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Essay writing help: first time writing an expository essay

Nov 04, 2012 - Posted to  Essay Writing
Expository writing is a common form of writing in which the purpose is simply to explain, describe or inform. In general, expository essays are easy to construct and elementary in nature, as they usually follow a simple introduction, body, and conclusion format. Other characteristics of expository essays include the absence of the first-person point of view as well as nonfiction topics and subject matters.
Popular forms of expository writing include cause and effect essays, problem-solution, argumentative and comparison and contrast essays. Likewise simple things like cooking directions, and persuasive writings such as advertisements are also considered forms of expository writing.
When writing an expository essay, after selecting a topic, you can choose to apply the five-paragraph-essay formula to construct your paper. This is an easy and effective way to get through your first expository essay. The five-paragraph essay includes an introductory paragraph, three support paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph. More information regarding support paragraphs, the 'substance' of your paper, is detailed below.

Where to start

The steps for writing an expository essay are simple and similar to other forms of essays.
  1. Select a topic
  2. Decide on the type of expository essay you'll be writing
  3. Form a working thesis statement
  4. Start writing!
*Numbers 1 & 2 are interchangeable. For instance, you may have a specific type of essay to fulfill for an assignment that does not require that you select a topic, or as detailed above, you already have a subject in mind and must decide on how to present it and which essay format would be best to use.

Select a topic

Whether you are a beginner or novice writer, selecting a topic can be difficult to accomplish. There are a lot of great subjects to write about along with many interesting subtopics and main points for each. Though a proven way of identifying a great topic is to brainstorm for ideas by listing different things that come to mind. Listing in this way allows one great idea to prompt another.
*For example, you may decide to start writing a list about winter clothing. You jot down winter boots as one of your items - and from that listing you think about different types of winter boots. Then you may decide to list name brands such as Timberland and Ugg. And if you have an eye for comparing prices and brands, your next thought may be to write a compare and contrast essay one the two brands.
Alternatively you can look at other people's ideas to help generate some thought as well. Scanning newspaper and magazine headlines can provide you with a multitude of suggestions; from politics and current events to personal interest stories and creative writing essays.
*The second step, choosing the type of essay you're working on, is generally not very hard to identify as most people intend to write with some format in mind. For example, if you are writing for academic purposes is likely that you will be given some direction by your instructor as to the types of arguments and constructions they are interested in. Also many exams demand for students to write expository essays. With this, the instructions will detail exactly what students are expected to convey.

Forming a working thesis statement

The thesis statement is generally found in the introductory paragraph or page of most essays and term papers. Its a crucial piece of information that reflects precisely the topics and points that will be covered in your essay or paper. A thesis statement clearly expresses to the reader your main idea. It also unifies the various elements manifested in the explanation or description of that idea. The thesis statement can be described by its ability to:
  1. summarize
  2. be specific and concise
  3. inform the audience of what to expect
  4. be supported by the evidence presented in the paper
  5. answer the question that was posed or fulfill the requirements of the assignment (if applicable)
  6. be limited to one or two sentences.
As seen in the title of this section, the term 'working thesis' is used to provide flexibility to the composer in making changes and adjustments to his or her thesis statement as they progress in their writing. Sometimes the initial direction you choose may not be the one that you choose to pursue.This can be for several reasons. Perhaps because of research or simply due to an evolution of your ideas, you may decide to alter your thesis statement later on down the line. This is fine and happens often during the writing process. For this reason some people actually choose not to finalize their thesis statement until the very end of their essay construction.

Developing your support paragraphs

What are support paragraphs? Support paragraphs make up the bulk of your paper and are sandwiched between the introduction and conclusion. Simply put - they are paragraphs that develop and support your main idea. And the key to a successful essay is paragraph development.

How to show support

You can support your main idea, thesis, or objective by including the following elements into your support paragraphs.

Definitions or explanations

When defining a term, concept, or idea you can and should go beyond dictionary definitions by explaining the meaning of certain words or phrases in your own unique way. Also if you find that you would like to include a direct quote be sure to cite your source and use proper formatting techniques. More than anything, your explanations should be clear and precise, and use language that is suitable and appropriate for your audience.

Examples or Illustrations

These are some of the best ways to demonstrate and explain your ideas. People understand and comprehend information far better when concrete and relevant examples are provided. Though it may take a bit of brainpower to come up with appropriate examples-its well worth the effort, as they can significantly improve the development of your ideas and help you formulate a strong, well-crafted paper.
*For example an essay on 'organic living' with no examples of how people can live 'organic lives' would be considered almost useless and definitely not very helpful. The concept of organic living would be much better understand if the writer provided real life examples to connect with their definitions and explanations.

Facts and Details

This involves expanding on definitions and explanations by providing relevant facts and supportive details to further describe and support what is being stated. One of the most important points is that the facts and details are actually relevant and helpful to the reader. Nothing says bad writing like impractical points that appear to just 'fill-up' a paper with no real substance or value.
After completing your first expository essay in one style, such as extended definition or persuasive writing, try and move on to a different style to sharpen your writing skills and improve your ability to properly develop ideas. Strong support statements and well-developed ideas are hallmarks of great writing (but these skills take time to harness and the best way to improve is to practice).
Mastering expository writing is mastering a major genre of writing and would prove beneficial to any student, researcher or professional.
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