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Narrowing your Pro/Con Topic to a Thesis (McMahon)

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?