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Writing Informative/Explanatory Essays

The following comes from our revised Essay Architect Writing System, which is out NOW!  Be sure to check it out!

Informative/Explanatory Essays

An Informative/Explanatory essay teaches or informs your reader about a subject. This type of essay can explain how something works, how to perform a task, the steps in a procedure, or why something is the way it is.  Ultimately, the reader should have a better understanding of the subject after reading your paper.

Key Prompt Words: explain, explore, show, detail, define, demonstrate, tell why, talk about, write why

Purpose

  • To explain, inform, teach, or clarify a topic to the reader

Important Aspects

  • Audience
    • Assume that the reader knows nothing about this topic, but don’t detail every single step in such minute detail that you bore your reader.
    • Task
      • Be sure you are clear about your goal for your essay; are you
        • identifying the parts of an object?
        • communicating the steps of a process?
        • explaining the characteristics of something?

To set up an Informative/Explanatory Essay, consider the following outlines:

  1. Introduction
  2. Part #1
  3. Part #2
  4. Part #3
  5. Conclusion
  1. Introduction
  2. Step #1
  3. Step #2
  4. Step #3
  5. Conclusion
  1. Introduction
  2. Characteristic #1
  3. Characteristic #2
  4. Characteristic #3
  5. Conclusion

Organizing Informative/Explanatory Essays

Informative/Explanatory Writing:

  1. Teaches the reader something new, or gives the reader a new way of looking at a subject
  2. Can explain how something works, how to perform a task, the steps in a procedure, or why something is the way it is.

Goal of Informative/Explanatory Writing:

To examine or clarify a subject by teaching about or informing the reader of the parts, processes, or steps of a subject.

Most Important Aspects of Informative/Explanatory Writing:

  • Must strive to teach the reader something new in an interesting and well-defined manner
  • Must be able to clearly delineate the steps of the task or process, or
  • Must show a clear definition of and distinction between the parts of a subject

Beyond the Obvious

  • It is important that you go beyond the obvious to teach your reader something new, HOWEVER, you must not skip or gloss over important steps of a process—even if you think it is easy or it is obvious to you!

Example of Informative/Explanatory Prompt:

Detail the steps you would need to take in planning a great birthday party for one of your friends.

Informative/Explanatory Thesis

Remember that in an Informative/Explanatory essay, you are explaining or teaching something to your audience.  For Informative/Explanatory thesis statements, be sure to tell your audience what you are going to explain to them.

For Example:

            Topic: How to make homemade ice cream.

Informative/Explanatory Thesis:  Homemade ice cream is a delicious and refreshing treat that can be made in just a few simple steps.

Let’s test this thesis.

  1. Does this thesis offer a position or opinion?

The opinion that homemade ice cream is “delicious and refreshing” and can be made with just a few “simple” steps can be argued.  Your reader may not know how easy it is, and will read the essay to see just how “simple” it is to make homemade ice cream.  This positive opinion draws the reader in, as he/she wants to learn about this easy process.

  1. Is the topic of the essay mentioned?

It is important to remember that the goal is to explain how to do something, and the thesis mentions that the reader will learn how to make ice cream.

Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis.  If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:

With just a simple homemade ice cream machine, a few ingredients, and some patience, making delicious and refreshing homemade ice cream is a snap.

Some effective bridges, or transition words, to use when writing an Informative/Explanatory essay are those that indicate a succession or process:

about
after
afterward
afterwards
as soon as
at
at least
at the same time
at the time
before
before long
during
earlier
finally
first
for example
for instance
immediately
in fact
in support of this
last
later
meanwhile
next
second
simultaneously
since
soon
subsequently
then
thereafter
third
till
until
when
while

Please note: This material is Copyright 2012 Secondary Solutions.  No part of this article/post may be reproduced, transmitted, translated or stored, in any form, including digitally or electronically, without the express written permission of Secondary Solutions.

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One Response to Writing Informative/Explanatory Essays

  1. Josh says:

    Just my two cents: it’s misleading to tell students that “Ice cream is delicious” is an example of a good thesis. This is more of a preference than an opinion. A thesis is “an opinion that can be supported and with which a reasonable person can disagree”, so while “Ice cream is good” is definitely a viable preference and while someone could reasonably disagree, it’s not the sort of thesis that they would encounter in college or while taking a written exam. I differentiate such statements as “Focal Points” or “Preference Statements”. It’s nitpicking, to be sure, but it’s useful down the road when I start talking to students about why “This poem uses metaphors to describe hope” and “This poem wasn’t very good” aren’t exactly the sorts of thesis statements they should be creating.

    Just my .02.

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