Exploratory Research Essay

Exploratory essay is different from the majority of other types of academic writing because its very name presupposes that you pass through unknown territory and should find your own way in it.

Speaking less metaphorically, you begin writing without knowing to what conclusions you are going to come. Usually, you have a point in the beginning and should prove it in the essay; here you should write an essay in order to find a point.

This leads to a number of specific features:

  • Exploratory essay is more about a problem or a question, than about an idea.
  • It would be reasonable to analyze several possible solutions of the problem in course of the essay, showing their strong and weak points, before you choose any of them.
  • There are two ways of writing an exploratory essay: impromptu (which is by default in this case) and retrospective (first conclusion is chosen, and then the “exploratory” part is written in order to fit it). The former looks more natural, which is held in great esteem by some teachers; the latter lets you make the essay smoother.

Exploratory essay is often assigned when students are wanted to learn something on their own, rather than having it explained by teachers. To some people it may be baffling, the others learn better this way; anyway, you are supposed to do it and to perceive some information on the way. So, try and do it.

Typically, an exploratory essay should be formed along such scheme:

  • Introduction.
    1. Define the topic, limit its boundaries. This may be done in various ways – by a quotation from a research paper, description of some event or concept, directly asking a question in the first line and so on.
    2. Explain the problem, why it is important. Enumerate the general points of view on it or your ideas about solving it.
  • Body.
    1. Give some additional background information.
    2. Analyze one of the points of view you have already mentioned; repeat it with all the other points, compare them.
    3. Choose what you consider to be the best solution or offer your own if you are not satisfied with the pre-existing ones.
  • Conclusion.
    1. Return to the opening paragraph, ask yourself whether you have answered the question, share your thoughts about the decision.

The main thing you should remember about the exploratory essay is that you are supposed to explore, find solutions, and understand something new, not to recite truisms like “to kill people is bad”; of course it is bad, but why?

Example of exploratory essay written in the proper manner can be found here.

Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for Exploratory Papers

Summary:

This resource will help you with exploratory/inquiry essay assignments.

Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:59:40

Many paper assignments call for you to establish a position and defend that position with an effective argument. However, some assignments are not argumentative, but rather, they are exploratory. Exploratory essays ask questions and gather information that may answer these questions. However, the main point of the exploratory or inquiry essay is not to find definite answers. The main point is to conduct inquiry into a topic, gather information, and share that information with readers.

Introductions for Exploratory Essays

The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:

  1. What is this?
  2. Why am I reading it?
  3. What do you want me to do?

You should answer these questions in an exploratory essay by doing the following:

  1. Set the context – provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the questions you will ask
  2. State why the main idea is important – tell the reader why they should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and educational essay people will want to read and act upon
  3. State your research question – compose a question or two that clearly communicate what you want to discover and why you are interested in the topic. An overview of the types of sources you explored might follow your research question.

If your inquiry paper is long, you may want to forecast how you explored your topic by outlining the structure of your paper, the sources you considered, and the information you found in these sources. Your forecast could read something like this:

In order to explore my topic and try to answer my research question, I began with news sources. I then conducted research in scholarly sources, such as peer-reviewed journals. Lastly, I conducted an interview with a primary source. All these sources gave me a better understanding of my topic, and even though I was not able to fully answer my research questions, I learned a lot and narrowed my subject for the next paper assignment, the problem-solution report.

For this OWL resource, the example exploratory process investigates a local problem to gather more information so that eventually a solution may be suggested.

Identify a problem facing your University (institution, students, faculty, staff) or the local area and conduct exploratory research to find out as much as you can on the following:

  • Causes of the problem and other contributing factors
  • People/institutions involved in the situation: decision makers and stakeholders
  • Possible solutions to the problem.

You do not have to argue for a solution to the problem at this point. The point of the exploratory essay is to ask an inquiry question and find out as much as you can to try to answer your question. Then write about your inquiry and findings.

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