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How to Write an Explanatory Essay | Tips & Topics for Students

How to write an explanatory essay: a handy guide for students

An explanatory essay is a common academic assignment requiring students to clearly and concisely explain a particular subject, concept, or phenomenon. It aims to provide readers with a better understanding of the topic at hand by highlighting its essential features, elements, and factors. In this article, we will introduce the characteristics of an explanatory paper, explore its similarities and differences with other types of essays, and provide a comprehensive guide to help you write an effective and well-structured essay.

What is an explanatory essay? Understanding paper basics

Here's what you need to know first when asking, "What is an explanatory essay?" This essay, sometimes called an expository essay, is a type of academic writing that seeks to clarify, explain, and inform the reader about a specific topic or issue. The primary purpose of this essay is to present a straightforward, objective, and coherent explanation without expressing personal opinions or persuading the reader. It is often assigned to students to assess their understanding of a subject and their ability to convey information clearly and logically.

There might be some confusion regarding the distinction between writing an explanatory essay and an expository essay. While some sources may use these terms interchangeably, others might highlight subtle differences. Ultimately, following your professor's guidelines and adhering to the specific parameters they provide for the assignment is essential. By doing so, you can tailor your essay to meet the expectations and requirements set by your instructor.

Types of explanatory essays: Things you need to know

Explanatory essays come in various forms, each with its unique focus and approach to presenting the information. Understanding these types will help you choose the most suitable structure for your essay and effectively convey your message. This section will discuss six common types of explanatory essays: Definition, Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast, How-to, Classification, and Problem and Solution.

Definition essay

A Definition essay aims to provide a detailed and comprehensive explanation of a particular term or concept. It often includes a formal definition, historical context, and various perspectives or interpretations to give readers a well-rounded understanding.

Cause and effect essay

A Cause and Effect essay explores the relationship between a specific event or action and its consequences. It seeks to analyze the underlying causes of the event and its subsequent effects on individuals, groups, or society.

Compare and contrast essay

A Compare and Contrast essay, an essential aspect of explanatory essay writing, examines the similarities and differences between two or more subjects, ideas, or phenomena. It helps the reader understand the essential characteristics of each subject and highlights their unique features and distinctions.

How-to essay

A How-to or Process essay provides a step-by-step guide on performing a particular task or achieving a specific goal. It breaks down the process into manageable steps, offering clear and concise instructions to the reader.

Classification essay

A Classification essay organizes a subject or topic into different categories or groups based on specific criteria. It helps the reader understand the various aspects of the subject by examining their similarities and differences and presenting them in a logical, organized manner.

Problem and solution essay

A Problem and Solution essay identifies a pressing issue or problem and proposes a viable solution or course of action. It often includes an analysis of the causes and consequences of the problem, followed by a detailed presentation of the suggested solution and its potential benefits.

Picking explanatory essay topics to stand out

Selecting the right topic for your explanatory paper is essential in creating an engaging and informative piece. A well-chosen topic allows you to explore your subject matter in-depth, communicate your understanding effectively, and showcase your explanatory writing skills. To choose the perfect topic, consider your interests, the requirements of your assignment, and the target audience. Look for inspiration from textbooks, news articles, documentaries, or personal experiences. You can also consult a professional case study writing service if you need more guidance or assistance with your explanatory essay. A case study writing service is a service that provides custom-written essays for students who need academic help. They can help you with brainstorming, researching, outlining, writing, editing, or formatting your essay according to your specifications.

Good explanatory essay topics for everyone

Before diving into specific categories, let's explore general explanatory essay topics that can pique your interest and inspire your explanatory writing. Here are ten engaging topics to consider:

  1. The impact of social media on mental health.
  2. The history and significance of a particular cultural tradition.
  3. The role of renewable energy in combating climate change.
  4. The importance of nutrition and exercise in maintaining overall health.
  5. The process of creating a successful business plan.
  6. The benefits and challenges of online education.
  7. The influence of technology on interpersonal relationships.
  8. The factors contributing to income inequality.
  9. The development and use of artificial intelligence in daily life.
  10. The consequences of deforestation on global ecosystems.

These topics offer a starting point for your research and allow you to delve into contemporary issues, cultural phenomena, and scientific advancements.

Explanatory essay topics for high school students

High school students can benefit from choosing topics relevant to their academic curriculum or personal interests. Here are ten explanatory essay topics suitable for high school students:

  1. The role of the electoral college in the US presidential elections.
  2. The effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance.
  3. The principles of the scientific method and its applications.
  4. The impact of the industrial revolution on society.
  5. The causes and consequences of the Great Depression.
  6. The significance of a specific historical event or figure.
  7. The factors influencing teenage substance abuse.
  8. The importance of effective communication skills.
  9. The process of photosynthesis and its role in the ecosystem.
  10. The benefits and drawbacks of standardized testing.

These topics allow high school students to explore various subjects while demonstrating their analytical and writing skills.

Explanatory essay topics for college students

College-level explanatory essays often require a deeper level of analysis and understanding. Here are ten thought-provoking topics for college students:

  1. The ethical implications of genetic engineering and cloning.
  2. The role of gender in language development and communication.
  3. The impact of globalization on cultural identity.
  4. The relationship between religion and science.
  5. The factors contributing to the rise of populist movements.
  6. The significance of a specific artistic movement or style.
  7. The role of whistleblowers in promoting transparency and accountability.
  8. The influence of the gig economy on traditional employment structures.
  9. The implications of neuroscientific research on the understanding of human behavior.
  10. The role of media bias in shaping public opinion.

These topics invite college students to engage in extensive research and critical thinking, allowing them to demonstrate their understanding of complex issues and concepts.

Other catchy topics for six main explanatory essay subtypes
explanatory essay subtypes

Mastering the explanatory essay outline

An effective explanatory paper follows a clear and logical structure, which allows for a smooth flow of ideas and easy comprehension by the reader. A well-structured explanatory essay typically consists of three main parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

  • Introduction: The introduction (including your explanatory thesis) is the opening section of your essay and sets the stage for your discussion. It should include a hook to grab the reader's attention, some background information to provide context for the topic, and a clear and concise explanatory essay thesis statement that outlines the main points you will cover in the essay.
  • Body: In the explanatory essay outline, the body of the essay is where you present your main ideas, arguments, or explanations. It is usually divided into several paragraphs, each dedicated to a specific point or aspect of the topic. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that states the main idea of that section, followed by supporting details, evidence, or examples to support your claim. Ensure your arguments are organized logically and maintain a smooth transition between paragraphs to help the reader follow your thought process.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion is the final section of your essay, where you summarize the main points, restate your explanatory thesis, and bring your discussion to a close. It is essential to emphasize the significance of your findings and provide a sense of closure for the reader. Avoid introducing new ideas or arguments in this section, as it may confuse the reader and weaken your essay's overall coherence.

By following your explanatory essay format, outlining, and ensuring that each section contains the necessary elements, you can create a well-organized and compelling explanatory paper that effectively conveys your understanding of the topic and engages your reader.

How to write an explanatory essay in five steps

Writing an explanatory essay can be a straightforward process when approached systematically. This five-step guide will help you craft a well-structured and informative essay that effectively conveys your understanding of the topic.

Step 1: Choose a suitable topic

Select a topic that aligns with your interests, the assignment requirements, and the target audience. Ensure that the topic is relevant and engaging and allows for in-depth exploration.

Step 2: Conduct source research

Gather information and evidence to support your essay by conducting thorough research. Use reputable sources such as encyclopedias like Britannica,, or World Book, and dictionaries like Merriam-Webster,, or Oxford English Dictionary. Remember to keep track of your sources for citation purposes.

Step 3: Create an outline

Develop a clear and logical outline for your essay, which includes the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Organize your main points and supporting details coherently to ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs.

Step 4: Write body paragraphs

Compose the body paragraphs of your essay, dedicating each paragraph to a specific point or aspect of the topic. Begin with a topic sentence, followed by supporting details, evidence, and examples. Ensure that your arguments are well-organized and maintain a logical flow.

Step 5: revise!

Once you have completed the initial draft, it's time to revise and refine your essay. Carefully review your work to ensure that it meets the following criteria:

  • Assignment fulfillment: Does your essay address the assignment's requirements and expectations?
  • Logical organization: Are your sentences and paragraphs arranged in a coherent order?
  • Engaging introduction: Does the hook effectively capture the reader's attention?
  • Strong conclusion: Does the conclusion provide a satisfactory summary and sense of closure?
  • Proper citation: Have you accurately cited all sources used in your essay?
  • Grammar and spelling: Is your essay free of grammatical and spelling errors?

By addressing these questions and making necessary adjustments, you can ensure that your essay is polished, well-structured, and effectively conveys your understanding of the topic. Remember that revision is essential to the writing process, and refining your work will help you create a compelling and informative explanatory paper.

Final words

Now you know how to write an explanatory essay like a pro. This process involves selecting a suitable topic, conducting thorough research, creating a well-structured outline, composing engaging body paragraphs, and revising your work to ensure its quality. By following the step-by-step guide in this article, you will be well-equipped to craft a compelling and informative essay showcasing your understanding of the subject matter.

However, we understand that sometimes even the most detailed guide can fall short if a student is stressed, overwhelmed, or unprepared to write an explanatory essay. So our team of experienced professionals is ready to assist you by crafting an exceptional paper tailored to your needs and requirements. With our support, you can feel confident submitting an outstanding essay that your professor will appreciate. Let us take the burden off your shoulders so you can focus on other essential aspects of your academic journey.

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