How to write Exploratory Essay

What is an exploratory essay? 

An exploratory essay is slightly different from most other forms of essays. Unlike most essays, exploratory writing does not aim to present a thesis statement or persuade the audience about a claim. An exploratory essay aims to show one’s thought process while discussing a topic. The essay can explore uncommon ideas, describe a problem, or analyze an experience. 

Additionally, an exploratory essay should show how you analyzed a problem and conducted research to solve it or arrive at a conclusion. In exploratory writing, you should express how and why you made use of the steps you did to research your topic. 

You might be familiar with the expository style of writing – a piece of writing aimed at presenting a claim and evidence to persuade the reader to see the author’s point of view. The expository essay often starts with a point in mind that you wish to write about. 

Conversely, an exploratory essay is more open, encouraging the concept of ambiguity and often allowing more than one interpretation of the work. In exploratory essays, you do not start writing with a point in mind – instead, the essay is written without any preconceived conclusions. In writing the essay, you conclude a point. 

Compare these two writings. Which do you think is expository and which is exploratory? 

Water should cost money, because people work to bring a clean supply of water to us every day. If water were free, these people would not want to work for no wages. They deserve an income for their labor. As such, water should cost money. 

Some people believe water should cost money because people work to bring a clean supply of water to us every day. If water were free, these people would probably not want to work for no wages. Since all people deserve an income for their labor, it is argued that water should cost money. 

Although some exploratory essays can be written retrospectively – the author concludes a point first, before writing paragraphs to fit the exploratory process leading to that point – keep in mind that exploratory writing is meant to give every claim an equal ground before deriving an opinion. 

Possible topics for an exploratory essay

Most exploratory essay topics are open in nature, allowing the author and the reader some room to interpret what the essay could be about. 

Since exploratory essays tend to focus on introspection and reflection, it is good to pick a topic that you personally have an interest in. Exploratory essays also tend to focus on the author’s personal perspective on the subject matter, relying on the assumption that all people are similar, and if we explore deep within ourselves, we will find truths present in all people. 

Some possible topics for an exploratory essay are: 

Structure of an exploratory essay

An exploratory essay can make use of the normal structure of prose, consisting of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Note that there is no need for a thesis statement as the purpose of the essay is not to sway the reader. 

Exploratory essays are good grounds for discussing various solutions to a problem before you have decided on one. The pros and cons of each possible outcome can be weighed and explained. 

It is common for exploratory essays to make use of figurative language or analogies so that the author can express themselves clearer and be understandable to every reader. 


In the introduction, outline the topic you are exploring. If your topic is very broad, use the introduction to narrow it down (for instance, clean water instead of just water). Briefly address the background of the subject matter, such as some possible causes for the problem (if any), who or which demographic your topic affects the most, and some possible viewpoints or solutions to the topic. 

In current times, clean water usually costs money. While some people can get water for “free” at drinking fountains, the supply of water still costs money somewhere. Water is a daily necessity, and as such, some people believe that water should be free, just as air is free. However, others believe that water should still cost money. 


Since your essay does not have a conclusion in mind yet, it is important to discuss a good number of points in the body section in order to give a balanced view. Usually, three points or more would be good to start with. 

Remember that your three points should not all be supporting the same opinion, unlike expository essays. For example, if your topic has an argument for and against the subject, you should present opposing viewpoints in each paragraph instead of giving only one-sided arguments. 

If applicable, do not be hesitant to include some personal thoughts on how each opinion and the evidence you found affected your opinion of the topic, or perhaps steered you in a new direction to conduct more research. 

Point 1: Water should be free.
Evidence: Water is available as a natural resource on our planet. We all need water, and for something that one can source themselves from natural water bodies, it does not make sense to charge a hefty price for water.

Point 2: Water should cost money.
Evidence: The process of cleaning and distributing water is not free. People are employed to treat water and supply it to homes around the world. These people deserve to be paid.

Point 3: Water should be free for those who cannot afford it.
Evidence: We all need water to live, and denying someone a basic living necessity simply because they cannot afford it is like denying them air to breathe. 


Restate the problem in the conclusion. Depending on the nature of the essay you write, the conclusion can remain undecided and ambiguous, or you could conclude with your own opinion. Not every question has a straightforward answer, and it is normal to still have some unanswered questions even after completing the exploratory process. Address these questions in the conclusion, and perhaps even add how you may want to go about answering these questions. 

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The question of whether clean water should be free can be a difficult one to answer. While it is justifiable that water as a basic living necessity should be available to anyone regardless of their financial background, it is also fair that people who work in water supply and treatment jobs should be paid for their work. As such, I believe that water should actually cost money, but not too much as to be overpriced.