Monday, June 9, 2014

What to ask yourself before you write

I have a bad habit of jumping into a piece to see what happens, with nary a thought up front. I don't recommend it. Do as I say, not as I do.

A good place to start thinking about what you want to write is the five fundamental questions (here and here).

Closely related to these questions, and perhaps their ancestor, is the concept of stasis. The term stasis means a state of equilibrium. Allen Brizee at Purdue University explains:
Stasis theory is a four-question, pre-writing (invention) process developed in ancient Greece by Aristotle and Hermagoras. Later, the stases were refined by Roman rhetoricians, such as Cicero, Quintilian, and Hermogenes. Working through the four stasis questions encourages knowledge building that is important for research, writing, and for working in teams. Stasis theory helps writers conduct critical analyses of the issues they are investigating.
Specifically, stasis theory asks writers to investigate and try to determine:
  • The facts (conjecture)
  • The meaning or nature of the issue (definition)
  • The seriousness of the issue (quality)
  • The plan of action (policy)
Brizee suggests a number of questions to ask under each category. Worth a look. 
It is important to achieve stasis with the issue you are investigating. Put another way, if you are trying to solve the parking problem on your campus, it will not do anyone any good to suggest that students stop smoking. The solution has nothing to do with (does not achieve stasis with) the issue at hand.
It might be instructive to examine the next journal article you read for evidence that the writer has asked these critical questions.

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