Reclaiming Your Topic

Missions
Sep 6, 2015
Image for issue at Youth Voices

Will you: 

This mission is designed to help you write another discussion post about your inquiry topic. This might be your fourth or fifth post on your question, and this won’t be the last time you write about your question. However, if you’ve been keeping up with your annotations and your dialectical notes (see Guides) as you do your research, then it’s quite likely that the post you write for this mission will elicit helpful comments from other students on Youth Voices.

This mission is designed to help you write another discussion post about your inquiry topic. This might be your fourth or fifth post on your question, and this won’t be the last time you write about your question. However, if you’ve been keeping up with your annotations and your dialectical notes (see Guides) as you do your research, then it’s quite likely that the post you write for this mission will elicit helpful comments from other students on Youth Voices. This mission also seeks to keep you from feeling overwhelmed by your research, and asks: What are the most important things you’ve come to understand about your topic? How can you use the information you’ve gathered to make those things clear to someone else?


This activity is based on Exercise 4.2 in Curious Researcher. While the directions in the book describe the process of writing on paper, these directions are for digital writing.


Step 1: Spend ten or fifteen minutes reviewing all of the notes you’ve taken so far and skimming key articles. Glance at your most important sources. Let your head swim with information.

Step 2: Now open up a new blank document so that’s the only thing you see on your computer. Trust that you’ll remember what’s important.

Step 3: Now freewrite about your topic for eight minutes. Tell the story of how your own thinking about your topics has evolved. When you began the projects, what did you think? Then what happened after that? What were your preconceptions about your topic? How have they changed? This is an open-ended freewrite. Don’t let the writing stall out. If our run out of things to say, talk to yourself through writing about the research, thinking about the other trails you might follow. Time yourself.

Step 4: Skip a few lines in your document. Write “Moments, Stories, People, and Scenes.” Now freewrite for another ten minutes, this time, focusing on more specific case studies, situations, people, experiences, observations, and so on that stand out in your mind from the research done so far or perhaps from your own experience with the topic. Keep your fingers moving across the keyboard for a full ten minutes. Time yourself.

Step 5: Skip a few more lines. For ten minutes, have a synchronous conversation with someone about what they’ve written for steps 1-4. There are numerous ways you could have a conversation in Google Docs: the chat feature, inserting comments, or writing directly on your partner’s text. Begin with questions about your partner’s topic, and let the conversation go from there.

Step 6: Skip a few more lines and write these two words in your document: “So what?” Now spend a few minutes trying to summarize the most important thing you think people should understand about your topic based on what you’ve learned so far. Distill these comments down to a sentence or two. 

Step 7: Publish the sentences from Step 6 as the beginning of a Youth Voices discussion post, then keep writing. The post should summarize the most important thing you think people should understand about your topic based on what you've learned so far. Be sure to include at least one direct quote or specific fact from one of your sources and provide a link to that source. 

Step 8: Comment on other students’ research on Youth Voices. Be sure to choose people who you haven’t worked with yet.  Your comments should help them think more deeply about their topic. You could ask clarifying questions or provide links to other sources, for example. Please use the Guides: Agree/Disagree Response or General Discussion Response.