How to Write an Explanation Essay

Explanatory, otherwise known as expository, writing presents a particular viewpoint or reports a certain event or situation. It explains the viewpoint or situation in detail and attempts to clarify any confusing or difficult to interpret facts. Rather than criticism or argument, analysis is the main goal evident in an explanatory essay. This analysis can be achieved by comparison, contrast, definition or example. This type of essay is commonly assigned as a classroom evaluation tool.

Introduction and Clear Thesis

The introduction of your essay should describe the problem, event or issue as clearly as possible. Be straightforward. State your thesis clearly and concisely. Make sure that your thesis is appropriate for the guidelines of the assignment. Since the thesis statement drives the rest of the paper, it is important that it can be easily supported with facts. Thesis statements for expository or explanatory essays should not take a position or voice an opinion. For example, "Charles Kettering's invention of the electric engine starter changed the landscape of American automobile travel."

Body Paragraphs and Support

Supporting paragraphs should address the thesis statement. Each paragraph should include only one general idea or supporting detail. This helps the essay remain clear and ensures greater readability for your audience. Before beginning your supporting paragraphs, ensure you have proper sources that will enable you to contribute sufficient evidence to back up your claim. In the Charles Kettering example, details such as the increase in sales realized by General Motors after utilizing Kettering's starter would be appropriate to include in a body paragraph.


Although explanatory essays by nature must stick to the facts, creativity cannot be underestimated. You want your reader to remember your essay. Try to find little-known or particularly interesting facts to help support your thesis. This will ensure that you will leave a lasting impression on your audience. For example, in the Kettering example, it might be interesting to note that sales of cars to women increased dramatically after the electric self-starter was implemented.


The conclusion of your essay must be effective and logical. No new information should be introduced at this point. Synthesize all of the information and evidence you have used throughout the course of your essay. A main thread should emerge as you analyze the information you have presented thus far. That main thread will be your conclusion, which should reinforce your thesis.