How To Write An Explanatory Essay

When writing an explanatory essay you need to choose your angle, then find logic and fact to back up your perspective. This systematic approach is paramount to writing a successful explanatory essay. These essays use fact, reason, statistics, analysis and evidence to argue a point and illustrate a concept. You don’t necessarily need to agree with the angle you have chosen but you do need to provide sufficient evidence for why your angle is relevant and valid. Explanatory essays are all about providing a clear argument that is factually based, intelligently analyzed and easy for the reader to understand.

To write a great explanatory essay, you need to do sufficient research on your subject since these essays methodically explore a specific point of view or are used to give evidential reports on a specific situation or event. For this reason, they are often assigned in studies like social studies, history or journalism where facts and real situations are core to the subject. It is important to remember that explanatory essays are not defending an argument or point of view. In fact, they are demonstrating their topic in a manner that encourages discussion by providing a neutral point of view. You want to leave the reader with a clear understanding of the topic even if they do not agree with the idea.

Different Styles of Explanatory Essay’s

There are six different explanatory essays that are commonly assigned. It is important to understand which explanatory essay you are being asked to write as each one is different. Let’s take a look at the six.

  1. How To: This is the most common explanatory essay. Here you need to explain an entire procedure in a step by step plan so that the reader is able to make or do something. From your essay, the reader needs to be able to make the proposed item without making mistakes by following your instructions methodically. – For example: how to make sourdough bread.
  2. Compare and Contrast: Identify the similarities and differences between two things that usually fall under a broad category. These range from concepts, people, situations, historical period, things etc. – For example: which is better for making friends; Instagram or facebook?
  3. Definition: Explain, expand and define a complicated concept making it easy for your reader to understand. In the introduction you should not only explain the concept but you are also required to include your personal opinion. – For example: what is your definition of superhuman powers?
  4. Cause and Effect: This essay revolves around a situation. You are requested to state the cause of something and its consequential effects. It is important to explore questions such as ‘why’ and ‘how’ things have happened they way they have. – For example: what is the cause and the effect of consuming white sugar on a daily basis.
  5. Classification: Sort out different groups and divisions from within a broad topic whilst giving your reason for organizing them in the way you have chosen. – For example: which type of music is the most soothing classical or chill out.
  6. Problem and Solution: Find the best solution to a problem by brainstorming and looking at the problem from different angles. – For example: what is the best type of device to travel with as a writer; macBook, ipad, tablet, smart phone?

How To Pick Your Explanatory Essay Topic

The best way to write an explanatory essay is to read examples of these essays. This will help inform you how to effectively format and structure your essay in a clear and simple way. It is an easy way to learn how to write an explanatory essay well. Follow these links to find examples:

The key aspect of your explanatory essay is that it is unbiased and based on facts. This is important to remember when selecting your topic. You need to choose a topic that has a strong neutral position and is not controversial. Controversial topics will only complicate writing this essay and are not advisable since this can cause confusion in the reader. Though don’t worry too much, usually explanatory topics are pre-assigned to students. These assignments will usually ask you to outline events or explain how something functions.

Here are some examples:

Social Science: Outline the key causes of poverty.

Health and Fitness: Identify several possible benefits of drinking red wine.

History: What are the causes of the Civil Rights Movement.

Technology: How has the development of technology impacted children’s lives?

Sociology: How to conduct a good interview?

Creative: How does a learner like to create?

Since explanatory essays inform about a topic/situation and clarify any confusing information you must not include your opinion or try to convince readers of your argument. You’re not writing an argumentative or persuasive essay. Instead, objectively present your idea.

How To Begin Your Explanatory Essay

Before you begin writing you need to research. Researching is vitally important for this style of essay. Part of this research will be collecting data to strengthen your analysis of the topic and provide supporting evidence to your perspective. Research and data are your best friends in this essay. Be sure to take thorough notes of all significant information from your sources so you can utilize it in your essay. You will need to cite your sources later, so make the task easier with comprehensive notes.

A Step By Step Guide For Choosing Your Explanatory Essay:

Pick a neutral subject that you can easily explain in depth.

Source carefully: books, online journals, Google Scholar and JSTOR are all great sources.

Take notes: note down all significant quotes, facts and statics. to site later.

It is important to remember the argument you present must be your personal ideas backed up by external information presented in an evidential format. You are interweaving your own concepts with factual evidence, and this will be presented in a systematic approach.

How To Plan Your Explanatory Essay

Being organized is key to writing a successful explanatory essay and your plan is not to be overlooked. The next step after doing your research is to take this information and organise it into a plan. This draft should be divided into three segments:

– Introduction

– Middle (includes three main body paragraphs)

– Conclusion

If you organize your research into a clear and concise draft, your essay will be easier to write and the information will be displayed in a digestible and efficient format for the reader to absorb. Finally, make sure you review your material before you begin writing. Check all your source citations are noted down and ready for you to cite at the end of your essay. Be sure to make the citations in the required format. Each facilitator will have their own preferences, and this will be stated in the essay’s instructions. Usually, you will be asked to format the citations in the style of Harvard, MLA or APA.

How to Write a Thesis Statement for Your Explanatory Essay

Before we begin the essay, the next step is to decide on your explanatory thesis. This is the main message of your essay. It makes a claim and answers the question directly. It is also expressed in one sentence. Consider it the backbone of your paper, so it needs to be the best it can be! The thesis statement is a concise version of your overall perspective. Here you encapsulate everything you will demonstrate in your essay. Usually, it is positioned in the last line of your first paragraph. If your explanatory essay is clear, everything else will follow seamlessly.

Here is an example of effective thesis statements contrasted against ineffective thesis statements:

Effective: Excessive consumption of alcohol have detrimental effects on personal health issues such as heart disease, liver failure and weight gain.

Ineffective: Excessive consumption of alcohol is unhealthy.

You can see the second thesis is too vague. It does not cover the specific detriments of alcohol consumption that you want to discuss.

Effective: Retirees should relocate to Spain because the temperate climate and nourishing food help people live longer.

Ineffective: All retirees should relocate to Spain.

The first statement is effective because it lays out the reasons why relocating to Spain is a healthy choice and how it helps people live longer.

Effective: The internet connects people expediently all around the world encouraging meaningful relationships and the spread of knowledge that enhance people’s lives.

Ineffective: The internet has improved many people’s lives.

In the second thesis, although the reader may agree with the statement that the internet has indeed improved people’s lives. It failed to provide any explanation of how it has done so and why the internet is beneficial.

Recapping The Key Proponents To Writing Your Thesis Statement:

– You are stating facts, not criticizing, defending or arguing.

– Be specific and summarize your idea.

– One sentence positioned in the last line of your first paragraph.

– Present the topic of discussions of your essay.

Now we are ready to write!

How To Format Your Explanatory Essay

As we have already discussed, your explanatory essay will be divided into three main segments: introduction, middle and conclusion. Usually, explanatory essay’s are a page or two in length which requires the essay to be five paragraphs long. So let’s start with the introduction.


Here you will illustrate the subject of discussion to make it crystal clear to the reader what this essay is exploring.

There are three important facets to this introduction:

The Hook: This is where we capture the reader. Quotes or facts are excellent ways to hook the reader in and tickle their interest. You want something to grab their attention so they feel compelled to keep reading.

Background Information: After the hook, offer information that will add to the picture you have already painted with the hook. This is where all sides of the arguments are outlined.

Thesis Statement: As we have mentioned, this is where you insert the thesis statement and it goes in the last line of the introduction. This defines the focus of the essay and will guide the reader in the right direction. It will dispel any cause for confusion.

Main Body

The main body follows the thesis statement. It is positioned in a way that will support the thesis statement with appropriate evidence mainly in the form of statistics, facts and logic. The main body usually pertains to three paragraphs all expressed in the same general style but each has its own point to demonstrate.

Here is a step by step guide on how to structure each paragraph:

  1. Present a topic sentence that clearly expresses the information you are discussing.
  2. Present a claim or explanation that backs this topic up evidentially.
  3. Present a fact, static or logic as an example to enforce your perspective.
  4. Present a concluding sentence that summarizes the perspective in relation to the thesis statement.

An extra hint: use graphs, charts, illustrations or maps as supportive evidence of your points.

If you stick to this methodical approach for each of your main body paragraphs, your essay will be clear, concise, expressing a well supported neutral position.

It is the main body of the essay that you need to be careful not to go off into tangents or veer off into the territory of other types of essays. Remember, this is not a persuasive essay or a process essay. You need to stay true to the explanatory since you are being asked to demonstrate your ability to express your understanding of a concept you understand inside out. You are not writing to push the reader into any direction. You are writing merely to inform them as thoroughly as you can.  You are writing to make a clear and solid case of your argument or concept. It needs to be a discussion, not an instructional guide.


This is the essay finale. In this summary, you should state your overall concluding idea here. There are four main aspects to writing a successful conclusion:

  1. Restate Thesis Statement: This refocuses the main point of the essay for the reader.
  2. Summarize: Take your three supporting points from the three paragraphs in the main body and summarize each one. It is vital you redefine their value in the argument in a concise manner. This indicates you have effectively and efficiently supported your explanatory thesis.
  3. Concluding Statement: This should look at your main argument from a wider perspective, often a global point of view.


  1. Call To Action: Your essay should end on an active note which encourages the reader to explore the topic further and do their own research. They need to feel inspired by what they have read and what to find out more.

How To Wrap Up Your Explanatory Essay

Now you have finished writing it is time to read over your work.

Proofread: This is essential and there are wonderful apps to help you. Grammarly is a great application that will help you correct grammar and vocabulary. Follow this link for the app: Make sure you check your citations as this will help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

Clarity: Make sure your essay sparkles with clarity. Each point needs to be supported and summarized. A great essay will explain and simplify for the reader so it is easy to understand.

Reread: Once you have read over the essay yourself several times, why not ask a friend to read it over. Often, a new pair of eyes will pick up things we have overlooked.

Final Thoughts on Writing Your Explanatory Essay

Hopefully by now, you feel confident writing your own explanatory essay. These essays are not difficult if you stay true to their methodical approach. Remember that their core purpose is to explain or describe a situation, event or concept.

If you were still in any doubt here is a step by step guide on how to write a success explanatory essay:

  1. Choose a subject you feel confident writing about and you solidly comprehend.
  2. Consolidate your essay with a thesis statement.
  3. Gather evidence to support your topic and your thesis statement.
  4. Outline your essay dividing it into the three segments of introduction, middle and conclusion.
  5. Write the body of your paper.
  6. Finish with a clear and concise conclusion that readdresses the thesis statement.

So let’s end this article with a quick recap of important things to remember when writing your explanatory essay:

– Present a neutral point of view by providing researched analysis and logical explanations supported by fact.

Do not argue, criticize or defend.

Support every point with information, evidence and a conclusive sentence.

– Clarity is key!

– The reader can disagree with your perspective but they need to understand it clearly.

Divide the essay into three:  an introduction, main body and conclusion.

– Always proofread and check you have included citations.

And finally, if you choose a topic that you feel passionate about, this will naturally be conveyed in your writing. This passion will pour off the page and influence your reader making it a more enjoyable experience for them.

Good luck and have fun!

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