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Good Explanatory Essay Topics

After you have a topic idea, what's next? You have to develop information that you will put into your essay and decide on your audience and purpose. Then you will need to decide the point of view, tone, and style of writing you will use. Sound confusing? Don't worry. Just answer the following questions to get ready to write. You can open up a word processing program, copy these questions, and then answer them, or do it the old-fashioned way with paper and pen.

  1. Topic idea: ______________________________________________. (Write yours out.)
  2. What kind of expository essay is this? (How to? How does it work? Definition? Fact? Cause? History of?)

Gathering Ideas:

  1. List or cluster different aspects or parts of your topic.
  2. Circle the aspects which are most interesting to you. Cluster those.

Topic Evaluation:

  1. Do you have enough to say or too much? Do you need to narrow your topic or expand it?
  2. What sources can you use? Where can you find them?

Audience Evaluation

  1. What are some things your audience would be familiar with which you can compare your topic with?
  2. What do they already know?
  3. What would they be interested in knowing?
  4. What kind of tone would be best for this audience? (informational, satiric, humorous, folksy, professional?)
  5. Considering your audience, which point of view would be the most effective one to write in? Would it be better to write in the first person ("I" or "we"), second person ("you"), or third person (impersonal)?

Write Your Thesis

  1. Your purpose (What do you want audience to think, do, or know after reading? This will be related to what your audience doesn't know.)
  2. Turn your topic into a question: ___________________________________________
  3. Answer that question: __________________________________________________
  4. Make a thesis statement: _______________________________________________
  5. Essay map—sentence(s) which list main sub-topics: ______________________________________________________________ (These can be headers for sections of the paper.)

Essay Organization

  1. Which sort of organization would work best for you? Examples: chronological (in time), spatial (in space and time), process (step-by-step), topical (part-by-part), cause/effect, historical overview, comparison and contrast, or reverse expectations.
  2. Write a brief outline for how you will structure the body of the paper.

Intro and Conclusion

  1. Which of these introduction and conclusion ideas could you use? Reverse expectation, expectation fulfilled, scenario (imagined typical story, also called a case study), personal story, frame story, vivid description, conversation, definition, comparison and contrast, analogy, startling statistic or fact, quotation, story from book or movie.
  2. Choose the best one(s) for your essay and explain what you will do.

Tone, Voice, and Style

  1. Which person will you write in for your essay? (1st “I,” 2nd “you,” or 3rd “he, she, it.”) Why?
  2. What sort of tone will you have? Why? (Example: serious and informative, humorous, sarcastic, enthusiastic.)
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