Inquiry Begins with a Decision
Question: How do you decide what issue to pursue as a topic for inquiry?
Answer: Choose the one that has already chosen you.
Some issues make a claim on our interest and grab our attention through the force of their importance. These issues have impact in our lives. There is no end to the variations on “the call to write,” as scholar and writing teacher John Trimbur has termed the motivating factors that get writers and researchers working. Consider the following issues and how they might encourage reading and writing.
- Band is being eliminated from your high school.
- Your manager at work asked you to write a proposal to justify your request for a raise.
- You are convinced that a recently passed state law is unjust.
- Cancer rates in your community are significantly higher than in surrounding communities. Locals fear environmental contaminants.
- A homeless shelter opens up in your neighborhood inspiring debates about safety that divide the community.
- Rampant binge drinking on campus alarms university officials and those in the surrounding community.
- A recently published article on the books of your favorite author gets it all wrong in your opinion.
- A local band continues to get no national press despite another brilliant album and sold out regional concert tour.
- A humanitarian crisis--child hunger in the United States, refugees fleeing Africa or Southeast Asia struggling to find refuge, impact of clean water scarcity around the world-- spirals further and further out of control.
These scenarios are meant to suggest the kinds of situations that demand our attention, research, and writing. Though these issues originate outside of an academic context, research in academic disciplines speaks to all of them. Approaching issues like these through careful reflection and an interdisciplinary approach marshals the broadest possible range of perspectives and methods of inquiry. Think of it as bringing your entire toolbox to a carpentry job, not just your hammer, saw, plane or drill. For dealing with the issue that demands our attention, the interdisciplinarity of this approach seems to us the most productive for the critical thinking and effective problem solving that follows.