Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What is an Informative Essay?

When a teacher assigns a class the task of writing an essay, the room usually fills with groans and moans. Writing essays can be hard, and there are many different kinds of essays that can be written.

An informative essay serves the single purpose of informing or educating the reader about a topic. Informative essays are non-fiction essays that deliver content to the reader in a simple manner.

There is a slight difference between an expository essay and an informative essay, and it’s important to understand that difference. An expository essay is also intended to inform readers, but it is a much more complex essay that uses lots of evidence and facts to back up the main topic. Expository essays can also be argumentative or opinion-based, which informative essays cannot be.

Informative Essay Both Expository Essay
Can include a thesis statement non-fiction Must include a thesis statement
Must not include author’s opinion presents facts Can include author’s opinion
Cannot include arguments for one side can present arguments Author can take one side of an argument.
Not intended to persuade imparts information Often used to persuade the reader

Informative essays can be found in non-fiction books, magazines, and online content. While they don’t have a specific length, they are generally not really long or detailed. Informative essays are the first type of longer writing that younger elementary students learn how to write.

Examples of Informative Essays

When a writer decides to write an informative essay, they generally have a few different types of essays to choose from. The following are the main types of informative essays and an example of each one.

Informative Essay Type Definition Example
Definition Essay A definition is written to give a simple explanation of a topic. Everyone has the experience of being afraid now and again. If someone is facing a major phobia, it can be hard to put their fears aside and push through the task in front of them. No matter how afraid someone is, they don’t need to forget fear in order to be courageous. Courage doesn’t exist without the knowledge that there is fear behind it.
Compare and Contrast Essay This essay addresses the topic by placing it in a larger context of one other subject to which it is opposed. Some people think that college is just a harder and more free version of high school, but there are major differences between the two that have to be taken into account before strolling across a college campus. It isn’t just that you have freedom at college compared to high school or that most students don’t go home to mom and dad after class. The similarities and differences between college and high school are more important in the areas of schedules, courses, and teaching styles.
Analysis Essay This essay type uses data to help explain a topic and is the simplest type to write because the data is provided. It is also the essay that is used when showing cause and effect since data helps to show how things are interrelated. It seems like it’s getting hotter and hotter, and the data prove that it’s true. Since the 1960s, the average global temperature has been rising dramatically. The rising temperature goes hand-in-hand with the amount of carbon dioxide that is being pumped into the atmosphere. Humans have been burning fossil fuels at a rate that is increasing exponentially, which is the main cause of the increased CO2. If the data trend continues, temperatures will continue to rise as CO2 in the atmosphere increases.
Instructional Essay Instructional essays, also known as how-to essays, help describe a process that can be followed. How many times have you dreaded going to a car dealership and dealing with all the pressure and games? If you hate buying a car at a dealer, you should consider purchasing a car online. Buying a car online is a fairly simple process, but it can reduce the hassle of a dealer. Just follow the steps in this article and you’ll be driving a new car without having to deal with a live person at any point.

Compare and contrast essays look at the similarities and differences between two topics

side by side images of the ocean and a lake

Writing Informative Essays

Writing an informative essay is a step-by-step process that should be followed in the right order to get the best results. The steps to writing an informative essay are as follows:

  1. Pick a Topic – It may seem like a no-brainer, but picking a good topic that is interesting for the writer and the reader is very important. Starting off with a bad topic can cause problems further in the process.
  2. Research – It’s important to get the information correct, so doing good research and writing down sources is the next logical step. It’s also important to make sure there is adequate information available on the topic chosen.
  3. Outline – Once the research notes have been taken, it’s time to organize the information in an outline. Outlines take many forms, like bullet points, columns, or graphic organizers (see example below).
  4. Write the Body – It’s actually easier to write out a good informative essay by writing the body first rather than starting with the introduction. Use your outline and group topics by paragraphs. Include the major and minor details and use good transitions between main ideas. Once all the vital information is written down and organized, it’s easier to write the introduction and conclusion so they fit the structure of the body.
  5. Write the Introduction and Conclusion – The introduction paragraph should act as a preview of the information in the body. Be sure to include the overall topic and mention the sub-topics, but save details for the body paragraphs. It should give the reader an idea of what you WILL talk about in the essay. The body and introduction should all connect nicely. The conclusion is more or less a restatement of the topic and a summary of the main points. It reminds the reader of what you HAVE talked about in the essay.
  6. Proof and Edit – Once the essay is written, check the writing for spelling and grammar errors. It’s also important to check the essay for continuity. Continuity is the flow of the essay and how well each part transitions into the other.

Informative Essay Structure

One of the reasons informative essays are taught early in the writing process is because they have a very straightforward and easy structure to follow while writing. The simple layout makes it easy for the writer to construct and for the reader to follow.

Essay Part Description Things to Note
Introduction The introduction is a general overview of the information that will be shown in detail in the body. The most important parts of the introduction are the thesis and the hook. The thesis isn’t always needed, but a topic sentence takes its place in essays that don’t need them. The hook is the sentence that gets the reader interested in the essay and is usually the first sentence of the introduction.
Body The body is where all the information is contained. It includes main ideas and details that all connect back to the introduction paragraph. In general, most informational essays contain 3-5 paragraphs with 3-6 sentences in each paragraph.
Conclusion The conclusion ties everything together in a tight summary that restates the topic. Many writers try to end the entire essay with a memorable fact or sentence that sticks with the reader.

Informative Essay Topics

Finding topics for informational essays can be a bit tricky, but if you narrow down the type of essay you want to write, it makes it a bit easier. The list below will give some examples of different topics based on the types of essays.

Definition Compare and Contrast Analysis Instructional
Renaissance period wind power vs solar power cost of a car lease how to build a table
gladiators organic and non-organic climate change temperatures making homemade pasta
feudalism city life and rural life rising sea levels wiring a room for a new light
bitmojis communism and socialism stock market risks changing oil in a car
abstract art mammals and reptiles changes in poverty fixing a flat tire

Lesson Summary

An informative essay is written to inform the reader of a single topic or subject. They are the most common essay and the one that students learn how to write first. Informative essays are always fact-based and not based on opinion or argument. Most informative essays consist of between three and five paragraphs, but there is no minimum or maximum size.

Informative essays often come in one of four different types:

  1. A definition essay, which explains a single term or concept.
  2. A compare and contrast essay, which focuses on the similarities and differences between two things.
  3. An analysis essay, which uses data and numbers to explain a concept and is the simplest form of essay.
  4. A process essay, which explains how to do something and that often has steps in a progression.

Informative essays are best written by using the following process:

  1. Pick a topic,
  2. Research the topic,
  3. Outline the information,
  4. Write the body,
  5. Write the introduction and conclusion, and
  6. Proofread the essay.

Informative essays have a simple structure of an introduction paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.

Join the conversation