An explanatory essay is probably the most straightforward type of paper there is. However, often this very simplicity is what confuses students. They are good at explaining things to their parents and peers, but when an explanation becomes a college assignment, they tend to overcomplicate it.
Explanatory essays are often assigned to students to evaluate their knowledge on a particular subject, so it’s important to be confident with the format. In this post, we will show you how to write an explanatory essay as a sequence of easily emulated steps.
What Is an Explanatory Essay
Let’s quickly brush up your knowledge on the four main types of essay writing. Here is each of them in just one sentence:
- Expository writing is found in course books and technical instructions. Its main goal is to inform and explain, without offering any opinions or trying to persuade the reader. It’s all about facts.
- Descriptive writing is found in creative writing, poetry, and advertising. Its goal is to create a vivid impression or recreate a scene in detail. It’s all about images.
- Persuasive writing is found in opinion pieces in media, reviews, pitches, business proposals, etc. Its goal is to influence the opinion of the reader and persuade them. It’s all about arguments.
- Narrative writing is found in literature, such as stories, novels, memoirs, biographies, etc. Its goal is to convey a compelling story, whether real or imagined, with characters, events, and a resolution. It’s all about storytelling.
The explanatory essay is a typical example of an expository writing style, so the definition of explanatory writing fits the explanatory essay as well.
An explanatory essay (also called expository essay or informative essay) is a type of academic paper that aims to educate readers on a subject and give objective and full information about it. As the name suggests, it’s all about explaining, expounding, elaborating on the concept or idea. There are several types of explanatory essays with a more narrow, specific focus:
- Compare and contrast essay
- Problem and solution essay
- Cause and effect essay
- Process essay
Before Writing an Explanatory Essay
When you are considering explanatory writing topics, it’s important to choose from subjects you are fairly familiar with. You will act as an expert, and your goal is to provide helpful and informative text that explains the subject to your readers.
However, if your instructor has given you a set of prompts, and you have little knowledge on any of the suggested topics, choose the one that seems the most interesting to you, so you could research it with genuine enthusiasm.
Research process depends on your level of competence in a subject:
- If you are new to the topic, you should start your search from reference sources, like encyclopedias and other entry-level material.
- If you already have some sense of your topic, you can use new sources that offer updates and current information in the field, like newspapers, magazines, and topical websites.
- If you have confident knowledge about your topic and are ready to delve deeper, you should use scholarly sources, like peer-reviewed journals that offer innovative research and advance knowledge in the field.
How to Start an Explanatory Essay and Write it Perfectly
Now that you have chosen a good topic and have done thorough research on the appropriate level, you are ready to start writing. Traditionally, you should start your work by outlining your future essay.
For an explanatory essay, outline is even more important than for other types of papers. You have to decide which facts are necessary for the understanding of the topic and therefore must be included in your essay, and which are nonessential and can be left out, however interesting they might seem to you.
The deeper is your knowledge of the topic, the more important it is to outline your essay before you start writing.
The overall explanatory essay structure is fittingly straightforward and consists of three parts – introduction, body, and conclusion.
The introduction is the first paragraph of your essay that takes up about 10 to 20 percent of the entire paper. This is the part of your essay that your instructor will read the first, so it’s important to get it right. Here is what you should include:
1. An engaging hook
A hook is the very first sentence of your text that should attract your readers’ attention and compel them to read further. Although the explanatory essay should be factual and objective, you can be creative with your hook and show genuine enthusiasm you feel about the topic. A question, a bold claim, an interesting fact, or a wise quote make a good hook.
2. Necessary background information
For an explanatory essay, this usually includes a definition, an interesting piece of data, history of the subject, or current trends and developments.
3. A concise thesis statement
A thesis statement should be narrowed down appropriately to fit the scope of your essay and comply with the requirements of the assignment. In an explanatory essay, there is no claim to defend. Therefore, the purpose of the thesis statement is to provide focus and give your reader a clear understanding of what to expect from your essay.
The exact number of paragraphs in the body depends on the topic and the specific type of your essay. However, regardless of the size of your essay, you should follow these guidelines:
- Each paragraph should include one main point expressed at the beginning in a topical sentence.
- There should be logical transitions between paragraphs reflecting the natural progression of thought.
- Include evidential support as much as it is possible under the circumstances. For example, it’s nice to have facts and statistics, but when you are writing an explanatory essay during the exam, your access to information is very limited. Therefore, you may include anecdotal and logical evidence.
- Be creative! Being factual and objective doesn’t mean that you have to be boring. Remember that one of your objectives is to make your topic interesting for the readers (primarily, the instructor, who will grade your essay).
An effective conclusion should summarize your essay in an easily digestible takeaway and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Here is how to write such a conclusion:
- Readdress your thesis in the light of the evidence you have provided in your essay, instead of simply restating it.
- Tie everything you have said in your essay in one logical and complete message.
- Don’t add any new information, but put your topic in a wider context, explaining why it’s important to know about it.
- At the very end, ask a thought-provoking question to start a discussion, encourage your readers to learn more about the topic, and make your essay memorable.
Looking for an Example of Explanatory Essay?
As you can see, an explanatory essay is a really simple format, and writing it should not present any problems. However, you may still want to read some explanatory essay samples if you want a practical model of how to write it. Our database is one of the biggest libraries of free essays online! Feel free to read as many essays as you want. Browse them by topic, category, subject, or use keywords to find something very specific.
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