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Choosing an Expository Essay Topic

Good expository writing is a dying breed. The point of practicing this type of writing skill is to hone in on your analytical and descriptive abilities. The craft of writing well means being able to process information and to articulate it to an audience. Mastering the expository essay will help your thought process, reading comprehension, and daily analytical skills, which will be a lifelong tool both inside and outside of work.

Tap into your interests

If you get to pick your own topic, then consider yourself in luck. Think about how your interests can be synthesized into a concise format using factual material. One rule of thumb for all writers is to write about what you know. If art is what you know, choose an engaging angle like why art education is important for kids, or the contribution of the Impressionists. Remember, it should be based on facts, and it is better to elaborate on a narrow topic than to try to fit, say, the entire history of sports into a few pages.

Simplify, simplify, simplify: Choose a topic that you can handle

When choosing a topic on your own, consider what the page and time requirements are. Once you have decided on something that interests you, then think about how you can manage it. Basic research on the topic in advance is helpful. When choosing from a prompt, often the best way to go is with the topic closest to home, like a personal exposition about the values of teamwork.

Describe, explain, analyze: Using your skills

Whether you are picking your own topic or choosing a prompt, there are three things to keep in mind when picking your topic: describe, explain, analyze. You must be able to do at least one of these things well. Choose your topic based on your interests and by what you can do best.

Essays generally fall into these three categories:

  • Descriptive: You could be asked to describe a process or action, like the consequences of drug use or how you would change the world.
  • Explanatory: Some essays will ask you to explain, for instance, your career path, studies, or a social phenomenon such as teen drinking. An essay prompt about a historical event will want you to describe and explain the occurrence.
  •  Analysis: Analytical essays will ask you to delve into an idea, event, literature, or piece of art.

Start by selecting a topic you know will be manageable and will use your strengths.

Choose the best format for your ideas

One way to choose what to write about or which prompt to pick is to think about how you can structure it. Structure is half the battle in writing an effective essay. If you can't put your thoughts into a structure, first pick a structure that will work with your ideas. Some ways to design an essay are through techniques like compare and contrast, cause and effect relationship, definining the topic, or the straightforward five paragraph essay.

Make choosing an expository essay topic a cinch with these criteria. Start with what interests you most, what you know best, or with what will work in the assigned essay format. Choose something that can be described, explained, or analyzed concisely. Review past work and reflect on your strengths as a writer, and use them to showcase your talents.