Various Definitions Of An Expository Essay

An expository essay is a writing assignment that is typically assigned in English, History, Philosophy, Rhetoric, Communications, or related classes. Since it is a type of assignment that appears in several different departments, the term “expository essay” can take on a variety of fairly similar, yet distinct meanings. In each class, the expectations in place for an expository essay are slightly unique and bear exploration. Below is an overview of the various meanings of the term “expository essay”.


In English classes, the point of an expository essay is to generate a persuasive argument and provide evidence for the argument in a clear, well-written way. The essay has the following sections: introduction, thesis, three arguments, and a conclusion. The writing style and the organization of the essay is paramount.


In History classes, expository essays serve to make a point about the meaning of a particular historical event. The most important goal is to demonstrate that you have adequate knowledge of the historical era and its people, events, and locations. The structure is similar to English: introduction, central argument, three pieces of evidence, and a brief conclusion.

Rhetoric and Philosophy

In Rhetoric classes, the point of the expository essay is to convey the writer’s ability to marshall arguments in support of a claim. Logic and the sensible use of language are the most important elements, and make up the bulk of what the essay will be evaluated on. The structure is as follows: introduction, thesis statement, three to five complex arguments, and a lengthy conclusion that restates the arguments.

In Rhetoric and Philosophy, language style is less important than the precise and accurate use of language. Multiple kinds of arguments must be made, using several different logical rationales in support of them. The paper itself may be a little dry or dull, but it should be impeccable in its logic. The argument itself should be supported by the reasoning of the writer rather than the explicit evidence that is cited.


In a Communications class, the point of the expository essay is for the writer to demonstrate that they know how to communicate in a way that is compelling and actually persuasive. Unlike in Philosophy or Rhetoric, it is less important that the writer be correct; instead, it matters more that they are making a claim and supporting it in a way that will interest the reader and persuade them. Writing quality is accordingly very important. The language should be accessible, brief, and easy to understand. The structure of an expository essay in Communications classes is as follows: anecdote or example, brief introduction, thesis statement, brief arguments (up to three), brief evidence (up to three), and a strong, powerful, amusing conclusion.

The goal of all expository essays is to form an argument and support it using evidence and logic. However, there are some differences from field to field.

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