How to write an expository essay – Components and approach to expository essay

An expository essay is a form of essay which demands the critical examination of a particular topic or subject matter. In other words, an expository essay can be described as a long piece of writing which requires the investigation, examination, and evaluation of a singular subject matter. The aim of an expository essay in academia is to assess a student’s general understanding of a particular subject matter or topic.


In secondary schools, when expository essays are introduced or taught by English teachers, students are asked to directly write expository essays regarding different subject matters or topics. In Tertiary or advanced institutions, however, these essays are not dished out in vacuums. Hence, it is often difficult for a student to, first of all, identify the essay as an expository essay before composing its write-ups. The keywords used to spot an expository essay in a maze include:

  • Examine.
  • Evaluate.
  • Explore.
  • Describe.
  • Define.

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Hence, any question which requires a student to give his/her views regarding a past event or current situation can be described as an expository essay. Examples of expository essay topics include:

  • Explain the differences between the industrial revolution and the trans-Saharan trade.
  • Describe the term ‘Neocolonialism’ and explore its impact on the mindset and economy of Africans in developing countries.


Like other forms of essays, an expository essay consists of three basic components namely:

  • The introduction.
  • The body of the essay.
  • The conclusion of the essay.

The introductory part of the essay brings forth the topic of the essay as well as surrounding issues leading to that particular topic. The thesis statement which includes the topic of the essay as well as the issues which will be examined at length in the body of the essay is stated in a briefly summarized form as well.

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The body of the essay singles out the context of the thesis statement in the introduction and discusses each issue or view per paragraph and the conclusion sums up the entire points provided by the writer in the body of the essay and includes additional notes regarding the subject matter or topic of the essay as well.


The term ‘approach’ in this context refers to the mode of writing or the point of view that the writer ought to adopt when composing an expository essay. Hence, an expository essay ought to be dispensed in an objective and formal approach or tone.

The aim is to provide an informative explanation of the subject matter or topic free from personal stories or experiences. In other words, avoid the use of the first person (I, Me, You, Us and so) when writing an expository essay. The writer is however permitted to make use of words like ‘One’, ‘His/Her’. In a bid to mask the overuse of the fore mentioned terms, the writer is permitted to use the last name of the writer of a book or a scholar related to the subject matter of the essay.


The composition of an expository essay tends to vary depending on the nature scopes and demand of the topic and assignment. However, the first step to take before commencing the writing and compilation of an expository essay is the creation of an outline.

An essay outline is a brief sum-up of the structure of the essay as well as sub-topics that will be examined and expatiated in the essay. It serves as a compass to the writer, guiding him/her on how to go about with the composition of an essay. An ideal essay consists of five paragraphs, one for the introduction, three for the body of the essay, and one for the conclusion.


Introducing an expository essay

As fore mentioned in this text, an expository essay commences with an introduction. The introduction serves as a means of introducing the topic, providing the thesis statement and the issues or views revolving around the subject matter of the proposed topic. The introduction ought to hook the interest of the reader to the essay, hence, it must be loaded with a brief summary of enticing facts relating to the topic or subject matter of the essay.

For example, if one is asked to describe neocolonialism and its impact on the mindset and economy of Africans in developing countries. The essay will begin with a definition of the term ‘neocolonialism’(always commence an essay with a definition of the subject matter or main point in the essay) followed by the provision of brief facts that brought about the defined term. After that, the writer can go ahead and provide the thesis statement and his/her views on the thesis statement. Whatever the writer provides after the statement will serve as topics for the three paragraphs in the body of the essay.

Writing the body of the essay

The writer’s aim in the body of the essay is to provide detailed views on the topic in the paragraphs. An ideal essay ought to consist of three paragraphs but it could be longer depending on the nature and scope of the assignment and the topic provided. Each paragraph ought to introduce and explain a singular view or point of the writer.

Hence, a paragraph ought, to begin with, a topic sentence that will introduce the writer’s point and the remaining sentences in the paragraph will be dedicated to explaining the topic sentence. The paragraphs can begin with words like Firstly, Similarly, Secondly, Thirdly, and so on. In a bid to avoid the overuse of the stated words, the writer can commence the paragraph by introducing the topic sentences as it is, in a formalized tone.

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Concluding an expository essay

The writer’s aim in the conclusion is to provide a standardized summary of the topic under discussion. This is done by the inclusion of brief summaries from each paragraph stated in the body of the essay. The writer should refrain from producing additional points in the conclusion of the essay. Instead, he/she should focus more on stressing the fore mentioned points provided in the essay.

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