Investigative essay writing

Investigative essay writing uses the following techniques:

Beginning with an interesting title and a catchy lead sentence or paragraph. The first few sentences arouse your readers’ interest and focus their attention on the subject.

  • Giving background information by answering relevant who, what, when, where, and why questions. Answering the reporter’s “Why” questions ensures that readers have sufficient information to understand your report.
  • Stating the main idea, question, or focus of the investigation.

The purpose of a report is to convey information as clearly as possible. Readers shouldn’t have to guess the main idea.Summarizing or quoting information from written or oral sources; citing sources in the text. Quote accurately any statistics, data, or sentences from your sources. Cite authors and titles.Writing in a readable and interesting style appropriate for the intended audience. Clear, direct, and readable language is essential in a report. Use graphs and charts as appropriate. The following reports illustrate three common types of investigative writing: the summary of a single book or article, the investigation of a controversial issue (using multiple sources), and the profile of a person. The three types may overlap (an investigation of a controversial issue may contain a personality profile, for instance), and all three types may use summaries of written material, questionnaires, and interviews. Some investigative reports are brief, intended to be only short news items, while others are full-length features.Choosing a Subject

If one of your journal topics does not suggest a subject for your investigation, consider the following ideas. If you have a subject, go on to the collecting and shaping strategies.

¦ Write an investigation of some aspect of your favorite hobby. No matter what the subject is, you will find several magazines in the library devoted to it: fashion, cars, rock-climbing, music, cooking, fly fishing, photography, scuba diving, interior decorating, health foods, and so on. Find several magazines and browse through them. Based on what you find in the magazines, interview and/or survey other people interested in this subject. Focus your survey or interview on one specific aspect of this topic.

¦ At the place where you work, investigate how something does or does not work, research how the business (or your part of the business) is organized, do a profile of a co-worker, or survey your customers to find out what they like best or least about your store or company.

¦ Choose some idea, principle, process, or theory discussed in a class you are currently taking. Begin by interviewing classmates, graduate students, or a professor about how to investigate the history, development, or personalities behind this idea. With information from the interview, continue your investigation in the library, looking in appropriate magazines, books, or journals. As you read, focus your question on one narrow or specific area.

¦ Go back to your remembering essay. Do other people remember the person, place, or event? If so, interview one or more of them, either in person or on the phone. How do their recollections of the subject differ from yours? After investigating what happened from other points of view, rewrite your remembering essay to include their perspectives and memories.

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