Expository Paragraphs

Prove your Point with Details

Thus far this semester, the paragraphs we have been writing have had a structure to them but each of them somewhat different based on their content and of course, the context we are writing in. Now we will turn our attention to a mor "formal-type" of academic writing which is very useful in writing papers and exams at the university: the expository paragraph.

As we have seen, descriptive paragraphs describe something (by giving a series of details) and narratives tell a story (by describing a series of events). The details and events used in these paragraphs are intended to directly support the controlling idea of the paragraph. Expository paragraphs are similar because they too require detail to support their controlling ideas. Expository paragraphs often explain or analyze ideas or theories. An expository paragraph is therefore more analytically structured than series like. A topic sentence is often supported by more than one idea that is then supported even more by details.

The writer's objective is to "prove" his/her position regarding the topic. You as the writer are like a lawyer trying to convince the jury of your stand point. Without enough support and detail, no one will believe you! The following example illustrates this:

Adventure camping is good for families.

This topic sentence has a strong controlling idea because certainly not everyone would agree with this statement. It is therefore debatable and needs to be proven in what way or ways camping (topic) is good for families (controlling idea). This topic sentence does not suggest a description of a campsite or a story about one family's adventure at Yellow Stone National Park but rather statements proving that camping is beneficial for families. Two general statements that might support this are that camping enables families to 1) spend much time together and 2) experience nature together. These two statements (called support) give good reasons to believe that camping would be good for families. In normal conversations, this is probably enough proof. Going into more detail might bore your listeners. But written academic writing looks at this differently! In this case details are necessary to prove each of the main supports. The paragraph might then read:

Adventure camping is good for families. First of all, families have no choice but to spend much time together. They are dependent on each other for solving all of the new tasks. Everyone is needed for setting up camp. Not just the mother is involved in cooking. Many people are needed for gathering firewood and for making a fire. Putting up the tent and laying out the equipment requires a lot of teamwork. Without any distractions such as the telephone, Internet, TV, or DVD games to occupy the children, they are able to concentrate on what has to be done to survive. Camping also gives families a chance to experience nature together. During the day when they go hiking or swimming they are all busy exploring and conquering the new terrain together. Looking at the starlit sky at night and listening to the sounds of the forest are very exciting and relaxing. They have the opportunity to talk about the world around them that gets forgotten in a busy city or tourist stomping ground and to discuss the wonders of nature. When the families arrive home they will have a new found closeness that has been awakened by time spent together in a peaceful natural surrounding.

The details about TV, campfires, hikes, swimming, watching the stars, and wonders of nature all help to prove the general support that families that go camping have more time together and can experience nature together, which in turn is good for the family.

Here is another short expository paragraph by a fellow student.

School Uniforms

School uniforms are good for the development of children. First of all, everyone is dressed unified. So no one has "better" clothes than others and no one can threaten others only because of their clothes. In many schools ganging up on others because of what they are wearing is already normal and uniforms are a way to protect the children from such acts. School uniforms also keep everyone from having to buy expensive brands of clothes to be part of the society, which relieves especially the parents and takes the pressure of being "cool" away from the children. School uniforms also helps to put off children being overly concerned about keeping up with the latest fashions. This gives young children more time to concentrate on more important developmental things. Of course, there are also critics, who say that school uniforms make the children lose their own individuality but in general it is possible to say, that school uniforms have a good influence on most children.

For this week your assignment is to choose a topic and controlling idea, which you can support, making use of details for each support. Here are some suggested topics to choose from:

  1. The Internet is helpful for learning;
  2. Design can change the way we look at the world;
  3. Reading is good for the soul;
  4. An experience I had changed my outlook on life;
  5. Being good at English is important for my career;
  6. Free choice.

Try to pick a topic that interests you so that you can enjoy your writing!
And last but not least, here is a dictionary a student found and recommended:

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