Topic Brainstorming Exercise

To complete the topic brainstorming exercise online, please complete the following two steps:

PART 1: First, post a blog that contains the following info by the end of class time on Thursday, October 27:

In the subject line of your blog post, state your final paper topic. Remember that your topic should be both your analytical focus and your primary text(s). Example topics that illustrate both analytical focus and primary text(s) are “the wilderness trope in Cooper’s The Pioneers” or “Environmental Utopianism in Thoreau’s Walden” (see final paper assignment sheet for more examples and info). Your topic should look something like this and be stated in the subject line.

The body of  your post should answer these 3 sections. Spend 5 minutes freewriting on each of these:

  1. Why are you interested in this topic? (In other words, you have a lot of freedom to choose a final paper topic, so why did you pick this one? What is interesting about it? What makes it significant?)
  2. What do you already know about this topic? (What do you already know about your analytical focus? How/where do you see this analytical focus at work in your text(s)? What key moments in the text(s) do you want to focus on in your analysis? )
  3. List questions that you would like to answer by investigating this topic further (these should literally be questions and they should be numbered).

PART 2: Second, comment on 10 of your classmates’ blog posts by 11:59 pm on Friday, October 28.

Your comments should include the following:

  1. Let the person know which question you find the most interesting (it could be one of the author’s questions, or one a commenter added to the list).
  2. Add a question of your own to the person’s list (continue the numbering system the original author began. For example, if the person listed 4 questions and no one else has commented yet, then yours would be #5. If the person listed 4 questions and two commenters added a 5th and 6th question, then yours would be #7).
  3. Feel free to add anything else that you think would be helpful to the person.

That’s it! I will add an example post for clarification (titled “Apocalypse Trope in John Stewart’s Earth) complete with an example comment, so look to it as a model for what you should be doing.

Additional Info:

  • Extra comments over the required 10 will be considered extra credit.
  • Be sure to add comments to posts that are looking a bit low on feedback.
  • Once we are finished with this exercise, you should choose one of the questions (or a few related ones) as your focusing question for the paper. Keep it in mind when researching and developing your thesis/analysis.


This assignment will count toward both your attendance and class participation grades.

Attendance: First, completion of both parts of this assignment counts as your class attendance for Thursday, October 27. Each part of the assignment counts for 1 class period (remember that we have a 2-period blog on Thursdays). So, Part 1 (posting a blog on your final paper topic) counts as 1 class period, and Part 2 (commenting on 10 students’ posts) counts as 1 class period. In order to fully attend class on Thursday, you need to complete both parts of the assignment. Failure to do so will result in being marked absent for 1 or both course periods (depending on how much of this assignment you skip).

Participation: The quality of your blog posts, and especially the quality of your comments to each other, will be taken into consideration regarding your overall class participation grade for this class. For those of you who have not been participating regularly in class discussion, this is an alternative opportunity to participate well and help improve your participation grade. For all students, this is a great opportunity to really get some helpful feedback on your ideas for the final paper. My previous students have found this activity immensely helpful in choosing and developing their final paper topic, even if they ended up changing their topic. Remember that the helpfulness and success of this activity depends on each student’s active and thoughtful participation.

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