Explanations are usually quite short assignments. They are common in the earlier stages of a course of study, where their function is to check students' knowledge. They usually contain information that is available in textbooks and/or from lectures.

They are factual, and, therefore, do not contain any argument. They tend not to describe actions, but states, processes, qualities and properties.

They often include diagrams, tables or figures.

Explanations can classify, explain methods, explain systems and processes, or compare and contrast.

A typical structure of an Explanation:

Introduction

What is it? Perhaps include a definition - taken from a textbook, not a general dictionary.

You may also include some indication of its significance.

Explanation

Include a description of its history, properties, functions, uses or how it works.

This will be organised in some clear way: past to present, top to bottom, left to right, outside to inside, general to particular, etc.

Conclusion

A summary or general statement,

Include a comment on the significance or importance of what you have explained; for example, something about the future and its broader relevance to society, economy, the discipline, etc.

Examples of Explanations include:

  • account of natural phenomenon
  • business explanation
  • concept/job/legislation overview
  • instrument description
  • methodology explanation
  • organism/disease account
  • site/environment report
  • species/breed description
  • system/process explanation

Try the following tasks about the structure of Explanations.

Task 1

Explanations can begin in a number of different ways. Typically, the introductory section provides answers to one or more of the following questions:

  • Why is it popular or well known?
  • Why is it important to study it?
  • What is problematic about it?
  • What are its categories or components?
  • What does it do?
  • What is its history?

Exercise

Task 2

Explanations can begin in a number of different ways. Typically, the introductory section provides answers to one or more of the following questions:

  • Why is it popular or well known?
  • Why is it important to study it?
  • What is problematic about it?
  • What are its categories or components?
  • What does it do?
  • What is its history?

Exercise

Task 3

Ways of indicating importance and significance 

  • the -est
  • the main …
  • the most …


Choose words to fill the gaps in these sentences, taken from Explanations.

Exercise

Task 4

Explanations can begin in a number of different ways. Typically, the introductory section provides answers to one or more of the following questions:

  • Why is it popular or well known?
  • Why is it important to study it?

Common ways of indicating importance and significance use the phrases:

  • the -est
  • the main …
  • the most …

​In this task choose words formed with "the -est".

Exercise

 

Task 5

Explanations can begin in a number of different ways. Typically, the introductory section provides answers to one or more of the following questions:

  • Why is it popular or well known?
  • Why is it important to study it?

Common ways of indicating importance and significance use the phrases:

  • the -est
  • the main …
  • the most …

​In this task choose words formed with "the main ...".

Exercise

 

Task 6

Explanations can begin in a number of different ways. Typically, the introductory section provides answers to one or more of the following questions:

  • Why is it popular or well known?
  • Why is it important to study it?

Common ways of indicating importance and significance use the phrases:

  • the -est
  • the main …
  • the most …

​In this task choose words formed with "the most ...".

Exercise

 

Task 7

Explanations often include a brief definition or description of what is going to be explained.

The following sentences are taken from the introductory sections of Explanations. They give a definition or description of the thing that is going to be explained.

Match the sentences with their missing words.

Exercise

Comments

Can anyone help me with the 2nd question of the 4th task?
If we use a superlative adjective for big before "biggest" should be "the", but in this task, it does not exist.

Hello Miley,

In this case, 'the' is omitted because of the possessive 's before the noun phrase 'biggest single performance variable'. Nouns do not normally have an article (or other determiner for that matter) as well as a possessive.

If we structured the sentence without the 's and with 'of', 'the' would be needed: 'It is easy to forget that tyres are still the biggest single performance variable of a race car.' This sentence would be incorrect without 'the'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

For a long time I am searching such like platform to practice my writing Engish. It's really great. I have started the introduction part. Hope I will be more beneficial than my expectation.

Don't understand the match for "tamworth pig". They hasn't long legs. Can anyone help me with this?

Hello renanricha,

Tamworth pigs have legs that are long compared to many other pigs, but, of course, compared to giraffes, they are quite short. Everything is relative!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I start this course now i hope it will be help full to improvement written skill.

Although I got all the answers correct, I felt there were quite a few potential double keys here: for example, the breast cancer text seems to be a fair answer to the question 'Why is it important to study it?' (I hope no one minds these comments BTW)

Hi Nikw_211
Good point - the lines from the breast cancer text signal the problem and the importance of the topic. This question wouldn't be a good test item, but I think it is OK as a practice item because there is slightly more emphasis on the problematic nature of cancer. The aim of the exercise is to get you to notice and think about how explanation topics can be introduced, and you have indicated that this is exactly what you did. Your comments are very welcome - keep them coming!
Hilary
The Writing for a Purpose Team

Hi Just now i started Explanations: Structure 2. I hope that i can improve my skills.

I just started doing the "Introduction" part of "Writing for a Purpose". I love it and I hope it will help me progress as I move one .
 

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