100 Expository Essay Topic Ideas, Writing Tips, and Sample Essays
Explain something or answer questions like:
- What is it?
- How should we define it?
- How do you do it?
- How does it work?
- What is the history of it?
- What caused it? What are the effects?
- What is the meaning of it?
This type of essay doesn't have to be dry and uninteresting. Choose a topic you really like or know something about and make it interesting to the reader by telling unusual details or making it humorous.
Expository Essays Answer:
What is it?
How can I do it well?
What caused it to happen?
Why should it matter?
Writing Faster and Easier
Want a fast and easy essay? Follow these three easy steps:
- Choose a great topic: Scan the list of topics below, or pick something you either know a lot about or would like to learn about. Writing is always easier if you are interested in the topic.
- Pre-write: Use my pre-writing worksheet questions at the bottom of this article to help guide you through the process of gathering and organizing the information you’ll need to write your essay. It may take 30 minutes (or more if you do research), but when you are done you should be ready to write.
- Edit: Use your computer's spell and grammar check program, and use Grammarly, which is a free check for errors. Have at least one other person read your paper and give you advice. Finally, read your paper out loud so that you slow down as you read and notice your errors.
Write About Your College
One of the easiest topics is to write something that explains a person, place, event or organization at your University. Not only is it easy to get information, you will probably enjoy learning more about your campus or the history of your college.
- Interview other students, staff, or faculty. You can use their quotes or stories as evidence for your paper.
- Observe the place you are writing about. Sit down with a notepad or your phone and write down your sensory experiences (what you smell, hear, see, taste, and touch). You can even listen to conversations and observe people. Vividly-written details and personal experience make your expository paper stand out.
- Research by looking at past issues of your college paper or on the college website. You might also find information posted on buildings around campus, the library, or in pamphlets at the visitor's center.
- Explain the requirements of an unusual major at your school (like Aviation, Fashion Design, Astro-Physics, Japanese, or International Studies).
- What is the history of your college?
- Who are the students at your college? What is the background of most students? How are students different? What do they have in common?
- Pick a professor at your college to interview. What is their background and how did they get interested in their subject?
- What is the history of your college mascot?
- Describe in detail a statue or memorial marker on campus. Research the history of the marker and the person or event it commemorates.
- How does one join a sorority or fraternity?
- How can you stay healthy while dining on campus food?
- What's the best way to choose which college activities to be involved in as a freshman?
- How has your college has changed over the years?
- What do you need to do to get ready for a college football game (or other sport) at your school?
- Why should people attend games of a less popular sport? (Pick one you like.)
- What's the worst way to study for finals?
- How can a student survive the first few weeks of college?
- How can you be a great roommate?
- What are ways to use the local coffee house to avoid studying?
- What causes college freshmen to be depressed?
- How can you help a suicidal friend?
- What do you have to do to win a campus election?
- What should you leave at home when you go to college?
- How best to decide which college to go to?
- How to get scholarships for college.
- How can one pay for college without getting into too much debt?
- What are the best scandals or memorable events in your college's history?
- Pick a building on your campus: Describe its history and describe how the building got its name (especially if it is named after someone).
- How can a person best separate from their parents in college?
- How can someone avoid dating the wrong people in college?
How long does your expository paper need to be?
How Can You Relieve College Stress: Explains ways for college students to reduce the amount of stress they feel about school.
Write About Social Problems
- What happens to juveniles who break the law?
- What is homelessness? What causes people to be homeless?
- What is the Salvation Army? How do they help the needy? (Or choose another non-profit charity that helps the poor.)
- What are the effects on a family when a parent becomes a meth addict?
- What causes teenagers to run away?
- What is the cause of teen pregnancy?
- How does having a single parent affect children in the areas of education, hygiene, and nutrition?
- How do people without health insurance get medical treatment?
- What is it like to be an illegal alien?
- What is the history of the foster care system in the U.S.?
- What is the history of affirmative action in education? What are its effects?
- What is the process of prosecuting someone for domestic abuse or rape?
- Why do women stay with men who beat them up?
- What does "living below the poverty line" mean?
- What is the history of welfare in the U.S.?
- How do food stamps work?
- What is racism, discrimination, or affirmative action?
- What is peak oil?
- What causes some people who grow up in bad circumstances to overcome them?
- What is sociology?
- How can bullying be prevented?
- What is the effect of the closing of public libraries in the U.S.?
- What is the effect of ability grouping in a classroom?
- What happens to kids when they drop out of school?
- What effect does social media have on interpersonal relationships?
Social Problems Research Links
Good places to research social problems are government websites (which give current statistics), non-profit websites (which have information about programs to help alleviate social problems), and major news sources. Here are some places to start:
Write About Science and Technology
- What is Google Glass? How will it change the way we live our lives?
- What are nanobots? How can they be used?
- What is a black hole and why are they important?
- What causes obesity?
- What is climate change?
- How is electronic music made?
- Why is there an increase in autism?
- What is an allergen? What is an allergic reaction?
- Why is there a startling increase in people with allergies and autoimmune diseases in Western countries?
- What is Alzheimer's? What happens to the brain of someone with this disease?
- How does wifi work?
- Explain the project to use DNA to store data.
- What is fusion energy? How close are scientists to making it?
- What is electric clothing?
- How has space flight spurred inventions we use every day?
- What is a 3D bioprinter and how might it change medicine?
- How does a vaccine work? How do scientists formulate the flu vaccine every year?
- What is string theory?
- How are humans searching for extraterrestrial life?
- How does the brain develop and change as we grow and age?
- Who were the Neanderthals? Did humans and Neanderthals ever mate?
- How similar are current robots to real people?
- Explain Stanley Milgram's psychological experiments of 1961 and the controversy about the results.
- What is electronic paper?
- What is bioengineering? How has bioengineering changed our lives?
Need help researching? Here are some links to good sources for accurate science and technology information, and ideas for your essay:
Write About Mental Health
- How does having a special needs child affect a family?
- What is the cause of depression and why is it rising in the United States?
- What is schizophrenia? What are the different types of this disease? Is there a cure?
- What does it mean to be OCD? How can you recognize it? How can it be overcome?
- What is a psychological disorder?
- What is cognitive behavioral therapy? Who can it help and why?
- What is the history of art therapy?
- Explain the different types of therapy done by psychiatrists.
- What’s the best way to read and understand an article in a psychology journal?
- How does one become a therapist?
- What is a psychologist? What do they do, and how are they different than psychiatrists?
- What is bibliophobia?
- What is entomophobia?
- How does acrophobia affect people?
- What is xenophobia and how can it be overcome?
- What is altruism?
- What is the rule of repricocity?
- What is heroism?
- What is experiential learning?
- How do the stages of personality develop in childhood?
- What is the bystander effect?
- What are the four explanations for why we forget things?
- What is a genius IQ score and what does it mean?
- What is a memory?
- Explain what left brain vs. right brain dominance means to most of us.
Researching mental health issues can easily be done online, but you need to be sure you get articles which are in a journal that is either published by a university or written by professional psychiatrists or psychologists. Here are some good places to start:
How To Plan Your Essay
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.
- Topic idea: ______________________________________________. (Write yours out.)
- What kind of expository essay is this? (How to? How does it work? Definition? Fact? Cause? History of?)
- List or cluster different aspects or parts of your topic.
- Circle the aspects which are most interesting to you. Cluster those.
- Do you have enough to say or too much? Do you need to narrow your topic or expand it?
- What sources can you use? Where can you find them?
- What are some things your audience would be familiar with which you can compare your topic with?
- What do they already know?
- What would they be interested in knowing?
- What kind of tone would be best for this audience? (informational, satiric, humorous, folksy, professional?)
- 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
- 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.)
- Turn your topic into a question: ___________________________________________
- Answer that question: __________________________________________________
- Make a thesis statement: _______________________________________________
- Essay map—sentence(s) which list main sub-topics: ______________________________________________________________ (These can be headers for sections of the paper.)
- 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.
- Write a brief outline for how you will structure the body of the paper.
Intro and Conclusion
- 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.
- Choose the best one(s) for your essay and explain what you will do.
Tone, Voice, and Style
- Which person will you write in for your essay? (1st “I,” 2nd “you,” or 3rd “he, she, it.”) Why?
- What sort of tone will you have? Why? (Example: serious and informative, humorous, sarcastic, enthusiastic.)