Chapter 50 – “The Whole Paper” S62012
50a – Choosing a Topic
Suggestions for Finding an Appropriate Topic:
Current world issues
Likes and dislikes
Descriptions (i.e., of a place, a meal, a person, etc)
Whatever the topic is, it shouldn’t be boring. Only a dull writer can make it boring. If you are really into it, you can
make anything interesting.
Topics to Avoid:
Very broad or abstract topics such as “wiring a house” or “the concept of evil”
Overused topics such as “my high school experience” or “why I came to university”
Topics you know little about
50b – Narrowing the Topic
Consider what you can tell your reader in 1000 words (4 pages typed). Two hundred will likely be towards the
Narrowing an Unfamiliar Topic:
You’re assigned a paper on a broad topic. Now what?
Make a list of anything you can think of about that topic.
Go through the list and think about the topics. If you don’t know enough about the topic to write a whole
paper, cross it out. If there are similar topics, choose the more interesting one. Gradually eliminate the
options until you have one topic that you can write 5 pages on.
Narrowing a Familiar Topic:
Make a list of topics you know enough about to write a paper.
If you are having a hard time choosing between them, quickly jot down some topics about each one.
Eliminate topics that may be too large, boring, or you don’t know as much about.
When you have narrowed down to one topic, make a list of all the subsections in that topic.
o Recreation, for example.
Team vs. individual sports
Participatory vs. spectator sports
Popular vs. unusual recreation
Strenuous vs. non-strenuous
Physical vs. mental recreation
o Think about these subsections and eliminate any you are not interested in doing. Chapter 50 – “The Whole Paper” S62012
Broad Topic Narrow Topic
The family The perfect baby-sitter
Food Baking bread in a reflector oven
Education My two days as a teacher’s aid
Law Right turns on red should be outlawed
Health Hay fever isn’t funny
Television Local vs. national news reporting
Literature I love to read trash
Transportation Taking Eurail across the Alps to Italy
History Why Mennonites settled in Alberta
50c – Preparing to Write
Jot down ideas for the paper as they come to you.
If you have time, take a few days to mull over the ideas and continue to write down more ideas.
As you think of them, record any relevant quotations, anecdotes to make your point more forceful, and
specific facts that should be included.
50c – Finding a Thesis
The single most important component of a paper is the thesis.
Thesis – the main point or central idea of a paper, usually the first or last sentence in the introduction. In
this course, it will be the last sentence of the introduction. Formulate the thesis BEFORE you begin
writing. The thesis will help guide your essay in the right direction.
Example: You were assigned a paper on interpersonal relationships and you have narrowed it to “generation
labels.” What do you want to tell your readers about generation labels, such as Generation X and Generation Y?
Some possible thesis statements for this topic are:
Generation labels are artificial constructs perpetuated by sociologists and the media.
“X,” “Y,” and other generation labels reflect the rapid pace of change in our society.
Like generations before them, Generation Xers have concerns very different from those of Generation Y.
What can we expect for Generation Z?
A good thesis statement isspecific and unified butnot self-evident . Another problem to avoid is being overly
dramatic with your thesis. A specific statement not only indicates the main point of the paper exactly; it also
avoids vague generalities.
Overly General Improved
Teaching is a noble profession. The first-grade teacher is responsible for the most
important skill we possess: reading.
Fear that patients might be given tainted blood has
Tainted blood has been a serious problem in Canada. dramatically changed surgical techniques in most
A vacation in a provincial park can be both delightful
You don’t have to be rich to be happy. and inexpensive.
A unified statement includes only one idea or perhaps one main idea and one or two closely related subsidiary
ideas. Consider the statement “the differences between moths and butterflies are often very subtle, but Chapter 50 – “The Whole Paper” S62012
coloration, produced in only two ways, is not one of them, even though there are many, often contrary,
explanations for colour variation.” This statement lacks unity because it contains at least 3 major ideas. Any one of
them is a potential thesis, but you cannot unify them and include them within a short paper.
Not Unified Improved
I like watching sports events on television, and I also My love of spectator sports does not prevent me from
like to participate in sports. participating in sports myself.
Many students do not like to read Chaucer, and they Many students do not like to read Chaucer only because
prefer Shakespeare, whose language is easier to
understand. his language is hard to understand.
Even though we do not have much political terrorism in
North America, it is an inexcusable way of trying to get Political terrorism is never excusable.
Self-evident statements are those that need not be made at all because everyone agrees with them; there is no
point in writing a paper that argues that horses are bigger than rabbits.
Playground equipment causes many injuries and
Automobile accidents cause many injuries and deaths. deaths.
Poor people have less money to spend than rich people. If doctors can opt out of medicare, the rich may receive
better medical care than the poor.
When you are writing your paper and find it hard to stick to your thesis, rework it.
50e – Planning the Paper
Once you have a narrow topic and thesis statement, think about the approach that your thesis implies. Do you
need to explain something, try to persuade your readers to accept your opinion, describe what something is like,
or tell a story? Once the direction is established, organize the material in the most suitable way.
In other words, decide on the best rhetorical mode and on the sequence in which you will present your ideas.
Four Rhetorical Types:
1. Expository – explaining something
a. Comparison and contrast – show readers in what ways two things are similar and dissimilar,
explaining both as you do so
b. Cause and effect – show the reader how something came about
c. Process – tells the readers how something is done
d. Classification and partition
i. Classification shows the readers how to fit something into a larger category
ii. Partition shows how something can be broken down into smaller subdivisions on the
basis of similarities and differences among its parts
e. Definition – defining something; for example, truth, microeconomics, photosynthesis Chapter 50 – “The Whole Paper” S62012
2. Argument and persuasion – bring the reader, using logical reasoning, to an acceptance of the writer’s
point of view
i. State your argument first and then support it with detailed evidence.
ii. Early in the paper, acknowledge opposing views by presenting and refuting
counterarguments or by conceding the points.
iii.Cite main evidence for the argument