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Statement of Topic assignment

In a paragraph of 150-200 words, describe the topic you hope to address in the capstone project. You might follow the pattern of flow described in our first class meeting:

  • starting with an interest (Tolstoy, e.g.),

    • moving to a topic (universality of “The Death of Ivan Ilych”),

      • then to a specific literal question (How does Tolstoy convey universality so persuasively in “The Death of Ivan Ilych”?),

        • to recognition of the question’s significance to others who share your interest or concern about the topic (Understanding Tolstoy’s subtle rhetorical tactics will lead to greater appreciation of his artistry and may help to explain the perpetual appeal of “The Death of Ivan Ilych.”).

Two elements are most crucial:

  • You must include one or more literal questions that focus your topic, as in “How does Conrad portray women in The Secret Agent? Is Conrad truly misogynistic in this novel?” or “How does the narrator’s voice in Dickens’s first-person novel David Copperfield compare with the narratorial voice in his third-person fiction more generally? Is the narrating David Copperfield really just Charles Dickens the narrator?”

  • You must conclude with this prescriptive statement (filling in the blanks, of course) taken from the pages of The Craft of Research handed out in class:

    I intend to learn about [or study or examine]_______________________________ because I want to find out_______________________________
    in order to help my reader understand [or appreciate]_______________________________.

Example:  I intend to study Tolstoy’s rhetorical tactics in “The Death of Ivan Ilych because I want to find out what makes his story have such universal appeal in order to help my reader appreciate Tolstoy’s subtlety in guiding readers to identify with his character so widely.

See explanation and examples from pp. 44-47 of The Craft of Research, 4th edition, by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Columb, and Joseph M. Williams.

Don’t stress having all these elements and “blanks” set in stone the first time out—this statement of topic is merely the starting point in arriving at a workable focus. It will almost certainly evolve substantially in coming weeks.