Using '5W1H' for better expository compositions at O-Levels

Marcus Goh
Yahoo illustration.

By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek

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Coming up with points for expository compositions can be a bugbear for secondary students, especially if it’s an argumentative piece. You don’t just need to come up with content, you need to come up with content that supports your stand in an argumentative composition. Discursive essays are a little easier in this regard, though brainstorming for points related to the topic can still be difficult.

That’s where 5W1H – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How – comes in. We’ve already shown you how it can be applied to primary level compositions, but it’s especially useful when it comes to expository essays, both argumentative and discursive. Here’s how you can do so.

Read widely so you have enough content for your expository essays. ( Pixabay)

Look at the statement or topic you are writing about. Who is affected by this? Specifically, what demographic of people will be affected? Remember that people can be categorised according to age, gender, culture, occupation, and even likes and dislikes. Identifying the correct demographic will give you lots to expand on in your body paragraphs, such as how their particular categorisation affects them.

See if particular time periods are pertinent. Think about it in terms of days, months, years, or even seasons. Does the time period affect the statement or topic in any way? If it does, think about why this is so and expand on the specific reasons that lead to this.

Remember to plan before you write! ( Pixabay)

This refers to geographical factors that are related to the statement or topic. It can be broken down by country or neighbourhoods, or even by climate. Look at what makes that geographical location so important to the statement or topic and elaborate on them.

To write about the “what”, you need to identify the issues and keywords in the statement or topic provided. Then you’ll need to identify the common factors associated with the keywords. For example, if the topic is about social media, then the issues of privacy and addiction are usually involved as well. From there, you can think about the “who”, “where”, and “when” in relation to privacy and addiction.

Social media is particularly popular topic. ( Pixabay)

Writing about the “why” is a little trickier. Like the “what”, it is usually used in relation to the “who”, “where”, and “when”, and you need to identify the issues and keywords first. Examine the historical background (this means you need to have good general knowledge and be well-read on current affairs) to identify the factors that led to the issue or keywords being what they are today. Using the topic of social media as an example again, think about how it evolved and subtly became ingrained into our lives. What sort of human need does it fulfil?

Finally, the “how” refers to any process that is inherent in the topic or statement. Identify one or two parts of the process that may be more important, and then explain why this supports your composition.

Think about the factors involved with social media. ( Pixabay)

Remember to use PEEL (point, elaboration, evidence, link) in your body paragraphs and plan before writing, too!

Tools at your disposal. ( Pixabay)

Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches Secondary English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.

Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.

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Using ‘5W1H’ for better Primary English compositions