Writing

A list of all programs, guides, and other information about writing, anywhere at JHU.

Before You Start

  1. What do you already know about your subject?
    Keep a list of key words, names, and events.

  2. How long has your subject existed?
    Is it a relatively new concept with a lot published about it, or new and undiscovered?

  3. What discipline does your topic fall into?
    A discipline is an area of study or branch of learning (e.g., History, Biology). Each has its own best starting points.

  4. How are you viewing the topic?
    Think about what you are planning to emphasize: politics, history, or another aspect?

  5. What's the Timing?
    How long do you have to do this project? How long does it need to be?

Three Approaches for Developing a Topic

Approach #1: List Key Words of Interest
Make lists of concepts and topics you find interesting, as well as lists of related words and synonyms. These can serve as your key search terms.

Concept 1: Concept 2: Look For:
school choice discrimination synonyms?
educational choice educational access related terms?
open enrollment access to education alternate phrases?
educational vouchers social justice

key names, events?

 

Approach #2: Draw It Out
Sketch out the relationships between ideas.

Sample Topic Map

Approach #3: Define it in Sentences
Write an explanation of your topic, justifying it on multiple levels:

I am studying...
conformity in Woolf’s Orlando

in order to find out...

how Orlando’s efforts to conform and fit in change over time

in order to help my reader understand...

the role maturity and self-awareness play in the character’s efforts to conform to societal norms.

Adapted from The Craft of Research (2003) by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. (We also own the 2008 edition, which is the latest.)