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Narrative Writing

What is Narrative?
Often, the word narrative is synonymous with story. A narrative is the story (fiction or nonfiction) told and the order in which it is told. Sometimes, there is a narrator, a character or
series of characters, who tell the story. Sometimes, as with most non-fiction, the author
himself/herself in the narrator.
You are narrators of your own lives all the time. Something happens in class. You go to
lunch; then, you tell the details that are important to you in the order that seems right to
you. The story that you tell is a narrative. A reporter who tells a human interest story for the
Olympics about an athlete that fought for years to get to the Olympics might emphasize his
hardship, the time he had to sleep outside for a week, the eight hours a day that he worked
out. The narrative is shaped by details.These details offer clues about the authors purpose.
Clearly, the author who emphasizes the hardships of an Olympic athlete wants to show us that
this person overcame adversity to succeed.

Why Write Narrative?

Narrative writing is very important in your day-to-day life. For the rest of your life,you will
write texts, e-mails, cover letters, blogs, etc. about your beliefs, your ambitions, information
you know, and feelings you have. What could be more important?
Narrative writing in fiction and non-fiction (and even poetry) tells others the stories of our
personal experiences and allows us to gain empathy and sympathy about the world around

Narrative Essay Examples

In a narrative essay you tell a story, but you also make a point. So, it is
like a story told for a reason.

Narrative Essays: To Tell a Story

There are four types of essays:
Exposition - gives information about various topics to the reader.
Description - describes in detail characteristics and traits.
Argument - convinces the reader by demonstrating the truth or falsity of a


Narrative - tells a story, usually from one persons viewpoint.

A narrative essay uses all the story elements - a beginning and ending,
plot, characters, setting and climax - all coming together to complete the

Essential Elements of Narrative Essays

The focus of a narrative essay is the plot, which is told using enough
details to build to a climax. Here's how:

It is usually told chronologically.

It usually has a purpose, which is usually stated in the opening sentence.
It may use dialogue.
It is written with sensory details and vivid descriptions to involve the
reader. All these details relate in some way to the main point the writer is

All of these elements need to seamlessly combine. A few examples of

narrative essays follow. Narrative essays can be quite long, so instead of a
full length example of an entire essay, only the beginnings of essays are

Learning Can Be Scary

This excerpt about learning new things and new situations is an example
of a personal narrative essay that describes learning to swim.
Learning something new can be a scary experience. One of the hardest things I've ever had
to do was learn how to swim. I was always afraid of the water, but I decided that swimming
was an important skill that I should learn. I also thought it would be good exercise and help

me to become physically stronger. What I didn't realize was that learning to swim would also
make me a more confident person.
New situations always make me a bit nervous, and my first swimming lesson was no
exception. After I changed into my bathing suit in the locker room, I stood timidly by the side
of the pool waiting for the teacher and other students to show up. After a couple of minutes
the teacher came over. She smiled and introduced herself, and two more students joined us.
Although they were both older than me, they didn't seem to be embarrassed about not
knowing how to swim. I began to feel more at ease.

The Manager. The Leader.

The following excerpt is a narrative essay from a story about a manager
who was a great leader. Notice the intriguing first sentence that captures
your attention right away.
Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had
something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply,
"If I were any better, I would be twins!" He was a unique manager because he had several
waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters
followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was
having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the

The Climb
This excerpt from the climb also captures your attention right away by
creating a sense of mystery. The reader announces that he or she has
"this fear" and you want to read on to see what that fear is.
I have this fear. It causes my legs to shake. I break out in a cold sweat. I start jabbering to
anyone who is nearby. As thoughts of certain death run through my mind, the world appears
a precious, treasured place. I imagine my own funeral, then shrink back at the implications of
where my thoughts are taking me. My stomach feels strange. My palms are clammy. I am
terrified of heights.Of course, its not really a fear of being in a high place. Rather, it is the
view of a long way to fall, of rocks far below me and no firm wall between me and the edge.
My sense of security is screamingly absent. There are no guardrails, flimsy though I picture
them, or other safety devices. I can rely only on my own surefootednessor lack thereof.

Disney Land
The following narrative essay involves a parent musing about taking her
kids to Disney Land.
It was a hot sunny day, when I finally took my kids to the Disney Land. My son Matthew and
my daughter Audra endlessly asked me to show them the dream land of many children with
Mickey Mouse and Snow-white walking by and arousing a huge portion of emotions.
Somehow these fairy tale creatures can make children happy without such small presents
as $100 Lego or a Barbys house in 6 rooms and garden furniture. Therefore, I thought that
Disney Land was a good invention for loving parents.

The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo by Jeffrey Tayler

The following essay contains descriptive language that helps to paint a
vivid picture for the reader of an encounter with a man.
As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice. A diminutive middle-aged man
came out from behind the trees the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around
in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae'd stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he
wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered
skullcap. I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat
out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.

Playground Memory
The first excerpt from, Playground Memory, has very good sensory
Looking back on a childhood filled with events and memories, I find it rather difficult to pick
on that leaves me with the fabled warm and fuzzy feelings. As the daughter of an Air Force
Major, I had the pleasure of traveling across America in many moving trips. I have visited the
monstrous trees of the Sequoia National Forest, stood on the edge of the Grande Canyon
and have jumped on the beds at Caesars Palace in Lake Tahoe. However, I have discovered
that when reflecting on my childhood, it is not the trips that come to mind, instead there are
details from everyday doings; a deck of cards, a silver bank or an ice cream flavor. One
memory that comes to mind belongs to a day of no particular importance. It was late in the
fall in Merced, California on the playground of my old elementary school; an overcast day
with the wind blowing strong. I stood on the blacktop, pulling my hoodie over my ears. The
wind was causing miniature tornados; we called them dirt devils, to swarm around me.

Christmas Cookies
The second of the two narrative essay examples is an excerpt from
Christmas Cookies.
Although I have grown up to be entirely inept at the art of cooking, as to make even the most
wretched chef ridicule my sad baking attempts, my childhood would have indicated
otherwise; I was always on the countertop next to my mothers cooking bowl, adding and
mixing ingredients that would doubtlessly create a delicious food. When I was younger,
cooking came intrinsically with the holiday season, which made that time of year the prime
occasion for me to unite with ounces and ounces of satin dark chocolate, various other
messy and gooey ingredients, numerous cooking utensils, and the assistance of my mother
to cook what would soon be an edible masterpiece. The most memorable of the holiday
works of art were our Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which my mother and I first made when I
was about six and are now made annually.

Tips on Writing a Narrative Essay

When writing a narrative essay, remember that you are sharing sensory
and emotional details with the reader.

Your words need to be vivid and colorful to help the reader feel the same
feelings that you felt.
Elements of the story need to support the point you are making and you
need to remember to make reference to that point in the first sentence.
You should make use of conflict and sequence like in any story.
You may use flashbacks and flash forwards to help the story build to a
It is usually written in the first person, but third person may also be used.

Remember, a well-written narrative essay tells a story and makes a point.

Tips for Writing a Personal Narrative

Purpose and Audience

Personal narratives allow you to share your life with others and vicariously
experience the things that happen around you. Your job as a writer is to put the
reader in the midst of the action letting him or her live through an experience.
Although a great deal of writing has a thesis, stories are different. A good story
creates a dramatic effect, makes us laugh, gives us pleasurable fright, and/or
gets us on the edge of our seats. A story has done its job if we can say, "Yes, that
captures what living with my father feels like," or "Yes, thats what being cut from
the football team felt like."

There are a variety of ways to structure your narrative story. The three most
common structures are: chronological approach, flashback sequence, and
reflective mode. Select one that best fits the story you are telling.

Show, Dont Tell
Dont tell the reader what he or she is supposed to think or feel. Let the reader
see, hear, smell, feel, and taste the experience directly, and let the sensory
experiences lead him or her to your intended thought or feeling. Showing is
harder than telling. Its easier to say, "It was incredibly funny," than to write
something that is incredibly funny. The rule of "show, dont tell" means that your
job as a storyteller is not to interpret; its to select revealing details. Youre a
sifter, not an explainer. An easy way to accomplish showing and not telling is to
avoid the use of "to be" verbs.

Let People Talk

Its amazing how much we learn about people from what they say. One way to
achieve this is through carefully constructed dialogue. Work to create dialogue
that allows the characters personalities and voices to emerge through unique
word selection and the use of active rather than passive voice.

Choose a Point of View

Point of view is the perspective from which your story is told. It encompasses
where you are in time, how much you view the experience emotionally (your
tone), and how much you allow yourself into the minds of the characters. Most
personal narratives are told from the first-person limited point of view. If you
venture to experiment with other points of view, you may want to discuss them
with Miss Burke as you plan your piece.

Tense is determined by the structure you select for your narrative. Consider how
present vs. past tense might influence your message and the overall tone of your

The tone of your narrative should set up an overall feeling. Look over the subject
that you are presenting and think of what you are trying to get across. How do
you want your audience to feel when they finish your piece? Careful word choice
can help achieve the appropriate effect.

Descriptive Essays
The Modes of DiscourseExposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)are common paper
assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by
some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and
students need to understand and produce them.
Contributors:Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-10 01:34:44

What is a descriptive essay?

The descriptive essay is a genre of essay that asks the student to describe somethingobject,
person, place, experience, emotion, situation, etc. This genre encourages the students ability to
create a written account of a particular experience. What is more, this genre allows for a great
deal of artistic freedom (the goal of which is to paint an image that is vivid and moving in the mind
of the reader).
One might benefit from keeping in mind this simple maxim: If the reader is unable to clearly form
an impression of the thing that you are describing, try, try again!
Here are some guidelines for writing a descriptive essay.

Take time to brainstorm

If your instructor asks you to describe your favorite food, make sure that you jot down some
ideas before you begin describing it. For instance, if you choose pizza, you might start by writing
down a few words: sauce, cheese, crust, pepperoni, sausage, spices, hot, melted, etc. Once you
have written down some words, you can begin by compiling descriptive lists for each one.

Use clear and concise language.

This means that words are chosen carefully, particularly for their relevancy in relation to that
which you are intending to describe.

Choose vivid language.

Why use horse when you can choose stallion? Why not use tempestuous instead of violent? Or why
not miserly in place of cheap? Such choices form a firmer image in the mind of the reader and
often times offer nuanced meanings that serve better ones purpose.

Use your senses!

Remember, if you are describing something, you need to be appealing to the senses of the
reader. Explain how the thing smelled, felt, sounded, tasted, or looked. Embellish the moment with

What were you thinking?!

If you can describe emotions or feelings related to your topic, you will connect with the reader
on a deeper level. Many have felt crushing loss in their lives, or ecstatic joy, or mild complacency.
Tap into this emotional reservoir in order to achieve your full descriptive potential.

Leave the reader with a clear impression.

One of your goals is to evoke a strong sense of familiarity and appreciation in the reader. If
your reader can walk away from the essay craving the very pizza you just described, you are on
your way to writing effective descriptive essays.

Be organized!

It is easy to fall into an incoherent rambling of emotions and senses when writing a descriptive
essay. However, you must strive to present an organized and logical description if the reader is to
come away from the essay with a cogent sense of what it is you are attempting to describe.

Tips on Writing a Descriptive Essay

Writers use the descriptive essay to create a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing. Unlike a narrative essay,
which reveals meaning through a personal story, the purpose of a descriptive essay is to reveal the meaning of a
subject through detailed, sensory observation. The descriptive essay employs the power of language and all the
human senses to bring a subject to life for the reader.
If readers come away from a descriptive essay with the feeling that they have really met a person, gone to a
particular place, or held a certain object, the writer has done a good job. If readers also feel an emotional
connection and deep appreciation for the subjects significance, the writer has done a great job.
The Five-Step Writing Process for Descriptive Essays
Professional writers know one thing: Writing takes work. Understanding and following the proven steps of the
writing process helps all writers, including students. Here are descriptive essay writing tips for each phase of the
writing process:
1. Prewriting for the Descriptive Essay
In the prewriting phase of descriptive essay writing, students should take time to think about who or what they
want to describe and why. Do they want to write about a person of significance in their lives, or an object or place
that holds meaning? The topic doesnt have to be famous or unusual. The person could be a grandparent, the
object, a favorite toy, and the place, a tree house.
Once a topic is chosen, students should spend time thinking about the qualities they want to describe. Brainstorm
about all the details associated with the topic. Even when not writing about a place, reflect on the surroundings.
Where is the object located? Where does the person live? Consider not just physical characteristics, but also
what memories, feelings, and ideas the subject evokes. Memory and emotion play an important role in conveying
the subjects significance. Plan the focus of each paragraph and create an outline that puts these details into a
logical sequence.
2. Drafting a Descriptive Essay
When creating the initial draft of a descriptive essay, follow the outline, but remember, the goal is to give the
reader a rich experience of the subject. Keep in mind, the most important watchword of writing a descriptive
essay is show,dont tell. One of the best ways to show is to involve all of the sensesnot just sight, but also
hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Write so the reader will see the sunset, hear the song, smell the flowers, taste
the pie, or feel the touch of a hand.

Dont TellShow!
Use descriptive and figurative language, as well as concrete images to describe the subject. Similes and
metaphors work well. Here are some examples:

The house was old.

The house frowned with a wrinkled brow, and inside it creaked with each step, releasing a scent of neglected
He was smart.

If you had to pick a study buddy, you would pick this guy.
The clock had been in our family for years.
The clock stood by our family, faithfully marking the minutes and hours of our lives.
Enjoy the process of describing the subjectit can be a rewarding experience. A descriptive essay doesnt rely
on facts and examples, but on the writers ability to create a mental picture for the reader.
3. Revising a Descriptive Essay
In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can
be. In revising a descriptive essay, students should reread their work with these considerations in mind:

Does the essay unfold in a way that helps the reader fully appreciate the subject? Do any paragraphs
confuse more than describe?

Does the word choice and figurative language involve the five senses and convey emotion and

Are there enough details to give the reader a complete picture?

Has a connection been made between the description and its meaning to the writer? Will the reader be
able to identify with the conclusion made?
Always keep the reader in mind from opening to concluding paragraph. A descriptive essay must be precise in its
detail, yet not get ahead of itself. Its better to go from the general to the specific. Otherwise, the reader will have
trouble building the image in their minds eye. For example, dont describe a glossy coat of fur before telling the
reader the essay is about a dog!
4. Editing a Descriptive Essay
At this point in the writing process, writers proofread and correct errors in grammar and mechanics. Its also the
time to improve style and clarity. Watch out for clichs and loading up on adjectives and adverbs. Having a friend
read the essay helps writers see trouble spots and edit with a fresh perspective.
5. Publishing a Descriptive Essay
Sharing a descriptive essay with the rest of the class can be both exciting and a bit scary. Remember, there isnt
a writer on earth who isnt sensitive about his or her own work. The important thing is to learn from the
experience and take whatever feedback is given to make the next essay even better.
Time4Writing Teaches Descriptive Essay Writing
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Examples of descriptive

Young Lions, Young Ladies

by Shea Stutler
Adolescents like to have a place they can call their own. In the fifties,
teenagers hung out at the malt shop, sipping cherry cokes and rockin' with
Elvis. Today, in a small town in Tennessee, they're jam skating to Montell
Jordan. I was amazed to find a microcosm of life blooming on a 70 x 160foot cement slab known as a roller skating rink.

As I entered the building which housed the rink, the warm, nostalgic
scent of popcorn hit that part of my brain where dusty, cobwebbed memories
live, memories of my own adolescence. I made my way past a group of
exuberant teenagers at the snack bar until I reached the skating rink.
Skinny, hard benches, made for small butts, lined one wall. I took a seat and
scanned the rink. My eyes paused to read a sign; white, block letters on a
black background warned, "Skate at Your Own Risk."
Two young men swaggered past me: confident, heads held high, eyes
focused on their destination. I leaned over, looking down the long row of
benches, curious to find out where they were going. Their confidence lagged
a bit as they approached a large group of their peers, including several
young ladies. All of them exhibited signs of discomfort as the girls crossed
their arms over their nubile bodies and the boys tried hard not to stare.
Abruptly, a silent signal sent the entire assembly to the benches. Pairs
of dexterous hands laced up skates as quickly as possible, while other hands
aided in conversation that only the listener was allowed to hear. I was struck
by the intimacy of this scene. They all knew each other well. They had come
together in the freedom of this one place to share and explore without the
encumbrance of parents, teachers, or any other meddlesome adult. I sat bolt
upright, feeling very much like someone who had accidentally stumbled into
a room full of naked people.
Attempting to recover from my embarrassment, I was suddenly startled
by a cacophony . . . music, perhaps? It must have been music, because I
glanced down to find my foot tapping away to a beat long forgotten. As if on
cue, young people from every corner of the room flocked to the rink. The
awkwardness their bodies had expressed off the rink had been replaced by a

grace not unlike the albatross. They were clumsy in their approach to flight,
but, once airborne, they were a soaring sight to behold.
I was mesmerized by the effortlessness of their movements, weaving in
and out, endlessly circling. Skates became a blur of color: green, purple,
blue, pink, red--speeding by fast and furious. I felt the rush of wind on my
face as I caught the musky scent of cologne mixed with sweat. A swirl of
communication was taking place, none of it involving speech. The tactile
sense had kicked in: punching and shoving of young lions trying to impress
their ladies of choice, bodies brushing by each other, and the gentle touch of
hand on arm. A statuesque blonde, six inches taller than her partner, slipped.
"Catch me, I'm falling on purpose," her body language seemed to say. Eye
contact was prevalent. Most skaters continually scanned the rink, found the
one they were looking for, and BAM!! eyes quickly darted away. This testing
of emotional waters went on for several hours; boys and girls trying on
relationships of men and women like kids playing dress up in their parents'
I remembered the sign, "Skate at Your Own Risk." At the time, I had
worried about broken arms and legs, but as I watched the dance unfold on
that skating rink, I realized that these young people risk so much more. The
pain of rejection, the fear of making fools of themselves, and the devastation
they feel when they believe that they have, makes life for these adolescents
a risky business. Perhaps that sign should have read, "LIVE at Your Own


The Exploratory Essay

Topic: Education
Question: What type of education is the most beneficial?

For a properly formatted MLA document please view the following word
document (download)

Student Name
ENG 111
Exploratory Essay
March 13, 2002
Home-Schooling Vs. Traditional Forms of Education
1. The home school movement has grown from 100,000 in 1984 to nearly 2
million home-schooled students today (Lyman par.3). Not that long ago, the
thought of schooling children at home was almost unheard of and thought to be
something that would be done in the pioneer days. In 1969, Raymond Moore, a
former U.S. Department of Education employee, and John Holt, a veteran teacher
in alternative style schools, laid the foundation for what some have called one of
the greatest educational movements of our time. In the years since, home schooling
has become more widely known and many people are taking into consideration the
possibility of this untraditional form of elementary and secondary education. There
are three different points of view about home schooling: There are people who
believe that home schooling is the best form of education; there are those who
believe that public school will provide the best education; and there are people who
believe that private school provides a better education.
2. There are many reasons why people choose to support home schooling. Some
people think that children can get a better education at home, compared to a
traditional form such as public or private school. Popular belief holds that home
schooled children are socially backward and deprived, but research shows the
opposite: that home-schooled children are actually better socialized than their

peers, says Claudia Hepburn, Director of Education Policy at the Fraser Institute
(Taylor par.2). Some people are home schooled for religious, or family reasons.
Some people believe that they can better develop their childs character or
morality by teaching them at home. Susanne Allen, 35, a home-schooling mother
from Atlanta, claims that being schooled at home will make her children better
citizens because home schooling gives children the opportunity to work together
rather than working individually. Allen said, They learn to be caring for other
people by seeing older siblings care for them (Cloud par.16). Home schoolers
are really being prepared for the real word, contrary to what some may believe.
Working with their siblings at home prepares them for the relationships that they
will have outside of the home.
3. Some people dislike public or private school education because they object to
what the schools teach or because they believe that there are too many student
behavior problems. Luigi Manca, a communications professor at Benedictine
University in Lisle, Ill., who home schools his daughter says, The problem is the
schools have abandoned their mission. Theyve forgotten about educating
(Cloud par.8). Amy Langley, a home school mother of two in Decatur, Georgia,
believes that Two-income families dont participate enough to make public
schools work, and too much class time is spent on discipline (Cloud par.16).
There are many people who believe that the pros of home schooling outweigh the
cons, but there are still people who believe that the traditional forms of education
are better.
4. One of those traditional forms of education is public school. Some people
choose to send their children to public school because they went to public school
themselves and they never really thought of doing something different for their
children. Another reason is that many families cannot afford to send their children
to private school or to teach at home because both cost more money than you
would spend to support the PTA at a public school. Some parents believe that the
public schools are changing their methods to provide a more challenging
curriculum by piling on the homework and adding more tests to the syllabus. In
1997 in a Public Agenda survey, 42% of parents of kids in public school said
private schools had higher standards; only 22% said their own schools were more
demanding. But in a new survey, Public Agenda found that 35% of public school
parents still think that private schools are more demanding and 34% think public
schools are tougher (Carnahan par.17). Other statistics show other reasons why
parents choose public school over anything else. Of this years Presidential
Scholars, 107 attend public schools. Of National Merit Scholars, three-fourths

attend public schools, and nearly two-thirds of Harvard freshmen come from public
schools (Carnahan par. 8). These statistics show that a public school education may
be the best choice. Public school education may be getting better, but there are still
those who believe the only good education is a private school education.
5. Private school is the other traditional form of education that most people are
accustomed to. A reason some people choose private school over their other
options is because they think spending the extra money will guarantee them a
better education. Some parents, like Susan Rhea of Dayton, Ohio, choose a private
school education over a public one because they feel that their children are not
being challenged in public school. Rhea, who pulled her first grade son out of
public school, says, His school just wasnt challenging (Carnahan par. 1).
Another reason might be that people think that private schools are run very well
compared to the public schools, which are overseen by local governments.
Statistics show that national test scores would be even lower than they are now if
the private schools were omitted from the total results. Private school supporters
believe that the government number crunchers show conclusively that far better
results are being produced by private schools. Some parents also appreciate the
religious or moral foundations of many private schools.
6. Everyone has an opinion about education and which form is the best. Home
schooling is the new form of education that is rising in popularity, public school is
a form of education that has been around for many years and is most widely used,
and private school is the other traditional form of education that some people still
trust over the other options. The evidence shows that home schooling is the best
form of education. Home schoolers achieve higher test scores than students in
other forms of education do. Public and private schools waste time on things that
are not relevant to school. Home schoolers learn socialization skills away form the
dangers and peer pressure associated with public and private schools, and home
schoolers learn study skills and develop the ability to direct and organize
themselves toward a goal. College admissions officers have begun to seek out
home schoolers because they have already developed the study habits that
university students need. Home schooling seems to be the obvious choice for
education because of all the evidence supporting it. Home schooling has not
always been a popular form of education, but it has grown in size and popularity
for the short amount of time that it has been around.

Exploratory Essay
The concept of an exploratory essay is that you start without an end in mind. You don't necessarily
know how you feel about a subject or what you want to say about the subject, you allow the
research and your own direction to determine the outcome. This is writing to learn rather than
writing to prove what you know.
Purpose: The exploratory essay builds on the inquiry essay by having you look at and contribute
to a range of arguments rather than just one at a time. Whereas the inquiry essay introduced you
to a debate by looking at one argument a time, the exploratory essay asks you to widen your
vision to the whole conversation.

The focus of an exploratory essay is a question, rather than a thesis.


The two main ways to compose an exploratory essay yield different effects: The "inprocess" strategy produces immediacy, while a "retrospective" strategy produces more
artistically designed essays.


Exploratory essays chronicle your research actions and the thinking that results from those
actions; they address both content-oriented questions and rhetorical questions about possible
responses to the problem under consideration.


Exploratory essays regularly consider the strengths and weaknesses of various different
solutions to a perplexing problem.


Exploratory essays are often dialectical in either the Platonic or Hegelian sense of that term
because they recreate the engagement of antithetical positions, sometimes resulting in a
productive synthesis of contraries.

The exploratory essays can be written in many different subjects. Here are some popular topics to
give you an idea:

Effectiveness of the World Health Organizations

The Impact of Sports

The Democracy and Human Rights

The Importance of Creative Methods of Teaching

The Reasons of Immigration to US

The Taxation System of US

The Fairness of College Admissions

Whatever topic you choose, you should pick the subject you are really interested in, it will show in
the exploratory essay you write and will make it more interesting to the readers.

How to Write an Exploratory Essay with

Sample Papers
What is an Exploratory Paper?
Exploratory essays do not try to argue a claim. Instead, they look at all the different sides of
an arguable question. The goal in an exploratory essay is to:

Explain the argument question.

Tell the different views people have on this question.

Give your personal response.

How to Find an Exploratory Essay Topic

Remember that Exploratory Papers need to have an arguable question, which means it is a

Not solved.

Not a fact you could easily check the answer to.

Something people have different views about (try to find at least 3)

A question which is interesting to people right now.

An enduring issue, or linked to an enduring issue?

For topic ideas on relationships, dating and marriage see 100 Exploratory Essay Topics, if
you are interested in current technology you might prefer, 100 Technology Topics for
research papers. For links to articles you might use, look atResearching Exploratory Essays.

What are Enduring Issues?

Current Issues

Enduring Issues


How much tax should

people pay?

Where should government

get money?

Good, stable government

which meets needs of

Should technology be How can we best educate

used in the classroom?
Should Sex Offenders be
restricted from Social

Who is responsible for

protecting citizens from

Well educated next

Safety from violence.

Enduring issues are ones which people continue to care about over time. Enduring
issues concern claims of fact, definition, value, cause and polity. They concern our
need for good government, quality of life, social justice and personal rights. Ide

Exploratory Topic Poll

Which Exploratory Essay question is most interesting to you?

How does divorce affect children?

Is organic food really better for you?

Does using technology for education really help?

Why do opposites attract?

Can recycling really make a difference?

See results without voting

Summary Analysis Response and Exploratory Papers

My college class uses Perspectives on Argument by Nancy Woods as a textbook. In this book,
students first research a topic and write aSummary Analysis Response Paperfor each article
they find on their topic. The Exploratory Essay is how they pull that research together into
one paper which explains all the different positions on the issue as well as explaining the

What are the Basic Features of an Exploratory Essay?

1. Define and describe the issue and present the arguable question(introduction).
2. Analyze the rhetorical situation of the issue, including Text, Reader, Author,
Constraints and Exigence (see below on outline) (body part 1).
3. Identify and summarize at least 3 major positions on this issue (body part 2)
4. Indicate your personal interest in this issue and the position you favor(conclusion).
5. Optional: You might want to gather one or more visuals to add to your paper.

Introduction Ideas for Expository Essays

re-tell a real story

give statistics

tell a made-up

vividly describe a
scene or situation

tell a typical

have a real or
conversation about

talk about what

makes this
use an intriguing
argument important statement or quote
Give history of this
idea or argument

make a list of

Give several
examples of this

ask a series of

use a frame (use

part of story to
open, then finish
story in conclusion.

use interview
questions and

Exploratory Essay Samples

Is Polygamy Wrong?

Differences in a relationship-Helpful or Hurtful?

The Best Kind of Love

Friendship, Love, and Marriage

Ideas for Exploratory Essay

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Dorm room. Is dorm life advantageous to college students?

Source: VirginiaLynne, CC-BY, via HubPages

Outline for Exploratory Essay

1.(Introduction) Present the Arguable Question
There are 3 things you need to do in the introduction:

Make reader interested in the arguable issue (Use one of the introductory
techniques in the table to explain the situation and argument).

Make sure the reader understands the issue and why it is important (some
issues need lots of explanation and description, but others are so well known
you don't need to explain).

Tell the arguable question (usually at the end of the introduction).

2. (Body part 1) Explain the Rhetorical Situation:

Text: What sort of writing is being done on this subject? Is it a question being discussed by
the news? By advocacy groups? Politicians? Is there academic study being done?

Reader: Who are the audiences interested in this question? What are the different positions
they hold? Why are the readers interested in this question?
Author: Who are the people writing on this question? What common ground is there between
the authors and readers (audiences)?
Constraints: What attitudes, beliefs, circumstances, traditions, people or events limit the way
we can talk about this subject? Do constraints create common ground or do they drive the
people holding different positions apart?
Exigence: (Context of debate on issue) What events or circumstances make us interested in
this question now? What is the history of this issue and question? How has interest in this
question changed over time? What enduring values (big life issues) does this debate relate to?
2. (Body Part 2) Explain the Different Positions People Hold on this issue. A good
arguable issue is not has at least three points of view that people argue. For each position, you
will need to:

Explain the position.

Tell why people believe that position.

Give the best arguments for that position.

Explain how those arguments are supported.

Position 1: Many people believe

What is this point of view? Which articles can you use for this point of view? What part of
the article is helpful?
Position 2: Other people would contend
What is this point of view? Which articles can you use for this point of view? What part of
the article is helpful?
Position 3: Another way to look at this question is.
What is this point of view? Which articles can you use for this point of view? What part of
the article is helpful?
4. (Conclusion) Your Response: indicate your personal interest in this issue and the
position you favor. Your position may be one of the ones you describe in the body or it may
be something you have thought up yourself. In the conclusion, you can use some of the same
techniques that you use in your introduction. Here are some other ideas:

Maybe finish the frame story.

Add the final evidence you find most convincing.

Tell the reader your own conclusions and point of view.

If you aren't sure what you think, then say that and explain what you think
are the most important points to consider.
Challenge the reader to decide.
Outline the main things we need to think about when we decide this
questionwhat is important and what is not.

Peer Edit Outline of Expository Essay

Test out your outline by getting in a small group. Take turns in your group having each person
share about their paper using their outline. Then the group can respond with questions,
comments and suggestions. Some things to consider:

Is intro interesting? Do you feel you understand the issue and the


Does the question and the three positions match up? Is there a contrast in
the positions? Are their other positions you think need to be considered?


Is the context/constraints of the question clear?


Is there other supporting evidence you can think of?



Is the response interesting? Does the author respond to the ideas and
connect them with their own thoughts and/or experiences? How can they do
that better?
Anything you think is missing or needs to be explained or expanded?

Steps in Writing an Exploratory Paper


Prepare a basic outline of your main points using the Outline format.


Re-read your articles and your Summary-Analysis-Response paper.


Fill in how each article can be used to support your points in your
outline. Be sure to include the source of that point in MLA form, which is
author last name and page in parenthesis. Example: (Brown 31).


Talk out your paper with a friend. Work with a friend or a small group.
Explain your paper using your outline. Tell them your points and make sure
they understand. Do they have any ideas on how to make your essay more
interesting? Have them answer the questions on Peer Edit Outline below.


Optional: you may want to gather some visuals to include in your essay.


Write a draft. Be sure to include transitions such as some people

believe, another perspective is, one way to look at the issue is, a final
perspective might be. Dont forget to use author tags if you are talking
about a particular article (see my Hubs on how to Summarize)


Work summarized ideas, paraphrases and quotes from your

research into your draft. In an exploratory paper, you mainly summarize
or paraphrase in your own words the positions you describe. Only use
quotations which are especially striking or make the point in a way you cant
by paraphrasing (see Hub on using Summary, Paraphrase and Quotation).


Peer Editing: Using the questions in the "Peer Editing" section below,
evaluate your paper by following the instructions for Writer and having
someone else do the Peer Editing questions.


Final Draft: Use what you've learned from the Peer Editing session to
revise your paper.

Exploratory Paper vs. Argument Paper

Argument focuses on proving one point of view: An Argument or Position essay seeks to
come to a conclusion and convince the audience which side of the issue is correct. The
emphasis in an Argument paper is on the side the author wants to prove is best or right, so
while the paper may talk about other views, most of the paper is spent proving one point of
Exploratory essays look at several points of view in a neutral way.Rather than trying to
solve the problem, this sort of paper explores the different perspectives of the problem and
seeks to understand the cultural and social context of the issue. It is the sort of paper you
would write before writing a solution paper. An Exploratory Paper is common in businesses
when they are attempting to find a solution to a problem and need to get all of the possible
perspectives and information available.
Exploratory Papers help you look at different audiences to help find common ground:
This paper also explores the different audiences or groups of people who are concerned about
this issue, giving their different viewpoints on the cause, effects and solutions proposed. In
order to do this paper, you may want to narrow the issue you are thinking about so that you
can cover the idea more effectively.
Exploratory Papers should look at least at 3 points of view: Sometimes there are two sides
of an issue which are most often expressed and which polarize a debate. In an Exploratory
paper, you are asked to look beyond the obvious answers in order to find other points of view
which can sometimes help in solving the problem. For example, in looking at the issue of
illegal immigration, you can examine the conservative and liberal political views, but you can
also look at the viewpoint of the illegal immigrants themselves, the viewpoint of the
government that the illegal immigrants come from, and the viewpoints of the people who live
on both sides of the border where illegal immigrants cross. You might also consider the
viewpoint of the border patrol employees.
Exploratory Conclusion can give your Opinion: You will explore at least three sides of the
issue, giving a fair treatment to each side. However, in the conclusion of the paper you will
indicate your own position and why you are persuaded in that direction.

Peer Editing Worksheet for Exploratory Paper

Having someone else Peer Edit, to read your essay and give you their help is a great way to
improve your writing. For doing your own final editing, see How to Edit Your Essay for a Better
Here is the peer editing worksheet I use in my class. I start by having each writer look at their
own paper, and then have at least 2 peer editors answer the questions.
Writer: on your own paper

Underline: your question, the three positions, your position


Wavy underline: author tags and citations.

Write (at top of draft or on a separate sheet of paper):


What is best about your paper


Questions you have for the peer editor.


What you want them to help you with.

Peer Editor
I. Read the paper and make marks on the draft about:
*grammar and spelling errors
*what you think is good
*where they need more support
*where they need better transitions
*where they need references, citations or author tags (or any problems with ones they have)
*where they need more explanation or description
II. On a separate sheet of paper write:

Intro: was the issue both defined and described? Anything that needs to be added? Was
the opening interesting? How could it be improved?



How well does the paper examine the rhetorical situation? (exigence [reason for this
debate], audience [who is interested in this issue], and constraints [situations and attitudes
which affect the debate])

Is there any part missing?

How can it be improved?

Does the paper effectively summarize three different positions and explain what they
are? Who believes them? Why they believe it?


Does the paper give enough evidence for each position?

Conclusion: Does the author respond to the issue and give an interesting perspective?
Does the author need to add anything?

Exploratory Essay Uses

Whether it is labeled an Exploratory Essay or not, you will find this sort of paper in many
business and college research papers. The basic point of this paper is to let you examine all the
different viewpoints on an issue. Examples:

What caused the Civil War in the U.S.?

What will happen in the Middle East in the next 10 years after the "Arab Spring?"

How should the U.S. handle illegal immigration?

What should we do with embryos leftover from in-vitro fertilization?

In a business, an employee might be asked to write an exploratory report about:


How do people perceive our product based on different types of advertisng?


How do people use our product most often?


What are the top competing products and what advantages does each have over our


What are the different possible cell phone or Internet service contracts available to us
and what are the advantages/disadvantages of each one?

By looking at three or more viewpoints, you can get a better understanding of the different
audiences for an issue and better understand how a solution or compromise might be developed.

Types of Papers: Argument/Argumentative

While some teachers consider persuasive papers and argument papers to be basically the
same thing, its usually safe to assume that an argument paper presents a stronger claim
possibly to a more resistant audience.
For example: while a persuasive paper might claim that cities need to adopt recycling
programs, an argument paper on the same topic might be addressed to a particular town. The
argument paper would go further, suggesting specific ways that a recycling program should
be adopted and utilized in that particular area.
To write an argument essay, youll need to gather evidence and present a well-reasoned
argument on a debatable issue.
How can I tell if my topic is debatable? Check your thesis! You cannot argue a statement of
fact, you must base your paper on a strong position. Ask yourself

How many people could argue against my position? What would they say?

Can it be addressed with a yes or no? (aim for a topic that requires more

Can I base my argument on scholarly evidence, or am I relying on religion,

cultural standards, or morality? (you MUST be able to do quality research!)

Have I made my argument specific enough?

Worried about taking a firm stance on an issue?

Though there are plenty of times in your life when its best to adopt a balanced perspective
and try to understand both sides of a debate, this isnt one of them.
You MUST choose one side or the other when you write an argument paper!
Dont be afraid to tell others exactly how you think things should go because thats what we
expect from an argument paper. Youre in charge now, what do YOU think?



use passionate language

use weak qualifiers like I believe, I

feel, or I thinkjust tell us!

cite experts who agree with you claim to be an expert if youre not one
provide facts, evidence, and
use strictly moral or religious claims as
statistics to support your position support for your argument
provide reasons to support your assume the audience will agree with
you about any aspect of your argument
address the opposing sides
attempt to make others look bad (i.e.
argument and refute their claims Mr. Smith is ignorantdont listen to

Why do I need to address the opposing sides argument?

There is an old kung-fu saying which states, "The hand that strikes also blocks", meaning that
when you argue it is to your advantage to anticipate your opposition and strike down their
arguments within the body of your own paper. This sentiment is echoed in the popular saying,
"The best defense is a good offense".
By addressing the opposition you achieve the following goals:

illustrate a well-rounded understanding of the topic

demonstrate a lack of bias

enhance the level of trust that the reader has for both you and your

give yourself the opportunity to refute any arguments the opposition may

strengthen your argument by diminishing your opposition's argument

Think about yourself as a child, asking your parents for permission to do something that they
would normally say no to. You were far more likely to get them to say yes if you anticipated
and addressed all of their concerns before they expressed them. You did not want to belittle
those concerns, or make them feel dumb, because this only put them on the defensive, and
lead to a conclusion that went against your wishes.
The same is true in your writing.
How do I accomplish this?

To address the other side of the argument you plan to make, you'll need to "put yourself in
their shoes." In other words, you need to try to understand where they're coming from. If
you're having trouble accomplishing this task, try following these steps:
1. Jot down several good reasons why you support that particular side of the
2. Look at the reasons you provided and try to argue with yourself. Ask: Why
would someone disagree with each of these points? What would his/her
response be? (Sometimes it's helpful to imagine that you're having a
verbal argument with someone who disagrees with you.)
3. Think carefully about your audience; try to understand their background,
their strongest influences, and the way that their minds work. Ask: What
parts of this issue will concern my opposing audience the most?
4. Find the necessary facts, evidence, quotes from experts, etc. to refute the
points that your opposition might make.
5. Carefully organize your paper so that it moves smoothly from defending
your own points to sections where you argue against the opposition.
Sample Papers

Student Sample: Cry Wolf (with sources)

Student Sample: A Shattered Sky (with sources)

Student Sample: The Use of Landmines (with sources)

Student Sample: The Faceless Teacher (without sources)

Getting Started