How to Write a "Describe & Explain" Essay

Essays are a tool that allows students to express their understanding of a topic in their own words. Whether written as in-class assignments, as homework or as test questions, essays require students to demonstrate critical thinking, writing and analysis skills. Essay questions that include "describe and explain" in the instructions require students to combine aspects of both the descriptive and the expository essay genres in order to fully complete the assignment.

Generate a list of elements that describe the essay topic. Make sure the list includes broad statements that give a collective overview of the topic, as well as specific, descriptive details.

Read over the list for ideas that you can investigate and evaluate using critical thinking skills. Brainstorm on a direction for your essay by jotting down potential conclusions to draw and points to make in the expository portion. Make note of all evidence that supports the ideas and conclusions you intend to present in your essay. Circle items on the list that pertain to the developing direction of the essay and cross out items that do not.

Develop a concise thesis statement that gives a clear overview of the essay's direction and point of view.

Create an outline that delineates the essay's focus and direction. Include subheadings for each significant detail to be featured in the descriptive, introductory paragraph. Develop a logical order in which to present the significant points and the corresponding evidential support for the expository body of the essay. Include a heading for the conclusion that evaluates how the points made in the expository portion of the essay support the thesis statement.

Write a concise introductory paragraph that clearly describes the topic your essay will discuss. Include all significant details from the outline in the introduction, because they will be relevant as evidence to support the body of the essay. Incorporate the thesis statement into the end of the introduction as a transition into the essay's expository section.

Compose several expository paragraphs to make up the body of the essay. Write one paragraph for each point on the outline that evaluates and investigates the idea presented. Expound upon the significant, descriptive detail by explaining how and why it supports the presented point.

Write a conclusion that restates the idea put forth in the thesis statement and how it is supported by evidence you presented in the body of the essay. The conclusion should be a coherent summary that reviews the logical structure of the essay; do not not present any new information here.

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