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4.1 Discussion


Refine and narrow a topic you can happily use for the remaining major assignments in this course: Annotated Bibliography, Exploratory Essay, and Researched Argument Essay.


  1. Review information on choosing a topic, pp. 253-259 in Chapter 7 of Practical Argument.
  2. Choose ONE of the following themes related to the topics about which you have read and written so far in this course (or propose your own theme to the instructor): 
    • Violence
    • Privacy and technology
    • Free speech on college campuses
  3. Come up a topic related to the theme. Example: "violent video games," "online data collection by companies," "offensive guest speakers on college campuses." 
  4. Write four separate issue questions that do not overlap, but all relate to the main topic (see the box below for an example).
  5. Decide which issue question is the most interesting for you to explore (in the Exploratory paper) and later argue (in the Researched Argument).

Examples of ISSUE questions

If your topic were the death penalty (which is NOT one of the options for the real assignment), you could formulate the following issue questions:

  1. In countries where the death penalty is used, does it deter crime?
  2. Is the death penalty imposed fairly in the U.S.?
  3. How is the death penalty portrayed in film, and how does this portrayal affect how it is perceived in real life?
  4. Does the death penalty provide justice and closure to those affected by the crimes?


Examples of INFORMATION questions related to ONE issue question:

Issue question: Is the death penalty imposed fairly in the U.S.?

Four information questions:


  1. For what crimes can someone be sentenced to the death penalty? Are there differences between states?
  2. What challenges to the death penalty have been considered by the U.S. Supreme Court?
  3. Are there differences by race, socioeconomic status, geographical region, gender, etc. in how likely it is that two people convicted of the same crime will be sentenced to the death penalty? Are defendants assigned public defenders more likely to receive the death penalty?
  4. What is the process of appealing a death sentence? How often are death sentences overturned in the appeal process? How many times has someone been sentenced to death who is later proven innocent of the crime? 


6. Now, do the same thing for a topic you think you will choose.

Theme (from the bulleted list in #2): 

Main topic related to the theme:

Four issue questions on your topic:





Which of your issue questions do you personally find the most interesting? Why?

Four information questions related to the issue question you found the most interesting:






Due: Wednesday, Week 4

Where do I post my work? After you compose your answers in Word and save them to your computer, copy your work, go to the Discussions Tab on the menu, and paste your response in the 4.1 Discussions topic thread. Use editing tools to make sure paragraph format is preserved.

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