What Do You Put in a Expository Summary?

An expository summary is a form of writing that seeks to explain and summarize something, such as a body of research or a work of literature. It is most commonly used in a college classroom. The key to the expository essay is to not only summarize the work, but also add something extra to the essay that expands upon it.

Summary Basics

Expository summaries must include all the main ideas in the work being summarized. The summary cannot include all the details of the story, which would be a reproduction of the story and take up too much space. The essay must demonstrate that the writer fully understands the material that is being summarized. The summary must not only tell readers information that is in the text, but also help the munderstand the text so they do not have to read it themselves.

Expanded Elements

Students must evaluate the material they are summarizing in some way and then expand on the idea for the expository party of the expository summary. They must make an argument related to the idea contained in the summarized material, expanding on the idea using compare and contrast, example, definition, cause and effect or other methods. Bringing the expository and summary essay together, the essay helps the reader fully understand the summarized source material before the writer proceeds to build upon the ideas and form an argument.


The expository essay must have a thesis statement that makes an argument about a particular issue related to the summarized information. The thesis must be clear and brief, usually limited to one sentence. It must be followed by evidence that supports it. Often, the essay must have a documentation style, where the student includes details on where he received his sources, with a reference page placed at the end of the essay. In-text citations are placed at the end of the sentences in the body, where the information is mentioned. These citations include features that point readers to the specific sources the writer got her information from, such as the author’s name and the page number the information was found.


The introduction, including the thesis, is usually one paragraph. Besides including the thesis, the introduction gives the reader information needed to understand the rest of the essay, including the source being summarized and often the author.


The expository essay must contain clear and logical transitions between different points in the essay. The transitions are sentences that connect two different thoughts together so the reader can see the essay as cohesive.


The conclusion of the expository essay reexamines the thesis in light of the information provided to the reader. If the evidence is sufficient, the reader should have a different attitude toward the thesis. Instead of introducing new information, the conclusion should bring previously stated information together and form a final series of logical thoughts.

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