Factual Essay Definition Sample

Every essay or assignment you write must begin with an introduction. It might be helpful to think of the introduction as an inverted pyramid. In such a pyramid, you begin by presenting a broad introduction to the topic and end by making a more focused point about that topic in your thesis statement. The introduction has three essential parts, each of which serves a particular purpose.

  1. The first part is the “attention-grabber.” You need to interest your reader in your topic so that they will want to continue reading. You also want to do that in a way that is fresh and original. For example, although it may be tempting to begin your essay with a dictionary definition, this technique is stale  because it has been widely overused. Instead, you might try one of the following techniques:
    • Offer a surprising statistic that conveys something about the problem to be addressed in the paper.
    • Perhaps you can find an interesting quote that nicely sums up your argument.
    • Use rhetorical questions that place your readers in a different situation in order to get them thinking about your topic in a new way.
    • If you have a personal connection to the topic, you might use an anecdote or story to get your readers emotionally involved.
    • For example, if you were writing a paper about drunk drivers, you might begin with a compelling story about someone whose life was forever altered by a drunk driver: “At eighteen, Michelle had a lifetime of promise in front of her. Attending college on a track scholarship, she was earning good grades and making lots of friends. Then one night her life was forever altered…”
  2. From this attention grabbing opener, you would need to move to the next part of the introduction, in which you offer some relevant background on the specific purpose of the essay. This section helps the reader see why you are focusing on this topic and makes the transition to the main point of your paper. For this reason, this is sometimes called the “transitional” part of the introduction.
    • In the example above, the anecdote about Michelle might capture the reader’s attention, but the essay is not really about Michelle. The attention grabber might get the reader thinking about how drunk driving can destroy people’s lives, but it doesn’t introduce the topic of the need for stricter drunk driving penalties (or whatever the real focus of the paper might be).
    • Therefore, you need to bridge the gap between your attention-grabber and your thesis with some transitional discussion. In this part of your introduction, you narrow your focus of the topic and explain why the attention-grabber is relevant to the specific area you will be discussing. You should introduce your specific topic and provide any necessary background information that the reader would need in order to understand the problem that you are presenting in the paper. You can also define any key terms the reader might not know.
    • Continuing with the example above, we might move from the narrative about Michelle to a short discussion of the scope of the problem of drunk drivers. We might say, for example: “Michelle’s story is not isolated. Each year XX (number) of lives are lost due to drunk-driving accidents.” You could follow this with a short discussion of how serious the problem is and why the reader should care about this problem. This effectively moves the reader from the story about Michelle to your real topic, which might be the need for stricter penalties for drinking and driving.
  3. Finally, the introduction must conclude with a clear statement of the overall point you want to make in the paper. This is called your “thesis statement.” It is the narrowest part of your inverted pyramid, and it states exactly what your essay will be arguing.
    • In this scenario, your thesis would be the point you are trying to make about drunk driving. You might be arguing for better enforcement of existing laws, enactment of stricter penalties, or funding for education about drinking and driving. Whatever the case, your thesis would clearly state the main point your paper is trying to make. Here’s an example: “Drunk driving laws need to include stricter penalties for those convicted of drinking under the influence of alcohol.” Your essay would then go on to support this thesis with the reasons why stricter penalties are needed.
  4. In addition to your thesis, your introduction can often include a “road map” that explains how you will defend your thesis. This gives the reader a general sense of how you will organize the different points that follow throughout the essay. Sometimes the “map” is incorporated right into the thesis statement, and sometimes it is a separate sentence. Below is an example of a thesis with a “map.”
    • “Because drunk driving can result in unnecessary and premature deaths, permanent injury for survivors, and billions of dollars spent on medical expenses, drunk drivers should face stricter penalties for driving under the influence.” The underlined words here are the “map” that show your reader the main points of support you will present in the essay. They also serve to set up the paper’s arrangement because they tell the order in which you will present these topics.
  • A final note: In constructing an introduction, make sure the introduction clearly reflects the goal or purpose of the assignment and that the thesis presents not only the topic to be discussed but also states a clear position about that topic that you will support and develop throughout the paper. In shorter papers, the introduction is usually only one or two paragraphs, but it can be several paragraphs in a longer paper.

For Longer Papers

Although for short essays the introduction is usually just one paragraph, longer argument or research papers may require a more substantial introduction. The first paragraph might consist of just the attention grabber and some narrative about the problem. Then you might have one or more paragraphs that provide background on the main topics of the paper and present the overall argument, concluding with your thesis statement.

Below is a sample of an introduction that is less effective because it doesn’t apply the principles discussed above.

An Ineffective Introduction

Everyone uses math during their entire lives. Some people use math on the job as adults, and others used math when they were kids. The topic I have chosen to write about for this paper is how I use math in my life both as a child and as an adult. I use math to balance my checkbook and to budget my monthly expenses as an adult. When I was a child, I used math to run a lemonade stand. I will be talking more about these things in my paper.

In the introduction above, the opening line does not serve to grab the reader’s attention. Instead, it is a statement of an obvious and mundane fact. The second sentence is also not very specific. A more effective attention grabber may point out a specific, and perhaps surprising, instance when adults use math in their daily lives, in order to show the reader why this is such as important topic to consider.

Next the writer “announces” her topic by stating, “The topic I have chosen to write about…” Although it is necessary to introduce your specific topic, you want to avoid making generic announcements that reference your assignment. This technique is not as sophisticated and may distract the reader from your larger purpose for writing the essay. Instead, you might try to make the reader see why this is such an important topic to discuss.

Finally, this sample introduction is lacking a clear thesis statement. The writer concludes with a vague statement: “I will be talking more about these things in my paper.”  This kind of statement may be referred to as a “purpose statement,” in which the writer states the topics that will be discussed. However, it is not yet working as a thesis statement because it fails to make an argument or claim about those topics. A thesis statement for this essay would clearly tell the reader what “things” you will be discussing and what point you will make about them.

Now let’s look at how the above principles can be incorporated more effectively into an introduction.

A More Effective Introduction

“A penny saved is a penny earned,” the well-known quote by Ben Franklin, is an expression I have never quite understood, because to me it seems that any penny—whether saved or spent—is still earned no matter what is done with it. My earliest memories of earning and spending money are when I was ten years old when I would sell Dixie cups of too-sweet lemonade and bags of salty popcorn to the neighborhood kids. From that early age, I learned the importance of money management and the math skills involved. I learned that there were four quarters in a dollar, and if I bought a non-food item—like a handful of balloons—that I was going to need to come up with six cents for every dollar I spent. I also knew that Kool-Aid packets were 25 cents each or that I could save money and get five of them for a dollar. Today, however, money management involves knowing more than which combinations of 10-cent, five-cent, and one-penny candies I can get for a dollar. Proper money management today involves knowing interest rates, balancing checkbooks, paying taxes, estimating my paycheck, and budgeting to make ends meet from month-to-month.

  • In the first line the writer uses a well-known quotation to introduce her topic.
  • The writer follows this “attention-grabber” with specific examples of earning and spending money. Compare how the specific details of the second example paint a better picture for the reader about what the writer learned about money as a child, rather than this general statement: “As a child, I used math to run a lemonade stand.” In the first introduction, this statement leaves the reader to guess how the writer used math, but in the second introduction we can actually see what the child did and what she learned.
  • Notice, too, how the reader makes the transition from the lessons of childhood to the real focus of her paper in this sentence: “Today, however, money management involves knowing….”
  • This transition sentence effectively connects the opening narrative to the main point of the essay, her thesis: “Proper money management today involves knowing interest rates, balancing checkbooks, paying taxes, estimating my paycheck, and budgeting to make ends meet from month-to-month." This thesis also maps out for the reader the main points (underlined here) that will be discussed in the essay.

Resources

The purpose of an informative essay, sometimes called an expository essay, is to educate on a certain topic. It is not for giving an opinion or convincing someone to do something or change his beliefs. In addition to being informative, it needs to be interesting.

Structure of an Informative Essay 

The basic structure of an informative essay is very simple. It needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.

  • The beginning needs to present the topic and grab the attention of the audience. It needs to include the focus sentence for the entire essay.  
  • The middle will be the main bulk of the essay and it will contain all the important facts that you are covering. This is where the audience will get their questions answered. Remember to answer these questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how. 
  • The end is a conclusion where you will summarize the essay. It should spur the reader or listener to learn more about the topic.

The Beginning

Here is an example of the beginning of an informative essay: 

As you are listening to me, you might not think that today is the day that you will save a life. It is quite easy to save a life any day and it only takes a little bit of your time. I’m not talking about being a paramedic or fireman; I am talking about donating blood. 

The Closing

Here is an example of a closing: 

So that now you know how easy it is to donate blood, it’s time to take action. After all, you have plenty of blood, so why not share? When you do, you will feel good about yourself and you will save a life.

Subjects of Informative Essays

Informative essays, sometimes called expository essays, can be used for many purposes. They can compare viewpoints on a controversial subject as long as they don’t include the author’s opinions. They may analyze data, like in a cause and effect situation, or educate the audience on ways to do something, like solving a certain kind of problem.

For example:

  • An informative essay might explain the pros and cons of the death penalty, using statistics on crime rate reduction as a pro and statistics on innocent men being found guilty as a con. 
  • An informative essay might analyze whether lack of education is a cause of homelessness by using statistics and information about the educational attainment of homeless men and women. 
  • An informative essay might educate the audience on how to open a bank account.

Informative Essay Titles

To help you get a better idea of the different types of informative essays, here are some possible titles for this type of essay:

  • Understanding the Link Between Cholesterol and Heart Disease
  • How to Buy a House
  • Understanding Your Credit Score
  • Defining Poverty in the City of Chicago
  • The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
  • The Importance of Regular Daily Exercise
  • The Causes of Global Warming
  • Reducing Carbon Emissions with Alternative Fuels
  • Cost Savings of Hybrid Vehicles
  • Understanding Geothermal Heating and Cooling
  • Why Cleaning Your Ducts is Important
  • Qualifications of Contractors
  • How to Get your Commercial Driver's License

Steps in Creating an Informative Essay 

Most of the work on an informative essay is done before you actually sit down to type. Here are the general steps to take:   

  1. After you have chosen the topic, you will need to research and gather all the pertinent details on that subject. You need to ascertain what you already know about the subject and then decide what you would like to know.
  2. You will need to make a list of the important facts and then list the main steps in your paper. Make sure all your facts are accurate. You will need to write a topic sentence for each fact and write a focus sentence (thesis statement) for the entire essay.
  3. Create an outline that will organize your facts in a logical way. Then you will be ready to make your first draft.
  4. Editing is an important step for any writing project. Reading your essay out loud will help you notice places where the writing is awkward or unclear. If possible, have someone else read it and give you their ideas for improvement. Of course, you will need to pay attention for grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and other errors.

An informative essay is the best way to explain something that is complicated...in an uncomplicated way.

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Examples of Informative Essays

By YourDictionary

The purpose of an informative essay, sometimes called an expository essay, is to educate on a certain topic. It is not for giving an opinion or convincing someone to do something or change his beliefs. In addition to being informative, it needs to be interesting.

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