Without knowing it, students often need to write an expository essay for quizzes, standardized tests, or general writing assignments for a course of study.
This type of writing assignment includes any articles, essays, or reports meant to inform its readers about a subject that they have little to no previous knowledge of. Sometimes referred to as “nonfiction,” expository writing is written by journalists, writers, scientists, and other professionals who need to explain their thoughts in detail.
Simply put, an expository essay is designed to be an informative journey for the reader – supported with facts and evidence rather than new opinions, arguments, or anecdotes.
The hardest part about writing an expository essay for many students isn’t so much the content as it is settling on a topic they feel comfortable writing about.
Fortunately, this guide will cover 120 expository essay topics along with helpful tips for writing an expository essay that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.
What Types of Expository Essays Can Be Written?
To write what is considered an expository essay, students must ensure that their content does one or more of the following:
- Presents cause and effect reasoning
- Discusses an issue
- Groups items together for a compare and contrast
- Explains, defines, or classifies a topic
If the essay you are writing starts to argue a particular point of view, tell a descriptive narrative, or otherwise move away from explaining or describing, then you are no longer writing an expository essay.
How Long Should an Expository Essay Be?
Since this is an informative type of writing, the length can vary widely depending on what needs to be explained. However, many teachers expect their students to follow a standard structure of at least five paragraphs for the essay, including:
- An introduction paragraph
- Three body paragraphs
- A conclusion paragraph
Depending on the assignment parameters set by your instructor, you may need to write more than three body paragraphs to meet the word or page count of the topic.
How Do I Write an Expository Essay?
Writing an expository essay is actually pretty easy if you first make an outline that covers each section you want to include with supporting details or facts to validate your topic.
With a detailed outline, you can then begin to write your essay, starting with the introduction. The introduction of an expository essay should include:
- An engaging hook or topic sentence that brings the reader into the main idea of the essay. This can be as simple as, “Did you know that elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump?” or “Do you know how sharks find their prey?”
- A brief explanation of the topic and why readers need to learn about it. For example, if your topic is elephants, you might say something like, “Today, I’m going to discuss the fact that these large mammals can’t jump. While this seems odd at first glance, there are some cool and unique aspects of their anatomy and locomotion that prohibit them from doing so.”
- The final sentence of the introduction should be your thesis statement. This sentence will detail the central point you want to make throughout the entirety of your expository essay. For example, continuing with the elephant topic, “In this paper, I will show why elephants can’t jump through a detailed anatomical explanation.”
Once your intro is concluded, it’s time to move on to writing your body paragraphs. These paragraphs will be the bulk of your essay and should include one key point or fact about your topic that supports the thesis statement of your introductory paragraph.
For example, if you decide to write about the anatomy and locomotion of elephants in order to explain why they can’t jump, your first body paragraph could begin:
“Most animals have some form of anatomical feature that allows them to bend and propel themselves forward. Mammals like dogs, cats, and horses can do this by contracting their muscles in a specific sequence, but elephants don’t follow this pattern.”
The following two body paragraphs could be dedicated to either continuing your explanation about the elephant’s lack of an anatomical feature, or you could move on to discuss another reason why elephants can’t jump.
However, you choose to structure your main points, be sure to organize each one based on relevance and importance, with the final body paragraph containing the most essential fact the reader should take away with them.
Don’t forget to use transition words between paragraphs in the final sentence to create better readability and flow from one thought to the next. These words include:
- Another reason is that
When you are ready to conclude your expository essay, simply summarize your main points, along with your thesis, and tie everything together with a final sentence to leave your readers with a lasting impression.
120 Expository Essay Topics
If you have been assigned an expository essay but don’t know what to write about, consider using these excellent topic suggestions.
Expository Essay Topics About Fine Art and Music
- Explain how a painting or piece of music reflects a major theme in human life.
- Discuss how fine art and music reflect the culture they were created in.
- How does the artist communicate his message to the viewer?
- Discuss different techniques artists use to create art.
- Compare and contrast various artists’ styles.
- Why is listening to music universal across all cultures?
- What are some works of art considered masterpieces?
- What are the main principles in color theory?
- Explain how color theory or color symbolism is applied in fine art or music.
- Define and discuss the characteristics of Impressionism.
- How does a painting achieve its mood or tone?
- What famous paintings or pieces of music use symbolism?
- How can techniques like symbolism and foreshadowing be used in fine art?
- What is the difference between modernism, postmodernism, and realism?
- Define what Impressionism is and explain how it is used in art.
- Explain the relationship between music and its cultural context.
- What are some famous musical works of art?
- How do different cultures interpret music differently?
- What makes a piece of music important to the world?
Expository Essay Topics About Social Issues
- Define the term microaggression, and explain how they are harmful in society.
- What are some examples of racism in the media today?
- What is the difference between overt, covert, and institutionalized racism?
- Compare and contrast hate crimes vs. hate speech.
- What steps can be taken to end bullying in schools?
- Explore the argument that obesity is a moral and social responsibility problem.
- What are some examples of sexual discrimination in the workplace?
- What steps can be taken to solve the issue of gender pay gaps?
- Compare and contrast affirmative action vs. de jure policies.
- Investigate immigration laws, and explain how it has shaped current views?
- What are some examples of gender stereotypes in the workforce?
- How do microaggressions affect marginalized groups?
- What limits gun control mandates?
- Explain the importance of identity politics.
- What are some examples of racism in the media today?
- How do different speakers’ voices convey ideas to the audience?
- How does hate speech lead to hate crimes?
- Why is it essential to understand hate crimes vs. hate speech?
- Analyze what causes obesity and how it can be prevented.
Expository Essay Topics About English & Literature
- Define the term extended metaphor, and explain where it can be found in literature.
- What are the defining features of modernism?
- Which poets are considered modernists, and why?
- What poems do scholars consider the best examples of modernism?
- Compare and contrast the sonnet traditions in England to that of France.
- How does dramatic form reflect society’s changing views?
- Analyze the role of the chorus in classical Greek theater.
- What are some famous examples of traditional English folk ballads?
- How does William Shakespeare use meter, rhyme, and iambic pentameter?
- Explain how William Shakespeare’s sonnets form their argument.
- What are some famous examples of Elizabethan drama?
- What are the common themes in William Blake’s poetry?
- How is free verse used in modernist poems?
- Explain how ambiguity works to create an atmosphere, tone, or mood.
- Define what symbolism is and discuss its role in literature.
- What are some famous examples of metaphysical poetry?
- What are the main elements to know about sonnets?
- Explain how free verse poetry is different from traditional forms.
- What are some examples of dramatic form reflecting society’s changing views?
- How does William Blake use symbolism in his poetry?
- What are the common themes in William Blake’s works?
Expository Essay Topics About Math & Science
- Define and explain the term algorithm.
- What are some examples of formal writing in mathematics?
- What is an example of a geometric proof that is found in geometry textbooks?
- How can algorithms be used to determine factors for numbers?
- Explain what recursion is and how it works in computer science.
- What are some common assumptions made about the topics in mathematics?
- What are some examples of rhetoric used in mathematical arguments?
- How do different cultures influence a person’s views on math and science?
- How do ideas from philosophy help shape scientific theories?
- Investigate how literature can be related to science.
- Define what it means when something is axiomatic, and discuss its use?
- What are some standard rhetorical devices used in mathematical proofs?
- Compare and contrast how different cultures view math and science.
- How can algorithms be used to determine factors for numbers?
- Define the main principles of astrophysics and how they are applied today?
- Explain how rockets return from space.
- Define the term mammal and explain its significance in the animal kingdom.
- Provide a detailed analysis of why elephants can’t jump.
- Where do elephants fit in the animal kingdom?
- What are some examples of non-mammals, and what is their significance?
- What can be said about elephants’ offspring?
- Why do elephants have large ears compared to other mammals, such as mice?
Expository Essay Topics About History
- What caused the War of 1812?
- What was the central conflict of World War I?
- Which groups were most affected by the Great Depression?
- Analyze how different cultures contributed to the development of the Olmecs.
- What are some examples of propaganda used in history?
- Describe what it means for an event to be considered a turning point.
- How does the Treaty of Versailles relate to the causes of World War II?
- Analyze the main ideas of Marxism, and explain how it relates to Karl Marx.
- What are some examples of cultural diffusion?
- Why was Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor considered an act of war?
- How does nationalism contribute to the causes of World War I?
- What was the central conflict of World War II?
- What were the causes of the Cold War?
- Why did the Berlin Wall fall?
- What started the Vietnam War?
- What was the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War?
- How did John F. Kennedy influence American politics and culture in his time?
- Explain why communism is a threat to capitalism and how it relates to Karl Marx.
Expository Essay Topics About Technology
- How do algorithms work with computers?
- What are the main principles of robotics?
- Analyze how technology has changed society from a historical perspective.
- Describe why emojis were created and their significance.
- Why was the Internet invented, and who benefits from it today?
- What are the earliest forms of technology?
- How do circuit boards work to control the inner components of computers?
- What is a wearable device, and what are its benefits?
- Is digitizing books beneficial for society today?
Expository Essay Topics About Religion & Philosophy
- Define relativism and its significance.
- How do different philosophical views of life impact society?
- Why is relativism considered a threat to ethical reasoning?
- What are some common assumptions made about the topics in philosophy?
- What is an example of rhetoric used in philosophical arguments?
- Define existentialism. How does it relate to philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre?
- What are some standard rhetorical devices used in philosophical proofs?
- Explain why existentialist philosophers disliked the idea of religion.
- What are the main principles of existentialism?
- Is religion a threat to science? Why or why not?
- How does viewing life as an objective fact impact society today?
- What is God’s role according to Kierkegaard’s philosophy of existentialism?
Any of these topics are sure to give you the inspiration needed to write a compelling and informative expository essay in no time!