Explanatory Essay Outline & Writing Guide for a Perfect Piece

Writing an explanatory essay can be considered to be quite similar to writing a descriptive essay. The major difference is that, instead of outrightly describing, the writer is tasked with the responsibility of explaining a particular topic or situation from their perspective.

Most college students, especially those offering courses relating to history or journalism, are often required to write explanatory essays. While this might be easy for some, other students find the explanatory essay format a bit difficult. This article will attempt to provide tips and hints on how to write an explanatory essay.

Explanatory essay definition

Questions such as, “How many paragraphs in an explanatory essay?” are often asked by students.

To put it simply, an explanatory essay is a type of essay where the writer explains a certain theme, idea, or event. Unfortunately, many students make the mistake of writing an argument and defending or condemning a perspective that differs from theirs. This often leads to biased opinions and thoughts, which defeat the entire purpose of an explanatory essay.

Below are some explanatory essay topics to assist you in understanding the concept of this essay type:

  • What would you consider to be the major reasons behind the Nigerian civil war?
  • Explain the consequences of depression on the mental health of children under 18.
  • How has technology benefited the education sector?
  • What are the negatives of social media?

Explanatory essay outline

A normal explanatory essay is five-paragraph long, consisting of an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Although this is the ‘typical’ length, it is not limited to this length. Depending on the complexity of the topic, it may exceed the 5-paragraph count.

  1. Introduction

Before writing your introduction, there are certain important tips to implement. These tips include: doing solid research, choosing a neutral topic, and finding your hook statement.

Great explanatory essay ideas often start by doing solid research to identify reliable sources. You could use the materials available in your school library and combine those resources with those gotten online. Remember to keep a record of your sources so you can cite them afterward.

Picking a neutral topic allows you to simplify your workload. You can provide a simple, yet logical explanation for any neutral topic you select. Your objective is to explain, not to defend or condemn, but to simply state facts.

Finding your hook can be done easily by either starting your introduction with a quotation, an interesting sentence that relates to the topic, a question, or an anecdote. Your hook should be compelling and interesting enough to capture the attention of your reader.

  1. Body

Whether you choose to write a five-paragraph essay or not, your body paragraphs must all be accurately organized and connected for easy comprehension. Your body paragraphs should contain a claim each, that is related to your thesis statement.

Seeing that the aim of your essay is to offer an in-depth and comprehensive explanation, it is necessary that you provide factual proof of your explanation. To do this, students are often advised to back up their explanations with proof from their sources.

  1. Conclusion

A conclusion should comprise three things: a thesis restatement, a summary of the major points mentioned in your body, and a final concluding sentence that encourages your readers to explore the topic deeper.


The objective of an explanatory essay is not to argue, but to offer logical explanations which are backed up by reliable and substantial evidence. Your explanation should be accurate and devoid of confusion. You should seek to provide details as to why something occurred in the way that it did. In the concluding part of your essay, your reader should be able to gain clarity on the theme, regardless of whether they agree with you or not. The above guide will assist you in the proper structuring of your explanatory essays.

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