Surveying a topic and Building arguments

Trying to find a topic
What is a subject or topic? A Subject is a thing, person or idea on which somebody performs a mental or physical operation. A topic on the other hand comes from the Greek word topos, or place. That relationship is interesting. A topic or subject is naturally related to a place. A topic, then, is a sort of conceptual space, with boundaries beyond which lies another topic. Letís call the subject the topic for a discussion. A subject is the topic on which the thinker is going to do some thinking. An example of a topic is: Architecture in the Caribbean.


The issues wheel and the bubble diagram
Any subject covers an intricate web of events, objects, people, ideas, intentions, problems, causes and effects, circumstances, mistakes and mysteries, pieces of luck and weird bits. In other words a topic is sort of like a body made up of limbs and organs and cells and atoms, with ideas and feelings and all of that set within a specific context.


When starting out it helps if you take some time to analyse the subject.


Try to find out what the subject consists of. How does it break up into its separate issues? There are two techniques, which might be useful here. Both of them are ways of making diagrams of the project. One is the issues wheel and the other is the bubble diagram.

The first lists and groups the issues that are relevant to a particular topic. This wheel can be begun by simply brainstorming about the subject with a group of colleagues.


Remember the rules of brainstorming: note down everything that is proposed within the group. If you yourself cannot see the relevance of a contribution, then look harder for it.


The other, the bubble diagram, tries to visualise the relationships between the various issues and establishes a useful sequence.


Every research project should begin with the making of an issues wheel and every piece of written work should begin with the construction of a bubble diagram.