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Exploratory Essay Papers

What is an exploratory essay and how to write it

An exploratory essay might seem like a challenge. In most of the essay types you will learn to write you will be encouraged to remain objective and to cite facts throughout the paper to accomplish your objective.

An exploratory essay is one in which you explore a topic through research. Think of it more as an article in The New Yorker or your favorite magazine instead of an essay and you will get it.

So, how do you write an exploratory essay? Keep these points in mind and it will be easy!

  1. In your introduction, tell the reader what they’re reading and what you hope they will accomplish.
  2. Help the reader understand the situation by setting the context.
  3. Hook the reader with a compelling statement that encourages him or her to read the essay
  4. Clearly state your research question that communicates what it is you are trying to discover in this essay.

That’s all well and good, but an example will help to clarify everything.

A great example of an exploratory essay

Assume that you are writing an exploratory essay that examines whether or not global warming has a negative effect on the nesting habits of blue jays.

In your introduction, you will explain to the reader that a correlation may exist between global warming and their nesting habits.

Explain, further, that the piece will explore research that can help to prove or disprove this possibility. This tells the reader what they’re reading and what you want to accomplish.

Continue on by explaining the current changes in the nesting habits of the species. From there, you will be able to introduce global warming as the possible culprit. That is setting the context.

Next, you will explain to the reader that it is not just the blue jay that is at risk, nor birds. If blue jays are affected by global warming, perhaps other species are at risk, too. This hooks them in with a compelling statement.

From here, you can begin to explore different research pieces on this topic. Share what you find throughout the paper in an objective fashion.

So what’s the point?

An exploratory essay is designed to not only help the reader learn and grow, but also the author. These types of essays can lead to new insights and understandings in specific fields of study.

When writing an exploratory essay do not be afraid to explore things that may seem ridiculous when first considered. You may find, while doing your research, that a correlation exists between things where there were never seen to be any before.

An exploratory essay helps us learn and grow as scholars, readers, writers, and human beings.

Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for Exploratory Papers


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.