Expository Essay Genre With Suggested Prompts

Sample Expository Essay Topics

Students working on expository essay.
Writing expository essays can be done for all disciplines. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Chris Ryan/Taxi/Getty Images

The expository essay is the genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and make a statement concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. Generally, expository essays do not require a great deal of outside research, but they do require that a student has background knowledge of a topic.

The expository essay generally begins with a hook to get the reader's attention:

  • A question or inquiry statement to draw the reader in,
  • A quote related to the topic,
  • An amazing fact that is unique or special,
  • A statistic or fact related to the topic (a number, percent, ratio),
  • An anecdote that illustrates the topic. 

The thesis of the expository essay should be based on factual information that will be presented in the body of the essay. The thesis should be clear and concise; it generally comes at the end of the introductory paragraph. 

The expository essay may use different text structures to organize the evidence. It may use:

  • A sequence that follows a timeline or order to give readers a chronological of events or a list of steps in a procedure,
  • A comparison and contrast to show the similarities and differences between two or more people or things,
  • A description to give the reader a mental picture,
  • An example or illustration, 
  • An example of cause and effect or the relationship between an event or concept and the events or concept that follows.

    An expository essay may integrate more than one text structure. For example, one body paragraph may use the text structure of description of evidence and the following paragraph may use the text structure of comparing the evidence.

    The conclusion of the expository essay is more than a restating of the thesis.

    The conclusion should elaborate or amplify the thesis and give the reader something to ponder. The conclusion responds to the reader's question, "So what?"

    Student selected topics:

    Expository essay topics may be selected by a student as inquiry. The expository essay may ask for an opinion. Several of the following prompts are examples of inquiries that could be posed by a student:

    • Popular films that feature superheroes cover a wide range of interests and themes, including history, human relationships, or social issues.
    • One object from the twenty-first century to place in a time capsule (student choice or results of a poll) in order to help others understand our contemporary culture.
    • Video games have changed dramatically since the 1980s for several reasons.
    • Friendship plays an important role in personal development.
    • Investment in education results in both personal and societal rewards.
    • Loyalty is an important part of family culture.
    • The Internet is the most important invention of all time.
    •  If I had the chance to talk to a famous person dead or alive, I would choose (student choice) n order to talk about (topic relevant to student choice).
    • The news media shapes our society by influencing how people feel and act.
    • Adversity is what helps us overcome our weaknesses.
    • Creativity and originality are at the base of success.
    • Objects around the home can define us.
    • Do you agree or disagree with the saying, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing"?
    • Living in small towns can be very different from living in big cities.
    • Participation in after-school extracurricular activities is often more memorable than sitting in class.
    • My favorite book from childhood is (student choice)  because (quality of book related to student choice).
    • How is public education an important right?
    • We can tell a lie with silence as well as with words. 
    • Is it better for a leader to be loved or to be feared?
    • Describe your favorite place to reflect and think. 
    • Is learning a foreign language necessary in our global world?
    • What is your plan in the event of a disaster?
    • What is a serious public health concern that does not get enough funding?
    • Are movie and/or TV rating systems effective or useful?
    • Is it a good use of funds to build a space station on the moon or Mars? 

    Standardized test topics:

    Many standardized tests require students to write expository essays. There is a procedure for answering these types of prompts which is usually included in the question.

    The following topics are expository prompts that are used in the Florida Writes Assessment. The steps are provided for each.

    Music essay topic

    1. Many people listen to music on as they travel, work and play.
    2. Think about the ways music affects you.
    3. Now explain how music affects your life.

    Geography essay topic

    1. Many families move from one place to another.
    2. Think about the effects moving has upon teenagers.
    3. Now explain the effects moving from place to place has on teenagers.

    Health essay topic

    1. For some people, TV and junk foods seem as addictive as drugs and alcohol because they may feel at loss without them.
    2. Think about the things you and your friends do almost every day that could be considered addictive.
    3. Now describe some of the things all teenagers seem to need on a daily basis.

    Leadership essay topic

    1. Every country has heroes and heroines. They may be political, religious or military leaders, but they serve as moral leaders by whose examples we can follow in our quest to live lives of excellence.
    2. Think about someone you know who shows moral leadership.
    3. Now explain why this person should be regarded a moral leader.

      Languages essay topic

      1. When studying a foreign language, students often become aware of differences in the ways people in various countries think about values, manners, and relationships.
      2. Think about some of the differences in ways people in (town or country) think and behave differently than here in  (town or country).
      3. Now describe some of the differences in the ways people think and behave in (town or country)compared to the ways they think and behave in (town or country).

      Math essay topic

      1. A friend has asked your advice about which math course would be most helpful in everyday life.
      2. Think about the times you have actually used mathematics you have learned in school in your daily life and decide which course had the most practical value.
      3. Now explain to your friend how a particular math course will be of practical assistance to him.

      Science essay topic

      1. Your friend in Arizona just emailed you asking if he can visit you in South Florida to try out his new surfboard. You don't want to hurt his feelings when you tell him that South Florida does not have big waves, so you decide to explain the reason.
      2. Think about what you have learned about wave action.
      3. Now explain why South Florida does not have high waves.

      Social studies essay topic

      1. People communicate with a variety of signals such as facial expressions, voice inflection, body postures in addition to the words. Sometimes the messages being sent seem contradictory.
      2. Think about a time when someone seemed to be sending a contradictory message.
      3. Now explain how people can send conflicting messages.