How to Analyze Expository Writing
An expository text is a type of writing that is used to explain, inform or describe. Categories of expository writing include description, process, comparison, cause and effect and problem and solution essays. Whether writing or analyzing expository writing, the key factors to include are the thesis statement, support, overall structure and tone.
One important aspect of expository writing is the thesis statement: one or two sentences that sum up the main point of the entire essay. A reader should be able to identify this statement clearly, and usually somewhere in the first paragraph. The Purdue Online Writing Lab notes that a thesis statement should be specific and cover exactly what the writer will discuss throughout the essay. For example, in an expository essay an effective thesis statement can be: "The life of a typical American teenager is characterized by time spent socializing, browsing the internet, and attending school."
Organization and structure is a crucial aspect of expository analysis. A reader can evaluate whether the text has a clear introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, and whether the transitions between different paragraphs and points are logical and fluid. The Purdue University Writing Lab notes that "without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument." A good test for measuring clear structure is to try to create an outline from the expository essay, noting the sequence of major and minor ideas presented in the text. If this is easy to do, then the text has a clear structure.
Every part of expository writing should support the thesis statement. In addition to evaluating an essay's analysis and explanation, a reader can gauge whether the specific evidence is relevant to the topic. Specific examples are details that can be factual, statistical, textual or anecdotal and they must directly corroborate the preceding reflection and interpretation provided by the author. If the evidence provided does not directly reinforce the essay's main idea, then it weakens the overall text and should be changed or removed.
In addition to evaluating how well a writer knows and explains a topic in expository writing, a reader can examine the author's tone. The tone is the author's attitude toward the subject or the audience and can be determined by word choice, imagery, emphasis and style. A writer's tone can help a reader determine how objective or biased the author may be in relation to the subject being discussed. Examples of tone include optimistic, concerned, aggressive, pessimistic and cynical.
Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.