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Senior project

Senior project

I am doing a senior project and I need to come up with a Topic statement, Problem statement and a Proposal. My degree is Disability studies and rehab services at University of Memphis.

Here is what I sent my professor for a Topic statement. “I am studying Disability Studies and Rehabilitation Services because I want society to understand academically the issues the intellectual disability community faces. ”

this is what she said, “This is such a worthwhile area of inquiry. While I can see you’re approaching a strong topic area, you’ll do well to get a little more specific in your plan at this point.

The best way to narrow your focus is to consider what specific institutional resources, programs, or processes you want to investigate. For instance, as a teacher, I have an interest in how difficult it is for students with disabilities to gain access to academic accommodation and support. Are there barriers to getting proper support, or does the university make it fairly easy? And what about students who don’t have a formal diagnosis (for whatever reason) but need support? Is there any pathway for them? Who falls through the cracks?

Anyway, those are just examples of ways to pressure your thinking in order to get to a more specific inquiry. Think hard about the question you want to answer and holler if I can help as you refine your thinking!”

This is how the TOPIC statement instructions: This week, you’ll make your way through the second module (chapters from the textbook, PowerPoints, quiz, and topic statement). As you prepare to submit your topic statements, I want to make a few general comments based on your brainstorming thus far. As you’ve already seen in this week’s Content Module, the topic statement should roughly follow this formula: I am researching _______ to find out _______ so that my readers _______. With that framework in mind, here are a few suggestions:

Narrow down your inquiry.

Having a topic that is too broad is perhaps the single most detrimental mistake you can make in the pre-writing phase. An overly-broad topic is all but destined to cause frustration for the researcher and stymie the readers’ interest. If the topic you’ve chosen could also be a whole academic department (like “History” or “Communication” or “Law Enforcement”) or the title of an entire class or a book (like “International Trade” or “20th Century Poverty”), then your topic is much too broad. Steer clear of sweeping abstract nouns or elusive, expansive concepts like “world peace” or “police violence” (that could mean a hundred different things to different people in different places at different times in human history). Instead, try to engage the senses with your topic, by addressing concrete things that we can see, touch, and hear, in concrete terms, in concrete places and time frames.

Consider the examples on page 39 of the textbook. The concept of “free will” is so obscure and mystical that any researcher would have trouble pinning it down, especially in a mere 15 pages. However, free will in three particular battles in Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a much narrower, more manageable topic. Note that the revised version contains tangible, measurable limits: specific battles, specific book, specific number (three). For tips on focusing your topic, please go back and take a second look at Chapter 3 of the textbook (especially Section 3.2 and 3.3).

Narrow down your audience.

If at any stage you have felt like the audience of readers for your paper is “everyone” (or almost everyone) or “anyone who’s interested,” then you should definitely zero in on a more specific target audience. Of course, we all ideally want the entire human race to read our writing, but that’s not realistic. If you prioritize a specific audience, then you can write for that audience in particular. Otherwise, your paper will have a “one-size-fits-all” feel to it, and we all know that anything claiming to fit everyone actually fits no one. Narrowing your audience will also help you to narrow the topic itself. Please review Section 2.3 in the textbook and the Quick Tip at the end of Chapter 2 for strategies on how to identify your target readers.

Precisely articulate your final topic statement.

After you’ve considered the feedback from me and re-examined Chapters 2 and 3, take a second look at your topic statement. You’ve got three blanks to fill in: I am researching _______ to find out _______ so that my readers _______. Each blank should include specific, precise, focused, concrete information. For example, some of you might fill in that third blank with something along the lines of “…so my readers will understand [whatever you put in the first blank] better.” “Understanding” is much too broad, especially if you’re just going to circle back to the first blank. “I’m researching diabetes to find out the particulars of diabetes so my readers will understand diabetes.” Topics like that won’t work. Consider the example on page 57 of your textbook:

I am studying theories of the Alamo, because I want to understand why voters responded to them in ways that served the interests of local Texas politicians, in order to help readers understand how regional self-images influence national politics.

Notice that the researcher here did not say “I’m studying the Alamo to help my readers understand the Alamo.” See what I mean? Your end point can’t be the same as your starting point.

Also, notice how this topic statement identifies a specific, narrow subject of inquiry. The topic is limited to a specific subset of people, in a specific place, at a specific time, in a specific context, all of which we can objectively measure and pinpoint (as opposed to just researching “self-imagery in politics,” which by itself would be much too broad). Consider re-reading Section 4.2 in the textbook before submitting your topic statement.

Venture past your comfort zone.

One last thing. Please do not pick a topic just because you think it’s safe, uncontroversial, or universally accepted. And by all means, do not filter your topic selection by what you think the instructor will find agreeable. Whether I personally agree with your premise is wholly irrelevant. I challenge you to challenge your readers, including me. I know this is a cliché, but think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to choose an edgy, unexpected, atypical topic. Those often turn into the most amazing work (and the most rewarding academic experiences for students).

Even though it might seem like an easy assignment without much heavy-duty writing, please take the topic statement very seriously. Trying to research an ineffective topic statement is like building a house on a cracked foundation. You’re practically setting yourself up for trouble ahead. On the other hand, with a solid topic statement, both your research and your initial drafting will flow a lot more naturally.

Instructions for the problem statement:

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