How to Write an Explanatory Essay: Comprehensive Guide with Examples
What Is an Explanatory Essay: Definition
Have you ever been tasked with explaining a complex topic to someone without prior knowledge? It can be challenging to break down complex ideas into simple terms that are easy to understand. That's where explanatory writing comes in! An explanatory essay, also known as an expository essay, is a type of academic writing that aims to explain a particular topic or concept clearly and concisely. These essays are often used in academic settings but can also be found in newspapers, magazines, and online publications.
For example, if you were asked to explain how a car engine works, you would need to provide a step-by-step explanation of the different parts of the engine and how they work together to make the car move. Or, if you were asked to explain the process of photosynthesis, you would need to explain how plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to create energy.
When wondering - 'what is an explanatory essay?', remember that the goal of an explanatory paper is to provide the reader with a better understanding of the topic at hand. Unlike an opinion essay , this type of paper does not argue for or against a particular viewpoint but rather presents information neutrally and objectively. By the end of the essay, the reader should clearly understand the topic and be able to explain it to others in their own words.
Also, there is no set number of paragraphs in an explanatory essay, as it can vary depending on the length and complexity of the topic. However, when wondering - 'how many paragraphs in an explanatory essay?', know that a typical example of explanatory writing will have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
However, some essays may have more or fewer body paragraphs, depending on the topic and the writer's preference. Ultimately, an explanatory essay format aims to provide a clear and thorough explanation of the topic, using as many paragraphs as necessary.
20 Interesting Explanatory Essay Topics
Now that we have defined what is explanatory essay, the next step is choosing a good explanatory topic. A well-chosen topic is interesting and relevant to your audience while also being something you are knowledgeable about and can provide valuable insights on. By selecting a topic that is too broad or too narrow, you run the risk of either overwhelming your audience with too much information or failing to provide enough substance to fully explain the topic. Additionally, choosing a topic that is too controversial or biased can lead to difficulty in presenting information objectively and neutrally. By choosing a good explanatory topic, you can ensure that your essay is well-informed, engaging, and effective in communicating your ideas to your audience.
Here are 20 creative explanatory essay topics by our admission essay service to consider:
- How does the human brain process emotions?
- The benefits and drawbacks of remote work.
- The science behind climate change and its effects.
- The history and evolution of hip-hop music.
- The impact of social media on mental health.
- The benefits of learning a second language.
- The process of how a computer operates.
- The causes and effects of bullying in schools.
- The impact of technology on modern education.
- The reasons for the decline of bee populations and their importance to the ecosystem.
- The effects of caffeine on the human body.
- The process of how vaccines work to prevent disease.
- The impact of video games on youth behavior and development.
- The reasons for the gender pay gap and how to close it.
- The benefits and drawbacks of renewable energy sources.
- The history and cultural significance of tattoos.
- The causes and effects of income inequality in society.
- The process of how a book is published.
- The impact of social media on political discourse.
- The benefits and drawbacks of the gig economy.
How to Start an Explanatory Essay: Important Steps
Starting an explanatory essay can be challenging, especially if you are unsure where to begin. However, by following a few simple steps, you can effectively kick-start your writing process and produce a clear and concise essay. Here are some tips and examples from our term paper writing services on how to start an explanatory essay:
- Choose an engaging topic : Your topic should be interesting, relevant, and meaningful to your audience. For example, if you're writing about climate change, you might focus on a specific aspect of the issue, such as the effects of rising sea levels on coastal communities.
- Conduct research : Gather as much information as possible on your topic. This may involve reading scholarly articles, conducting interviews, or analyzing data. For example, if you're writing about the benefits of mindfulness meditation, you might research the psychological and physical benefits of the practice.
- Develop an outline : Creating an outline will help you logically organize your explanatory essay structure. For example, you might organize your essay on the benefits of mindfulness meditation by discussing its effects on mental health, physical health, and productivity.
- Provide clear explanations: When writing an explanatory article, it's important to explain complex concepts clearly and concisely. Use simple language and avoid technical jargon. For example, if you're explaining the process of photosynthesis, you might use diagrams and visual aids to help illustrate your points.
- Use evidence to support your claims : Use evidence from reputable sources to support your claims and arguments. This will help to build credibility and persuade your readers. For example, if you're writing about the benefits of exercise, you might cite studies that demonstrate its positive effects on mental health and cognitive function.
By following these tips and examples, you can effectively start your expository essays and produce a well-structured, informative, and engaging piece of writing.
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Explanatory Essay Outline
As mentioned above, it's important to create an explanatory essay outline to effectively organize your ideas and ensure that your essay is well-structured and easy to follow. An outline helps you organize your thoughts and ideas logically and systematically, ensuring that you cover all the key points related to your topic. It also helps you identify gaps in your research or argument and allows you to easily revise and edit your essay. In this way, an outline can greatly improve the overall quality and effectiveness of your explanatory essay.
Explanatory Essay Introduction
Here are some tips from our ' do my homework ' service to create a good explanatory essay introduction that effectively engages your readers and sets the stage for the entire essay:
- Start with a hook: Begin your introduction with an attention-grabbing statement or question that draws your readers in. For example, you might start your essay on the benefits of exercise with a statistic on how many Americans suffer from obesity.
- Provide context: Give your readers some background information on the topic you'll be discussing. This helps to set the stage and ensures that your readers understand the importance of the topic. For example, you might explain the rise of obesity rates in the United States over the past few decades.
- State your thesis: A good explanatory thesis example should be clear, concise, and focused. It should state the main argument or point of your essay. For example, you might state, ' Regular exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.'
- Preview your main points: Give your readers an idea of what to expect in the body of your essay by previewing your main points. For example, you might explain that you'll be discussing the benefits of exercise for mental health, physical health, and longevity.
- Keep it concise: Your introduction should be brief and to the point. Avoid getting bogged down in too much detail or providing too much background information. A good rule of thumb is to keep your introduction to one or two paragraphs.
The Body Paragraphs
By following the following tips, you can create well-organized, evidence-based explanation essay body paragraphs that effectively support your thesis statement.
- Use credible sources: When providing evidence to support your arguments, use credible sources such as peer-reviewed academic journals or reputable news outlets. For example, if you're writing about the benefits of a plant-based diet, you might cite a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- Organize your paragraphs logically: Each body paragraph should focus on a specific aspect or argument related to your topic. Organize your paragraphs logically so that each one builds on the previous one. For example, if you're writing about the causes of climate change, you might organize your paragraphs to focus on human activity, natural causes, and the effects of climate change.
- Use transitional phrases: Use transitional phrases to help your readers follow the flow of your ideas. For example, you might use phrases such as 'in addition,' 'furthermore,' or 'on the other hand' to indicate a shift in your argument.
- Provide analysis: Don't just present evidence; provide analysis and interpretation of the evidence. For example, if you're writing about the benefits of early childhood education, you might analyze the long-term effects on academic achievement and future earnings.
- Summarize your main points: End each body paragraph with a sentence that summarizes the main point or argument you've made. This helps to reinforce your thesis statement and keep your essay organized. For example, you might end a paragraph on the benefits of exercise by stating, 'Regular exercise has been shown to improve mental and physical health, making it a crucial aspect of a healthy lifestyle.'
Explanatory Essay Conclusion
Here are some unique tips on how to write an explanatory essay conclusion that leaves a lasting impression on your readers.
- Offer a solution or recommendation: Instead of summarizing your main points, offer suggestions based on the information you've presented. This can help to make your essay more impactful and leave a lasting impression on your readers. For example, if you're writing about the effects of pollution on the environment, you might recommend using more eco-friendly products or investing in renewable energy sources.
- Emphasize the importance of your topic: Use your concluding statement to emphasize the importance of your topic and why it's relevant to your readers. This can help to inspire action or change. For example, suppose you're writing about the benefits of volunteering. In that case, you might emphasize how volunteering helps others and has personal benefits such as improved mental health and a sense of purpose.
- End with a powerful quote or statement: End your explanatory essay conclusion with a powerful quote or statement that reinforces your main point or leaves a lasting impression on your readers. For example, if you're writing about the importance of education, you might end your essay with a quote from Nelson Mandela, such as, 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'
Explanatory Essay Example
Here is an example of an explanatory essay:
Explanatory Essay Example:
Importance of Basketball
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The main function of an explanation essay is to clear up the issue of the research, describe it and reveal the essence of the matter in a brief and coherent way. To make the work easier, apply the following questions to your thesis statement:
If your essay contains the answers to these questions you are more likely to reveal the topic to the fullest. Before you get started, it is a good idea to make a relative plan, where you state the points you want to mention as a special feature of the matter. It will save time in structuring the main body and forming the conclusion afterwards.
Your introduction should tell what you are going to explain and why you chose it as your topic. Your thesis statement should include a bit of all the aspects you mention in your plan and the other structural part of your essay will reveal the details of every aspect.
The main body is likely to consist of more than one paragraph. If your thesis statement consists of several aspects, you should evaluate each of them in a separate paragraph. In the main body you have to develop your thoughts backing them up with trustworthy evidence. You have to sound convincing. The main task of this essay is to show that you are knowledgeable in this sphere.
A conclusion is a paragraph where you state the definition of the problem you made out of the sources you've used. Your conclusion is a concise summary of the essay; therefore you are to make it logical and solid. Proofread your work a couple of times and make necessary corrections. It is a well-known fact that it is more difficult to proofread yourself than the other person. Ask anyone you respect to do it but if it is impossible, try to be as objective as possible. After all necessary preparations and revision you may be sure that your essay is nicely completed.
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- The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples
The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples
Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.
Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type.
In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.
Table of contents
Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.
An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.
Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.
The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:
- The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
- The body presents your evidence and arguments
- The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance
The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.
A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.
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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.
Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.
The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.
A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.
The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.
A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.
Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.
A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.
Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.
Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.
Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.
A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.
The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.
A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.
Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.
A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.
Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.
On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.
My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.
With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…
Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.
Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.
A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.
The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.
The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.
The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.
King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.
A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.
Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.
The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.
Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.
Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”
The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.
Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:
- In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
- In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
- In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory
An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.
An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.
The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.
Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.
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