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

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

Aren't these exercises being saved? (strange).

Hello marcrodrick,

Some users keep track themselves, but I'm afraid your progress through our exercises is not recorded in our system.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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