Discussion: Narrowing a Topic

You may be assigned to write papers in your classes about any topic that interests you—from engineering, social movements, sports, politics, education, history…you name it. Sometimes it can be difficult to narrow a broad topic to hone in on the questions you really want to answer. In this discussion, you will first post a broad topic, then you will return to the forum to write defining questions based on the topic, as well as some thoughts as to how you might develop that essay.

STEP 1: For this discussion assignment, post a broad topic that you may be expected to write a paper about.

STEP 2: Return to the discussion and post on TWO classmate’s posts with defining questions that could help you narrow down the topic. For example, imagine your assignment is to write about New York taxes. You could narrow that to school taxes, then ask the following defining questions:

  1. Why do only property owners (and not renters) in New York State pay school taxes?
  2. What percent of overall school funding comes from school taxes?
  3. Do other states fund schools in the same way?
  4. Does the state lottery system, initially designed to fund schools, actually support schools?
  5. Is there a limit to paying school taxes when one gets older and no longer has children in school?

STEP 3: Look over your defining questions, and pick which two you would pursue if you had to write a paper about this topic. Where would you go to look for answers? What kind of research would you need to do? What might a working thesis statement look like for this project. Add in your thoughts about how asking defining questions enabled you to narrow down the scope of your project and give you ideas for writing.