How to Write an Expository Essay (with Examples and Samples)

How to Write an Expository Essay (with Examples and Samples)

Expository essays are one of the most common types of academic essays you’ll be asked to write, particularly in school. The purpose of an expository essay is to explain something—but exactly what it should explain depends on the writer’s topic and audience. In other words, you’ll need to figure out your thesis and develop your argument around it. This blog will teach you everything you need to know about writing an expository essay, including how to write a multisubject expository essay with a few examples and samples for inspiration.

Definition of expository essay

An expository essay is written to explain or teach something. It is usually assigned by a teacher to explain a concept or idea. An expository essay aims to explain something clearly and simply to a reader while using evidence and facts to support your teaching points.

While you might not be asked to write your college senior’s paper, you might be asked to write one of your graduate school’s qualifying papers. Or maybe you’re doing your writing-for-hire business or writing an essay for a classroom. There are several different styles of expository essays, each more suitable for different purposes or audiences.

The structure of an expository essay is a logical progression—a logical argument or series of logical arguments of premises and conclusions. The writer lays out the evidence or facts supporting the argument and links them to well-known concepts, people, or ideas. It’s essential to consider the context given by the assignment or situation when writing an essay.

An example of an expository essay is shown in the following figure.

Although a logical progression is important in an expository essay, delivery is often more important than structure. Please keep in mind that an expository essay must be different from a cherry-picked example. In the example, the writer cherry-picked one fact or fact structure that provided important insight.

An expository essay aims to understand a complex idea better. It helps the writer gain a new perspective on unfamiliar concepts. In an expository essay, the writer identifies and discusses different ways that the topic could be explored and the writer explores how they will address the ideas with supporting evidence and explanations. An explanatory essay doesn’t necessarily need to be about your profession. You could write an expository essay about a big idea in the life sciences, politics, the arts, or business.

For example, here’s an example of a mega essay to illustrate an idea about human nature.

A good expository essay follows a logical progression.

The different types of expository essays

There are five different types of expository essays. They are: 

  1. Classification, 
  2. Definition, 
  3. Comparison and Contrast, 
  4. Cause and Effect, and 
  5. How To. 

Classification essays are about putting things into categories. These essays help readers to understand the main idea and to be able to group things. 

Definition essays are about explaining what something is.

Causes and effects essays work to help students better understand their environment. 

Finally, contrast and contrast essays help you better position yourself and others.

Because an expository essay is an explanation, rather than a rewriting of a previous essay, there are specific rules to follow. Let’s take a look at them.

An expository essay, by definition, explains something, usually from a previous essay. Can an external academic resource, like Wikipedia or the Oxford English Dictionary, serve as a guideline? Yes, but following this template with a full understanding of the suggested structure is useful for both final grades and first drafts.

Starting with a detailed table of contents (or with the introduction or conclusion hidden), your first draft should come in about 65–90 pages. It’s crucial to give a thorough explanation—be specific about every point. Include your thesis statement, an example, links to supporting evidence, and other helpful explanations.

Any additional information you feel is important enough to share in your writing, e.g. evaluations from previous students, reference links, or a sample source, should also be included. Here’s an example of an overly extended table of contents.

Within your outline, you should be spreading out the sections over the two to three pages (depending on the length of the course and the number of article requirements) that make up your table of contents and then logically organizing the sections. Your best option is to have all of the sections begin with the same idea in the same way, for example, then go in reverse chronological order as you explain more about the idea and then expand on it.

Features of an expository essay

An expository essay is a type of essay that presents information in a clear, objective way. To write an expository essay, you should follow these steps: 

  1. Explain a topic or issue.
  2. Research the topic or issue. 
  3. Organize your research into an orderly, logical argument. 
  4. Use evidence to support your argument. 
  5. Include a conclusion, one or two supporting examples, and a statement of this position.

So, how do you write an expository essay? So many ways! Here are five of my favorite ways…

An argument often moves from topic to topic with supporting evidence as to the backbone of a three-part argument. Cars, for example, are an important part of our transportation infrastructure and society. We use them to get around and operate them to support hundreds of thousands of jobs each year (think oil changes and car repair).

Evidence can be either direct or indirect, technical or descriptive, and maybe personal or general. When writing an argument, use one or two evidence pieces and then continue the argument from there. As a general rule, I would avoid getting too bogged down in supporting examples.

I love trivia and trying to answer questions that my readers might have about the things I write about. Reading about how to grow a personal brand can be a helpful exercise in fact-checking a few hyperbolic statements and figuring out how psychology might apply to my subject matter. Similarly, knowing how to apply the lessons of marketing to my topic can benefit my writing, too. Let’s take a few examples of how to think about subjects and how to structure an argument when writing an expository essay.

Here’s an example of a trivia question that uses evidence.

About a tree falling in a forest, a man is said to have said: “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This statement is a work of fiction. A real man said this about American slavery.

Examples and samples of expository essays

If you were to write an expository essay, you would want to make sure that you are focusing on a topic that is interesting to you. This will make it easier for you to take an objective and analytical approach to the subject. You will also want to make sure that you have researched the subject as much as possible. If you are unsure whether or not you have covered the topic in-depth enough, you should check out the samples we are providing below:

The first two samples are from medical school admissions essays and the third is from a defense essay about your maturity as a person.

For each example, I will also include a section of the essay (with my commentary) that outlines my proposed thesis. You should follow this to make sure your thesis is clear and that you’re writing about the subject convincingly.

Creating the Essay

In the samples below, you may notice that I have provided examples such as “A Beginner’s Guide to Food Ethics,” “The Communist Manifesto,” and “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Ideally, however, you should decide on a topic and a title before creating the essay, as this will help guide the way you format your essay. After you choose your topic, you need to spend some time building your argument, asking questions, and researching your topic.

Razvan Gavrilas, CEO and co-founder of StoryLister, built his thesis around food chains—the way foods are produced, distributed, moved around, and consumed all affect their final destination. Look at the example below:

Business Insider Review – Why a Chain Kabob Is Just as trendy as a Pop-Tart

If you would like to create an analysis around a subject, first determine where you would want to go in the analysis. This will generally depend on the topic and its expected length.

How to write a 3-part multi-subject essay

Often, writing a long essay can be quite an engaging task. To make it easier, break your essay into three parts. Writing is often an iterative process, so it’s often a good idea to plan it out and then work on it in stages. The first part should be a general introduction to the topic. Think of this as the most important part of your essay. Provide key examples from your life that demonstrate both your thesis and the point you want to make in your piece. Think about how you would present this information to a potential audience. How would you make your point timelessly clear and compelling?

In this stage, my help is at hand. I regularly write short examples from the books I most enjoy. These give me a quick jumping-off point for ideas on how to conduct my research and develop my thesis.

For additional writing tips, see the beginning of the article “How to Write a Long and Articulating Essay.”

The second part is the part about the essay. It should be no more than three to five pages long and should introduce the topic of your essay in as much detail as possible. This part will contain at least a three- to the four-sentence thesis statement. Save all your thoughts about this part for the second draft. Remember, your expository essay is meant to drive your main points throughout your piece.

Include as many examples as you can think of for each part of your essay. You should create three broad categories of examples: identity, perspective, and acquiring knowledge. Identify the one or two types of examples respondents are likely to rely on if they decide to write an oral response.

Another key part of this stage is giving adequate context. In addition to providing examples, provide enough context that the reader can connect the ideas you’ve provided throughout the essay. This also makes understanding the meaning of your ideas clearer.


Finally, at the very end of your work, read through and make a note of any relevant and implementation-oriented guidelines.

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