Brainstroming Issues, Arguments and Questions


  1. view a variety of popular and alternative media outlets
  2.  discuss the differences and similarities in genres and modes between media outlets
  3.  generate a list of broad topics
  4.  begin to narrow the broad topics down to smaller issues for the academic paper

After introducing the assignments and homework for this module, I show several media clips in class and ask students to write down ideas for topics. After each segment, we write down the broad topics–for example climate change, immigration reform and police brutality–and then discuss issues within the list of broad topics that would make for good papers and blog posts. We also generate a list of dead topics: topics that argue the obvious, are too big to do justice in one blog post or one paper and topics that argue religion (because the Bible isn’t considered a scholarly source in academia).

We watched the beginning of two Daily Show Clips in class:–2015—gerald-posner–2015—robert-smigel

This is the list of broad issues my students came up with:

  • Police Brutality/Unnecessarily Use of Force
  • Systematic Racism
  • Department of Homeland Security Funding
  • Immigration
  • Climate Change and Environmental Issues

Within each broad topic we then began brainstorming smaller, more specific issues. For example, under the problem of police brutality/unnecessary force we came up with the issue of body cameras, under immigration policy we came up with sub-issues of SB 1070, humanitarian aid at the border, minute men and border patrol issues and environmental impact of order security. The goal is to help students to find a topic they are interested in and then give them the tools to think critically about smaller problems within that issue. I find that drawing bubble chart of issues under the bigger issues works well to demonstrate this.  

We also looked at headlines on The Onion and generated this list:

  • Fracking
  • The monetizing of depression
  • Keystone Pipeline

We looked at the facebook pages Jobs With Justice and  Food Revolution Communityand came up with these ideas:

  • Problems with workman’s compensation
  • Problems with student loan debt and debt collectors
  • Gender wage gap
  • LA teacher’s union contract demands
  • exploitation of service sector employees
  • the “right to work bill”
  • school lunches
  • sugar (and the American diet)
  • school gardens
  • childhood obesity
  • junk food advertisements that target children

After looking at each piece of media, I ask students to describe differences in the use of ethos, logos and pathos. This makes for a really interesting conversation about mode and genre choices!


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