--

 

  A Lesson on Narrowing the Topic
For Expository Writing

Click this arrow in the scroll bar to move up the page.

Click on the arrows in the side scroll bar located to the right of your screen to navigate up and down the page.

Click this arrow in the scroll bar to move down the page.


Meet
Wilber Whittle.
His friends call him
"Willie."As you can tell by his furrowed expression, he has found himself in
quite a quagmire.  
You see, he has a research paper due in less than a week. 
His teacher,
Mr. P. Culiar isn't happy with Willie's style of writing.
"What am I going to do?  I really need help!"

This research paper is the final assignment of the year. Unless
improvement is made,
Willie will be on his way to summer school.

It seems his
compositions are
difficult to follow
because the topics
he selects are entirely
too broad.
"Willie, you're a bright young man with a promising future but the papers you write bog me down with too much information."

As a writer yourself, have you ever experienced
difficulty with the process of narrowing a topic?

    


Before we hear more about Willie, see how familiar you are with
the process of narrowing the topic.

What does it mean to
Narrow the Topic?

Click in the box below and type your answer.



Next Page

--

                              

Now back to Willie's story.  

"Well, hello Willie.  What's going on with you these days?"

While researching his selected topic at the public library, Willie runs into his neighbor, Mr. McStickler, who happens to be the chief investigator for the local police department.


Detective McStickler casually asks Willie how things are going for him. So, Willie fills him in on his research paper dilemma. The detective listens attentively as Willie goes on and on concerning how discouraged he is about narrowing his topic for research.

Mr. P. Culiar is it?
His name sounds like the word peculiar.  Any connection there?

Detective McStickler proceeds by asking Willie what topic he has selected. 
Willie replies,
"Well, I've been playing around with the idea of using music as my topic."


Detective McStickler
suggests,
"Investigating
is a lot like
the planning stage
in the
writing process.

"Remember this...If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  Think about it."

A good detective, like a good writer, spends time sorting through information before the actual investigation begins. An investigator identifies a motive
like a writer
identifies a topic." 


"Okay, my topic is music.  I have so much information about music.  How do I get it all organized?"

.Willie responds,
"Yes, but I always
seem to have too
much information
to sort through and really don't know
which way to go
with my topic. "

Click on the picture below to view the information Willie has gathered. 
Click here.


"So, where should I start?" Willie inquires.
Click in the box below and type your suggestion.
.
Previous Page Next Page



-

Detective M. suggests,
"Willie, it sounds like you have two problems.  Getting started seems to be your first challenge.  I think the experts call that writer's block
Secondly, you can't decide which information to use
and which to discard.


My investigative
intuition tells me
it's best to begin
with what
you already know.
Can you recall any instructions your
teacher has given
concerning
topic selection?"


Willie remembers Mr. P. Culiar suggesting that when a writer begins planning a research paper, these two questions need to be addressed
concerning topic selection:
» What do you, the writer, want to know about the topic?
»What does your audience need to know about the topic?


"So, how did you answer these questions
about your topic, Willie?"
Willie responds, "Well, I've always wanted to know more about some of the different musical styles and how they developed.  I think other people should know this information too."


At this point, the detective presents a three step process he uses to narrow down his list of
suspects and motives.
Click on the magnifying glass for a closer look into the                        5W-How  Process.
           

Previous Page

Next Page

--

"Let's take a look at how this process helped me solve a case I've recently closed," continued Detective M.

 

Step 1

     Upon arriving at his place of business, the owner of a local antique boutique was horrified to discover that his shop had been burglarized.  The contents inside were in total disarray.   Once he reorganized his merchandise, he realized that the only item unaccounted
for was a very rare and valuable coin.


Step 2

     Next our team arrived
to investigate the crime scene,
and I interviewed the shop owner
for detailed information. 
That is when the
5W-How Process
was set into motion. 
Here's how:

I asked:

  »WHO knew you were in possession of this rare coin?

  »WHAT was the value of this coin?

  »WHERE in the shop was this coin showcased?

  »WHEN did the burglary take place?

  »HOW did the thief enter the shop?

  »WHY would this coin be the only item taken?

Think of another who, when, why, where, what, or how question
that would be helpful for the detective to ask.
Click in the box below and type your question.

Previous Page Next Page

_  


Step 3

Detective McStickler continued, "Then, I took the information I gathered, weeded out what I didn't need, and began researching the information I decided was necessary.
Finally, I narrowed
down the list of possibilities to one likely suspect."

This process enabled me to stay focused only on the information I needed.
In other words,
I didn't go off chasing rabbits! 
I solved this case in record time!

"Think! Think! As hard as you can.  Stick to your topic.  Remember to plan!"


Willie seems a little puzzled!

"Who, what, when, where, why, and how?
I see how asking those questions helps to move along your investigation, but how can the
5W-How Process
help narrow
my topic in writing?"


How do you think Willie can use this process to narrow his topic in writing?
Click in the box below, type your idea, and click the "DONE" button.

Previous Page

Next Page


 

 


"Willie, let me show you what this looks like on paper. You begin with a broad subject and whittle away at the information by using the 5W-How Process.
Once you've gone through this simple three-step process, you can develop a specific topic that has a clear purpose for writing.

" Willie, did you catch that play on words when I said, '...whittle away information...?'  Your last name is Whittle and here we are talking about whittling down information!"

Remember Willie,  that there are other methods writers use for narrowing a topic.  This just happens to be the process my own kids are using with their topics.  Remind me later, and I'll show you how this process worked for them."

"For now, take a look at the example below."

Step 1. Select a Subject WB00678_.GIF (615 bytes) History

Step 2.   Ask WB00678_.GIF (615 bytes)  Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

      N
A
R
R
O
W
I
N
G

T
H
E

T
O
P
I
C

What  

What kind of history?

world

Who  

Who in history?


influential women

When

When in history?


during the eighteenth century

Where

Where in history?


in the United States

  Why  

Why in history?

because of their personal beliefs concerning slavery

How

How in history?     

provided better
quality of life
for African
Americans

Step 3. Present the Topic
(Narrowed and focused with a clear purpose)
   Influential women in U.S. history who because of their personal beliefs concerning slavery, provided a better quality of life for African Americans during the Civil War era.

Next Page Previous Page

--

 When using the
5W-How Process,
keep these tips in mind:

1.You may need to narrow your topic using this process more than once.
2.Using the 5W-How Process might make you think of other questions to ask in order to narrow the topic.
3.All of the questions in the 5W-How Process may not apply to or be necessary for your topic.



"This would be a good time for you to take a look at how my two kids applied the 5W-How Process to narrow a topic for research."
Click on the football or the hamburger to see how these broad subjects have been narrowed to specific topics....
Click here.       Click here.



"Ah,ha!"

Basically, instead of allowing the subject
of your writing to be
a one word topic with
too much information
to cover, the
5W-How Process
helps you  focus on 
specific information
about the subject.

Broad Subject

Who?
What?
When?
Where?
Why?
How?

Specific Topic


"Thanks,
Detective McStickler. 
I think I'll get back to
my research now and
strike while the iron's hot.  You've been a big help!" Willie says.

         
"Detective McStickler must be a 'stickler' for details!"

" Glad I could help!  Good luck to you,
Willie.  I'll be right
over here working
at the next table
if you need anything else."


Previous Page

                                                      Next Page

_

Help Willie use the 5W-How Process
to narrow his topic by selecting the best question in each group that relates to
Musical Styles.
In each section below, read the questions.
Select the best question by clicking on the button to the left of your choice.

"Okay, my topic is Musical Styles.  Which questions will help to narrow this topic?"

                               


Click on the music note at the end of the question you select for feedback.

What are the various types of musical ensembles or groups? 

Click here.

What are the different methods available for musical reproduction?

Click here.

What quality or characteristic about these famous musical composers is so appealing to the modern musical community?

Click here.

What musical styles do I want to know more about?

Click here.



Click on the music note at the end of the question you select for feedback.

 

Who is responsible for the development of certain types of music?

Click here.

Who are the members in different types of musical ensembles?

Click here.

Who were the most influential musical composers of the 17th and 18th centuries?    

Click here.

Who invented the concept of musical recording?

Click here.

 


Click on the music note at the end of the question you select for feedback.

 

When was the first album cut and released for distribution?

Click here.

When did these musical versions first originate?

Click here.

When in history were various musical ensembles created?

Click here.

When did these composers become well known for their works?

Click here.


Previous Page
                                                     Next Page

 


Click on the music note at the end of the question you select for feedback.

 

Where do musicians go to produce recordings of their music?

Click here.

From where did these kinds of music originate?

Click here.

In which countries were these famous composers born?

Click here.

Where can you go to research the background of a particular ensemble?

Click here.



Click on the music note at the end of the question you select for feedback.

 

Why will these composers and their contributions remain significant in the future?

Click here.

Why are these modalities of music still in existence today?

Click here.

Why were ensembles created in the first place?

Click here.

Why has the production of record albums decreased so much during the past twenty years?

Click here.



Click on the music note at the end of the question you select for feedback.

 

How do recording techniques really work?

Click here.

How did these composers shape the development and style of their genre of music?

Click here.

How, if at all, have these musical styles changed through the years?

Click here.

How were musical ensembles assembled at the birth of the idea?

Click here.


Now help Willie select a topic that is narrowed and focused with a clear purpose for writing.  For help, refer to the question selections you made from above that best relate to the topic Musical Styles. To view the questions that directly relate to musical styles, click here.




Click here..

Click on the image beside the narrowed topic you select.

 

The History of Recording Techniques and the Wave of Progression

 

The Origins of Various Musical Styles and How They've Changed through the Years

 

Well Known Musical Composers from the 17th and 18th Centuries and Their Contributions to the Development of Musical Genres

 

The Origin and Make Up of Musical Ensembles


Previous Page
          Next Page

 

"I bet I don't forget to ask the 'Who' question!"

Willie has narrowed his subject using the
5W-How Process
and is ready to present his specific topic to the detective. While Willie takes his narrowed topic over to see what Detective McStickler thinks,
let's review.
 


  Think about the 5W-How Process
and the examples
the detective used for Willie.
Identify the three steps in this process.

Just click in the boxes below and type your answer.

Click here for help!/

"I think I need a little help."

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3


Topic Tip
Hot off the press!

Click on the note pad below.
  

Now let's practice with topic selection.
Click on the arrow below for a list of seleted topics.
Choose the topic that is most appropriate to use for a
research paper.


It looks like you have a handle on the
5W-How Process.

So, let's see what Detective McStickler
has to say about

the progress Willie's made so far.


Previous Page Next Page

 

"Pardon the interruption Detective McStickler, but I'd like to show you the specific topic I developed by using the 5W-How Process."
Detective M. replies, "No problem, Willie.  
Let's see what you have."

"Well, as you recall, I was having trouble writing a research paper that was
focused on specific information.  I had so much information because the topics I selected were too broad.
Then you told me about a process you use when investigating that helps eliminate unnecessary information--the 5W-How Process.
I tried to follow the examples you gave
and this is what I have:"

Step 1.   Select a topic:     Musical Styles

Step 2.   Ask: what, who, when, where, why, and how

N
A
R
R
O
W
I
N
G
 
T
H
E

T
O
P
I
C

What

What musical styles do I want to know more about?

boogie-woogie, jazz,
rock steady,
country and western,
rhythm and blues

Who

Who is responsible for the creation of these musical styles?

?
(to be discovered through research)

When

When did these musical styles first originate?

?
(to be discovered through research)

Where

Where were these styles originated?

?
(to be discovered through research)

Why

Why are these styles still
in existence today?

?
(to be discovered through research)

How

How, if at all, have these musical styles changed since their birth?

?
(to be discovered through research)

Step 3.  Develop and Present a Specific Topic:

The Origins of Various Musical Styles and How They've

Changed through the Years

"Now, I have a specific topic that has been narrowed and is focused with a clear purpose for writing.  I know which direction to take my research;
and any information that doesn't address my topic specifically,
can be eliminated from my notes.
What do you think?"

"Willie actually did listen to me explain the 5W-How Process!"

"Willie, you've caught on to the 5W-How Process 
nicely and it shows in your work here.
I think your teacher will be pleased
with this topic indeed!"

                                               Previous Page                                                                  
                                                                                                      

     Next Page

 

 

Willie replies, "Boy do I feel better about narrowing a topic for writing.  Thanks to you, Detective McStickler, and the 5W-How Process I doubt you'll see my name on the summer school roster."

"Congratulations on a job well done!" Detective McStickler replies, "I'd better get back to narrowing my information so I can crack this case I'm working on.  Let me know how your research paper turns out."

Well, there you have it--the whole story about Wilber Whittle
and his topic tizzy. From that day on, Willie successfully whittled down broad subjects into specific topics that laid the foundation for
outstanding research papers.
Because of a chance meeting with Detective McStickler who shared the 5W-How Process for narrowing a topic,
Willie didn't have to attend summer school after all!


So the next time you find yourself struggling with a topic that is too broad, remember Willie's story and the 5W-How Process.  Let this process help you bring the larger picture into sharper focus.

"Help!  My topic is too broad!"


If you have access to a printer
and would like handouts related to the
5W-How Process and narrowing a topic,
click on the image below.

Click here./

Previous Page