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Page history last edited by Don Pogreba 12 years, 3 months ago


Basic Definition

Exemplification/Example Essay: The method of development in which the writer uses a series of examples to support or illustrate a point.


What Are Forms of Examples?

     • Facts

     • Specific names of people, places, products

     • Events

     • Statistics

     • Samples

     • Quotations

     • Anecdotes (brief stories)

     • Expert opinions

     • Case studies found in research


What Are Some Example Types?

Personal case examples

  • come from your own life experience
  • lend personal authority
  • create drama

Typical case examples

  • objective in nature: can be especially convincing
  • about an actual event, but without your direct experience
  • source could be newspapers, magazines, television

Hypothetical examples

  • speculative, but be sure it's possible
  • ask the reader to imagine a scenario
  • acknowledge that your example is invented
  • ex. "suppose that…" or "Imagine (assume) for a moment…"

Generalized examples

  • composed of the typical and usual
  • ex. "All of us, at one time or another, have been…"

Extended examples

  • employ many details and specifics
  • last an entire paragraph or even the entire essay, but must be significant enough to stand alone 

Effective Illustrations Or Examples Should:

• Be relevant.

• Be representative -- avoid oddball or one-in-a-million types.

• Be dramatic.

• Be accurate.

• Be non-contradictory.

• Avoid sweeping generalizations.


Why Do Writers Use Exemplification?

• To create interest and take the reader beyond a telling statement.

• To help explain ideas or clarify an abstraction.

• To persuade skeptical readers.

• To show causal relationship.

• To avoid unintended ambiguity.


How Can Writers and Readers Tell Exemplification From Other Modes Of Discourse?

• Look for a thesis followed by a number of examples that support it in a parallel manner.

• Identify the types of examples. If there seems to be a story, ask, "Is it one story, or several stories?" Several stories indicate exemplification. If there is only one story, the dominant method of development is narrative, not exemplification.

Look for transitional expressions that indicate illustration:

  • For instance
  • One illustration of this idea
  • Another instance of
  • Yet another
  • For example
  • One such in particular
  • Another example of
  • Specifically
  • To illustrate
  • In fact
  • Another illustration of
  • Such as
  • A case in point is
  • Some instances 

How Does One Write An Illustration Or Example Essay?

• Decide on a thesis first; then look for the examples. Or observe events, people, objects, or ideas, reflect on them, and decide what true statement they suggest.

• List an abundance of examples; then mark the strongest ones, not just the first ones that come to mind.

• Check examples to be sure they are relevant.

• "Do these examples relate directly to the point?"

• "Which of these examples is the most representative?"

• Use the strongest examples in your paper.

• If they lead to different or opposite conclusions, consider modifying the thesis to be consistent with the new evidence.

• Make every example work in favor of the purpose, not against it.

• Although illustrations can be organized in either time or space order, most often, examples are organized in order of importance with the one carrying the most emphasis placed last. Organize the examples in the way that will most help further the point.

Some possibilities for organization are:

• least to most controversial

• simplest to most difficult

• least extreme to most extreme

• least to most important

• spatial -- moving from smaller to larger picture

• chronological


What Is The Thesis Pattern For An Exemplification Or Illustration Essay?

• Idea or focus of the essay.

• Three examples (A, B, and C) that show that _ (statement which identifies what inference one can draw from looking at those examples).

• Conclusion


An Outline For An Exemplification Essay

When assigned an exemplification essay, ask this question: in what area of your life or literature do you see several examples that lead to an inference that can teach or inform your readers? To begin organizing ideas for this topic, use the following outline:

I. Introduction -- performs the function of "Tell Me"

  • includes a hook or an "attention-getter" to get your audience interested
  • tells how the subject came up or provides a brief plot/theme statement
  • includes the title and author (in a literary essay)
  • (perhaps) names the audience who can benefit from knowing the information
  • states the thesis in the three part pattern

II. Body -- performs the function of "Show Me"

  • A. Example 1

Explanation or elaboration

  • B. Example 2

Explanation or elaboration 

  • C. Example 3

Explanation or elaboration

III. Conclusion -- answers "So What?"

  • restates the thesis in different words
  • calls for action
  • synthesizes rather than summarizes
  • provides no new information
  • points to broader implications
  • gives the reader something to think about


How Can You Improve the Example Essay?

Include a Strong Thesis Statement

The distinction between a description or narration and an example essay relies on the reader's ability to draw a connection between the subject and the larger issue it is supposed to illustrate. A strong thesis statement can clearly establish the significance of your subject:

Southtown Mall represents the unbridled greed of twenty-first century materialism.

Mel Thomas is an example of that dying breed of athlete -- someone who plays for the love of the game and not the paycheck.

Support Examples with Other Forms Of Evidence

Examples can dramatize an issue by telling a compelling story. However, because individual situations can be dismissed as isolated incidents, it may be necessary to supply additional data:

Abandoned by his parents at twelve, Pete Kelly wandered through a series of foster homes and halfway houses before joining a gang. Gang membership in this city has risen from 500 two years ago to just over 1500. Over half of today's gang members spent at least two years in foster care.


Distinguish Between Relevant And Incidental Aspects

Examples should illustrate a general situation. Often the specific items you use as examples may have elements that are personal or accidental. If you are presenting a test case as an example, indicate those elements that are not representative:

Nancy Hughes is an example of a growing number of retired Americans reentering the workforce. Unlike most of the 1.5 million new hires over the age of 55, she is returning to work to pursue new interests rather than supplement her retirement income.


Before Submitting Your Essay, Review this Example Checklist:

1. Is your paper really an example essay or is it merely a description of a person or the story of an event? Does it clearly illustrate a larger issue?

2. Will readers relate to the example or examples you present? Do you have to include any background information or address any misconceptions?

3. Do you provide other forms of support -- facts, expert testimony or statistics?

4. Is the thesis clearly stated? Will readers connect the example to the larger issue it illustrates?

5. READ YOUR PAPER ALOUD. How does it sound? Are there unnecessary details or awkward statements? Are there clear transitions between major points?




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