Background on the Course

Classroom materials

Writing assignment sheets

Workshopping and workshop sheets

Sample materials grouped by instructor

Print-Friendly Page Print Page
Authors & Contributors

The Exploratory Essay (Becker)

The exploratory essay is an inquiry into a range of positions on a central issue, an inquiry whose ultimate goal is to establish your own position on this issue in relation to three other positions. You are not trying to persuade your audience that one position is better than another, but you are trying to represent each (including your own) position as accurately and effectively as you can. In order to save ourselves the time and effort needed to fill in readers, we chose for our audience other members of the class. When determining the focus of the essay, we acknowledged that the writer must identify one clear issue or "conversation" about which all four voices in the essay debate, but we allowed two emphases: as a writer you may privilege your own opinion above that of the other writers or you may treat all voices equally, in which case your organizational strategy might differ. In your postscript, you must inform your readers which emphasis you have chosen. The development of this essay includes using textual evidence when explaining the position of other authors and providing personal experience or thorough explanations when explaining your own position. When talking about coherence, we determined that, because there are so many voices talking in this essay, it is crucial that you clearly identify which author belongs to which opinion and that you keep these relationships straight for the reader. The temptation is also great to stray from your topic of conversation--be sure that all the voices are responding to that initial question you asked. Your voice, of course, relates back to the emphasis in your focus. Remember that even if you choose to treat all voices equally, you must respond with your opinion on the topic and back that opinion up with personal experience or other methods of making your opinion valid for your audience.