This assignment asks you to create an “interest inventory.” You’ll make a list of about 20 things you want to know more about and have little opinion on.
(There are only 3 forbidden topics to write on in this class: abortion rights, gun control, and the death penalty. People have strong opinions about these topics, and students often overlook good material on a variety of approaches to a topic when they start out with their minds made up. Also, these topics invite rants, and who wants to read a rant?)
These 20 or so large subjects you are interested in might be from a wide-ranging variety of possibilities: The Vietnam War; Childhood Cancer; travel in Asia; Frida Kahlo; Galapagos Islands; Mountain climbing; Body modification; deadly Australian wildlife; Climate Change. What these topics have in common is they are too large to write a 12-15 page paper on, and you will have to find a smaller niche to carve out of this larger topic. For example, a research paper under the umbrella subject of “mountain climbing” might be a detailed proposal to limit access to a smaller number of climbers on El Capitan to try to control the garbage climbers are leaving.
Freewrite the names of 20 people or things, you are interested in. Consider these possibilities if you are stumped.
Places: Where’s a place you’ve always wanted to go? For me, it’s Banff.
Trends: in fashion (I just got a magazine with an article about a discovery of medieval underwear. It was surprisingly fascinating!); trends in architecture; trends in food, etc.
Medical breakthroughs (be specific-ish, since it’s an umbrella topic, something like medical marijuana would be good because there are many small papers to write under that topic– I can think of 3 or 4 topics off the top of my head. Or dogs in medicine–dogs can sniff tumors, can predict epilepsy, can be used to assist autistic children, etc., and all of these smaller topics could be turned into 12-15 papers under the umbrella topic of Dogs in Medicine–not just Medicine)
Technologies: AI. I’m not sure how I feel about some kinds of AI, how about you?
Scientific discoveries or circumstances with broad implications, e.g., climate change.
People (you might not think people can be umbrella subjects, but if they are historical figures or political figures they can. For example, if I wanted to write about Frida Kahlo, I might write one of my papers about whether chronic pain really influenced Kahlo’s work, as some claim it did. )
Controversies There are gracious plenty of them out there right now. Choose the one you don’t already have an opinion on.
Historical events with some controversy attached: Why was Joan of Arc burned?
Habits “Habits” might be an interesting umbrella topic. Trichotillomania, pica, cutting–these are all habits but they may also have psychological or medical reasons.
Once you have your list of 15-20 umbrella subjects you want to know more about, choose 1 or 2 you think will be really interesting to work on for 10 weeks.
Then do a fast write and come up with 10-15 questions about the subject you are interested in learning the answers to.
Write both the interest inventory (I want to see your long list as well as your top 1 or 2 picks) and the questions here. For more information on Interest Inventory check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?search=interest+inventory
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