How to Write a Thesis for an Exploratory Essay
A thesis should succinctly summarize the main point or theme of the exploratory essay. While exploring an issue in your essay, use the thesis to clarify why this issue should be of importance to the reader. In most other types of essay, the thesis will outline your main point or strongest argument. In an exploratory essay, however, you may be simply posing and exploring questions about an issue and not making a definite case for any point, so prioritizing your information is vital during the process of developing an effective thesis.
Preparing Your Essay for a Thesis
Decide on the main topic of your essay, which will directly correlate to what will be stated by your thesis. If you have a prompt that specifies the issues you must discuss in the essay, choose the topics on which you will focus in your essay. An exploratory essay examines your thinking process as you debate possible outcomes for a problem. For example, a topic could be "How Can You Improve Education," and you would research various educational issues, solutions and approaches for implementing the solutions. An exploratory essay does not call for you to argue for which method is best, but rather to explore how the methods may or may not work.
If you wish, you can attempt to write your thesis before the entire paper to keep you focused on your main points. However, your thesis may change completely as you research and continue to explore an issue. It is usually best, therefore, to write your thesis after you have conducted your research and written your exploratory essay.
Prioritize your points and work on an outline. While most essays tend to be argumentative, an exploratory essay is meant to explore an issue without taking a definite stance on a topic. Your outline will be a valuable tool while writing your thesis, because it will summarize the key points of your essay and help you decide which information is vital to your thesis.
Conduct sufficient research. You will not be able to write a proper thesis until you know what information will be included in your exploratory essay. Choosing verifiable and credible sources is vital to the credibility of your paper. Exploring an issue for an exploratory essay requires research that addresses all sides of an argument. It is necessary to research all opinions as you explore your topic. "A Rulebook for Arguments" by Anthony Weston suggests finding the strongest arguments for all sides of an issue.
Focus on your own thinking process. While facts are key in an exploratory essay, the essay is also intended to tap in to your thought process. What is the problem and why? Is there a solution, multiple solutions or no solution? Why are these issues important? What could your reader do about the issue? Remember that you are exploring an issue, and while it may be difficult not to form an opinion, see how your logic develops as you continue to ask questions. Use your process of thinking and developing logical questions and answers to prioritize the issues of your essay.
Working on the Thesis
Address the what, who, how and why of the issue you are addressing. Isolate major factors of the problem you are addressing to discover the reasons for writing and the purpose of the main concept of your essay. If you cannot form definitive answers to your questions, the questions themselves may become key points for the reader. You are exploring an issue by presenting information to the reader, not by presenting a definite opinion or solution.
Write two or more thesis drafts. "Rules for Writers" by Diana Hacker describes a thesis as a one- or two-sentence summary of the main idea of a paper. Attempt to capture the essence of your essay in no more than two sentences.
Edit the tentative thesis that works best. "Rules for Writers" suggests returning to all possible theses after you have completed each draft and as you continue to add information to your essay.
Rewrite the thesis until you have a version that attests to the major discussion present in your essay and that uses clear and concise language. Once you write a thesis that thoroughly prepares a reader for the essay's content, place it at the beginning or end of your first paragraph.
Place the strongest words at the end of your thesis. "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White states that what the writer considers to be the most remarkable words should end the sentence.
Ask a friend, colleague or teacher to review your essay and your thesis separately. This will help assure that your thesis is appropriate for your essay.
Refer to writing style guides on matters of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, editing and rewriting.
A poorly written thesis may misdirect or confuse a reader. Make sure the thesis directly correlates to the essay's content and prepares the reader for what will follow.
- "A Rulebook for Arguments (Third Edition)"; Anthony Weston; 2000
- "The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition)"; William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White; 2000
- Ask a friend, colleague or teacher to review your essay and your thesis separately. This will help assure that your thesis is appropriate for your essay.
- Refer to writing style guides on matters of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, editing and rewriting.
- A poorly written thesis may misdirect or confuse a reader. Make sure the thesis directly correlates to the essay's content and prepares the reader for what will follow.
Madeline Lauria graduated from Duquesne University with a bachelor's degree in English and journalism. She was the news editor at "The Duquesne Duke," an intern at Creative Nonfiction and published in the school's literary journals, "Off the Bluff" and ":Lexicon." Lauria currently works as a freelance copywriter in Elmira, N.Y. and a crew member in The ALT Project.