An expository essay investigates something, usually an idea, and examines evidence related to it. A student may examine pros and cons and provide evidence for both. Analysis would then take place and an evaluation of what has been found. The work is then concluded upon, so if the topic was on an idea then a student may conclude by determining the validity of said idea.
There are some people that thrive when it comes to expository essays because it doesn’t have to be linear and the structure is flexible enough to accommodate the direction the writer is going in. It is also more scientific than most because you gather together your evidence in one section, analyze it in another, evaluate it and then conclude upon it. Do this correctly and even an incorrect essay may score highly.
Starting your essay with your introduction
Open with the topic and make it very clear and easy to understand. The reader needs to decide whether to read on. You do not have to sell your essay to the reader as your essay is not designed to persuade (unless it is purposely biased). Once you have demonstrated what your essay is about you may put your topic into context. The context you choose as a student is going to depend upon the class you are writing your essay for. If it is biology then your essay should be based in a biology-related framework. If it is a history paper, then a historical environment is your best setting (obviously).
Within your introduction, you may enter information that helps your reader understand the topic; however, this may be a big task that may work better in your early paragraphs over your introduction.
Now comes your thesis statement, and it should be as concise as possible. This is the key to your essay and shows what you intend to prove throughout the rest of your essay. Obviously, do not take the word “prove” literally. Your essay may sit on the fence figuratively speaking, or may work to disprove a fact that people commonly hold as true. It may be the examination of an idea to find out if it is feasible, for which you do not know the answer at the beginning of the essay. On the other hand, you may know if the idea is feasible and may use the essay to show how and why you think the way you do about the idea.
Your essay body
Open with background information if it is needed. You may have to explain the situation a little more for the reader to be able to fully understand the topic. The reader may need the topic putting into a better context or footing. Be aware that your professor may expect a certain amount of prior knowledge from the reader. For example, if you are writing an expository essay for your college class in sociology, then your professor may not want you defining concepts such as “norm” because he or she expects the reader to already have the baseline knowledge needed to understand the esoteric wordage.
Your job is to provide your reader with a full and frank topic, set it in the correct context, add relevant background, and then start providing evidence for it. Do not forget that evidence is more than just references. Even something as intangible as a hunch may be considered evidence, if it is correctly justified.
In metaphorical terms, the first part of your essay was the ham, beef, chicken, onion and collagen, your analysis is what squeezes it all together to make a sausage. Your evaluation is the part where the sausage is judged and the conclusion is the wrapping you put it in before putting it on the butcher’s shelf.
You have your evidence that you have pulled from different sources and have proven by various methods. Your analysis turns that evidence into arguments and points.
You have your points and your arguments that have come from your analysis. This is where you examine them. Do not rely on questioning the evidence because it points out flaws in the first half of your essay. Evaluate your points and arguments on their own merits. Try not to agree with them too much, as you should save that for the conclusion. Instead, you can justify why you agree with your points/arguments in the evaluation so that your conclusion is stronger.
Explain that you agree or disagree with the points made in your essay. Restate your thesis and explain how it is proven, disproven, or explain your position in relation to it. Show how the information you synthesized is important and relevant to your thesis statement. Show how your thought process moved along and remember that the proof and justification for this process exists within the rest of your essay so you do not have to go into a lot of detail.
Tips to help you write your essay
Think of it more in the terms of building a case to go to court with. You first gather all the evidence you can muster, and then put in place your other tools such as questioning the validity of contradictory evidence and opinions. You then come up with your own assertions of what happened and bring the case to conclusion.
Keep a plan of your essay to hand, so you can be sure you have included all the evidence you need. Also, it helps you make sure you have analyzed and justified each piece of evidence you entered. A piece of evidence may make sense to you, but your reader needs to know how it connects to your thesis or your other evidence and that may be achieved in your analysis.
You may be working to prove a thesis, but this is not a persuasive essay. It is more that you are laying out the facts and then showing people what they mean before explaining the points you drew from them. If this convinces people of something than that is okay, but it is not your main goal, your main goal is to expose the topic/subject, which may lead to people drawing their own conclusions contrary to yours.