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Exploratory Essay

Definition:

"An exploratory essay differs from most other essays because it does not begin with an end in mind. This type of essay explores the evidence contained within it as it progresses and you ‘learn as you go’ rather than setting out to prove a judgement you had already made, as with most essays. In an exploratory essay, the purpose is to add your idea to a range of other ideas to offer a more generic view of a topic."

The exploratory essay, whilst following the basic layout of other essays, is different because it is not stating a thesis but posing a question, so even the introduction is different; the method determines the structure rather than the other way round.

As with most essays, the approach the writer chooses depend on what they hope to achieve. With the exploratory essay, there are two main ways to proceed: the ‘in-process’ strategy and the ‘retrospective strategy’. The first of these gives a sense of immediacy, as if the reader is actually sharing the thought process; the second is likely to be more thought out and aesthetically presented. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and the writer has to decide which method is best suited to their work.

Exploratory essays show your research in detail and how your thinking has been formed by this research. The exploratory essay will also anticipate other thinking by the reader and attempt to address this rhetorically.

Examining the strengths and weaknesses of various solutions to the problem under discussions is central to a good exploratory essay and will often be written in a style that reflects this e.g. a dialogue.

The exploratory essay cannot draw a conclusion as neatly as other essays because it is reflecting ongoing thought and engaging with it rather than seeking to provide a definitive solution to a problem.

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