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100 Exploratory Essay Topic Ideas

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 Paper?

These essays don't try to provide just one answer to a question. Instead, they look at all the different positions people hold on that topic. News reports and textbooks often use this sort of writing.

Are large families good for children?

Are large families good for children?

Parents and Children

  1. Should parents have equal authority over children?
  2. What effect does religion have on parenting and family life?
  3. Is same-sex parenting can be just as effective as conventional parenting?
  4. Is adoption a good way to build a family?
  5. Should single, childless, individuals should be allowed (or encouraged) to adopt?
  6. Do children of divorced single parents have more behavior problems?
  7. Can single parents raise a child just as well as two parents?
  8. Should the government continue to support adoption tax credits to encourage adoption?
  9. What are the most important things for parents to do?
  10. Should surrogate parenting be allowed?
  11. Is being a surrogate parent a noble thing to do?
  12. Is having biological children important?
  13. What is a family?
  14. Should step-parents adopt a spouse's children whenever possible?
  15. Should the government make childcare more affordable so women could continue their careers and have children more easily?
  16. Should parents be the primary caretakers and teachers of their children?
  17. What is the effect of technology such as cell phones on family life?
  18. What is the effect of pets on family life? Should parents allow children to have pets?
  19. How important is it that elderly relatives have a part in family life?
  20. Should families be caretakers of elderly relatives rather than have them in nursing homes?

Exploratory Essays Don't:

Argue for a particular position.

Present your own view as the main point.

Try to solve anything.

Exploratory Essays Do:

Seek to understand a topic thoroughly.

Look at three or more sides of an issue.

Use an objective tone and style.

Sometimes conclude with your own opinion.

World Problems

  1. Who is responsible for reducing carbon emissions?
  2. Is China the next global superpower?
  3. Should cloning humans be banned?
  4. What should be the role of the U.S. in supporting Israel?
  5. What should be done to provide enough water for everyone?
  6. What will happen with the European Union in the next 10 years?
  7. What responsibility does America have to promote human rights around the world?
  8. Should American soldiers continue to stay in the Middle East?
  9. What should be the role of the United Nations?
  10. Is organic produce really better?
  11. Can music and art be used to help prisoners rehabilitate?
  12. Should organ donation be mandatory?
  13. How should costs of health care be paid for?
  14. Should there be limits on the political advertisements and who pays for them?
  15. Should there be limits on media sexuality and violence?
  16. Should professional women athletes be paid more?
Is sugar really bad for you?

Is sugar really bad for you?

Body Image

  1. What is the cause of the increase in obesity in the United States?
  2. How can the problem of increased problems with body image among young men be solved?
  3. What is the best dieting plan for maintaining a healthy weight?
  4. Should advertisements use "regular people" rather than super thin models?
  5. Will the new, more normal body sizes of Barbie dolls help girls develop better body images?
  6. Do men have body image problems?
  7. How can we help young men and women develop healthy body images?
  8. How important is it to have a good self-image?
  9. Is marathon running a good thing to do to your body?
  10. What is the best way for men to compliment women's physical appearance?


  1. Should college be free?
  2. How should college be made more affordable?
  3. How should colleges encourage students to study and do well in class?
  4. Should there be a limit on the use of technology in schools?
  5. Should schools switch over to all digital textbooks?
  6. How should we stop school shootings?
  7. How can the physical spaces in classrooms be made to help kids learn?
  8. What can be done to make schooling opportunities more equal?
  9. What is the best way to study for a test?
  10. How can students avoid procrastination and manage time better?
  11. What is the effect of coffee on young people? Does it help them learn better?
  12. Is it a problem that more women than men go to college?
  13. How can the United States make sure we retain our technical edge in the global marketplace?
Family. Laughing together and playing together has a positive effect on families.

Family. Laughing together and playing together has a positive effect on families.

Marriage and Divorce

  1. Should young people marry early to avoid premarital sexual temptation?
  2. What are the negative effects of divorce on children?
  3. How soon do children recover from a divorce?
  4. What are the effects of marrying as teenagers?
  5. What are the disadvantages/or advantages/or struggles of interracial marriage?
  6. What are the disadvantages (or advantages, or struggles) of marrying someone of another faith?
  7. What are the advantages (or advantages, or struggles) of monogamous marriages vs. polygamy?
  8. Do marriages of people who are of the same ethnicity/race work better?
  9. Are arranged marriages suppressing those involved?
  10. Is love the most important factor in choosing a spouse?
  11. Is being best friends the most important factor in choosing a spouse?
  12. Does sex before marriage hurt, or help the marriage?
  13. Does living together before the marriage help or hurt the marriage?
  14. How important is it that parents approve of a marriage?
  15. How do different beliefs in God affect a marriage?
  16. Is it better to stay single and not marry?
  17. What are the components of a healthy marriage? Is marriage better if the man is the main breadwinner?
  18. They say “opposites attract” but is being different helpful or harmful to a long-term marriage?
  19. Who causes more arguments, men or women?
  20. Who most often wants a divorce, men or women?
  21. Which sex is more likely to break up, men or women?
  22. What is the #1 reason that people divorce? Or break up?
  23. Should a man be the main pursuer?
  24. Does distance negatively or positively affect dating relationships?
  25. Are men and women looking for the same thing in relationships?
  26. What are the reasons people go into relationships? Are some reasons better than others?
  27. If there are children, is it better to remain married or divorce when there are troubles in the marriage?
  28. What makes a marriage last for the long haul?
  29. What role does religion play in marriage?
  30. What is the effect of people getting married before they are finished with their schooling?
  31. Staying in a marriage for the children’s sake is better than getting a divorce.
  32. Is living together good for a relationship?
  33. What saves a marriage from divorce?
  34. Should couples marry later in life?
  35. What are the financial effects of divorce?
  36. If people realized how difficult life was after divorce, they would work harder on saving their marriage.
  37. Second marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
  38. Should people remain friends with their ex-husband or ex-wife?
  39. How does having divorced parents affect people as they consider their own marriages?
  40. How is financial security related to relationship/marriage security?

Steps in Choosing a Topic

  1. Write a web of issues. Make a list of related words, phrases, problems, and ideas. Use lines to connect ideas. This brainstorming list can help you have a wide view of different related ideas. In the case of my students, they used one of the following in the center of their web: marriage, divorce, family, or relationship.
  2. Use webs to make a list of arguable statements or questions. Taking their webs, my students did this in class in small groups. You could do this on your own if your teacher doesn't assign it. Or look at the list my students generated.
  3. Compile a topic list. Make your own list or look at the list above.
  4. Choose a question that interests you. Sometimes students chose the topic they had developed, but often they found one they were more interested in by looking through the list.
  5. Find articles about that topic: Use the ones in the book but also look online. Type your question in Google to see what articles it generates. Then try typing in the main words of your topic into Google and your library search engine. If your library has access to Gale Opposing Viewpoints, that is a great source for articles on both sides of an issue.
  6. Read your articles and tweak your question to find 3 positions. Sometimes, as you read about a topic, you may find that there aren't clearly defined positions. At other times, you may find some aspect of a topic more interesting. so you can change the question to fit your interests, or else the research you actually find.