Posts Tagged ‘topic’

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“Never Going to Make You Cry”: Why Students Should Choose Their Own Topics

posted: 3.5.12 by archived

When I was in high school and university, I dreaded writing assignments that didn’t allow me to choose my own topic and approach. As soon as I got a writing prompt in an English class, I would read through the different questions the teacher had provided, scanning for that crucial statement: “choose your own topic” or “write about a theme of your choice.” I realize some of my peers would never have wanted to choose that option; they liked being given clear parameters; and they would be uncomfortable if forced to choose their own subject material.  That didn’t make them lazy, less creative, or less confident writers.  It just made them different from me.

I try to remember this when giving my own students writing prompts. The difference is that I now start with the idea that all students can choose their own topic, but I provide extra help for students who need assistance doing so. I hope that I am accommodating all types of students this way.

A few weeks ago, there was a photo of a student essay making its way around the Internet. In the photo, a student highlighted how, on an essay  submitted for a class, he or she had started every single line with a few words from the lyrics to the Rick Astley song “Never Going to Give You Up.”

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage, Uncategorized
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The Research Pyramid

posted: 10.1.07 by Barclay Barrios

One of the perennial problems I find students have with research is choosing a topic of appropriate scope—not too broad and not too narrow. To help students find the right focus, have them review the material on choosing a research topic in the handbook. Then have them make a “research pyramid” for their topics by imagining the broadest possible version of their topic and then making it more and more refined as it nears a top of over-specificity. Students can then determine what level of the pyramid would make the best topic. For example, the base of a pyramid might be immigration and the very top might be Indian immigrants in Silicon Valley. Testing each level of the pyramid with a quick database search at the library will help students determine which level provides the best balance of material and focus.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research, Teaching with Technology
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