The Expository Essay, Part 1: Planning the Essay
Lesson 3: Prewriting and Research Planning
When you choose a topic, you should choose a topic about which you know some things. You certainly do not need to be an expert on the topic, but you should at least be familiar with it. Again, the expository essay is all about explanation, so if you do not know the first thing about your topic, then it will be very difficult for you to explain aspects of the topic to others. In this lesson, we will examine methods for assessing what you already know about a topic and what you need to know in order to explain the topic to others.
Assessing What You Already Know
Before you can begin to determine what you need to know to create a research plan and to collect materials, you need to establish what you already know. Establishing what you already know about the topic is another good way to narrow the scope of the project. You may find that you know a good deal about the general, larger topic, but when you begin to establish what you know, you find that a smaller, more specific area is where you are most interested. For example, if you are interested in horse care, then you might begin listing out a number of aspects of routine horse care. Then you may find that your concern actually lies in the area of hoof care, specifically prevention of infection and disease. Therefore, you establish what you already know about the topic and the areas where you have some amateur knowledge. Once this is accomplished, you will move on to consulting a credible source.
Determining What You Need to Know: Creating a Research Plan
Once you have determined what you know, then you can begin to work on an outline of your paper. You know that you will need to have an introductory paragraph, at least three body paragraphs, and a conclusion to your essay. Therefore, you will want to think about which of the forms you would like your essay to take: cause/effect, problem/solution, or sequential:
· Cause/effect: You will want to establish three or so body paragraphs about the effects of a particular cause. Your thesis statement will argue for the existence of these effects from this cause.
· Problem/solution: Similar to the cause/effect essay in structure. However, this essay would call for establishing at least three body paragraphs that offer (1) three solutions to a problem or (2) three aspects of one solution to a problem. The thesis statement would forward this solution(s) to the problem.
· Sequential: This essay would look at the progression of a particular problem. The thesis statement would argue for this progression rather than an alternative timeline.
Now that you have established a plan of execution by sketching out a tentative outline of your essay, you can begin to think about what kinds of information you will need in order to support your claims. You will need to include the voices of other authors to add credibility and authority to your text. This can only be done through research and proper citation.
1. You certainly do not need to be an expert on the topic you choose, but you should at least be familiar with it.
2. Before you can begin to determine what you need to know to create a research plan and to collect materials, you need to establish what you already know.
3. Establishing what you already know about the topic is another good way to narrow the scope of the project.
4. Determining the form of your expository essay (whether cause/effect, problem/solution, or sequential) will aid you in writing an outline for it.