So you’re watching a movie with your younger sibling, and after it gets over, your confused sibling asks, “I didn’t understand. What was the movie about?”

The next thing you do is break down the movie and explain it in a way that your sibling can understand.

Now imagine having to write an essay on it - that’s essentially what an explanatory essay is.

Original: SourceSuddenly, when it’s an assignment, it doesn’t seem fun anymore, does it?

Don’t worry - in this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about writing explanatory essays and how you can submit a well-written one that will help you get the highest grades.

What is an Explanatory Essay

An explanatory (also known as expository) essay requires you to describe and explain a particular point of view, incident, event, or situation.

Unlike the other kinds of essays, such as argumentative and persuasive, explanatory essays are more about presenting information, facts, statistics, and examples to explain the situation rather than taking a side and persuading the readers to agree with your opinion.

Students must evaluate the situation and present a clear, logical explanation of what transpired while keeping a neutral standpoint.

The purpose of such essays is to encourage students to pay attention to the details, consider factual observations, analyze and write with utmost clarity.

6 Types of Explanatory Essays

These are the six types of explanatory essays you will come across in school and college.


In this type of essay, you are required to explain, expand and define a complicated concept to your readers in a more straightforward, and easier-to-understand way.

Furthermore, through the introduction, you should explain the concept and give your personal take on what you understood of the topic.

Following the introduction is the body paragraph in which you write a detailed and well-researched analysis of the assigned topic. These points are then finally summarized in the conclusion.

Some examples of definition essay questions include:

  1. What is contemporary music?
  2. Explain the concept of sleep paralysis.
  3. What is your definition of a superhero?

Cause and effect

This type of essay revolves around a situation that was caused which eventually had some kind of an effect. You have to cover basic questions like “what was the reason for this cause” and “what are the outcomes or repercussions of this.”

There are two ways you can approach this type of essay:

  • Chain Pattern: which indicates explaining each cause with its effect one after the other;
  • Block Pattern: in which the first paragraph is devoted to all the causes, and the second paragraph talks about all the effects that came after.

Some examples of cause-and-effect essay questions include:

  1. Cause and Effect of Smoking in Individuals.
  2. Cause and Effect of Homelessness in the World.
  3. Cause and Effect of Social Media Addiction.

Compare and contrast

In this type of essay, your purpose is to identify and lay out the similarities and/or differences between two ideas, phenomenons, situations, things, people, or even a period of time.

Majority of the time, the two subjects that are being compared or contrasted fall under a broad category. For example, if you are writing an essay about high school and college, you can find similarities and differences in the way of teaching, the grading system, the campus, the curriculum, the activities, etc.

Like the cause and effect essay, this type is also approached in the chain and block pattern.

Some examples of compare and contrast essays include:

  1. Facebook vs. Instagram: Better for Business?
  2. American English vs. British English: Know the Difference.
  3. Labrador Retriever vs. Golden Retriever: Which Breed is Best?


This type of explanatory essay is a prevalent one. In this, you are required to explain the entire procedure and the correct steps of making or doing something. This is why most of the topics for this type of essay start with a “how-to”.

The purpose of writing “how-to” essays is to provide the readers with necessary steps in such a way that it makes it easier for the readers to follow them correctly and systematically, without causing any mistakes.

Some examples of how-to essay questions include:

  1. How to Rent an Apartment in New York.
  2. How to Apply for a Permanent Residency Visa.
  3. How to Start an Entrepreneurial Business and Succeed.


In this type of essay, you will be given a broad topic from which you must sort out points into different groups or sections accurately.

In other words, arrange objects, scenarios, and people with the same characteristics into different categories and further explain your reasoning of why you segregated it this way.

Using examples and references for each category will help bring quality to your essay and authority to your writing.

Some examples of classification essay questions include:

  1. What is the most dangerous type of driver you find on the road: Drunk, Distracted, or Speeding?
  2. What is the best type of portable electronic device: Smartphones, Laptops, or Tablets?
  3. What is the best type of American music: Blues, Jazz, or Hip-Hop?

Problem and solution

In this type of essay, there is a problem or an issue that is being raised through the topic given by your professor, and your job is to figure out the best way to solve the problem.

This can be done by looking at the problem from different angles and scenarios and brainstorming to find the correct solution that suits all the attributes.

Some examples of problem and solution essay questions:

  1. The Growing Concern of Animal Abuse.
  2. Lack of Clean Water in India.
  3. Bribery Being Considered a Normal Practice.

How to Structure an Explanatory Essay

Creating an outline is the first step to writing an excellent explanatory essay. Here’s what the structure comprises.


The introduction of explanatory essays is the first and most crucial paragraph that your professors will read, and based on how good of an introduction it is, they will be instigated to continue reading the rest of the essay.

Your introduction needs to be strong and exciting enough to grab the attention of your professors.

The introduction covers the first two paragraphs of the essay, which also includes the thesis statement. In this, you need to give a brief description of the topic and essential points that your professor will come across while reading the explanatory essay.


The middle and central portion of your paper consisting of 3 paragraphs, is the body of your explanatory essay.

Through the body paragraphs, you can describe and expand the given topic in detail and use references, data, and other supporting evidence to back up the claims you made and the facts you added to the essay.

In this body paragraph, you can use relevant images, infographics, examples, theories, quotes, etc., to detail the contents of the essay further and make it a more exciting read.


Lastly, we have the conclusion paragraph, which summarizes all the crucial points made in the essay, as well as your (the writer’s) views on this specific topic.

This paragraph is equally as crucial as the introduction.

This is because, when your professors read your conclusion paragraph, they will have a summarized understanding of the entire essay and will be left with a positive lasting impression of your writing and the content you chose to include to draft the essay.

8 Steps to Start a High-Scoring Explanatory Essay

Writing explanatory essays are like educating people about a particular concept. The best ones are those that engage the reader and leave them with everything they need to know about the topic.

Original: SourceWhether they choose to agree or disagree is secondary - what matters is having the complete information.

Now that you know what is an explanatory essay, its purpose, and the various types, let’s take a look at the steps involved in writing a winning essay and scoring the best grades.

Pick a Neutral Topic

One of the most critical aspects of writing an explanatory essay is having a neutral point of view.

Many students don’t realize the difference between explaining and persuading. An explanatory essay needs you to describe/explain instead of taking sides and persuading the reader.

Hence, it’s imperative to pick a topic that’s non-controversial and which allows you to be neutral. So, brainstorm and make a list of topics that interest you. Then, narrow them down and look at them with an ‘expository’ lens and evaluate the scope to explain it in detail.

Conduct Research and Gather Evidence

What is an explanatory essay without proper and in-depth research?

Give yourself ample time to look into credible and reputable sources to do research and gather evidence that can be used to validate your arguments while writing the essay.

From facts and quotes to statistical data, survey results, and examples - lookout for any kind of factual, anecdotal, or logical evidence that can be used in the paper.

Here's an explainer video by Raynor Memorial Libraries, offering practical advice on how you can conduct research for your explanatory essay

Outline your Ideas

After all the extensive research, you will be left with a whole lot of information and data. Don’t make the mistake of diving right into the writing stage.

Take a moment to organize your thoughts and outline your ideas to avoid getting overwhelmed and, worse, leaving out important points.

Writing a five-paragraph explanatory essay generally means devoting one paragraph to the introduction and conclusion and three paragraphs to the body.

Creating an outline is just jotting down the points you plan to include in the introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs. This rough outline serves as a skeleton and ensures your paper follows a logical flow.

Regardless of how stressed and pressed you are for time, don’t miss out on this step.

Craft a Strong Thesis Statement

The importance of a strong thesis statement cannot be emphasized enough - it forms the backbone of every essay.

The thesis statement is essentially two to three sentences that appear at the end of the introductory paragraph. They need to clearly communicate what the rest of your essay is about and make the reader want to know more.

Remember - an effective thesis statement is concise, debatable, and supportable. Make sure you’re able to justify it in the succeeding paragraphs.

If you find yourself spending too much time wondering “how to write the thesis statement” and developing it, work on a rough version and come back to refine it after you’re done writing the entire paper.

Start with an Enticing Hook

“How do I start an explanatory essay” you may wonder.

The key is to grab the reader’s attention by starting with an enticing hook. A hook may be a rhetorical question, a quote, a startling statistic, a funny anecdote, an interesting fact, a metaphor, or anything else that would reel the readers in and pique their interest.

The hook is the first one or two sentences of the essay, after which you need to go on to give background information that will offer context on the topic.

Lastly, end the introductory paragraph with a strong thesis statement you crafted earlier.

Validate your Arguments with Facts and Examples

Now comes the meat of your explanatory essay and the most time-consuming section - the body paragraphs.

It’s advisable to devote one paragraph to each idea wherein you state the main opinion, offer evidence, and smoothly transition to the following picture.

Speaking of evidence, here’s where your research efforts need to pay off. Make sure you offer enough evidence to justify your arguments and back your claims up. This will only strengthen the paper and your writing.

Feel free to use charts, graphs, and illustrations, if necessary.

Wondering how to use and apply evidence in your explanatory essay?

Here’s a video of Ariel Bissett offering some valuable tips

The reader needs to see a logical connection between the main ideas you’re stating and the thesis statement - so make sure you’re able to correlate each of them back to the statement made.

Stay within the word count because it’s easy to get carried away while writing this section.

Wrap up with a Strong Conclusion

“How do I end my explanatory essay” is a valid question to have because, like it or not - the concluding paragraph has the highest recall value, and your instructor is most likely to remember your writing basis this section.

So, if you think you can summarize the thesis statement, you’re mistaken.

An ideal conclusion needs to reinstate the thesis statement while touching upon the main ideas and evidence you highlighted in the essay.

Once you’ve wrapped up the critical points, leave the reader with a powerful call to action that makes them think and effectively puts across the point you set out to make.

Edit and Proofread

After days of hard work, you ought to set aside time to edit and proofread the essay. You don’t want to submit a paper filled with silly mistakes and let all your efforts go down the drain.

So, make sure you read the essay multiple times and watch out for grammatical and spelling errors, and see that your paper covers all the points and flows in a logical manner. It’s also essential to use the correct transition words to make for a smooth reading experience.

To avoid any unintentional plagiarism, you must accurately cite all the sources you have referred to in the paper in the required style (MLA, APA, Harvard, etc.).


An explanatory essay is a typical assignment, but that doesn’t make it easy to tackle. It’s important to stay true to the rules of writing an explanatory essay and remember the core purpose, explaining or describing a concept, situation, event, etc., and not sharing your opinion or stance.

If you’re still worried about how to go about it, we at Writers Per Hour can help you out. Our professional writers are experts at explanatory essay writing and can offer you the assistance you need to score well.

All you need to do is write to us saying, “I need help with my explanatory essay,” and we will get the best-suited writer on the job to deliver a high-quality explanatory essay written from scratch.

Last edit at Dec 23 2022

Stefani Holloway

Written by

Stefani Holloway

Stefani is a professional writer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She primarily contributes articles about careers, leadership, business, and writing. Her educational background in family science and journalism has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. She especially enjoys preparing resumes for individuals who are changing careers.

View all my posts
Enjoy reading?Write for our blog
Stefani Holloway

Written by

Stefani Holloway

Stefani is a professional writer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She primarily contributes articles about careers, leadership, business, and writing. Her educational background in family science and journalism has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. She especially enjoys preparing resumes for individuals who are changing careers.

View all my posts
Enjoy reading?Write for our blog