Introduction So far in this course, we have discussed and you have written two essay forms: the comparative essay and the illustration essay. Throughout the next three units and their accompanying lessons, we will be discussing the form, function, and execution of the expository essay.
Understanding the Expository Essay The expository essay is a general term for a number of different media forms that all serve to expound or to explain a topic. An essay, book, or speech can be said to be expository because each is created with the primary goal of conveying information or a detailed statement. To be able to understand the expository essay, you need to be able to understand exposition. As the root concept of the expository essay, the nature of exposition is to “expose” the details of something by methodic and logical description, clarification, and elucidation.
Exposition is one of four modes of discourse, which also include narration, description, and argumentation. In EH 1010, we will cover description to some degree as a part of the illustration essay. Argumentation will be covered in depth in EH 1020, which focuses exclusively on argument. The modes of discourse, also known as “rhetorical modes,” are structured forms of writing in which each of the main four share characteristics and conventions.
An expository essay is written to demonstrate knowledge about a particular topic. So how is the expository essay different from the comparative or illustration essay? The answer is that an expository essay is not completely different from the comparative or illustration essay. In fact, an expository essay may include comparisons and contrasts, as well as illustrations—all of which are effective means of conveying information. Think of an expository essay as an essay that extrapolates several possible facets of a single topic.
There are a number of different types of expository essays including:
Comparative: establishes the relationship between two items in order to establish the similarities and differences between them
Problem/Solution: establishes a problem and then includes possible solutions or various aspects of the same possible solution
Sequential: relies on conveying information about the topic by ordering items as they appear spatially or chronologically
In this unit, we will discuss three of these as possible forms that your expository essay might take: cause/effect, problem/solution, or sequential. We already discussed the comparative essay in depth in Unit III.
Investigating an Idea One of the main tenets of the expository essay is that it invites the writer to investigate an idea or topic before sharing that information with readers. In other words, an expository essay is an exploration of a topic, and the tone is explanatory. However, the student writer must first know about a topic thoroughly so that he or she may speak with authority. As we have discussed in previous units, academic writing is evidence-based, so it is necessary to have the backing of sources in order to speak with authority on a topic. Throughout the remainder of the course, you will establish a topic, investigate that topic through reading and source gathering, and then write and revise your paper.
Evaluating the Evidence As we have discussed in previous units, not all sources are the same, so you want to use only source material that is academically valid. The expository essay is a true academic form, meaning that it rarely exists outside of the university setting. Therefore, strict adherence to source material validity is paramount. For a reminder about what makes a source valid and credible, see Unit V, Lesson 4.
Setting forth the Argument Each argument will be written in accordance with the form of the expository essay. After choosing your topic, you will need to choose the form that is most appropriate to fit the topic: cause/effect, problem/solution, or sequential. A thesis statement, which contains the paper’s argument, will be appropriate to the form you choose. We will discuss thesis statements later on, but it is good for you to begin to think about the form that you would choose and what kind of thesis statement may be appropriate for your topic.
The expository essay is a general term for a number of different media forms that all serve to expound or to explain a topic.
The nature of exposition is to “expose” the details of something by methodic and logical description, clarification, and elucidation.
The modes of discourse, also known as “rhetorical modes,” are structured forms of writing in which each of the main four share characteristics and conventions. The four modes are exposition, narration, description, and argumentation.
There are four main forms of the expository essay: cause/effect, comparative, problem/solution, and sequential. For the exposition essay due in Unit VIII, you will only be allowed to write a cause/effect, problem/solution, or sequential essay, as you have already written a comparative essay.
One of the main tenets of the expository essay is that it invites the writer to investigate an idea or topic before sharing that information with readers.
An expository essay is an exploration of a topic, and the tone is explanatory.
Expository writing is evidence-based.
Each argumentative thesis statement will reflect the form of the essay—whether the form is cause/effect, problem/solution, or sequential.