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The Exploratory Essay

What is an Exploratory Essay?

The purpose of an exploratory essay is to investigate a topic through critical inquiry and present the research findings to your audience. An exploratory essay can take different forms, depending on its purpose. For example, a literature review in the social sciences is a form of exploratory essay. The writer identifies and evaluates the research that others in the field have already done in order to provide the background information needed for either a new interpretation of existing research or new research to add to the existing body of knowledge. Market analyses and environment scans are forms that the exploratory essay can take in business and industry. The company identifies and analyzes key external factors in order to inform strategic decisions.

The CRIT 602 Exploratory Essay & Your Audience

In the case of the exploratory essay in CRIT 602, its purpose is to answer the following question:

How will current trends, concerns, and research related to my academic discipline inform the decisions I make about my academic and professional development or personal interests?

A good way to think about your approach to the CRIT 602 exploratory essay is to go back to your hypothetical external audience. Your readers  are at the same stage of academic and professional development that you are and have similar goals. They are looking for credible information to examine key trends in the field, but they want the information to be evaluated by someone who understands from where they are coming.

You have already provided your readers with relevant trending information about professional organizations, social media, and information resources. They have appreciated the information you’ve presented from these contexts because it is current and relevant to their own academic and professional development. Moreover, you have demonstrated through your analysis and citations that the information you’ve shared is valid.

Purpose & Content:

Currently, your readers are coming back to you because they would really like to know what conclusions you’ve reached about the critical inquiry question you have in common, now that you’ve had the opportunity to look at your research findings in their entirety. How are the different contexts related to each other? Are there trends or patterns across contexts? Contradictions? Controversies? What about employment trends related to the field? Based on your research, are there assumptions you’ve identified that should be challenged?  What implications do you see for someone at your stage of academic and professional development? Finally, your readers would be interested in how you plan to apply this information to your own academic and professional development, so that they can more fully understand the implications of your research findings and apply them to their personal situations.

This is not an analytical paper.  You are presenting information and drawing conclusions based on your research, but you are not tasked with providing a thesis statement.  You should have a clear purpose stated, but your aim is to show your audience the information you’ve collected this term and explore the contexts and trends in the field that you’ve discovered.  After presenting that information, you’ll want to discuss assumptions and implications you see and how this newfound information would affect your audience’s academic and career goals.

Purdue University has an excellent site that describes how to approach writing an exploratory essay. As you plan your paper, please use the Assignment Guidelines below in conjunction with the Purdue OWL sources on Organizing an Exploratory Essay, as well as other resources found on that website.  Remember: this is NOT a research paper- you are to EXPLORE the research you have compiled throughout this term and present it an organized and synthesized way.

Although there are many ways to write an essay like this, a sample of a strong Exploratory Essay can be found here. Any assignment submitted later than three days after the due date will receive a zero for the assignment.

  • ALL essays should be formatted using APA style and in-text citations (or citation format used in your major or industry).
  • You should include a Works Cited page or Bibliography
  • Even though this is an exploratory, partially reflective, essay, it should use formal language and adhere to common grammatical and stylistic guidelines.

Exploratory Essay Guidelines

Area of Exploration: Your essay should focus on the following question: What current external factors impacting my field of study and its associated professions should inform the decisions of someone at my stage of academic and professional development?

Format: This essay should be 7-10 pages, double-spaced, with proper citations and a works cited page. It should be thorough, evaluative, well-written, and free of syntax and grammatical errors.

Outline: You may want to use the following outline and prompts to organize all the information you have gathered in the past few weeks. For information on grading, please consult the exploratory essay rubric.

Introduction:

Purpose, Audience & Context: Provide information and analysis about the larger context for your field of study and its associated professions to people at the same stage of academic and professional development as you are?

Keep in mind: This is an exploratory and evaluative assignment so a thesis/argument is not necessary, however the purpose of the assignment should be clear in the introduction.

Body:

Analysis:

  • Discuss each of the contexts you explored in the research assignments and how they are related to each other.  This should not be a list, or copied from your Annotated Bibliography.  It should be in paragraph format with topic sentences and smooth transitions.

Influence of Context & Assumptions:

  • Address your own assumptions about your field of study and its associated professions. What did you assume about the field before you started researching?  What do you find the most important aspects of the profession?
  • Identify how contexts outside of higher education influence the study and/or practice of your field.
  • Show how the different contexts are related to each other. Compare and contrast them.
  • Discuss trends or patterns across contexts. Explain any contradictions or controversies you encountered in your research.
  • Assess the employment trends related to the field.

Conclusions & Related Implications & Consequences:

  • After presenting your research, draw any conclusions you’ve reached about the critical inquiry question.
  • Identify the contexts outside of higher education that are most relevant for someone at your stage of academic and professional development.
  • Discuss any implications you see for someone at your stage of academic and professional development or personal interest in the field.
  • Based on your research, assess any assumptions you’ve identified that should be challenged.
  • Show how you plan to apply this information to your own academic and professional development or personal interest, so that the audience can more fully understand the implications of your research findings and apply them to their personal situations.

References: Access and Use Information Ethically and Legally:

  • Have you clearly identify information and ideas taken from outside sources though the use of citations?

 

Formatting the Exploratory Essay

Paper Length, Format & Citation of Sources

The body of your paper should be a minimum of 7-10 pages.

Your paper must align with the style guide used by your major: American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). Use the following sample papers to ensure that you’re following the style conventions appropriately:

For questions about citation format for the most common sources of information, you can begin with the CPS Library & Information Commons:

For questions about citation format for sources that don’t exactly fit the customary models, consult the style manual or go to the applicable site below, and type your question in the search box. Chances are that someone else has already asked the question and received an answer:

 

Integrating Research Findings into the Exploratory Essay

The following link to the Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) will take you to resources for paragraphing, summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting. The resources are intended for writing traditional research papers; however, they apply to our Exploratory Essay as well:

 

 

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