Writing An Explanatory Essay

This study sheet will help you to write a rough draft of the writing assignment that you will revise later on. Answer the following questions as you work through your study to build a strong and successful essay.

Your Assignment

For this activity, you\’ll write an explanatory essay examining the ways Chaucer\’s \”The Monk\’s Tale\” reflected what was seen as sinful or illegal at the time of its writing.

Write the definitions of the following words.

If you come across a word you don\’t know, write it in a blank space below. Try to figure out what the word means by looking at its context. Then use your dictionary or the Internet to look up the correct definition for the word.

Word Definition


primary source

secondary source

1. Your topic for this essay has already been chosen: you\’ll be writing an explanatory essay about how the context of the time period when \”The Monk\’s Tale\” was written determines what the culture finds criminal and/or sinful. Your primary source is \”The Monk\’s Tale\”; you\’ll need secondary sources that tell you a bit about the cultural values at the time \”The Monk\’s Tale\” was written. Brainstorm some possible secondary sources here.

2. Come up with some pre-research questions — questions your readers might have about the topic, and questions you need to research to find answers to.

3. How do you plan to use your primary source to explore your topic? What examples from your primary source will you use to explore your topic? What points do you need to remember to address?

4. Find a secondary source online. Why is this source useful for you? How do you plan to use it in your essay?

5. Write an outline for your essay. What points will you make in each section? What evidence will you use to support your points?


First body paragraph:

Second body paragraph:

Third body paragraph:


6. Practice citing your secondary source.

If you use a print source, record the author(s), title, what kind of source it is (article, book, etc.), and the year it was published.

If you use an online source, record the author(s) if known, the title of the page, what kind of online source it is (encyclopedia, blog article, etc.), the web URL, and the date you accessed the page.

7. Write the introduction of your essay.

8. Write the three body paragraphs of your essay.

9. Write the conclusion to your essay.

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