100 Exploratory Essay Topics with Research and Sample Papers

What is an Exploratory Essay?

These essays don't argue for a particular position. Instead, they look at an issue from several points of view. An excellent essay keeps the reader guessing. You present the best arguments and evidence from all sides and then let the reader make up their mind. The best topic for exploring papers is something that people are thinking about and arguing over. The type of claim could be a:

  • Fact: What is it? What is true? How can I know?
  • Definition: what does it mean? How should we categorize this?
  • Cause: What or who caused this? Who is responsible?
  • Value: How important is it? How much attention should we pay to it? Is it overblown or undervalued?
  • Policy: What should we do? Who should do it? How can we do it?

Exploratory essays tell the whole story.
Exploratory essays tell the whole story. | Source

How to Pick a Topic

Thse essays are great for hot-button topics. The best paper topics will be something that:

  • Have at least two sides that people argue.
  • Are something that many people are interested in talking about.
  • Is an issue that is not agreed on.
  • Is something that you can research.
  • Includes information which is not just opinion.

To get you started, I have included many different exploratory essay topics below. For many of the topics, I've included one or more links to essays which will get you thinking about the topic. Some of these essays are also found in the college English textbook that I use with my students, Perspectives on Argument by Nancy Wood.

How much do genes matter in who we are?
How much do genes matter in who we are? | Source

Human Genome Topics

  1. What does race really mean?
  2. Do you have to play the role that nature assigns you?
  3. Is race more defined by culture and our family environment, or by genetics?
  4. Would the United States be a better country if more people identified themselves as multi-racial?
  5. Why do most Americans feel they must identify with one particular race?
  6. Should people have their DNA tested for their racial background?
  7. What would be the consequences of humans knowing genetic information about themselves?
  8. Should average individuals seek to have their DNA sequenced? Who should have access to that information?
  9. Should cloning of humans be outlawed?
  10. Is it all right to genetically manipulate an embryo in order to prevent them from having a genetic disease?

Human Genetic Research Articles

What does your DNA reveal about you? The Bachman / Baughman D.N.A. Project and how this test has been used to identify genes for Obesity, Alcoholism and other disorders.

Fewer Call Themselves Multiracial by Haya El Nasser, USA Today, 5/4/2007

Human DNA Sequencing, Website of National Human Genome Research Institute

Does being in the military make you a better man?
Does being in the military make you a better man? | Source

Different Claim Questions on a Single Topic

food technologies
Using nitrogen fertilizer is bad
What does "Organic" mean?
Why is there an increase in food allergies?
Is free-range meat a better choice?
Should more research dollars go to support farmers in poorer nations?
energy technologies
Solar Energy technology can significantly reduce oil dependency
What does "Off the Grid" mean?
Did biofuel trend cause poor people's food cost to go up?
Supporting electric car technology is important.
We should immediately start building up our nuclear energy capability.
sports technologies
DNA evaluation of athlete is helpful
What is "Hawk-Eye" Technology?
High-Tech sports technology equipment causes slower games.
Referees are better than replays.
Equipment and uniforms which enhance performance are distracting and should be banned.
Gun technology
NRA slogan: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.
What is gun control?
What causes most gun deaths?
Is gun ownership an important American right?
Should schools require teachers to carry concealed handguns?
Develop your own exploratory essay topic question by taking any topic and then creating statements or questions about claims of fact, definition, cause, value and policy. Some topics work better for certain types of claims. For example on the topic

Environmental Issues Topics

Texas Wildflowers.  Does planting wildflowers along Texas roads help protect the environment?  Should other states do the same?
Texas Wildflowers. Does planting wildflowers along Texas roads help protect the environment? Should other states do the same? | Source

Environmental Research Articles

Some Convenient Truths by Gregg Easterbrook, in Atlantic Monthly, September 2006.

Building a Better World with Chemicals [panel discussion about possible future developments in nanotechnology and chemistry] in Discover Magazine, September 2012.

Energy Technologies Topics

  1. Do recycling and using green products make a difference?
  2. Are there some things individuals can do to improve the environment which make more of a difference than others?
  3. Is the greenhouse effect real?
  4. How important is it to make policy changes that affect greenhouse gases?
  5. Is the problem with changing emissions political or technological?
  6. Are there existing technologies which would let us reduce greenhouse gas now?
  7. Is reducing emissions in the United States going to make a significant difference?
  8. How can the world influence China and India and other heavily polluting countries to reduce emissions?
  9. Do greenhouse gases really harm people?
  10. Can renewable energy really provide enough power?
  11. Should we rely on nuclear energy more?
  12. Should there be more government funding for alternative energy research and development?
  13. What is Materials Science?
  14. How important is Materials Science to solving world energy and technology problems?
  15. Is an electric car a realistic possibility in the near future?
  16. Will nanotechnology really help us clean up the environment?
  17. How can we make sure nanotechnology is safe?
  18. Can we really repair the rainforest?
  19. Is eating and growing food locally really better for the environment?
  20. Will advanced technologies like driverless cars or super fast vacuum trains be the answer to the environmental crisis?

Sample Essays

  1. Creationism vs. Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: Creationism and Evolutionism continue to be a debate both within the church and within American society. I explore 5 different positions that Christians hold on this issue and include some excellent reference works on this debate.
  2. Is Big Love Better Love? People who practice polygamy preach the virtues of big families, but others say it isn't right for men to share wives. This excellent student essay explores both sides of the question using examples in the United States and around the world.
  3. How to Become a Republican: I explore my own uneasy relationship to patriotism and the American flag in a humorous exploratory essay.
  4. Is Love the Most Important Thing? What is the most important thing to look for in a spouse? Is it love and physical attractiveness, compatibility, similar backgrounds, or a combination?

Nanotechnology Explained

High Tech Health Care Research

Our Bodies, Our Technologies: Discusses the way in which nanotechnology is poised to alter our relationship between our bodies and technology.

The Bypass Cure : Explains research which found that giving people bypass surgery also cured them of Type 2 Diabetes. Is surgery a good option for treating this condition?

The Hidden Epidemic: Tapeworms in the Brain: tells the shocking story of what happens when tapeworms, which ordinarily live in the stomach, end up moving to a person's brain. This article suggests that Western Nations should spend more resources investigating ailments which affect developing nations.

Health Technology Essay Topics

  1. Are we doing too many high-tech tests in our health care system? Do these tests really make for better health care?
  2. How do we balance the need for good health care with the continually increasing cost of health care drug and testing technologies?
  3. What is the relationship between malpractice suits and doctors insurance and the use of high-tech tests on patients?
  4. Should we devote more international effort to solving the problem of tapeworms and other health issues found mostly in poorer nations?
  5. How can our health resource dollars be distributed more evenly?
  6. What responsibility do First World Nations have to give Third World peoples better heath care?
  7. Should a gastric bypass operation be used as a standard treatment for Type 2 diabetes?
  8. Are we relying on expensive health technologies like surgery and drugs to cure things that should be taken care of by better lifestyle choices like good diets and exercise?
  9. Are using nanobots a good idea? Could nanobots be used as weapons or by terrorists?
  10. What are nanobots and how can they help solve health problems?
  11. Should humans have microchips and nanobots implanted in them? How should we value our bodies with respect to inner technologies?
  12. Could nanobots be harmful to the human body?
  13. How realistic is nanobot technology? How close are we to a practical human application?
  14. Is technology a solution or a danger to our health and society?
  15. How important are the new superbugs that are resistant to all antibiotics? What will happen if we don't find something to fight them?

Are there some medical technologies we shouldn't do?

Elderly woman on life support. How important are living wills?
Elderly woman on life support. How important are living wills? | Source

Reproductive Technology Research Articles

Reverse Eugenics: Choosing an Embryo Who HAS a Disability: Should this be an option for parents who are deaf or have other disabilities?

Reproductive Technologies Topics

  1. How does egg and sperm donation affect family relationships?
  2. Should egg and sperm donors have a role in the life of a child?
  3. What are the ethical considerations in sperm donation?
  4. Should there be more regulation on egg and sperm donation?
  5. Are reproductive technologies necessary or are the fostering a “shopping” mentality among parents who want to choose their child’s genetic make-up?
  6. Is donating to a sperm or egg bank a good idea?
  7. How do policies of sperm banks violate the privacy of donors?
  8. How much information should sperm banks give about donors?
  9. Is it right for parents to choose the characteristics of their child?
  10. Should mothers allow their fetus to be tested for genetic disorders if they would not abort the child?

Students Talk about Using Social Media in Class

Education Technology Research Articles

How Reading is Being Reimagined by Matthew Kirschenbaum for The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2007

Technology in Education Topics

  1. Is Twitter or other social media helpful to classroom learning?
  2. Should students be allowed to text and use social media in class?
  3. Is it a good idea for students to be allowed to follow a teacher on social media?
  4. How is technology in schools changing?
  5. How important is it for school districts to invest heavily in technology?
  6. Will technology mean the loss of teacher jobs?
  7. Do computers teach better than humans?
  8. How will instructors and instructions have to change in order to incorporate social media in the classroom?
  9. Will using digital technology make teaching easier or harder?
  10. Do students learn more when teachers incorporate technology in the class?
  11. Should all students be given and Ipad or computer for class?
  12. Should all textbooks be digital?
  13. Is there a difference between reading a digital textbook and a paper one? Which is better?
  14. How can schools limit bullying on social media?
  15. Can students be taught better if teachers don't use any technology? Or limited technology? If so, what is best?

Digital Reading Topics

  1. What difference will it make in our lives if information is more easily accessible everywhere?
  2. Does the advent of E-readers mean the end of libraries?
  3. Will electronic books really save students money?
  4. Will using tablets and E-readers have a negative effect on our eyesight?
  5. Do people read as well on computers and tablets as they do on paper?

How is Social Media Changing Relationships?

Does texting hurt or help relationships
Does texting hurt or help relationships | Source

Communication Technology Research Articles

Digital Dating: Desperation or Necessity? by Christine Hassler, in Huffington Post, 11/18/2008

The Shaky Science of Online Dating by Drake Bennett, in Business Week, 4/04/2012

Communication Technology Topics

  1. Is digital dating a good idea? What are the benefits or dangers?
  2. Is digital dating a meaningful experience?
  3. Who should try digital dating?
  4. How can you be safe while digital dating? Should there be background checks?
  5. Is our digital age what it making it more difficult for people to find someone to date?
  6. What causes someone to try digital dating?
  7. How common is online dating?
  8. How many online relationships end in marriage?
  9. Which online dating service is best?
  10. Can online relationships be as meaningful as face to face ones?
  11. Can online learning be as good as meeting in a class?
  12. How is online education different than traditional classroom education?
  13. Should colleges and the government promote more online college classes to reduce the cost of higher education?
  14. What causes people to choose an online learning environment rather than a traditional classroom? Is cost the major factor?
  15. Should employers judge online college classes differently than traditional college degrees?

Genetic Engineering Research Articles

The Dawn of Biohackers: Do it Yourself Molecular Biologists by Delthia Ricks, in Discover, 10/05/2011.

Don't Clone a Neanderthal Baby, by Arthur Caplan, in CNN Jan. 24, 2013.

14 Extinct Species that Could be Cloned by Brian Nelson, Mother Nature Network, Jan. 31, 2013.

Preservation in a Petri Dish: Scientists Hope Cloning Will Save Endangered Animals by Philip Bethge, Spegel Online International (translated from German), November 8, 2012.

Molecular Technologies Topics

  1. Should everyone get their DNA sequenced?
  2. Is gene screening ethical? Does this change how we see ourselves and others?
  3. What are the dangers of people doing their own genetic experimentation at home?
  4. Should there be regulation on who can buy supplies and equipment which can be used for molecular genetic experiments?
  5. Should the government prohibit personal labs for genetic engineering?
  6. Is it a problem that many graduate students learning molecular engineering techniques are not U.S. citizens?
  7. Harvard University geneticist George M. Church who worked on the Human Genome Project suggested that the possibility of cloning extinct species and even a Neanderthal man is something we will eventually be able to do. What are the ethics of such a project?
  8. Can genetic mapping and looking at the DNA of extinct species help us?
  9. Who should decide what should be cloned and what should not?
  10. Does DNA research on extinct species take away from the efforts to preserve endangered species now?

More by this Author

Comments 2 comments

Michele McAlister 23 months ago

Perfect. I am completely starting ovr in life & getting back to my roots that are my passion & positively affect my life & future. Writing is one of these passions. So far your articles have been wonderful! Keep them coming! Much love my fellow writer...I hope to learn from you. Xoxo

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Very interesting and useful.

Thanks for sharing.


    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    VirginiaLynne profile image

    VirginiaLynne1,250 Followers
    304 Articles

    VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes at helping people write essays faster and easier.

    Click to Rate This Article