Informative Essay

The informative essay is an essay that informs the reader about a topic. The writer essentially
becomes an expert on a topic and educates the reader. Its purpose is not to persuade the reader to
an opinion, but to just explain about a topic. Consult College Grammar and Composition
Handbook, sect. 45, for an explanation of a basic essay. The objectives of this composition are
for you to learn the five-paragraph essay format and to learn to effectively incorporate support
material into an essay.

Planning and Writing an Informative Essay
1. Decide on a topic. Ideally, it should be a topic that you know something about and will
only need to do minimal research on. (You will be required to use at least one book for
support material.)
• Consider for a topic something that you know about but the reader does not (e.g.,
animal, hobby, job, place, historic event).

The topic should not be a process nor a debatable topic (which would be used for a
persuasive essay). The topic should not be trivial. The reader should learn something
from reading the essay.

Submit your topic on a 3-x-5 card to your teacher. You must get your topic approved by
your teacher.
2. Research your topic to find specific details to support the topic. Find at least one book
on the subject. You may only use books, not Internet, magazines, encyclopedias, etc.
• Since the composition will focus on three or four characteristics of the topic, you will
look through your selected book(s) for facts, interesting details, definitions, statistics,
and examples that will develop the three or four characteristics of the topic that you
choose to focus on in the composition.

Record the bibliography information for each book at the top of separate sheets of
paper. You will need a minimum of fifteen notes from your research. Below is a
sample bibliography format for a book. The information you will need can be found
on the title and copyright pages of the book. (Since this composition is using
parenthetical notes, you will use the reference list style of bibliographies. See Kate L.
Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th
ed., sect. 18–19.)

Last name, first name. Copyright date. Title of Book. City of publication: Publisher.
Florence, Gene. 1988. Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era. 3rd ed. Paducah, KY:
Collector Books.
Stokes, Donald, and Lillian Stokes. 1996. Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region.
Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.

o If there is more than one author, follow the Stokes example above.

. • Record the information that you find on the sheet(s) of paper on which you recorded each bibliography. o The copyright date is the most recent one listed. Do not use printing dates. note cards are not necessary. add the state using its two-letter postal abbreviation (see the Florence example). A Beka Book.g.) Italicize the title of the book. o The publisher’s name is typed exactly as it appears on the title page. you must shorten all the books’ using the same guidelines. 4th. 87). Plagiarism is claiming another’s words. If you shorten one publisher’s name. (If this were a longer paper with multiple sources. It is a type of stealing. you would record the information on 4-x-6 cards. ideas.”1 o When paraphrasing an author’s ideas. Lowman in United States History in Christian Perspective (1983.. . To avoid plagiarism. Lowman in United States History in Christian Perspective (1983. copyright © 1983 Pensacola Christian College. Inc. e. and subsequent revivals kept America from slipping away from the foundation of righteousness. Company. place a colon between the title and subtitle. (Unimportant words are prepositions and coordinating conjunctions. the Great Awakening greatly influenced Colonial America toward declaring her independence from Britain because the Awakening indirectly emphasized that all men are equal before God. use your own words and sentence structure. 3rd. capitalize the first and last words and important words. However. Do not superscript any part of the edition number. follow three basic principles: o Use quotation marks around exact words from any source. o If the book is an edition other than the first edition. 1Reprinted by permission from United States History in Christian Perspective.) Be careful to avoid plagiarism as you take notes. 2nd. since this is a short paper with only a few notes. It may be shortened by dropping the initial The. 87). (See the Florence example above. You may retain one or two key words from a passage to maintain the accuracy of the author’s ideas. o For the city of publication. Example: According to Michael R. “The Great Awakening was a major cause of America’s becoming an independent nation. or organization as one’s own work. sentence structure. If the city is not well known. add its edition number (see the Florence example). use only the first one if there are multiple cities listed.. and Publishing Co. Example: According to Michael R. Ltd.) If there is a subtitle.o For the title of the book.

Another popular 1960s Chevrolet muscle car to invest in today is the Chevette. 3. Body style C. Body style C. A topic sentence begins with the topic of the composition. and precise factual information with a parenthetical note (see the above examples). History B. Include in the brainstorm information about the topic: characteristics of the topic (e. • When brainstorming.. opinions. These topic sentences should be used as the main points of your outline. and quotations. you will give credit for an author’s words. your outline might look like the following: Example: I. Examples: Topic of composition 1st characteristic A popular 1960s Chevrolet muscle car to invest in today is the Camaro.g. For your composition.g. A popular 1960s Chevrolet muscle car to invest in today is the Camaro. training. statistics. sect. ideas. Outline the topic. Because the body of your paper will have three or four main points. A. 3 types of dog breeds). .o In the composition. You can use details from your research in your brainstorm. Write the thesis. definitions. Prices II. you will probably cite precise factual information. your outline will also have three or four points. each topic sentence should be a simple (or complex) sentence. names of the dog breeds. • Like the thesis. health. research findings. A. • Writing out questions on your brainstorm can also help guide you 4. This will help when you prepare the outline later. If the information can be found in multiple sources and all the authorities agree about it. Body style C. Write the topic sentences. then it does not need citing as long as it is paraphrased. A. The last poplar 1960s Chevrolet muscle car to invest in today is the Corvette. Prices 6. History B. Use a simple sentence (see Handbook. 7. While writing the outline.2). History B. specific details (e. The topic of the composition should be in the subject position of the thesis. Prices III. The second half of each topic sentence (verb/complement) states the one characteristic that will be developed in the paragraph. If you were writing a composition on the most popular 1960s Chevrolet muscle cars to invest in today. List 25 details about your topic.. try to categorize your ideas together. The thesis sentence lets your reader know the topic of your paper. physical characteristics. Brainstorm your topic. begin writing your topic sentences. statistics). 5. behavior. • You will need a minimum of fifteen notes from your source(s).

These citations could be quotations or paraphrased information from books.. describe Generally use a present tense action verb in the introduction: e. The topic sentence also includes a transitional word to show the progression of ideas (e. write explain. awards.) • Include in the body of the composition three or four paragraphs. The information should lead to the thesis statement at the end of the lead. In the muscle cars example. each body paragraph would discuss some history about each Chevrolet model (when it was first produced). See Handbook. state. some details about its body style. note it. There should be one citation per body paragraph..g.6c. When you introduce a source for the first time. .. Donald and Lillian Stokes in their Field Guide to Birds. his years of experience in the field. a professor at Harvard). Examples: According to Donald and Lillian Stokes. author of a well-respected publication). you might explain what muscle cars are and explain about investing in cars in general. then use the last name only for subsequent citations from that source. or his accomplishments (e. Each paragraph develops one characteristic of the topic. first. 7.g. o Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that you wrote in your outline.Another popular 1960s Chevrolet muscle car to invest in today is the Chevette. Write the rough draft (600-750 words). Introduce the source of the citation by using the author’s full name the 
 first time that you cite a source. final. Follow the outline to know what to discuss about the characteristic. state Donald and Lillian Stokes. third). This is a five or six-paragraph essay. A final popular 1960s Chevrolet muscle car to invest in today is the Corvette.g. state it. His credentials might be his profession (e. • Begin the lead (introduction) with general information about your topic in order to capture the reader’s attention. o Continue each paragraph with specific details about the paragraph’s specific characteristic. for other transitions that could be used. The thesis should be the last sentence of the paragraph. 1. include the author’s credentials so that the reader accepts him as an authority. authors of acclaimed wildlife field guides. 44. explain it. 21. for how to write the thesis. For the muscle car topic. There is a four-step process for smoothly incorporating support material into a paragraph: introduce it. • Using the topic sentences in your outline will help as your begin writing your final draft. bird and wildlife experts with over twenty years’ experience. and current selling prices for restored models. p. second. describe.g. another. (See step 3. Support the information that you provide with research. sect.

xiv). After being nearly hunted to extinction for its beautiful plumage. Note the source with a parenthetical citation. Examples: According to Donald and Lillian Stokes (1996.) Examples: (1996.2. If the author’s name is stated before the citation (which is how yours will be). 35) record increases of at least 2 percent per year in the snowy egret’s population numbers recorded during Christmas Bird Counts. as a result). When summarizing or paraphrasing. according to Stokes and Stokes (1996. sect.. If you use two books with authors having the same last name.2. Emphasize the significance of the paragraph—its key ideas. include the authors’ first names in the parenthetical citation. 4. sect. in application. 10) 3. be sure to avoid plagiarism by using your own words and sentence structure. (Stokes and Stokes 1996.000 volunteer participants. Show how the documented information develops or adds to the discussion of the topic. 148) (Florence 1988. 148) This is format that you will use in your paper. Generally keep quotations shorter than five lines.2). This step is vital to the coherence of the paragraph. for fuller details. . the snowy egret has made a comeback. begin the explanation with some type of transitions that show you are adding your own thoughts (e. and page number. 25. date. Do not just summarize a quotation here. conducted by the National Audubon Society. State the information or use a short quotation from the source. The Christmas Bird Count. the snowy plover experienced a 70 to 80 percent decrease in population in California during the 1980s. Stokes and Stokes (1996.g.” The increase in numbers is because of a ban on hunting and the use of DDT. (See Turabian. except with a block quotation which places the period before the citation. in other words. Thus. 18. authors of field guides with twenty years’ experience. with more than 45. The period for the sentence goes after the citation. Avoid introducing the next paragraph’s topic in the clincher. (If a quotation is five or more lines. See Turabian. 148). only include date and page number. consequently. thus. therefore. o End each body paragraph with a concluding (clincher) sentence. Explain the significance of the information in the citation. as in the first example below. The parenthetical citation is placed immediately after the introduction to your support (author’s name). this decrease in the snowy plover’s population has caused the bird to become a threaten species that is now protected under the Endangered Species Act. a pesticide that caused the birds’ eggs to be too fragile to survive the incubation period. “is the largest survey of birds in the world. If the explanation follows a cited paraphrase. it must be formatted as a block quotation. The parenthetical citation includes author’s last name.

• The conclusion of the composition should begin with the thesis statement reworded to avoid monotony. 45. There are however many more varieties of coastal birds.5–45. All aspects of the composition should be revised (for general guidelines on revising. 43. It is a small six-inch shorebird that has a white underbelly. least tern. Three coastal birds with presently or formerly at-risk populations are the snowy plover. and black beak. o Single space the bibliographies. black partial neck ring. o Title the page “References. the snowy plover experienced a 70 to 80 percent decrease in population in California during the 1980s. Use a hanging indention (first line is not indented. Most people are familiar with the ubiquitous seagulls and sandpipers. If a book does not have an author. 148). Do not continue describing characteristics of the topic or summarize the information within the body of the composition. Revise and edit the rough draft. and soft sea breezes—what more could epitomize the unique beauty of the United States’ beaches? From the rugged New England coastline to the sugary-white sand of the Gulf Coast and the crashing waves of the Pacific. East.3–43. Revising an Informative Essay 8. o The books are arranged alphabetically by the authors’ last names. 9. and page 3 in supplement).4. Sample Informative Essay AT-RISK COASTAL BIRDS A fiery sunset. see Handbook. alphabetize by the title (ignoring initial articles). . See step 5 (p. • Write the reference list (bibliography) page. You can emphasize the significance of the topic or use a quotation. Unfortunately the destruction of its nests on open beaches and the loss of its habitat have caused a decrease in the snowy plover’s population.” o Add two blank single spaces after the title. Continue the conclusion with general information that helps to make the composition sound finished. lapping waves. authors of wildlife field guides. sect. add one blank single-spaced line between the bibliography entries. The first coastal bird at risk is the snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus). According to Donald and Lillian Stokes (1996. and snowy egret. some which have been declining in populations. the succeeding lines are indented ½ inch). Complete the final draft. and Gulf Coasts of the United States and on western alkaline lakes.6. It lives on sandy beaches year round along the West. 20) for how to write the bibliography for a book. pale grey back and wings. o If you used multiple books. there is a wide variety of shorebirds that provide an added dimension to the beauty of these beaches.

During the 1800s.S. but has since made a comeback.” The increase in numbers is because of a ban on hunting and the use of DDT. according to Stokes and Stokes (1996. Unfortunately. and yellow bill. and snowy egret are or have been at-risk coastal birds that need continual protection to prevent their extinction.S. gull-like bird that has a white belly. Like the snowy plover. Last. Stokes and Stokes (1996. black legs. 35) record increases of at least 2 percent per year in the snowy egret’s population numbers recorded during Christmas Bird Counts. 213). and yellow feet. The least tern is a nine-inch. Boston: Little. the bird’s population continues to decrease by at least 2 percent per year. It summers on the West. this smallest of shorebirds.000 volunteer participants. was also hunted for its plumage in the 1800s and is now considered an endangered species. “is the largest survey of birds in the world.While measures have been instituted to protect the bird’s breeding grounds. it was nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage. similar to the common sandpiper. least tern. East. grey back and wings. Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. everyone must be respectful of these birds and avoid disturbing the plover’s and tern’s nests during spring months. then they can make the comeback that the snowy egret has. according to Stokes and Stokes (1996. is unfortunately disappearing from U. Brown. A second coastal bird at risk is the least tern (Sternula antillarum). The Christmas Bird Count. 1996. beaches. and Company. a coastal bird that was formerly at risk is the snowy egret (Egretta thula). beaches to their fullest. with more than 45. and its nests of eggs on open beaches are vulnerable to predators. The least tern. white head with black cap. The snowy egret is a type of heron that is twenty-four inches from the bill to tail. (Placed on a separate page) References Stokes. If everyone does his part to protect these birds’ habitats. To continue to enjoy U. it is losing its habitat. It is white with a black bill. –Sandra Brazil . a pesticide that caused the birds’ eggs to be too fragile to survive the incubation period. and Lillian Stokes. It can be found around waterways throughout the United States during the summer and year round along the Gulf Coast and southwestern and southeastern coasts. conducted by the National Audubon Society. and Gulf Coasts of the United States and Mexico and along large rivers in the Mississippi River valley. The snowy plover. xiv). Donald.