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How to Write an Explanatory Essay

Understanding the type of assignment your tutors want you to do is critical. An excellent example is when your instructor asks you to write an explanatory essay on a given topic. You should fully understand how this project differs from others.

This article discusses all the necessary details for writing a perfect explanatory paper. It defines the essay, shows its outline and format, and shares exciting topics to jumpstart you. Keep reading to hone your writing skills.

What Is an Explanatory Essay?

An expository or explanatory essay is an academic assignment that lets you present your perspective or opinion on a subject, topic, or event. Depending on your instructor’s guidelines, you may write this paper in any of the following forms:

  • Compare and contrast essays.
  • Definition papers.
  • How-to assignments.
  • Cause and effect essays.

Composing this paper doesn’t necessarily require agreeing with the viewpoint you are writing about. You should try to present your ideas or details objectively. Its primary goal is reporting a certain event or analyzing a specific subject.

Again, you may include any criticism in your paper. However, persuading your readers or arguing your points isn’t necessary here because they will make independent decisions to agree or disagree with your position. Just stick to explaining why things happened the way they did to give your readers enough input to make informed decisions.

An Explanatory Essay Format

The average explanatory essay follows the traditional 5-paragraph format. It has an essay introduction, a main body with three paragraphs, and a conclusion, with each body paragraph discussing one main idea. The layout looks like this.


  • Has a hook.
  • Gives readers background information.
  • Contains a thesis statement that explains your essay’s main purpose.
  • Has a transition sentence to the body paragraphs.

Body paragraph 1

  • Starts with a topic sentence about the first main thought.
  • Contains supporting evidence and facts.
  • Transitions to the second paragraph.

Body paragraph 2

  • Has a topic sentence about your second main idea.
  • Includes supporting evidence and facts.
  • Transitions to the third body paragraph.

Body paragraph 3

  • Opens with a topic sentence about your third main idea.
  • Provides supporting evidence and facts.
  • Transitions to the conclusion.


  • Summarizes your main ideas.
  • Restates your thesis statement.
  • Offers your final thoughts.

An Explanatory Essay Outline

You need an outline for your explanatory essay to navigate your writing. An outline is crucial to your planning stage and ensures you don’t forget to include any idea in your paper. Your outline varies slightly based on your paper’s topic, word count, and the information you need to present.

An outline organizes your vital ideas into paragraphs. It’s like a wireframe that shows you where everything should fit. Averagely, your skeleton comprises an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Below is a detailed explanation of what an outline contains.


Your explanatory essay needs an introduction. This starting point makes your first impression and lets you get your reader on board. Your introduction should capture and retain your readers’ attention and interest immediately. Otherwise, readers will soon switch off and start reading your expository essay because they have to read it, not because they want to.

Thus, try as much as possible to use a hook to achieve the abovementioned goal. This hook may be a quote from a respected authority your audience knows and trusts. It may also be a rhetorical question that provokes your readers’ minds to start thinking in your paper’s direction. Using relevant stats and humor is another way to hook your audience.

This opening paragraph should also provide the reader with the necessary background information about your paper. It must be a short summary, not exceeding its limits to tell the reader too much. Leave the details in your body paragraphs and explain everything there. Just balance things to ensure it arouses your readers’ appetite without serving them the main dish here.

Your introduction should be like news highlights to awaken listeners’ appetite. It must be a promise of what you will tell your readers.

A Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is one or two sentences summarizing your primary idea. It shows your readers how you will approach your topic and provides them with a strategic guidepost to the finish. The statement also identifies the topic you will focus on and your essay’s purpose. It appears at your introduction’s end. This way, your audience knows what to expect from you and your paper’s direction. It also shows them your stand on a subject matter.

Main Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs let you fulfill what you promised to tell your readers. The traditional expository essay has three body paragraphs. However, you may increase them if the word count is higher but ensure they follow the same style. The paragraphs must align with each other and maintain a specific flow. Every section must contain a claim that connects back to your thesis. This connection makes connecting your arguments easier.

Moreover, all your body paragraphs must have supporting evidence from reputable and authoritative sources. They should make your audience feel confident of the claims and information you present in the assignment. Remember to include a concluding statement summarizing each argument’s significance and relevance.


Your explanatory essay requires a conclusion, which is like a safe landing pad. This closing section offers readers what an airport gives passengers after a successful flight. It shows readers your paper’s significance and how your paragraphs defended your thesis. Your conclusion serves the following purposes:

  • It restates your thesis statement to return your readers’ attention to your main points and strengthens your viewpoint.
  • It summarizes your supporting points and reiterates their importance.
  • Your conclusion offers an overall concluding statement that explains your perspective’s value and captivates your readers to study the topic further.

Sample Explanatory Essay Topics to Jumpstart You

Nothing inspires you to do something more than seeing a perfect example of that thing. Thus, we carefully selected forty sample topics to motivate your next explanatory essay assignment.

  1. Gender discrimination in the workforce and how it affects victims.
  2. How do employers guarantee their workers’ physical and mental health?
  3. Explain how discrimination against older job applicants destroys equality in the workplace.
  4. Explain how office politics work and how employees can deal with it.
  5. Explain how a business plan differs from a feasibility study.
  6. Compare and contrast the three main forms of business organizations.
  7. How do business enterprises benefit from behavioral tracking?
  8. Explain how businesses affect the environment.
  9. Explain how enterprises utilize social media to sell their solutions.
  10. How can enterprises manage negative reviews on social media platforms?
  11. Why do people make bad choices?
  12. How do you define wealth?
  13. How can students hone their innovative skills?
  14. What do you worry about most of the time?
  15. What is the best counsel your parents gave you?
  16. Is it right to break the law to save someone’s life?
  17. What makes you unique?
  18. What defines your value system?
  19. What makes modern students fail their exams?
  20. Explain how students can avoid distractions.
  21. Which country would you like to visit during your lifetime?
  22. Would you like to be a genius with an evil heart or a good-hearted idiot?
  23. Explain the things you value the most in friendships.
  24. Which people in life are you most grateful to?
  25. What would you like to fix if you could return to your childhood?
  26. Which memories in your life do you treasure the most?
  27. Can you lie to advance in life or remain truthful, even if it means delaying your progress?
  28. Explain why students cheat in exams.
  29. Explain the reasons behind increased STDs (sexually transmitted degrees) in colleges.
  30. Explain the things that anger you the most and fastest.
  31. Explain how teenagers choose their role models.
  32. Explain why people use evil powers to succeed in life.
  33. Is it right to use evil forces to attract success?
  34. Explain the main traits that make a good leader.
  35. Explain how cyberbullies target their victims.
  36. Explain the effects of bullying on student victims.
  37. Would you choose education without intelligence or intelligence without education?
  38. Explain how students can improve their homework skills.
  39. Explain how to rebuild broken relationships in life.
  40. Why do people have problems maintaining true friendships?


Do you still have more questions about the explanatory essay? Here are the top questions students ask and their answers.

How many paragraphs are in an explanatory essay?

A typical expository essay has five paragraphs: an intro, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

What does an explanatory essay look like?

A good explanatory paper has five paragraphs.

What are the essential characteristics of a good explanation essay?

An explanatory paper has a single and clear main thought. All its paragraphs have clear key points that start with topic sentences. They also have supporting evidence, details, descriptions, and examples.

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