Exploratory Essays

The exact nature of an exploratory essay can't be known in advance. It emerges gradually from decisions and discoveries made along the way. Individual writers go in different directions, depending on their interests and their specific writing contexts.

At the start, you need to get authentically and personally involved with your subject. You need to get inside the subject and get the subject inside of you. Let go of preconceived notions about proper or expected ways to respond. Instead, connect the subject with your own world of experience and understanding. Identify issues you care about.

Precisely because the immersion stage may produce a jumble of ideas and impressions, it becomes necessary to sort things out. Look for patterns in your early responses. Separate major concerns from minor ones, central issues from peripheral ones. Consider which of the many points you've raised call for more examination and discussion.

By now, your project should be well underway. You've got a subject that genuinely interests you, and you've found a focus to guide your explorations. Now you need to begin systematically probing and exploring.

As you begin to identify key issues and problems for further exploration, you may wish to consider the learning cycle model below. It is based on the work of the French learning theorist, Jean Piaget.