Rhetorical Patterns - Exemplification

The Rhetorical Patterns - Organizing Essays for Different Rhetorical Situations

The following pages will provide you with several effective ways of organizing information in your essays. Oftentimes, when you know who your audience is and what your purpose is for writing (which is called your rhetorical situation), you can begin to consider the organization of what is going to be in your paper, how you will introduce your paper, and what to write for your conclusion. The following rhetorical patterns will help you answer these questions.  

Narration  |  Description  |  Process  |  Exemplification  |  Classification  |  Comparison and Contrast
Cause and Effect  |  Persuasion and Argument


Definition: Exemplification provides readers with examples that illustrate a larger point. 

Description: Many of your readers may be hesitant to accept your assertions without the use of examples that illustrate the validity of your points. Examples are especially useful when you need to explain complicated, abstract, or new ideas. Examples can be quotations, facts, narratives, statistics, details, analogies, opinions, and observations, and examples provide your writing with a firm foundation. Examples can help you avoid generalizations about your subject, and they tend to remove the ambiguity from your writing. 

Conventions: Since some of the most effective examples can originate in your own experience or in the experiences of people you know, you must decide if your readers will accept examples presented in the first person. Some readers expect an academic exemplification essay to be written primarily, if not almost entirely, in the third person. Consider your audience and your purpose before you generate and organize examples. Readers will also expect that the examples you present will not distract them from your main point, so make certain that there is a clear relationship between your main point and your examples. Effective topic and transition sentences in your body paragraphs can help you keep this relationship intact for your readers.


In order to come up with effective examples, consider your rhetorical situation. Ask yourself several questions designed to help you understand the needs of your audience and your purpose:
  • Do these examples support my thesis? Are they relevant, adequate, and fair examples?
  • Are they the most convincing examples I could use? Are there any others I should use
  • Are these examples going to intrigue my readers? How can I keep the interest of my readers?
  • Will these examples clarify the subject and also focus my main point? 

Organization:  Normally, writers use at least a few examples to support their main point, unless they are using one extended example, which might function similar to an analogy. Examples are usually presented in body paragraphs according to their chronology, their spatial relationship, or their emphatic order (which means that you will use your most powerful examples at the end of your essay, after your reader has already accepted other, less-intense examples. Your conclusion should reinforce your main idea, since your reader has just finished reading examples, and your examples, rather than your main idea, might not be the first thing in your reader’s mind. Finally, your conclusion might provide implications and solutions and summarize your essay's main point.

How do I write my exemplification thesis?  Consider the point of your essay. What is your main point, or your thesis? As you draft your introduction, remember your purpose for using examples. Put your thesis at the end of the introduction. This is where many readers expect it. What is your thesis statement? Let’s say, for example, that your thesis statement was, “If you are working the evening shift at MacDonald’s, you are likely to see some of the worst behavior in customers.”

Use effective examples

Maybe you have noticed that writers and speakers can persuade, interest, and entertain others the most effectively by using well-chosen examples. Specific examples help readers understand larger theories and generalizations.

How can I organize my examples? 

There are several ways of organizing your examples. Consider the following: 

  • Chronologically. Maybe the incidents you are using for examples all happened in one especially lousy day. Maybe they all happened during one week or month or season. Maybe it was snowing for some and raining for others. Consider how time relates to your placement of the examples in the paper.
  • Logically. Were there any connections between the examples? Let’s say you are writing about a summer job at a fast food restaurant. Did, for instance, some of the examples involve, let’s say, relationships between coworkers, between workers and supervisors, between customers and workers, or between customers waiting for food or waiting to order? How could you categorize your examples?
  • Spatially. Let’s continue with the fast food scenario from above. Did some of the examples happen at the drive through window? Did they happen at the counter or in the parking lot? Can you organize your examples according to where they happened?
  • For Effect. Are some of the examples really shocking (like loud voices, yelling, and anger) while others are simply a mundane kind of bad behavior (like not washing hands after using the bathroom)? Can you organize your examples so that they “lead” to your conclusion? Can you put one of the more common kinds of bad behavior in the introduction, so that you can use it as a template for the rest of the examples of bad behavior in the paper?

How do I draft my conclusion?

What is important to remember as you draft your conclusion is your purpose for writing. Ask yourself questions about what you hoped to accomplish by using examples? Were you trying to get your readers to reconsider an opinion or belief? Were you trying to get your readers to change their actions? Return to your primary purpose and find a way to restate it in an interesting manner so that your readers will understand, when they finish reading the last of your examples, exactly what is expected of them. It tends to violate academic conventions to bring up any new examples or information in the conclusion (because it causes your readers to wonder if it really is the conclusion or if you should have reorganized your paper in light of the new ideas/examples).  . 

Exemplification Revision Checklist 

What connects the examples together? What is the main point found in using these examples? What are you trying to say with the examples? 

Is this message developed into a simple thesis sentence? What is it? Can you write it out below:

Do the topic sentences reinforce the thesis statement by saying something about the main point? Do the topic sentences also summarize each paragraph? Write each of the topic sentences below. If your topic sentences are vague, write new topic sentences below.



Does each body paragraph:
  • Provide one clear example? If not, correct on paper.
  • Contain generalizations or clichés? 
  •  Give sufficient information about the example? 
  •  Have a transition sentence that sums up the paragraph? If not, write one for each paragraph on the paper.

Does the introduction:

  • Have an interesting and engaging first sentence? If not, write one on the paper?
  • Is the introduction developed sufficiently? Does it jump too quickly into the paper? 

Does the conclusion:

  • Explain the implications of the presentation of the examples? Does it sum up the paper’s main idea? (Make sure that the conclusion does not bring up any new ideas that might confuse the reader.) 
  • Is the conclusion developed sufficiently? Is it too brief? 

Surface features:

  • Check on the use of punctuation: comma, period, semicolon, colon, other. Are there any problems with subject verb agreement, pronoun reference, parallelism, serious syntax/sentence construction, awkward sentence construction, choppy sentences, diction/word choice, spelling, spelling/homonyms? 


  • Are there any places in the paper that seem superficial? Are there any generalizations, clichés, or factual errors? Is the paper off topic, not an exemplification essay, hurried/lacking anything?