How to Write an Essay Explaining a Concept
If you've been asked to write an essay explaining a concept, the most important task you face is deciding what to write about. You'll be spending several hours working on your essay, so make sure you've chosen something you know a lot about and enjoy. If you like your topic, the rest of the writing process will go more smoothly and you might find that you actually enjoy writing your essay!
Analyze your audience
Think about the audience for whom you’re writing. What do they already know about the concept you wish to explain? How interested are they in this concept? Does your audience consider you a credible authority on this concept? Take time to answer these questions before you begin your essay so you target your writing to your audience.
Now that you’ve analyzed your audience, you’re ready to begin prewriting. First, list all the things you know about your concept. Once you have this list, choose the three or four points that will best help your audience understand the concept you’re explaining. These points will eventually become topic sentences for your main points. Next, write down relevant details that fall under each of your main points. You might be able to pull details from the larger list you made earlier. These details will eventually become explanations and examples supporting your main points.
You can now begin drafting your essay. Your essay should include an introduction, your main points, and a conclusion. Your introduction should grab the reader’s interest, establish your credibility, and let the reader know why this is an important concept. Your supporting paragraphs should each begin with a topic sentence addressing the main point, followed by explanations and examples of the main point. Make sure to transition from one paragraph to the next so that your readers know what's coming. Your conclusion should sum up your main points and answer any lingering questions. The length of each of these items varies with your assignment. Shorter essays will have an introduction of one paragraph, then one paragraph for each main point, followed by a conclusion paragraph. Longer essays can double or even triple this count, with multiple paragraphs for each main idea.
Revise and Edit
After you've written your essay, put it away for a day or two. Then go back through and revise it. If you've been given specific guidelines for your essay, check to make sure you've met them. If not, re-read your essay and mark anything that needs changing. Make sure you've explained any terms that might be unfamiliar to your audience, and that you've adequately explained your concept. After making big changes, you can go back and do some line edits for grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Rochelle Spears Wilson holds a MA in professional writing and a BA in English. She was a classroom teacher for nine years and taught English, social studies and technology. She has worked with students in grades 4-12 and now owns her own consulting business.