The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-11 10:04:15
What is an expository essay?
The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc.
Please note: This genre is commonly assigned as a tool for classroom evaluation and is often found in various exam formats.
The structure of the expository essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the exposition of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. What is more, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
Often times, students are required to write expository essays with little or no preparation; therefore, such essays do not typically allow for a great deal of statistical or factual evidence.
Though creativity and artfulness are not always associated with essay writing, it is an art form nonetheless. Try not to get stuck on the formulaic nature of expository writing at the expense of writing something interesting. Remember, though you may not be crafting the next great novel, you are attempting to leave a lasting impression on the people evaluating your essay.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students will inevitably begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize and come to a conclusion concerning the information presented in the body of the essay.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of the Great Depression and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the exposition in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the Depression. Therefore, the expository essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph Essay
A common method for writing an expository essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of:
- an introductory paragraph
- three evidentiary body paragraphs
- a conclusion
The expository essay—it’s an unavoidable essay in your educational career. In fact, teachers and professors love assigning it so much that some freshmen writing courses are devoted entirely to writing the expository essay.
That’s a lot of expository essay writing! If you’re going to be writing this type of essay over and over again, you need to understand how to write a good one.
But that’s not my purpose here.
My goal for this post is to give you a quick overview of the expository essay and provide you with 17 expository essay topics for an outstanding paper.
If you need to know more about writing an awesome expository essay, check out Expository Advice from a Kibin Editor. If you need help outlining, check out this article.
If you need a few minutes to read the links above before choosing your expository essay topic, go ahead. I’ll wait. (Cue the Muzak.)
Finished reading the links? Have a better understanding of the expository essay? Then let’s move on to our quick summary to remind you of the key points.
The Expository Essay: A Brief Overview
- Expository essays take many forms, including how-to (or process), classification, definition, cause and effect, and compare and contrast essays.
- An expository essay explains a topic in a clear, specific, and logical manner.
- The goal when writing an expository essay is to inform readers without including your own personal bias or opinion.
- An expository essay examines a topic, evaluates the supporting evidence, and asserts an argument. Be sure to pick a topic that you can argue or somehow take a stance on.
- Expository essays are not research-based argument essays or persuasive essays.
- Expository essays generally do not require outside research.
- Your prof might ask you to write an expository essay as an exam or in-class writing assignment, so you’ll need to be able to write quickly and with little preparation.
17 Expository Essay Topics for an Outstanding Paper
Alan Cleaver (flickr.com)
Here are 17 expository essay topics to get you started:
#1. How to eat healthy while living on a college student’s budget
Waiting for mom or dad to transfer money into your account or living off your part-time gig at the bookstore might leave your pockets and your stomach empty. What tips and tricks can you offer readers to help them survive on a budget?
#2. How does the Make-A-Wish Foundation (or other charity) help those in need?
You might begin this essay with a brief overview of the organization and its mission before explaining how the organization helps individuals.
#3. How can bullying in schools be prevented?
You might start this essay with a short discussion of why kids bully and how bullying in schools affects kids. Then explain what kids, parents, and teachers can do to prevent bullying.
#4. What effect does technology have on relationships?
Have you ever dated someone who spent more time on Facebook or texting than talking to you? Would you rather chat online or text people instead of actually talking to them in person? If so, you may have a good start to your expository essay.
#5. How to treat severe allergic reactions
This type of essay might compare treatments and evaluate which one is best for specific allergies or groups of people.
#6. Do aliens really exist?
Have you ever seen mysterious lights in the sky? Have aliens taken you to the mothership? Maybe you can finally prove that aliens exist!
#7. Why is there an increase in depression in the United States?
Many people point to the added pressures of daily life as a leading cause of depression. In this essay, you might focus on how increased stress from school, work, and personal relationships can lead to depression.
#8. What does it mean to have a genius IQ?
Do you think you’re smarter than all your friends? Maybe you even think you’re a bonafide genius! How might such a high IQ have a positive or negative impact on one’s life or relationships?
#9. Explain the benefits and drawbacks of teen curfews
Sure moms and dads usually demand that their teens come home at a specific time, but should cities be allowed to do the same? Your essay might explain how curfews help or harm cities or teens.
#10. How do video games affect children?
Many people automatically think that video games harm children, but your essay might take the opposite approach and focus on how video games can help children learn or even improve social skills.
#11. What are the positive and negative aspects of materialism?
Do you love your cell phone? What about your new heels? If you absolutely cannot live without your most prized possessions, this might be a perfect topic for you.
#12. Explain how the Internet has had a positive effect on communication
Face it, your life wouldn’t be the same without the Internet. What would become of the world if Facebook or Instagram no longer existed? Focus your essay on how these types of communication have had a positive effect on the way we interact with others.
#13. Explain how to be a happy camper
If sitting by a bonfire is your thing, you might write about how to set up the perfect campsite. If you feel the phrase “happy camper” simply means being happy, you might write about how readers can organize their lives and become happy campers.
Nina Hale (flickr.com)
#14. How to plan a killer party
I really don’t think this one needs any explanation, does it?
#15. Explain the causes and effects of impulse buying
For those of us who have ever made an impulse buy and immediately regretted it, writing about why we buy and how we feel afterward might actually be better than retail therapy.
#16. Why do couples break up?
The list of reasons that couples split is almost endless, but your essay might focus on one or two of the most popular, such as infidelity or money problems.
#17. How to choose the perfect pet
While an iguana might be the perfect pet for your roommate, it might be far from ideal for you. Your essay could examine personality types, lifestyles, and budgets to decide how to choose the perfect pet.
After You’ve Written a Draft on Your Outstanding Expository Essay Topic
Don’t forget that writing just one draft of a paper doesn’t always mean that you’ve written an outstanding essay (even if you do have a genius IQ).
Leave yourself enough time to take a look at your paper to see if you’ve covered the basics.
For instance, is your paper formatted correctly? Do you have an effective thesis statement? Do you use sufficient evidence and examples to support your point?
Have you read, re-read, and revised so much that you can no longer tell if your paper is worth submitting to your professor? Why not let a Kibin editor help with revision?
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.