An informative essay (also, expository, or explanatory essay) is a genre of essay with a primary goal to educate the audience on its subject. Unlike a persuasive essay, an informative essay must not include any opinions or argue any points. It must be as objective as possible, restricted to only stating facts. Usually, it answers one of the “5Ws and the H” questions: What, Where, When, Who, Why, and How. For example, this text educates you on writing an informative essay and answers the question “how”.
This is as straightforward an essay as can be, so it makes a great template to demonstrate how to write essays in general. This type of essay is introduced as early as the 3rd grade of elementary school. In the 4th grade, the format is revisited with additional difficulty (word count, topic complexity). Another iteration in the 5th grade demands more research, and by middle school, pupils usually have basic writing skills to try other essay formats. Informative essays of varying lengths and complexity keep popping up in the curriculum throughout K12 and well into the college.
Steps to Writing an Informative Essay
While writing an informative essay, you are filling the shoes of an expert and you assume your audience’s ignorance on the subject. An informative essay should be written in a formal academic style, in a third person – just as a coursebook would be. Some rare exceptions include public speeches, where you may use personal pronouns and allude to your experiences to make the informative speech more engaging for the live audience.
Step 1. Choosing a topic
Since you are going to be an expert explaining your topic to the readers, it would be nice to have a head start. That is why you should go for a topic you are already competent in. For example, if you own a pet, you can choose one of the following topics: “How to care for a cat/dog”, “What are the signs that your pet needs to see a vet?” and the like. If this approach is inapplicable, try to choose a topic you are interested in, at least. This way you will do your research with more enthusiasm and inhabiting the role of an expert will come easier to you.
Step 2. Researching
Even if you already have some prior knowledge on the subject, research will help you to structure it, fill in any blanks, and put your knowledge in a wider context. This is a mandatory step, so go online, to the library, or to the bookcase and try to find as much information on the topic as you can.
Step 3. Coming up with a thesis
You don’t argue and don’t try to prove or disprove any point in an informative essay. However, to be coherent, it still needs a focal point, so you will have to write a thesis – a central statement you will elaborate on in your essay.
Step 4. Outlining
Unfortunately, many students see this step as redundant and prefer to skip it to save time. This is, however, a mistake. Outlining your essay allows you to plan and structure your essay. An outline gives you an idea of how much time writing each of the essay’s parts will take. It also prevents you from many mistakes, such as rambling, underestimating the scope of the essay, making one part of it too long or rushing through it too quickly.
Step 5. Writing
Write your essay based on your outline, section by section – but not necessarily in linear order. For example, you can write the main body of your essay first, and then write a detailed introduction and conclusion.
Step 6. Editing and proofreading
Read your essay several times before submitting it. First time concentrate on the informative side of your essay: have you included everything your reader needs to know? The second time, focus on the flow of your essay: does read smoothly, does it drag or seem rushed at any point? If you can, you may read it aloud to a friend or a family member and ask for their opinion. Lastly, read it through for grammar and spelling.
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How to Write an Informative Essay Outline
The outline for your informative essay depends on its scope and word count, but as an example, let’s follow a 5-paragraph essay pattern:
- Body paragraph 1
- Body paragraph 2
- Body paragraph 3
For the introduction, you will need a thesis statement – a bare minimum for the outline. The “what” of your essay, the focal point that decides its scope. As a rule, you want to narrow down on the initial idea to fit everything in a 5-paragraph essay.
For the body, decide on three main ideas you want to explore and make them topical for each of your body paragraphs. Then, for each of the main ideas, come up with three additional points about them. For example, for our topic about caring for a cat, we can focus on:
- - food
- - drink
- - supplements
Grooming and hygiene:
- - Daily routines
- - Weekly routines
- - Infrequent procedures
- - Routine procedures you do at home
- - Regular vet checkups
- - Sings of emergency
For the conclusion, you will have to recap all the main points and provide a digestible takeaway for your readers that answers the main question from the thesis statement.
How to Write an Informative Essay Introduction
A good introduction paragraph for an informative essay should include a thesis statement and some background information leading up to it and tying it up with things your readers already know. Remember, you assume your audience’s ignorance on the topic, so you might want to provide some context. For example, for our cat essay, a lead-up to thesis statement may look like this:
“Cats are small carnivorous mammals that were domesticated almost 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. Now they are one of the most popular pets in the world, along with dogs and fish. Currently, there are 95 million pet cats living in United States households.”
If you want to make it a bit more engaging, you can write a hook sentence to catch the attention of your reader and pull them in, to make them want to read further. In the informative essay, you are rather limited in your choice, because you must stay objective and to the point. However, you can start with an interesting fact or a bit of statistics. For example, in our case these tidbits will make a good hook: “There are about 600 million domestic cats in the world, which is twice the population of the United States” or “People have always been fascinated with cats. Before being recognized as the most meme-able creatures on the internet, cats were worshipped as deities and hunted as demons.”
How to Write a Thesis Statement for an Informative Essay
As a rule, an essay thesis statement is a claim you set out to argue and prove to be true. However, in the informative essay, you not as much prove, as explore your theses and expand on it – remember, that your goal is to inform the audience. Therefore, the key aspect is to make your thesis statement fit the scope of your essay.
For instance, for our “How to care for a cat” example, a thesis statement could look like this: “Cats are relatively low-maintenance pets, but as any living creature they require regular care. Here are the things you need to do to keep your domestic cat healthy and content.” It accurately describes what the reader will find in the essay and doesn’t make a promise on which you won’t be able to deliver (for example, “Here is everything we know about cats!”)
How to Write a Conclusion for an Informative Essay
Since this is an informative essay and your goal is to educate your audience on the subject of your essay, you might be tempted to pack additional facts into the conclusion paragraph. However, a good conclusion should never give any new information. It should summarize everything you have already said and tie it in together with the thesis.
What it can do instead is to show how this knowledge might benefit your audience, indicate areas where further research is needed, or encourage them to seek more information on the subject. For example: “Each animal is unique, and sometimes it takes more than one year to understand your pet’s individual needs, but these are the basics of care that every responsible pet owner should master”.
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