Define Exploratory Essay

The Primary Structure for an Exploratory Essay

The exploratory essay is, arguably, the most unusual of all essay types and probably the most interesting and easiest to write. The focus of this essay is a question, not a thesis, and may address both content-oriented questions as well as rhetorical questions. It is meant to educate yourself as well as the reader in an unbiased manner and to come to a conclusion, rather than to prove something. Ideally, it should be started without any idea of what answer you will come to in the end.

The exploratory essay is the opposite of an argumentative essay or a persuasive essay, both of which seek to persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view, or a research essay that tries to prove some idea by manipulation of data. Also, the exploratory essay differs from the expository essay, which is an essay that merely expresses the point of view of another person, and the critical essay that evaluates some other piece of work before finally deciding whether or not the author disagrees with it.

Structure

The typical structure for any essay, including the exploratory essay, generally consists of five paragraphs: one for introduction, three paragraphs for the body, and one for conclusion.

Introduction

This is where you define your topic. In the first line or at least very early in the opening paragraph, you present a question or an unknown fact that you answer or explain as you go through the process of your essay. You may use a quotation from some other source to present your topic or ask a question based on your description of an event. The introduction is your opportunity to explain the point, problem or topic of your essay, and do so by going over the generally known points of view on the topic or problem.

Body

The body paragraphs discuss the inquiry process and why you selected it. In other words, this is where you offer additional information for the purpose of background that presents differing points of view. Here, you compare the points of view offered in the additional information and analyze them as to how they would offer a solution to the problem. Choose what you consider to be the best solution or offer your own.

Conclusion

The conclusion should return to your introduction, restating the problem you explored, outlining some of its possible causes, and question whether or not you have answered the problem. It might be that you still have unanswered questions relating to the problem, and that is fine. Discuss why and where you might look to answer these further questions and what other research you may have to do. If you have reached a decision, share your thoughts about your decision process.

Formatting Styles

It is very important that you consider the various formatting styles before you start your essay. There are a few major styles used in academia, and each one has it own particular differences to another. The primary styles are the MLA, APA, Chicago, and Turabian formats. Which formatting style you use will affect how you reference the works of other authors in your paper. Citing these references accurately will allow your readers to quickly access the third-party data you present in your paper.

David Plaut

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
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Organizing an Exploratory Essay

Summary:

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

Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-17 05:44:38

Exploratory essays are very different from argumentative essays. In fact, an exploratory essay is likely different from any other essay you’ve written. Instead of writing to convince an audience of the validity of a thesis, you will be writing to find out about a problem and perhaps to form some preliminary conclusions about how it might be solved.

But there is another aspect the exploratory genre that is equally important. An exploratory essay is, in essence, a retrospective of your writing and thinking process as you work through a problem. It describes when, how, and why you completed certain types of research. This kind of writing is about how you work through problems that require writing and research. You will have to be introspective and think about your thinking process in order for your essay to turn out well.

Very roughly, then, your exploratory essay may follow this sort of structure:

Introduction

The introduction should outline the problem you explored and why it’s important. In addition, you should briefly discuss 1) some of the problem’s possible causes; 2) the institutions and people involved with the problem; 3) some of the possible solutions to the problem. A brief overview of the types of sources your researched during your inquiry.

Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs should discuss the inquiry process you followed to research your problem. These paragraphs should include the following:

  1. Introduction of source (title, author, type of media, publisher, publication date, etc.) and why you chose to use it in your exploration
  2. Important information you found in the source regarding your problem
  3. Why the information is important and dependable in relation to the problem
  4. Some personal introspection on how the source helped you, allowed you to think differently about the problem, or even fell short of your expectations and led you in a new direction in your research, which forms a transition into your next source.

Conclusion

The conclusion should restate the problem you explored, outline some of its possible causes, review the institutions and people involved, and highlight some possible solutions. If you still have any questions about the problem (and it’s ok to have some), you will discuss them here. Talk about why you think you still have questions regarding the problem you explored, where you might look to answer these questions, and what other forms of research you would have to do.

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