definition. Instead, an expository essay looks into its subject matter in more depth, for example, by exploring the history of an item.
  • Explain a Process: When you write a “How To” article, that’s an expository essay. It’s written in chronological order and describes how something works in steps.
  • Compare and Contrast: In this essay format, you discuss how two objects or concepts are alike and different, for example, by looking at the similarities and differences between two short stories from the same genre.
  • Cause and Effect: This expository essay requires you to start with an action or idea and examine its ripple effect, for example, analyzing a topic such as the impact of slavery on the diet of African-Americans and whether there are lingering consequences today.

Ripple effect: If something causes a ripple effect, it is directly linked to a series of consequences.

Expository Essay Structure

As with other types, the expository essay includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Just because expository essays are fact-based does not mean you can't be creative with your beginning. It is still necessary for your writing to reel in your audience. Finish your introduction paragraph with a thesis statement that features your subject and the direction you plan to take the reader.

The subject of your essay determines the paragraph structure of your essay. Each body paragraph features a key point. In a process essay, outline each step in an individual paragraph.

Avoid discussing final thoughts that weren't in the thesis or body paragraphs. An effective expository essay presents an argument in the beginning and uses evidence to follow it to a logical end. Throwing new information at the reader in the conclusion appears disorganized. Restate your thesis in an interesting way and summarize the essay's main points.

Why is it essential to avoid restating your thesis and central ideas in the conclusion of your essay word-for-word?

Expository Essay Outline

Outlines are helpful tools for organizing the ideas you came up with while brainstorming for your essay. The outline is similar to the frame of a house and will follow the structure of the expository essay. Use your outline to structure your thesis statement. For example:

Topic: The Impact of Slavery on the African American Diet and Its Lingering Consequences

I. Introduction

A. Hook

B. Introduction to the topic

C. Thesis

II. Body paragraphs (the number of body paragraphs you include will vary)

A. Source

B. Discussion of the main point in connection with the source

C. Transition to the next point or conclusion

III. Conclusion

A. Potential solution (optional)

B. Summary of the main point

C. Thesis is restated

Expository Essay Example

The following example expository essay is structured into an abbreviated cause-and-effect format. Read through the sample essay below to get a feel of how you should structure your writing.

“In 2018, African Americans were thirty percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites and twice as likely to die from diabetes.”1, 2 Until recently, the response to these statistics suggested that African Americans should eat better and exercise more, but a deeper examination of the barriers they face gives rise to a more nuanced approach. Slavery limited the food options available to enslaved Africans, so a cultural diet evolved to include many unhealthy choices that have negatively impacted present-day African Americans’ health.

Cuisine is one of the shared elements among people who have the same cultural background. Recipes are handed down and modified through generations, becoming an essential part of the group’s history. Enslaved Africans initially developed soul food by adjusting their West African diet to food available while in bondage.3 They were allowed to cultivate a small garden for themselves to boost their inadequate rations, but “limited cooking supplies. . . forced [them] to create palatable meals from undesirable ingredients.”3 They were not allowed to use utensils that could potentially double as a weapon in revolt,3 so eating their already starch-heavy, fatty diet with corn cakes became customary.3 Over time, these dishes evolved into popular soul food staples. Although many of the base ingredients are nutritionally beneficial, they are laden with fat, salt, and sugar when prepared in this fashion. When consumed regularly, they contribute to obesity and increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Attempts to change African Americans’ diets to promote health have failed because meal options don’t consider their cultural traditions.3 A nonprofit organization, Oldways, may have a better solution.

Oldways created the African Heritage Diet to combine healthy eating with tradition. “The Heritage Pyramid encourages the user to utilize. . . familiar foods in a way that aligns [with their] healthy origins.”3 Enslaved Africans had very little control over their diet and made do with what they were given. The ingredients in African American soul food reflect their struggle to survive, but these culturally-inspired recipes have contributed to their current health crisis. If more health care providers were made aware of the Heritage Pyramid, it could increase the likelihood their African American patients would develop better-informed eating habits.

In the introduction, the statistic in the opening sentence attempts to get the reader's attention. The thesis establishes the subject and ties the main points together so that the audience knows what to expect from the essay.

What is another technique you can use to start your paper in a way that makes the audience want to keep reading?

The body paragraph discusses the issue in detail, offering a source to support the main point and thesis statement. Notice that you must cite your source whether you quote directly or paraphrase.

Does the discussion complement the thesis? Does the source support the main point?

The conclusion offers closure to the audience by discussing a possible solution to the issue. It connects the main points and summarizes the thesis. Similar to how the introduction draws the reader into your essay, the conclusion is the last thing they read. Therefore, keep it clear and to the point to leave a positive impression.

Expository Essay - Key Takeaways

  • The definition of an expository essay is an essay that "exposes" information to educate an audience.
  • Expository essays are fact-based and share information with the audience in an objective, academic tone.
  • Expository essays regularly show up on exams because they measure students' ability to structure a compelling argument and examine evidence.
  • Formats of expository essays include cause and effect, process, definition, or compare and contrast.
  • The structure of an expository essay is the same as other essays, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Brainstorming and outlining your expository essay help to organize your thoughts and make writing the thesis statement and essay more manageable.

1 "Heart Disease and African Americans." Black/African Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2022.

2 "Diabetes and African Americans." Black/African Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2022.

3 Vance, Kalah Elantra, "Culture, Food, and Racism: The Effects on African American Health." Honors Theses. 2018.

Frequently Asked Questions about Expository Essay

An expository essay is logical and fact-based essay. It presents information in an objective manner with an academic tone.

To write an expository essay use one of the common formats: cause and effect, definition, explaining a process, or compare and contrast to share information.

An expository essay is structured into an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Examples of expository essays include: how-to articles, cause and effect articles, compare and contrast articles, and define and explore essays

An expository essay is used to measure a student's ability to examine evidence and compose a rational argument.

Final Expository Essay Quiz

Question

What is an expository essay?

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Answer

An expository essay provides information in an objective manner with an academic tone.

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Question

What is a Cause and Effect expository essay?

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Answer

A Cause and Effect expository essay explores the real-life consequences of an action or idea.

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Question

What is a Process expository essay?

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Answer

A Process expository essay describes the way something works in steps.

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Question

What is a Compare and Contrast expository essay?

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Answer

A Compare and Contrast expository essay looks at the similarities and differences between two things.

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Question

What is a Definition expository essay?

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Answer

A Definition expository essay explores an object or concept in detail.

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Question

How is an outline useful to an expository essay?

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Answer

An outline is useful to an expository essay because it organizes your thoughts to make the writing process easier.

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Question

What is the structure of an expository essay?

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Answer

An expository essay is structured into an Introduction, Body Paragraphs, and a Conclusion.

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Question

What is a thesis statement?

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Answer

A thesis statement outlines your argument and lists the main points of your essay.

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Question

What do you learn while writing expository essays?

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Answer

All of the above

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Question

True of False: You should assume the audience knows something about your subject before reading your expository essay.

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Answer

False: When writing your expository essay, you should assume the audience has no prior knowledge of the subject. Provide background information and explain technical terms.

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