Investigation essays are essays that seek to uncover some facts or information. They're similar to research papers and are incredibly important in some fields, including the sciences. However, investigation essays can be written about questions in any discipline that empirical data can be used to answer, and finding out the answer doesn't necessarily have to require experiments. Teachers like to assign investigation essays, because they teach you cite sources well and use resources like your library. Writing an investigation essay takes some practice, but the task is easier once you approach the writing systematically.
Pick a topic on which you would like to write, unless the topic already has been assigned. You can choose anything about which you don't already know for which you can get data.
Narrow down your topic to one primary question you can answer. For example, if your topic is African tribes, you might use "What is the most populous African tribe as of 2010?" as your investigation question.
Read texts in your library online, conduct interviews or complete physical examinations of objects to gather the data you need.
Introduce your topic in three to five sentences. This short paragraph should give the reader some idea of the topic area and spark interest. Statistics are a good way to start. Avoid using questions to introduce the investigation such as "Did you know...?" or "What's the most important thing...?"; your job in the essay is to report what you've found, not to invite answers.
Provide background for your topic. Tell the reader what already is known about the topic or what led you to your investigation - answer the five w's of who, what, why, when and where in this section. Quote sources where appropriate, and cite them according to the format specified by your teacher or organization. For example, part of this section might read:
"In 1999, Doctor John Doe discovered the cure for [disease]. However, no data exist to show how many people have been saved by his cure (Denn, 2004)."
"The students of Mrs. Doe's 10th grade science class have been studying the skeletal system. Students have learned that osteoporosis is a leading cause of broken bones in the elderly, but information has not yet been given as to how osteoporosis develops."
Write a paragraph that clearly states the investigation question in STATEMENT form. For example, you might write:
"This investigation focused on the cause of osteoporosis. Specifically, the investigator sought to discover whether nutritional deficiencies increase osteoporosis risk. The investigation also sought to identify the niche group with the highest risk."
Note the use of third person - avoid first person throughout the essay unless the essay is to be very informal.
Detail the findings of your investigation. Each significant finding should be a separate paragraph. Use charts or graphs as needed to clarify points or summarize the prose visually.
Summarize the results and describe how the investigation results might be used in other investigations, or summarize what you have learned. This is your conclusion.
Go through the essay, and check the text for conciseness, as well as for spelling and grammatical errors.
Double check that your citations are correct and create your Reference page.
Format the essay according to the instructor's or publisher's guidelines.
- If you find yourself using words like "again" or "as previously stated," this is a big tip-off that you've been redundant in your writing. Don't use these phrases, and eliminate the reiterations they create. Use good transitions instead.
- Using an outline may help you organize your paper and keep it concise.
- Websites abound that offer to write investigation and other types of essays for you for a fee. Do NOT use these websites if you are a student. Such action is a clear violation of academic dishonesty policies and disrespects the other students who work hard to produce essays of their own. You could be suspended or expelled if a teacher discovers the essay is not your own.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.