The Writing Center

Exploring Your Question

What follows is a pre-writing activity designed to enhance creativity; it is taken from Four Worlds of Writing by Janice M. Lauer et al. I have added the reflection questions at the end to introduce the contemplative components of interactivity, solitude, discernment, and concern for community. This activity is linked to the prior one, which is finding a question that the student will explore. The context is an English 101 Composition course where students are expected to read a book and write an essay about it.

Exploratory Guide

1. On one sheet of paper, find 10-12 quotes from the book that deal with your question directly. Your quotes from the book should be the best ones you can find, not just any quotes that relate to your question. You can use sentences, paragraphs, several pages--whatever best explains your question.

2. Static View

One page: brainstorm on your question as if you had a camera and took a picture of it. Describe everything you see about your question, recalling and recording all the distinguishing details along with your own feelings, experiences, attitudes, and values.

3. Dynamic View

One page: brainstorm on your question as if you saw it in process or change. What's the history of your subject? What movements, activities or processes are part of your subject? What changes does your subject go through? Include YOUR feelings and attitudes about these processes and changes.

4. Relative View

One page: brainstorm on your question by comparing and contrasting it to 5 similar and dissimilar subjects. Include one analogy (a way far out comparison).

5. Reflection Questions

Answer the following questions about yourself in relation to the question.

a) imagine that your writings so far (the pages you've just written) had eyes and could look back at you-- what would they see?

b) imagine that your family, friends, neighborhood, church, and school teachers could see your question-- what would be their way of answering it?

c) then take a look at your own private individual experience regarding this question--do you differ in your opinion from your family and friends?

d) is there a moral dimension to your subject?