The Investigative Essay
An investigative essay is often used as a precursor to an argumentative essay. It is similar to a research essay, but the difference is most investigative essays allow for some form of personal experiences or opinions. The focus should be on performing research and using outside sources, but other sources may be incorporated, as well. As always, be sure to speak with your instructor for the exact guidelines of your investigative essay.
The primary goal of an investigative essay is to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the subject in an unbiased manner. Doing this requires performing significant research, interpreting the research and presenting it in an organized manner throughout the essay. It also means articulating the various viewpoints of the issue.
The key to the investigative essay is to begin with a legitimate question to research. Doing this allows you to keep an open mind throughout the process. On the other hand, if you choose an issue which you have already made up your mind about, objectivity may be lost. For example, if you want to investigate whether current cellphone laws while driving are effective or not, it is better if you truly aren't sure instead of assuming they are or aren’t.
As mentioned above, you should pick a topic that you have not already made up your mind about. In addition, it is also important that the topic be current, debatable, researchable and manageable.
A current topic is one that has not been overdebated and is still being decided by society. Most writers and readers are sick of topics that have been debated for years: abortion, the death penalty, the legalization of marijuana, etc.
A debatable topic is one that has differing viewpoints. In other words, it is a controversial issue. Writing about how child abuse has consequences for society is not debatable because no one would disagree with this thesis. On the other hand, debating whether the punishments for child abusers are effective or not in deterring crime is debatable.
A researchable topic is one in which the writer can find a variety of credible and current sources. In other words, the writer needs to be able to find unbiased research performed by qualified individuals to help answer the initial question.
A manageable topic is one that can be successfully performed within the page requirements of the essay. Writing about widespread issues, such as national or global problems is often unmanageable in a short essay. For instance, it is not possible to investigate possible solutions to solve world hunger in several pages. It may, however, be possible to investigate whether a particular city or county program is effective in dealing with localized poverty.
If a particular topic meets all of the above criteria, it should make for an appropriate topic to investigate.
Note: An investigative essay is sometimes referred to as a pro/con essay, although a pro/con essay can also be slightly different. Regardless, the underlying goal is the same: to present several sides of an issue without taking a stand.
What Is a Good Way to Start an Investigative Essay
Writing an investigative essay will eventually teach you how to write an argumentative essay because the steps in creating both types mostly coincide. You have to find, build up, and evaluate the information on the chosen topic when writing an investigative essay. Writing an argumentative essay requires you to do the same, while establishing your position on the topic and supporting it with the collected evidence. Investigative essays also resemble research papers but are less formal, so it is possible to introduce some bits of your personal experiences and opinions in them.
The structure of this type of essay does not differ much from other scholarly pieces of writing, and presupposes the presence of an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion.
The techniques to start an investigative essay are traditional because they are designed for all types of essays. According to them, the opening paragraph of the essay should contain a “hook” that will make the reader read it to the end.
You can start your investigative essay with:
- A quotation:
- A general question addressing the reader:
- A shocking visual image:
- A joke:
This technique helps demonstrate that you are an expert in the sphere, and know the basic works of the scientists that explored this topic before you. Choose the most striking quotations of the most famous scientists. For example, if you have to investigate the negative influence of using a mobile phone while driving, resort to some famous quote by Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell.
Rhetorical questions encourage the readers to participate in the future investigation and look for the answers together with the writer. For instance, if you are writing an essay about a certain career, you may start by asking the reader whether it is possible to live a day without the work done by its representatives.
If you shock your target reader at the very beginning of the essay, you will create an emotion that will make him or her read it with enthusiasm to the end. The phrases that are most commonly used to introduce an investigative essay this way are: “imagine,” “picture yourself,” “envisage,” or “fancy.” For instance, to start an essay on a certain war battle, ask the reader to imagine an ordinary person that got caught in it and the thoughts he or she had.
As investigative essays allow more freedom in the choice of words than research papers, you can start your essay with a joke about the thing you are going to investigate.
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