Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
What Is an Exploratory Essay?
These essays don't argue for a particular position. Instead, they look at an issue from several points of view. An excellent essay keeps the reader guessing. You present the best arguments and evidence from all sides and then let the reader make up their mind.
This Article Includes:
1. How to Pick a Great Topic
2. 5 Types of Exploratory Questions
3. A Sample Essay
4. Exploratory Topics and Research Articles on:
- Race and DNA
- Energy and the Environment
- Digital Reading
- Genetic Engineering
1. How to Pick a Great Topic
These essays are great for hot-button topics. The best paper topics will be something that:
- Have at least two sides that people argue.
- Are something that many people are interested in talking about.
- Is an issue that is not agreed on.
- Is something that you can research.
- Includes information which is not just opinion.
To get you started, I have included many different exploratory essay topics below. For many of the topics, I've included one or more links to essays which will get you thinking about the topic.
2. The 5 Types of Exploratory Questions
Below are the five types of exploratory questions. Consult these when beginning to write your essay.
- Fact: What is it? What is true? How can I know?
- Definition: what does it mean? How should we categorize this?
- Cause: What or who caused this? Who is responsible?
- Value: How important is it? How much attention should we pay to it? Is it overblown or undervalued?
- Policy: What should we do? Who should do it? How can we do it?
Example of Different Questions on One Topic
Using nitrogen fertilizer is bad
What does "Organic" mean?
Why is there an increase in food allergies?
Is free-range meat a better choice?
Should more research dollars go to support farmers in poorer nations?
Solar Energy technology can significantly reduce oil dependency
What does "Off the Grid" mean?
Did biofuel trend cause poor people's food cost to go up?
Supporting electric car technology is important.
We should immediately start building up our nuclear energy capability.
DNA evaluation of athlete is helpful
What is "Hawk-Eye" Technology?
High-Tech sports technology equipment causes slower games.
Referees are better than replays.
Equipment and uniforms which enhance performance are distracting and should be banned.
NRA slogan: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.
What is gun control?
What causes most gun deaths?
Is gun ownership an important American right?
Should schools require teachers to carry concealed handguns?
3. A Sample Essay
Creationism vs. Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: Creationism and Evolutionism continue to be a debate both within the church and within American society. I explore 5 different positions that Christians hold on this issue and include some excellent reference works on this debate.
4. Exploratory Topics and Research Articles
Here are over 100 different essay topic ideas on subjects ranging from Race and DNA to Genetic Engineering. Each list is followed by a few articles on their respective subjects.
Race and DNA
- What does race really mean?
- Do you have to play the role that nature assigns you?
- Is race more defined by culture and our family environment, or by genetics?
- Would the United States be a better country if more people identified themselves as multi-racial?
- Why do most Americans feel they must identify with one particular race?
- Should people have their DNA tested for their racial background?
- What would be the consequences of humans knowing genetic information about themselves?
- Should average individuals seek to have their DNA sequenced? Who should have access to that information?
- Should the cloning of humans be outlawed?
- Is it all right to genetically manipulate an embryo in order to prevent them from having a genetic disease?
Human Genetic Research Articles
What does your DNA reveal about you? The Bachman / Baughman D.N.A. Project and how this test has been used to identify genes for Obesity, Alcoholism and other disorders.
Read More From Owlcation
Fewer Call Themselves Multiracial by Haya El Nasser, USA Today, 5/4/2007
Human DNA Sequencing, Website of National Human Genome Research Institute
Energy and the Environment
- Do recycling and using green products make a difference?
- Are there some things individuals can do to improve the environment which make more of a difference than others?
- Is the greenhouse effect real?
- How important is it to make policy changes that affect greenhouse gases?
- Is the problem with changing emissions political or technological?
- Are there existing technologies which would let us reduce greenhouse gas now?
- Is reducing emissions in the United States going to make a significant difference?
- How can the world influence China and India and other heavily polluting countries to reduce emissions?
- Do greenhouse gases really harm people?
- Can renewable energy really provide enough power?
- Should we rely on nuclear energy more?
- Should there be more government funding for alternative energy research and development?
- What is Materials Science?
- How important is Materials Science to solving world energy and technology problems?
- Is an electric car a realistic possibility in the near future?
- Will nanotechnology really help us clean up the environment?
- How can we make sure nanotechnology is safe?
- Can we really repair the rainforest?
- Is eating and growing food locally really better for the environment?
- Will advanced technologies like driverless cars or super fast vacuum trains be the answer to the environmental crisis?
Environmental Research Articles
Some Convenient Truths by Gregg Easterbrook, in Atlantic Monthly, September 2006.
Building a Better World with Chemicals [panel discussion about possible future developments in nanotechnology and chemistry] in Discover Magazine, September 2012.
- Are we doing too many high-tech tests in our health care system? Do these tests really make for better health care?
- How do we balance the need for good health care with the continually increasing cost of health care drugs and testing technologies?
- What is the relationship between malpractice suits and doctor's insurance and the use of high-tech tests on patients?
- Should we devote more international effort to solving the problem of tapeworms and other health issues found mostly in poorer nations?
- How can our health resource dollars be distributed more evenly?
- What responsibility do First World Nations have to give Third World peoples better health care?
- Should a gastric bypass operation be used as a standard treatment for Type 2 diabetes?
- Are we relying on expensive health technologies like surgery and drugs to cure things that should be taken care of by better lifestyle choices like good diets and exercise?
- Are using nanobots a good idea? Could nanobots be used as weapons or by terrorists?
- What are nanobots and how can they help solve health problems?
- Should humans have microchips and nanobots implanted in them? How should we value our bodies with respect to inner technologies?
- Could nanobots be harmful to the human body?
- How realistic is nanobot technology? How close are we to a practical human application?
- Is technology a solution or a danger to our health and society?
- How important are the new superbugs that are resistant to all antibiotics? What will happen if we don't find something to fight them?
Research Articles on Medicine
Our Bodies, Our Technologies: Discusses the way in which nanotechnology is poised to alter the relationship between our bodies and technology.
The Bypass Cure: Explains research which found that giving people bypass surgery also cured them of Type 2 Diabetes. Is surgery a good option for treating this condition?
The Hidden Epidemic: Tapeworms in the Brain: tells the shocking story of what happens when tapeworms, which ordinarily live in the stomach, end up moving to a person's brain. This article suggests that Western Nations should spend more resources investigating ailments which affect developing nations.
- How does egg and sperm donation affect family relationships?
- Should egg and sperm donors have a role in the life of a child?
- What are the ethical considerations in sperm donation?
- Should there be more regulation on egg and sperm donation?
- Are reproductive technologies necessary or are they fostering a “shopping” mentality among parents who want to choose their child’s genetic make-up?
- Is donating to a sperm or egg bank a good idea?
- How do policies of sperm banks violate the privacy of donors?
- How much information should sperm banks give about donors?
- Is it right for parents to choose the characteristics of their child?
- Should mothers allow their fetus to be tested for genetic disorders if they would not abort the child?
- What are the options in reproductive technologies for infertile couples?
- Is IVF a good choice for infertile parents?
- Should medical insurance cover infertility treatments?
- How far should scientists go in altering the genetics of humans?
- Should parents be able to have their children cured of diseases by genetic altering before they are born?
Reproductive Technology Research Article
Reverse Eugenics: Choosing an Embryo Who HAS a Disability: Should this be an option for parents who are deaf or have other disabilities?
Education and Technology
- Is Twitter or other social media helpful to classroom learning?
- Should students be allowed to text and use social media in class?
- Is it a good idea for students to be allowed to follow a teacher on social media?
- How is technology in schools changing?
- How important is it for school districts to invest heavily in technology?
- Will technology mean the loss of teacher jobs?
- Do computers teach better than humans?
- How will instructors and instructions have to change in order to incorporate social media in the classroom?
- Will using digital technology make teaching easier or harder?
- Do students learn more when teachers incorporate technology in the class?
- Should all students be given an iPad or computer for class?
- Should all textbooks be digital?
- Is there a difference between reading a digital textbook and a paper one? Which is better?
- How can schools limit bullying on social media?
- Can students be taught better if teachers don't use any technology? Or limited technology? If so, what is best?
- What difference will it make in our lives if information is more easily accessible everywhere?
- Does the advent of E-readers mean the end of libraries?
- Will electronic books really save students money?
- Will using tablets and E-readers have a negative effect on our eyesight?
- Do people read as well on computers and tablets as they do on paper?
- Are today's students as good at reading as people in the past who read on paper and not digitally?
Education Technology Research Articles
How eBooks Lost Their Shine by Paula Cocozza for The Guardian, April 2017.
The Reading Brain in the Digital Age by Ferris Jabr for Scientific American, April 2013.
Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, for The New Yorker, July 2014.
Social Media and Relationships
- Can people have a meaningful online dating relationship?
- How is social media changing teenage relationships?
- Do cell phones hurt or help relationships?
- Are today's high school and college students able to communicate face to face as well as people in the past?
- How does the ability to post about your relationship on social media change modern dating relationships for better or worse?
- Is digital dating a good idea? What are the benefits or dangers?
- Is digital dating a meaningful experience?
- Who should try digital dating?
- How can you be safe while digital dating? Should there be background checks?
- Is our digital age making it more difficult for people to find someone to date?
- What causes someone to try digital dating?
- How common is online dating?
- How many online relationships end in marriage?
- Which online dating service is best?
- Can online relationships be as meaningful as face-to-face ones?
- Can online learning be as good as meeting in a class?
- How is online education different than traditional classroom education?
- Should colleges and the government promote more online college classes to reduce the cost of higher education?
- What causes people to choose an online learning environment rather than a traditional classroom? Is cost the major factor?
- Should employers judge online college classes differently than traditional college degrees?
Communication Technology Research Articles
Digital Dating: Desperation or Necessity? by Christine Hassler, in Huffington Post, 11/18/2008
The Ugly Truth About Online Dating by Ryan Anderson in Psychology Today, Sept. 6, 2016.
Can Online Learning reproduce the Full Collge Experience? by Karen McKeown for The Heritage Foundation.
- Should everyone get their DNA sequenced?
- Is gene screening ethical? Does this change how we see ourselves and others?
- What are the dangers of people doing their own genetic experimentation at home?
- Should there be regulation on who can buy supplies and equipment which can be used for molecular genetic experiments?
- Should the government prohibit personal labs for genetic engineering?
- Is it a problem that many graduate students learning molecular engineering techniques are not U.S. citizens?
- Harvard University geneticist George M. Church who worked on the Human Genome Project suggested that the possibility of cloning extinct species and even a Neanderthal man is something we will eventually be able to do. What are the ethics of such a project?
- Can genetic mapping and looking at the DNA of extinct species help us?
- Who should decide what should be cloned and what should not?
- Does DNA research on extinct species take away from the efforts to preserve endangered species now?
Genetic Engineering Research Articles
The Dawn of Biohackers: Do it Yourself Molecular Biologists by Delthia Ricks, in Discover, 10/05/2011.
Don't Clone a Neanderthal Baby, by Arthur Caplan, in CNN Jan. 24, 2013.
14 Extinct Species that Could be Cloned by Brian Nelson, Mother Nature Network, Jan. 31, 2013.
Preservation in a Petri Dish: Scientists Hope Cloning Will Save Endangered Animals by Philip Bethge, Spegel Online International (translated from German), November 8, 2012.
Questions & Answers
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics about organic produce or local farming?
Answer: Many people are now more concerned about where their food is grown and how it is grown, so your topic is very current. Here are some ideas:
Is locally grown produce healthier?
Is organic produce really worth the increased cost?
What makes produce "organic"?
Is the current trend towards eating locally a good idea worldwide?
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics about dark communication?
Answer: "Dark communication" is a term that psychologists use to describe negative ways that people relate to one another, such as lying, gossip and betrayal. One interesting article on the topic is Jeremy Osborne's description of why he teaches a dark communication course at his college: http://www.theccsn.com/teaching-the-dark-side-of-c...
Consider these possible questions:
Is dark communication always negative for relationships?
How is dark communication destructive in marriages?
Why do most of us encounter and participate in dark communication so frequently?
What causes people to use dark communication?
Question: What are some exploratory, example essay topics about immigrants?
Answer: How should the United States handle the problem of illegal immigration?
How does immigration help a nation?
What causes people to immigrate to another country?
How will the current large numbers of refugees change European society?
What is the best way to help immigrants integrate into their new country?
You can find some excellent exploratory reporting on immigration along the U.S. border on NPR.org.
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics about the War on Drugs?
Answer: What is the best way to solve the Opioid Epidemic in America?
Do drug campaigns like the one against Meth (Not Even Once) work?
Who is responsible for the Opioid Crisis?
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics on parent-child relationships?
Answer: This article has a number of possible topics for you: https://hubpages.com/academia/Topic-Ideas-for-Expl... This article also has Family and Relationship topics: https://hubpages.com/academia/100-Easy-Argumentati...
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics about mental health at a community college?
Answer: Here are a few:
1. What is the best way for community colleges to help students with mental health issues?
2. What is the responsibility of community colleges in regard to student's mental health?
3. How does mental health affect a student's ability to complete community college classes?
For more mental health topics, see my article: https://owlcation.com/humanities/Easy-Essay-Topics...
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics about makeup?
Answer: Do "natural" makeup products work?
Should women wear makeup?
Does makeup cause people to break out more?
Question: What are some exploratory essay topics about redlining?
Answer: "Redlining" has several definitions but I'm assuming you are referring to the practice of denying services based on race or socioeconomic status either directly or indirectly by making those services difficult to get. Here are some possible topic questions:
1. Why is redlining still a problem in the U.S. and Canada?
2. How do we stop the redlining of certain areas of a town by supermarkets, causing people to live in "food deserts?"
3. What causes the practice of redlining in mortgage lending and what can we do about it?
4. How can individuals prevent redlining in their communities?
Michele McAlister on November 24, 2014:
Perfect. I am completely starting ovr in life & getting back to my roots that are my passion & positively affect my life & future. Writing is one of these passions. So far your articles have been wonderful! Keep them coming! Much love my fellow writer...I hope to learn from you. Xoxo
Eiddwen from Wales on February 02, 2013:
Very interesting and useful.
Thanks for sharing.