Answering the following questions will help you discover ideas about your topic. The questions are arranged within four general categories:
- Definition (How is your topic defined?)
- Comparison (What is it similar to or different from?)
- Relationship (What causes your topic to occur?)
- Circumstances (What circumstances make your topic possible?)
Begin by writing out your topic (X) and then answer as many of the following questions as possible.
- How does the dictionary define X?
- Did X mean something in the past that it does not mean now? If so, what?
- What does this former meaning tell us about how the idea has changed?
- What do I mean by X?
- What other words mean approximately the same as X?
- What are some concrete examples of X?
- When is the meaning of X misunderstood?
- Do I know any statistics about X? If so, what?
- Have I talked with anyone about X?
- Are there any laws concerning X?
- What is X similar to? In what ways?
- What is X different from? In what ways?
- X is superior to what? In what ways?
- X is inferior to what? In what ways?
- X is most unlike what? (What is its opposite?)
- X is most like what? In what ways?
- What causes X?
- What is the purpose of X?
- Why does X happen?
- What is the consequence of X?
- What comes before X?
- What comes after X?
- Is X possible or impossible?
What qualities, conditions, or circumstances make X possible or impossible?
- Supposing X is possible, is it also desirable? Why?
- When did X happen previously?
- Who has done or experienced X?
- Who can do X?
- If X starts, what makes it end?
- What would it take for X to happen now?
- What would prevent X from happening?