The Magic of Cinematography: Becoming a Film Major

exploratory essay



Purpose: This assignment has two main purposes: first, it’s meant to help you take stock of what you know about your topic, what you’ve learned so far, and what you want to know and still need to find out – in other words, it’s meant to help you synthesize what you already know and gather ideas for further exploration in the second half of the semester. The second purpose is to help you question your own opinions and the arguments of others – in other words, to do some mature reasoning you can demonstrate in your essay – so that the view you ultimately express in your final essay represents not simply what you already believe, but the culmination of your critical thinking about the various viewpoints on your issue.
Assignment:       Answer the questions below in an essay with paragraphs (not numbered answers to questions). Don’t worry about tying everything together – just let this essay serve as a record of your thought process as you work through the questions. You can take multiple paragraphs to answer questions; when you’ve taken a question as far as you can, just start a new paragraph to explore the next question. This essay will NOT be graded according to the usual criteria, but I will want to see that you have put considerable thought and effort into answering all the questions completely and thoroughly, and yes, I still expect good grammar. You may use first person.
  1. Put your sources (and annotated bibliography) aside for a moment and think about what you’ve learned so far about your topic. Imagine that you are explaining what you’ve learned to your best friend. Start your paragraph with the opening, “So far, in exploring my topic, I have learned…”
  2. Along the same lines, imagine that you are explaining your initial opinions about your topic to your best friend. Start your paragraph with the opening, “If I were explaining my topic to my best friend, I would say that…” What reasons do you have for your opinions?
  3. Next, imagine someone who frequently disagrees with you. What legitimate issues might this person bring up in disagreeing with you about your topic? List at least five different issues that make your topic controversial and explain them. This is an area that gives people trouble on the topic proposals, so it’s extra important to be able to do it.
Example: I am writing about hunger in the United States and I believe that the government should distribute more food stamps. Some dissenting opinions are:
a) It’s not the government’s responsibility. These people believe that people need to take care of themselves and that the responsibility of government is to keep the laws and keep the peace, rather than to look after the welfare of the people. b) Food programs discourage people from being self-sufficient.  These people believe that when people are given things they lose the incentive to work. They, therfore, think that giving help actually makes people worse off. c) It’s too expensive to care for so many people. These people believe that we do not have enough morney and that the money we do have is better spent on other things.  d) Hunger is created by unfair wages and labor practices, so these should be regulated rather than focusing on food distribution.  These people have a point in that there are systems in place that lead to poverty and food insecurity, but they are making an either or argument when in fact both issues could be addressed and are not mutually exclusive. e) There should be more community gardens so that food is both more available and of higher quality than what is provided by food stamps. These people rightly recognize that food stamps can be used to buy non-nutritious food and are often not used for produce.  However, people need more than just produce, an issue this arguments ignores.
Notice that not all the dissenting views are opposing views, but they all broaden my original viewpoint.
  1. What do your sources say about your topic? What have you learned that agrees with your own opinion? What have you learned that might not fit with your own opinion, or that definitely doesn’t fit with your opinion? Start your answers to these questions by writing two sentences: one that begins, “The information that fits with my opinion is…,” and another that begins, “The information that doesn’t fit with my opinion is…”
  2. What don’t you know yet about your topic? In other words, what questions do you have that your sources haven’t answered (or can’t answer)? If you had two more weeks to explore your topic, what kinds of things would you be interested in finding out?
  3. What is the main question you want your essay to answer? Why? Your answer should take this form: “The main question I want my research paper to answer is _____________ because __________________.”
Grading:              The exploratory essay is different from other essays in that you are following a prescribed format and you are not required to have a separate introduction and conclusion. Your grade will be based on how well you raise interesting issues that challenge your starting point of view, how thoroughly and directly you consider points of view other than your own, and how much attention you give to each part of the assignment.