History is always written by the victor; however, any topic, event or situation still has multiple viewpoints to it, depending on the angle of approach. It is rather hard to sway some ideology or way of thinking. So the most one can do, is present an argument using statistics, logic, and evidence to showcase their idea as valid. This is what the explanatory essay is all about.
What Is an Explanatory Essay
An explanatory essay is a type of writing in which the author presents some point of view on a certain topic, event or situation. This view does not necessarily have to be one that the writer agrees with, but it must have some research and logic to make it feasible.
Explanatory essays show other people’s views or give reports of a certain event or situation. These are common in majors like history or journalism, where students explore facts and real situations, giving unbiased explanations based on facts and evidence.
Usually, as an author you will decide upon a set topic; then you will approach the issue from a specific angle. This angle is typically complicated, giving it room for discussion. At this point, you must present a point of view of your choice that sufficiently explains why a certain outcome was reached.
A mistake that many writers make comes from the belief that they are defending one side of an argument in a debate or criticizing some perspective.
Rather, explanatory writing is all about presenting a neutral point of view on the set topic by providing analysis from research and logically created self-theory. The overall goal is to clear up any confusion and present a lucid explanation as to why things happened the way they did. After finishing the essay, the reader should have a clear understanding of your idea, even if they disagree with it.
Explanatory Essay Topics
Usually, explanatory essay topics are pre-assigned to students. For example, a student can be asked to outline the events that led to World War II, or explain how computers work.
If you are told to pick a topic by yourself, remember that explanatory essays are unbiased and based on facts. Therefore, it is recommended to pick a neutral and non-controversial topic which you can explain thoroughly. The more controversial the topic, the more points of view you’ll explore in your essay, making it more complicated.
Almost any topic, event or idea can be described through an explanatory essay; here are a couple of explanatory essay topics to get you started:
- What were the key causes of the American Civil War?
From slavery to states rights and the aggravating feeling of power loss, this has been a question yet to be adequately answered.
- How does depression affect the development of young children and teenagers?
Depression affects many people in various ways. From physical changes in diet to mental jumps in the form of mood swings, this topic still has much to uncover.
- How has the overall development of technology impacted schools?
Although technology has significantly simplified lives for the entire world, has it brought with it a sen of laziness and reliance. Can it be considered as an addictive drug?
- What positive and negative impacts have come from social media in today’s society?
Social media has turned everybody into a keyboard warrior nowadays. It does allow people to spread their thoughts and ideas freely, but what about the negative repercussions?
How to Start an Explanatory Essay. Pre-Writing Steps
Before getting into the writing process of an explanatory paper, you must not forget to do proper research and data collection. This essay relies heavily on solid research and data. Make sure to note down all the important information from your sources and use it as evidence in your essay.
Remember, the point of view being presented must be a combination of personal ideas and external information — only then your thoughts properly validated. So research your topic and find multiple sources that defend your thoughts.
- Pick a neutral topic which you’d like to explain thoroughly.
- Find your sources; look to online journals like Google Scholar, or JSTOR. Or find relevant books in your college library to use as primary sources.
- Prepare your research, write down relevant facts or quotes. Don’t forget to keep track of the sources as you’d have to cite them later.
- Organize your research into a paper outline, with an introduction, three main body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- Review material and begin writing.
After collecting the required information, the next and most important step is to create an explanatory thesis. This statement lays down a concise version of your overall point of view about the topic. In other words, you are explaining what you will be showing to your audience. Remember, you are not arguing or criticizing, just merely stating facts.
A good thesis statement fully encapsulates everything you will say in your essay.
Steven Spielberg’s 1993 masterpiece Schindler’s List provides a vivid and horrifying insight into concentration camps during World War II, while musing on the conflict of good and evil, and showing how courage and selfless actions can have a gigantic impact on the lives of helpless people.
A bad thesis statement fails to present the topics of discussion of your essay as such:
Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is a film about the holocaust, depicting the experience of Oskar Schindler and how he saved thousands of Jewish people from a horrible fate.
Note that the good thesis statement shows that the themes of discussion are not only the plot of the movie. There are themes of good and evil, courage and selflessness, and how one man can change the world. The bad thesis statement, merely explains what happens in the movie.
After both steps have been taken care of, it is time to define an explanation essay structure by creating an outline.
Explanatory Essay Outline
The outline of an explanatory essay will vary based on the length of the topic and the information you are trying to present. However, based on the explanatory essay format, most essays tend to be a page or two in length, so the overall essay will be around 5 paragraphs long.
The introduction will present the subject of discussion to the reader and the explanatory thesis. The body paragraphs will then follow, backing up the thesis statement with facts, logic, statistics, etc. Lastly, the conclusion will summarize the main points of your essay and should present an overall concluding statement. Now, let’s break down each section into more detail.
Explanatory Essay Introduction
The explanatory essay introduction is made up of three main components: a hook, background information and a thesis statement. It serves as a gateway for the actual content of the essay. First of all, just like with most types of essays, get the reader interested in the topic by presenting a hook statement. This can be an interesting fact, relevant quote, or anything that would captivate the audience’s attention.
Afterward, offer any necessary background information that may not seem like general knowledge. This will help paint a clear picture for the reader to follow. Lastly, add the explanatory thesis at the end to fixate the focus of your essay. This should eliminate any confusion about what will be discussed in the body.
The Body Paragraphs
Most likely, unless the topic is very in-depth, the body should contain three paragraphs, each with their point of approach. However, the general style of each body paragraph is identical. First of all, present a topic sentence that precisely explains what information you will be introducing. At the same time, this sentence should smoothly transition the writing from the previous point to the next.
Afterward, present a position or claim that directly supports the thesis. It’s important to make sure that the connection is evident, so the audience can easily connect the dots. Then, present the evidence found from the research you have done. This will validate your claim and enforce your position. Lastly, present a concluding statement that summarizes the significance of the claim in regards to the thesis statement. Follow this systematic approach three times for each one of your claims to complete your body.
Explanatory Essay Conclusion
When writing the conclusion, three main components are crucial to properly finishing an explanatory essay. First of all, restate your thesis statement. This will bring the audience’s attention back to the main focal point as well as add strength to your presented point of view.
Next, make sure to summarize your three supporting points presented in the body paragraphs accordingly. It’s essential to restate the significance of each one concisely. This will show you that you have logically and correctly defended your explanatory thesis, increasing the strength of your overall writing.
Last but not least, offer an overall concluding statement. This should explain the value of the specific point of view chosen from a global perspective. Leave your readers with a call to action, instinctively captivating them to study the subject further on. Once you have done that, you are almost finished with your explanatory essay.
Overall, your explanatory essay outline is going to look like this:
- An attention grabber; a hook.
- Background information, presenting all sides of the argument.
- Thesis statement.
Body (Three paragraphs)
- Identify the first argument with a topic sentence.
- Provide evidence for this topic sentence using your sources.
- Explain the evidence; connect it to your argument.
- Conclude each paragraph by solidifying your argument and explaining why it’s important.
- Use the conclusion to flow into the next paragraph.
- Restate the thesis statement.
- Sum up all the arguments and topic sentences of your essay.
- Wrap the essay up with a conclusion and leave the audience with a final impression.
Polishing It Up
Before confidently submitting in your final work, make sure to take a couple of proactive steps to tie the knot around your essay.
Check the Clarity
Since the primary goal of an explanatory essay is to elucidate a topic or event, you want to ensure that your explanatory writing clearly explains and simplifies the comprehension level for the reader. The last thing you want is for your audience to be confused after reading the essay, questioning the overall point you were trying to make.
Reread and Edit
The worst thing a writer can offer is pesky grammatical and word usage mistakes that kill the eloquence of the text. Reread the essay several times and make sure it runs smoothly like a Sunday morning creek.
Get a Second Pair of Eyes
Just because your writing may make sense to you, does not mean that Bob down the street will understand it. Have friends, acquaintances or teachers read over your essay to give it some final touch-ups and adjustments.