Essay 1 – Illustration: Explaining with examples

Writers have a variety of options for developing ideas within a paragraph and within an essay (narration, comparison and contrast, process, etc.)

One of these patterns is illustration (also called exemplification).

What do we mean when we say that a movie is boring?

Or a particular law is unjust?

To clarify general statements like these, we use exemplification – that is, we give examples to illustrate a general idea.

2 mins. Hand out Essay 1 assignment


The introduction of an illustration essay should include a clear thesis statement that identifies the essay’s main idea – the idea the examples will support.

The body paragraphs should present evidence – fully developed examples that support the thesis.

Each body paragraph should be introduced by a topic sentence that identifies the example or group of related examples that the paragraph will discuss.

The conclusion of an illustration essay should include a summary statement that reinforces the essay’s thesis.

An illustration essay should use appropriate transitional words and phrases to connect examples within paragraphs and between paragraphs.


An illustration paragraph should have a topic sentence that states that paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should present evidence – in the form of examples from the book – that supports and clarifies the general statement made in the topic sentence.

Examples should be arranged in logical order – for example, from least to most important or from general to specific.

You might be asking yourself: How many examples do I need to include?

The number of examples you will need depends on your topic sentence.

An illustration paragraph should end with a summary statement that reinforces the paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should include transitions – that introduce the examples and connect them one to another and to the topic sentence.

These transitions help readers follow your discussion by indicating how your examples are related and how each example supports the topic sentence.

also in addition moreover
finally one example another example
The first … The second …
for example
for instance


Blue: Topic sentence
Orange: Evidence
Red: Transitions
Purple: Summary statement

When countries change their names, it is often for political reasons. Sometimes a new government decides to change the country’s name to separate itself from an earlier government. For example, Burma became Myanmar when a military government took over in 1989. Cambodia has had several name changes as well. After a coup in 1970, it was called the Khmer Republic. Then, in 1975, under communist rule, it became Kampuchea. Gaining independence from another nation is another reason for a country to change its name. For instance, in 1957, after gaining independence from Great Britain, the Gold Coast became Ghana. Another name change occurred when the French Sudan became Mali. After gaining independence from France in 1960, it decide to reject its colonial past. Finally, Zimbabwe gave up its former British name, Rhodesia, several years after winning independence. These name changes can be confusing, but they reveal the changing political climate of the countries in which they occur.

(Grammar note: When you write an illustration paragraph, make sure to use a comma after the introductory transitional word or phrase that introduces an example.)


At this stage, brainstorm a list of qualities of Luma’s personality and character.

What are the most important aspects of her personality?

What does she value the most? What is the strongest part of her character? Weakest?

Jot these down on notebook paper or on your computer. Once you have a bunch of qualities, circle the ones that are most important or most revealing about who she is as a person. Then you can draft a working thesis statement.

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