Organizing The Expository Essay

What are you doing surfing the net and reading blog posts, when you should be writing? Procrastinating again, huh?

Well that’s okay. I can’t blame you—writing an expository essay can be frustrating. It doesn’t have to be that difficult, though; all you need is a gentle push in the right direction. That’s what I’m here for—hold on while I put on my Kibin superhero cape.

This blog post contains a tutorial of how to write an expository essay outline. I’ve included some helpful imagery, advice, and a downloadable outline template for your convenience.

But Wait? What’s an Expository Essay?

That’s a great question. Sadly, the answer is probably a bit more vague than you want it to be. An expository essay is a catch-all category that describes any essay where you thoroughly expose the inner workings of a topic and teach the reader something new.

In fact, this blog post could be considered an informal expository essay.

Usually, your teacher will ask you to write an expository essay to prove that you have done your research on a subject. Your goal is to effectively explain what a reader needs to know about the topic and answer relevant and interesting questions.

For the purpose of this blog post, let’s say we are writing an expository essay on the evolution of Donald Trump’s hair (I grabbed this idea straight from Crystal’s blog post about expository writing – if you haven’t read it yet, you should hop over there now. I’ll wait).

My goal in this expository essay is to expose interesting information about the topic through the revelation of factual evidence.

To avoid the daunting stare of the blank page, and to make sure that your information is organized, always start with an outline.

Expository Essay Outline Structure

There is more than one way to pattern an expository essay, including sequential, spatial, topical, and many other patterns. Since we’re writing about the evolution of Donald Trump’s hair, we’ll use a chronological pattern that will expose how Trump’s hair has evolved over time.

Here’s how the general structure will look:

Let’s break this expository essay outline down into its parts.

Expository Essay Outline: Introductory Paragraph

1. Start with a hook sentence to get your readers’ attention. Remember, your hook should be both interesting and directly related to your topic.

My hook might be “Is billionaire Donald Trump’s spectacularly bad hair real or fake?” By posing such a salient question right off the bat, I am encouraging readers to continue reading.

Seriously, haven’t you always wondered?

2.Provide background and context for the topic.Don’t assume your readers know anything about Trump or his hair (as one of my English professors once taught me, to assume makes an ass out of u and me).

For example, “Donald Trump is an American real estate mogul and media personality. In 2012, he ran for President of the United States. Trump is currently worth 3.9 billion dollars, but aside from his business success, he is best known for his amazingly bad hair.”

3.Identify the question or thesis. Here’s where you get to the point of your essay.

My thesis might be, “This essay will reveal how Donald Trump’s hair has changed over the years, and it will answer whether his mop is the real deal or a weird wig.”

(If your expository essay takes an argumentative stance, you might want to check out these examples of argumentative thesis statements with a more serious tone.)

Expository Essay Outline: Body Paragraphs

Now that you’ve caught your readers’ attention, brought them up to speed on the basics, and laid out your thesis statement, your body paragraphs are set up to offer a deeper investigation into your topic.

The exact number of body paragraphs you incorporate will depend entirely on the parameters of your assignment and/or topic. My example includes four body paragraphs.

Each body paragraph should include the following elements:

  • A topic sentence that gives the main idea for your paragraph.
  • Factual evidence that answers your question or supports your thesis. In my example, I’ve incorporated two pieces of factual evidence for each topic, but your essay may use more or fewer.
  • Your analysis of said evidence. This is where you dig in with your commentary on the importance of the evidence.
  • A good transition sentence to weave your essay together. I’m not going to dig into transitions in this article, but you can read these posts on transition sentences and transition words.

Because we are dividing the text into a chronological pattern, each body paragraph in this expository essay outline will divide the evolution of Trump’s hair into a timeline, beginning with his youth and ending with his golden years.

It’s a hairvolution!

I. Topic 1: Trump’s Hair – childhood to 17

a. Fact 1 – Family photos show Trump as a fair-haired blonde boy with a side part

b. Fact 2 – As a child, Trump’s hair could be considered normal, even attractive. Trump’s mom, Elizabeth, said, “My Donny was such a cute kid with the prettiest head of hair I’ve ever seen.”

c. Analysis – Trump’s hair wasn’t always so weird; he started out as a normal child with a normal head of hair growing up in Queens, New York.

II. Topic 2: Trump’s Hair – young man, ages 18-30

a. Fact 1 – Military photos show that Trump’s hair was starting to exhibit some elaborate coiffing featuring a soft side sweep.

b. Fact 2 – Trump’s classmate, Fred Dunst, at the New York Military Academy said, “Trump always had the nicest, fullest head of hair. Why he started wearing it in that swoop will always be beyond me.”

c. Analysis – Trump’s hair was beginning its migration from normal to bizarre, but the transition wasn’t complete. Evidence shows that Trump has always had a penchant for outlandish dos.

III. Topic 3: Trump’s Hair – his prime, ages 31-59

a. Fact 1 – At the height of Trump’s career, his hair evolved into a poof formation beginning to resemble the hair we know today.

b. Fact 2 – Trump’s eyebrows had also begun to grow out of control–almost at the same rate as his growing assets.

c. Analysis – It’s certainly conceivable that Trump began to wear his signature hairstyle as a way to conceal the beginnings of male pattern baldness. His out-of-control eyebrows and coiffure indicate that his mind is more focused on business and less on his appearance.

IV. Topic 4: Trump’s Hair – his golden years, age 60+

a. Fact 1 – Trump’s signature side sweep has officially swept the nation. Bruce Handy for Vanity Fair writes that Trump’s hair is most likely the result of a rare and unsightly “double comb-over.”

b. Fact 2 – Trump denies allegations that his hair is a badly styled toupee in a Tweet.

c. Analysis –While many accuse Trump of fooling us all with a poorly styled wig, evidence points to the fact that his hair is the real deal. Trump recognizes that his hair is imperfect, but seems self-assured in his statement that’s it’s his–much like Trump Books, Trump Model Management, Trump Shuttle, Trump Ice, Trump Mortgage, Trump Vodka, and Trump Steaks are all his too.

Expository Essay Outline: Concluding Paragraph

Finally, it’s time to write your concluding paragraph. In this paragraph, you can do any of the following:

1. Summarize your question or thesis. “Trump’s hairvolution, much like the growth of his business empire, has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

2. Discuss the larger significance of the topic. For example, “Could bad hair be an indication of wealth? Maybe future research will compare the hair of billionaires, such as Liliane Bettencourt and Warren Buffet.”

3. Reveal unanswered questions. “While Trump’s hair definitely appears to be his own, there is still question about whether the strange, yellow color comes from a bottle. After all, shouldn’t the man be gray by now?”

Expository Essay Outline Download

If you’re in the position where you need to write an expository essay, but aren’t sure where to begin, feel free to get started with this expository essay outline template(Word .doc download).

If you need more help getting started, check out these example expository essays. Once you’ve shaped your outline into a full essay, get a Kibin editor to hunt down grammar and syntax errors before you turn it in.

Good luck!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand how and why organizational techniques help writers and readers stay focused.
  2. Assess how and when to use chronological order to organize an essay.
  3. Recognize how and when to use order of importance to organize an essay.
  4. Determine how and when to use spatial order to organize an essay.

The method of organization you choose for your essay is just as important as its content. Without a clear organizational pattern, your reader could become confused and lose interest. The way you structure your essay helps your readers draw connections between the body and the thesis, and the structure also keeps you focused as you plan and write the essay. Choosing your organizational pattern before you outline ensures that each body paragraph works to support and develop your thesis.

This section covers three ways to organize body paragraphs:

  1. Chronological order
  2. Order of importance
  3. Spatial order

When you begin to draft your essay, your ideas may seem to flow from your mind in a seemingly random manner. Your readers, who bring to the table different backgrounds, viewpoints, and ideas, need you to clearly organize these ideas in order to help process and accept them.

A solid organizational pattern gives your ideas a path that you can follow as you develop your draft. Knowing how you will organize your paragraphs allows you to better express and analyze your thoughts. Planning the structure of your essay before you choose supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and targeted research.

Chronological Order

In Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?”, you learned that chronological arrangement has the following purposes:

  • To explain the history of an event or a topic
  • To tell a story or relate an experience
  • To explain how to do or to make something
  • To explain the steps in a process

Chronological order is mostly used in expository writing, which is a form of writing that narrates, describes, informs, or explains a process. When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first, second, then, after that, later, and finally. These transition words guide you and your reader through the paper as you expand your thesis.

For example, if you are writing an essay about the history of the airline industry, you would begin with its conception and detail the essential timeline events up until present day. You would follow the chain of events using words such as first, then, next, and so on.

Writing at Work

At some point in your career you may have to file a complaint with your human resources department. Using chronological order is a useful tool in describing the events that led up to your filing the grievance. You would logically lay out the events in the order that they occurred using the key transition words. The more logical your complaint, the more likely you will be well received and helped.

Exercise 1

Choose an accomplishment you have achieved in your life. The important moment could be in sports, schooling, or extracurricular activities. On your own sheet of paper, list the steps you took to reach your goal. Try to be as specific as possible with the steps you took. Pay attention to using transition words to focus your writing.

Keep in mind that chronological order is most appropriate for the following purposes:

  • Writing essays containing heavy research
  • Writing essays with the aim of listing, explaining, or narrating
  • Writing essays that analyze literary works such as poems, plays, or books

Tip

When using chronological order, your introduction should indicate the information you will cover and in what order, and the introduction should also establish the relevance of the information. Your body paragraphs should then provide clear divisions or steps in chronology. You can divide your paragraphs by time (such as decades, wars, or other historical events) or by the same structure of the work you are examining (such as a line-by-line explication of a poem).

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that describes a process you are familiar with and can do well. Assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the procedure. Remember to use the chronological key words, such as first, second, then, and finally.

Order of Importance

Recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” that order of importance is best used for the following purposes:

  • Persuading and convincing
  • Ranking items by their importance, benefit, or significance
  • Illustrating a situation, problem, or solution

Most essays move from the least to the most important point, and the paragraphs are arranged in an effort to build the essay’s strength. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to begin with your most important supporting point, such as in an essay that contains a thesis that is highly debatable. When writing a persuasive essay, it is best to begin with the most important point because it immediately captivates your readers and compels them to continue reading.

For example, if you were supporting your thesis that homework is detrimental to the education of high school students, you would want to present your most convincing argument first, and then move on to the less important points for your case.

Some key transitional words you should use with this method of organization are most importantly, almost as importantly, just as importantly, and finally.

Writing at Work

During your career, you may be required to work on a team that devises a strategy for a specific goal of your company, such as increasing profits. When planning your strategy you should organize your steps in order of importance. This demonstrates the ability to prioritize and plan. Using the order of importance technique also shows that you can create a resolution with logical steps for accomplishing a common goal.

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.

Spatial Order

As stated in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?”, spatial order is best used for the following purposes:

  • Helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it
  • Evoking a scene using the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound)
  • Writing a descriptive essay

Spatial order means that you explain or describe objects as they are arranged around you in your space, for example in a bedroom. As the writer, you create a picture for your reader, and their perspective is the viewpoint from which you describe what is around you.

The view must move in an orderly, logical progression, giving the reader clear directional signals to follow from place to place. The key to using this method is to choose a specific starting point and then guide the reader to follow your eye as it moves in an orderly trajectory from your starting point.

Pay attention to the following student’s description of her bedroom and how she guides the reader through the viewing process, foot by foot.

Attached to my bedroom wall is a small wooden rack dangling with red and turquoise necklaces that shimmer as you enter. Just to the right of the rack is my window, framed by billowy white curtains. The peace of such an image is a stark contrast to my desk, which sits to the right of the window, layered in textbooks, crumpled papers, coffee cups, and an overflowing ashtray. Turning my head to the right, I see a set of two bare windows that frame the trees outside the glass like a 3D painting. Below the windows is an oak chest from which blankets and scarves are protruding. Against the wall opposite the billowy curtains is an antique dresser, on top of which sits a jewelry box and a few picture frames. A tall mirror attached to the dresser takes up most of the wall, which is the color of lavender.

The paragraph incorporates two objectives you have learned in this chapter: using an implied topic sentence and applying spatial order. Often in a descriptive essay, the two work together.

The following are possible transition words to include when using spatial order:

  • Just to the left or just to the right
  • Behind
  • Between
  • On the left or on the right
  • Across from
  • A little further down
  • To the south, to the east, and so on
  • A few yards away
  • Turning left or turning right

Exercise 4

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph using spatial order that describes your commute to work, school, or another location you visit often.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Key Takeaways

  • The way you organize your body paragraphs ensures you and your readers stay focused on and draw connections to, your thesis statement.
  • A strong organizational pattern allows you to articulate, analyze, and clarify your thoughts.
  • Planning the organizational structure for your essay before you begin to search for supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and directed research.
  • Chronological order is most commonly used in expository writing. It is useful for explaining the history of your subject, for telling a story, or for explaining a process.
  • Order of importance is most appropriate in a persuasion paper as well as for essays in which you rank things, people, or events by their significance.
  • Spatial order describes things as they are arranged in space and is best for helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it; it creates a dominant impression.

This is a derivative of Writing for Success by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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