How to write an expository essay

Expository is another form of the word “explain”. So as you can imagine, expository essays tend to explain a topic objectively and neutrally.

Long story short, the primary aim is to explain or inform the reader rather than convincing, unlike persuasive or argumentative essays.

Expository essay vs. argumentative essay

You may get confused about the difference between these types of essays. An expository explains but an argumentative essay creates and defends an argument.

The difference is quite clear. Imagine the topic is “digital marketing”:

You would try to convince the reader that digital marketing is better than conventional marketing in terms of price, efficiency, and accessibility.

You would explain what digital marketing is, how it works, and describe further the different types of digital marketing.

When to write an expository essay

You may, directly and indirectly, be assigned to write an expository essay. Mostly, the type is not stated in your instructions. However, you can easily find some clues that indicate the type of your essay.

For expository essays, “explain” and “define” prompts are the main keywords. Below there are some examples of expository essay topics.

As you see, the bolded keywords “define, explain etc.” are signs of expository essays. 

Expository essay topic examples

  1. Define the term "digital marketing" and how it changed the shape of websites.
  2. Explain the negative effects of social media

Introduction guide and example

Similar to other types of essays, an expository essay starts with a smooth and interesting introduction. That is, you need a hook sentence to peak the reader’s interest, present your research topic, and state your thesis statement.

Following is an example of expository essay introduction.  For the example essay, we chose the prompt, “explain the negative effects of social media.” 

Expository essay introduction example

Negative Effects of Social Media

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, the use of mobile phones has become ubiquitous. Background While the benefits of mobile phones are obvious, including better communication and accessibility, their misuse has become a growing concern. Problem statement The excessive use of mobile phones is not only detrimental to individuals' health but also to their social lives. Thesis statement This essay will examine the various negative effects of excessive mobile phone use, including its impact on health, relationships, and productivity. Signposting: Explain what you'll cover in your essay

Body paragraph guide and example

This is where you cover the topic with details and evidence. Although many students tend to use a three-paragraph body structure, you may write longer essays (even research papers) as well.

Expository Essay Body Paragraphs

The first negative effect of excessive mobile phone use is on health. Topic sentence The blue light emitted by mobile phones can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Additionally, excessive phone use can lead to neck pain, backache, and eye strain. Explanation These physical problems can affect not only the user's comfort but also their work productivity and quality of life. Discussion

The second negative effect of excessive mobile phone use is on relationships. Topic sentence Mobile phones have become a distraction that diverts individuals' attention away from people around them. People are increasingly engrossed in their phones and ignore those around them. Explanation This can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection. Excessive mobile phone use can also cause conflicts in personal relationships, as partners may feel neglected or ignored. Evaluation & Discussion

The third negative effect of excessive mobile phone use is on productivity. Topic sentence Mobile phones provide users with a constant source of distraction, leading to a decrease in productivity. People are more likely to procrastinate and become easily sidetracked when they have access to their phones. This can have a negative impact on work, school, and other aspects of life where concentration and focus are essential.

Body paragraphs should gradually develop into your thesis statement. Also, the topic of each paragraph should be clearly defined by your topic sentences.

Conclusion guide and example

This is where you summarize your essay. Typically, the conclusion should not include any new information or evidence not mentioned in the body paragraphs. However, you need to highlight your points and rephrase your thesis statement.

Below, you’ll find an example of an expository essay conclusion so you can also write one by following it.

Expository Essay Conclusion Example


After all, excessive mobile phone use can have numerous negative effects on an individual's life. Rephrase your thesis statement The use of mobile phones can lead to health problems, relationship issues, and a decrease in productivity. Therefore, it is important to limit mobile phone use and avoid excessive usage. Summary of points made By doing so, individuals can improve their quality of life, increase productivity, and maintain healthy relationships. Concluding sentence with recommendations

Steps for writing an expository essay

Before we dig deeper into an expository essay structure, you may need some steps to organize your work.

Step 1 — Choose the right topic

You may be asked to define your own expository essay topic. Tons of websites offer different topics of expository essays.

However, essay writing is a complex process, and you need to think about the reader. Therefore, it is always best to write about something in which you are interested.

You can also try to make a shortlist with topics that interest you. See the following shortlist as an example;

However, don’t forget your reader. Choosing a quite advanced topic isn’t the best idea because your reader should easily understand and enjoy your paper.

Step 2 — Research and choose examples

Students tend to skip researching after choosing a familiar topic. This is a huge mistake. Citing from credible sources is very useful when preparing an academic essay.

You’ll find trustworthy articles to support your knowledge and cite them in your essay. You might even learn something interesting and decide to add it to your essay, no matter how familiar with the topic you are.

You’ll probably have dozens of great examples to present in your body paragraphs. However, an expository essay should not be so long. You need to choose the best examples. You may as well make use of the common examples you find in different sources.

Step 3 — Outline, outline, and outline!

After you do your research and choose your examples, it’s time to plan your paper. An outline is essential in academic writing regardless of the type of essay. You might use an outline like the following.

essay outline structure

Step 4 — Focus on your Thesis Statement

Remember that you’re not writing an argumentative paper, and you don’t need a strong and assertive thesis statement. Expository essays tend to explain and define.

You just need to let your reader know what you’re going to talk about; that’s enough. The following example is a digital marketing thesis statement for an expository essay.

Expository essay thesis statement example


....(introduction starts)
....(introduction continues)
....(introduction continues)
The excessive use of mobile phones is not only detrimental to individuals' health but also to their social lives. Thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence of your introduction

Step 5 — Draft, write and Edit!

You now have a good thesis statement and outline. It’s time to start writing. Gather your findings in your paper, choose a good title, cite your sources in APA or MLA, and organize your paper with correct capitalization and headings.

You may also make use of transition sentences and word examples (see transition words, common words, and phrasal verbs in academic writing).

When you finish, it is always better to proofread your first draft a couple of hours after your writing. Also, someone else can proofread your paper to detect your mistakes. We have some ideas for proofreading:

Key takeaways

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Osman Sirin
Founder @Tamara Research, Linguistics major and full time digital marketeer, loves dogs, sports, and nature