Exploratory Essay

Exploratory Essay

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An exploratory essay is just what it sounds like—you mission is to explore a problem/question that you have discovered upon reading the first three chapters of “Citizen: An American Lyric” , and then write a paper that explores your thought process as you attempt to answer it. Because this genre of essay naturally lends itself to narrative, the first person (“I”) is welcome. You may also practice using one of the standard forms of academic essay-style organization: chronological, cause/effect, comparison/contrast, process analysis, etc. The only source requirement is Citizen itself.

While you may end up taking a stance on the problem/question you are exploring, the point of the writing is neither to argue nor persuade. In fact, your essay will seek a thesis by the end rather than generate one at the beginning. In other words, there is no need to know your stance before you begin writing; You may find that you write your way into a stance. The essay will explore how you become familiar with the problem/question that you pose.

Because Citizen is the only source requirement for this essay, your process of discovery will likely have a lot to do with close reading. You’ll answer all sides of the question you pose as best you can. So if my question is: “are all the situations described in Citizen about the same person?” I’d try out the answers yes, no, and maybe in my essay, using the book as evidence, and perhaps by my conclusion decide which answer works best. (Though you don’t necessarily have to end up answering your question definitively.)

As you write your way into your essay, you may discover that you are bringing a number of assumptions into the discussion. Try to discover, interrogate, and reformulate these assumptions, and perhaps show how reading Citizen led to this reformulation. The reader should be shown the process, not the solution. Reveal to your readers how you expanded your views, narrowed your views, shifted your focus, gathered your thoughts, abandoned them, and then gathered them again.

In terms of structure, you may find it useful to use the introduction to present the problem/question to be explored. Then, the body paragraphs will widen the problem/question and address possible answers using the text as evidence. Your conclusion can present the reason for the exploration, but it is not necessary to offer a solution.

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