Unlike the other discovery techniques, which mostly call on your internal powers of observation and imagination, this one emphasizes investigation and research. However vast your store of information and however well you can express your ideas, you'll often need to extend your knowledge by drawing on the experience and expertise of others.

However vast your store of information and however well you can express your ideas, you'll often need to extend your knowledge by drawing on the experience and expertise of others.

Think of this inquiry as a normal part of writing, not just something reserved for a "research paper." The difference between a substantive exploratory essay and a research paper is one of degree rather than of kind. The best research papers grow out of original ideas or intriguing questions that you want to explore in depth, and the best essays show that you are well-grounded in your subject. Whether your knowledge-gathering takes place mostly at the library, in the field, or on the web, it's good to prepare ahead.