Patterns of Development

Below is a list of the various patterns of development most frequently found in expository writing.  Included are explanations and possible topics for each method of development.


Narration:  A narrative paragraph/essay tells a story of an event or an experience.  The story told, however, must have some point that is meaningful to the reader or target audience.  That is, it must have purpose.


       A childhood memory

       A day youll never forget

       An event that helped you learn a lesson

       A funny school or work story

       An embarrassing experience

       A frightening experience


Description:  A descriptive paragraph/essay uses sensory images (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing) to help a reader or target audience experience what the writer has experienced.  As with all other patterns, a descriptive essay must have a point or purpose.  Description is often paired with the narrative because a good narrative contains description of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and even emotions.


       A kitchen

       An elderly relative

       A hard-working student

       An outstanding athlete

       A loyal friend

       A gossipy neighbor

       A rude salesperson

       The dinner hour at my house

       Lunchtime in a cafeteria

       A midnight raid on the refrigerator

       Getting ready to go out on a Friday night

       My Sunday morning routine

       A large department store

       A sports stadium

       A shoe store

       A night spot

       A winter storm

       A winter walk

       Jogging in the rain

       Sunbathing on a beach

       The woods in autumn

       Halloween night

       Christmas morning



Process Analysis: A process analysis explains to a reader how to do something or how something works.


       How to make a favorite dish

       How to throw the perfect free-throw

       How to meet the man (woman) of your dreams

       How to change a tire

       How a camera works

       How a computer works


Comparison/Contrast: A comparison/contrast paragraph/essay generally focuses on similarities or differences but not usually both. 


Compare or contrast:

       High school teachers and college teachers

       Working for someone else and being your own boss

       Being married and dating

       Raising boys and raising girls

       Cooking dinner at home versus dining out

       A sports figures public image, versus his or her private personality

       A politicians promises before an election with those after an election

       Attitudes toward smoking twenty years ago and those of today

       An actor or musician on stage with the same actor offstage

       Traditional portrayal of American Indians (in old films, for example) with portrayals today

       Two attitudes toward religion


Causal Analysis: A causal analysis paragraph/essay explains a cause and effect relationship. A cause explains what made an event happen.  An effect is what happens as a result of the event.  




       The causes of prostitution

       The causes of child abuse

       The causes of teen suicide

       The causes of teen violence

       The causes of high school dropouts




       The effects of divorce on children

       The effects of regular exercise

       The effects of overeating

       The effects of substance abuse on the body

       The effects of absenteeism in school


Illustration: An illustration paragraph/essay is developed through the use of examples.  That is, it provides instances of the controlling idea a writer is attempting to clarify.



       People I Have Admired

       The Worlds Worst Habits

       What Makes a Class Exciting

       What Makes a Good Husband/Wife

       Features to Look for When Buying a _________


Definition:  A definition paragraph/essay uses any number of patterns of development to explain the meaning of a word.  It usually develops the connotative idea rather than the denotative definition.







       A good marriage





Division/Classification: A division/classification paragraph/essay divides a readily understood item into equal categories and then classifies each of those categories by its distinctive traits.  Two rules apply when developing an effective division/classification essay: 1) Each category should possess equal status. 2) There should be a category representing the majority of possible examples.  For instance, a division of motorcycles into categories of new and used would be both equal and complete.


Divide and classify:



       Snack foods



       Soft drinks






       Summer jobs





       Television commercials







Argumentation/Persuasion: An argumentative paragraph/essay attempts to educate a reader on a controversial issue usually with the intent of persuading that reader to view the issue from the writers point of view and often ending with a call to action, requesting the reader to make or initiate a change.


       Cigarette ads should not target young people.

       People should not go overboard when dieting.

       Wealthy people receive special privileges in our society.

       Advertisements should not use skinny models.

       Public school children should/should not wear uniforms.

       Pornography is too accessible on the Internet.

       Americans are a fix-it-with-a-pill society.


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