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Exploratory Essay: Understanding Your Research and Thinking

The purpose of exploratory research is not to confirm what you already know and stop.
Instead, you should confirm that your beliefs and assumptions are true (or not); then you
should continue and try to understand why other people have different / contradictory
beliefs they also hold true.

Exploratory research opens you up to multiple perspectives and different outcomes than
you could predict at the beginning of your search. This approach sets you up to really learn
and develop new understanding. Ultimately, your current beliefs may be confirmed, or they
may be refuted.

Either way, my hope is that your knowledge base will be expanded significantly about your
subject of research and that this project will lead you to think more critically about your
subject from multiple perspectives.

Write an essay of 1,000 – 1,250 words that introduces your subject, what you knew about it
before, and what you learned about it from your beginning research. Conclude with any
gaps remaining in your knowledge/sources.

Incorporate information from at least 3 different sources you found during your research
to support your discussion. Do not use more than one source from any paper you wrote in
ENG 111 on the same topic. Use MLA Style source integration and documentation

Self-Assessment Checklist

☐ The purpose of my essay is to explore my subject. (This is different than writing with
a purpose to argue or writing to report conclusions.)

☐ My essay is formatted in MLA style, including the first page details, page numbering,
spacing, margins, font size, etc.

☐ My essay is 1,000 – 1,250 words. It includes a word count.

☐ My essay is about a focused research topic. This means I have chosen a specific,
narrow subtopic of my original idea for a broad subject. i.e., Not mass incarceration;
instead, mothers in prison.

☐ My essay introduces my subject in a general way with common knowledge about it.
(No citations are needed for common knowledge.)

☐ My essay introduces information I knew about my subject before. (Again, no
citations needed if it’s clear to your reader that you’re presenting your own knowledge and
how you came about it.)


☐ My essay introduces includes information from at least 3 different sources from my
research. I have not used more than one source from a previous ENG 111 essay on the same

☐ The information from my research is integrated into my writing with MLA style
source integration techniques, such as attribution phrases to present details of authorship
and credibility. (i.e.: According to NY Times reporter John Smith, …”

☐ Each time I use information from a source, I use in-text documentation.

☐ The last page of my essay is a separate Works Cited list.

☐ Each source quoted or paraphrased in-text has a corresponding entry on the Works
Cited page.

☐ The paragraphs of my essay are organized in a logical sequence. The basic sections
should be an intro to your subject, previous knowledge, and new knowledge you have
gained from your research. New knowledge should be more than one paragraph; for
example, you might devote a separate paragraph to each of the three sources you are