Choosing a Topic
Often the most difficult part of paper-writing is choosing a topic to begin with. If you recall our first readings in Craft of Research, you will remember that you need to start with an idea of interest (topic), move into questions, and end up with a claim.
The topic is the easiest part. Sometimes picking only one topic can be a challenge, but there will always be more papers that can be written about the topics you discard.
- What are you interested in?
- What has been your favorite reading thus far (or will be, if you’ve already read other things in the course)?
- Is there a way to make those two things intersect?
The question portion is a little harder, but not much.
- What are the uncertain things about your topic?
- What are things about which other people might disagree?
- What don’t you already know about the topic?
The claim is the most difficult.
- Look at the questions you have about your topic, especially those about which someone might disagree. What is your position on those questions?
- Do any of your questions overlap?
- Discard any questions with easy or obvious answers, or with answers that would take a book-length composition to explain.
- Do you feel passionately about any of the questions? Why? Do you feel that you can use your passion but still support your claim with evidence?
Make sure that your claim can be backed up with evidence from your exhibit and/or another source. Even – and sometimes especially – if you think it is “a stretch” to make your claim, can you point to sections of your exhibit that you feel exemplify your claim?