Expository Research Paper Mla

How to Write an Expository Paper

Professors like to assign an expository paper because it’s a good way to challenge students on how to perform in-depth research and demonstrate their understanding of a specific topic. It’s likely that you will be required to write this type of paper at least once, if not several times while you’re in school. Here is an overview of what an expository paper is and the key elements necessary so you can write a paper that meets your professors’ expectations.

The Definition

The word “expository” is based on the word “expound” which means to “clarify the meaning of and discourse in a learned way, usually in writing.”

An expository paper explains by exposing and conveying information about something that may be difficult to understand. It informs by giving a complete, fair, interesting and relevant explanation about a topic in detail. It does not use criticism, argument or any form of development of the subject. It simply demonstrates all the relevant facts without giving any point of view from the writer. The first person, “I”, is not used in an expository paper.

Getting Started

The steps to writing this paper are similar to writing any other winning term paper. You must first define your audience. Who are you addressing? Why do they need to know this information? What information is relevant to them? When you have identified the answers to these questions, you can go on to do your research.

Find a credible source that clearly states the facts. Make sure you understand the ideas and underlying values contained in the work that underpin the writer’s thesis. Then go on to use the work of other equivalent sources to put the ideas into a larger context.

When you write your paper, make sure you communicate your explanation clearly, analyzing the parts fully in proper sequence so your audience follows how you arrived at your conclusions.

The Basic Structure

There are different developmental styles you can choose from for writing expository papers that each has its own pattern, depending on the subject matter. They should all start with an introductory paragraph and your thesis statement. The rest of your paper should follow the pattern for the style of expository paper that you are writing.

The patterns include:

Description – Describe your topic by listing characteristics, features and examples, using cue words such as “like” and “such as”, for example.

Sequence – List items and events in numerical or chronological order. Use cue words such as “first”, “second”, “third”, “next”, “then”, and “finally”.

Comparison – Explain how two things are alike or different using cue words such as “alike”, “same as”, “on the other hand”, “different”, and “in contrast”.

Cause and Effect – List one or more causes and resulting effect or effects, using cue words such as “a result”, “therefore”, “because”, and “reasons why”.

Problem and Solution – State a problem and list one or more solutions to the problem or pose a question and then give answers to it. Cue words for this pattern include “problem is”, “dilemma is”, and “puzzle is solved”.

Finally, your concluding paragraph should reflect back to your opening paragraph and reinforce your thesis statement.

Proper Formatting

As you explain your topic, you will cite references from other works to provide a complete argument. Be sure to cite your sources accurately using the most up to date version of the APA or MLA formatting guidelines. This will help your readers refer to the sources you provide. If your professor specifically assigns MLA formatting for your paper, you will need to follow the guidelines for creating a bibliography, too. If you do not adhere to these guidelines, you will make it difficult for your readers to verify your supporting evidence, which will cost you points.

David Plaut

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
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Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

Every student has to write an expository essay at least once in their educational career. These are actually fairly simple essays to write, but they do require some serious research skills. Like most academic essays, the expository essay requires formal writing with an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Tips for Writing a Kick-Butt Essay

Want to really impress your professor? Here are a few ways you can turn an ordinary essay into something that will blow their socks off.

Focus on the Thesis

Your thesis is the central point of the entire essay, so if it’s amazing, you’re off to a great start. Begin with this and make sure you decide on something that is impressive to kick off the essay.

Listen to the Assignment

Your professor may give you hints on what they’re looking for. If you just write down the basics of the assignment, you could miss out on some key points. For example, your professor may hint at a preferred topic or give tips that could result in a higher score. Write it all down and then analyze what is wanted before you write.


Long before you actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to write the essay, you need to complete the pre-writing phase. This is where you do research and outline your essay. You’ll be amazed at how much better your writing is when you have these basic elements in place first. If you need help with these basic elements consider using an Expository Essay Template.

Explain, Don’t Argue

If you’re not careful, an expository essay can turn into a persuasive or argumentative essay. Focus on explaining the topic, rather than convincing people of something about it.

Revise and Edit, Revise and Edit

Going over the essay once to edit and polish isn’t really enough. If you’re tight on time, such as when writing an essay for an exam, just once will do. However, if you have time, it’s a good idea to edit immediately, then let the essay sit overnight or even longer. When you come back, you won’t be as close to the writing and can look at it more objectively.

Choosing the Right Topic

Topics for an expository essay vary widely, but ideally, you should select something you’re interested in writing about. Topics can answer a question such as “How can we prevent bullying in school?” or they can describe something like a historical building in your area. Other interesting topics to inspire you include:

  • How does technology affect our relationships?
  • How to treat a burn
  • What are the must-haves for a freshman in college?
  • How to handle anxiety attacks naturally
  • How to train your dog to stop barking on command
  • Research the history of a monument in your area
  • Why roller skating is a great exercise

As you can see, there’s no limit to the types of topics you can choose for your essay and it really comes down to what the professor assigns you and what you enjoy writing about. How narrow your topic is will also depend on how much you plan to write. An entire history of the Civil War won’t fit into two page, for example, so you’ll need to narrow it down to a specific battle or element of the Civil War.

Writing an expository essay can actually be a fun experience if you approach it the right way. When you enjoy the topic and are interested in it, your essay will show that and will stand out from those written out of boredom.

Finally, if you’re ever facing writer’s block for your college paper, consider WriteWell Essay Templates to help you get started.

Referred to any sources in your work? Cite them in your paper in MLA format, APA format, and other styles with EasyBib citation tools!

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