Lesson 5. Question Analysis: What’s the Topic?

KEY CONCEPTS

  • Every media message is about something (a company, an event, a topic, a person.)
  • No matter what that something is, there are multiple aspects or angles that can be examined.
  • Analyzing the angles allows communicators to place reasonable parameters around a message’s content.
  • Brainstorming angles and developing new ideas about a topic are essential to creative communications work.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • analyze a broad topic to identify angles or aspects that might be researched.
  • tie the message content to the needs of the identified audience.
  • generate new and interesting ideas for messages.
  • develop point-of-view diagrams, idea maps, and other techniques to spur idea generation.
  • understand how you can effectively use the above techniques in the development of story ideas.
  • use observation as an idea generation strategy.
  • understand how identifying relevant disciplines can aid in brainstorming topic angles.
  • identify the conventional wisdom and stereotypes related to the topic.

Overview

If you would like to see steam coming out of a research librarian’s ears, just go up and ask a question like, “Do you have anything on the environment?” A trained research librarian will quickly begin a “reference interview” designed to help the person asking that incredibly broad question to narrow and clarify his/her actual information need.

  • What part of the environment? Air? Water? Soil? Weather? Plants? Animals?
  • Is there a particular issue? Global warming? Pollution? Renewable energy?
  • Is there a certain geographic area of interest? North America? Antarctic? Minnesota?
  • Why are you seeking the information? Writing a term paper? Checking a specific fact? Just interested in keeping up on the topic?

In this lesson we will discuss the importance of having that “research interview” with yourself. In Lesson 4 you learned about the importance of asking specific questions about the audience for whom your message is intended. In this Lesson we will develop strategies for asking specific questions about the topic of your message and techniques for coming up with interesting, fresh, and effective topic angles.