Topics for critical thinking and writing

Drug use in sports. Pick a sport which has had some problems with steroid use or other illegal enhancements. Summarize the situation. Analyze what has caused drug use to become an increasing problem. Anti-meth campaign. Summarize the situation of the homeless in your community. What resources are available to help them? Why is homelessness still a problem?

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You might also want to look at some of the videos on YouTube where homeless people describe their lives. College football. Summarize the importance of college football for a University. Analyze the effect of football on creating alumni involvement and giving, drawing students to attend the University, and bringing community pride and economic development.

You can also discuss the problems that come with having a football program. Obesity rates are skyrocketing worldwide. Summarize the problem. Analyze the consequences of obesity for the individual and society. Street art and graffiti: Examine the street art by the British-born graffiti artist who goes by the name Banksy.

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You might also want to look at the trailer for his movie about street art, Exit Through the Gift Shop , or discuss his new exhibit Dismaland: A Bemusement Park. Analyze how his street art scenes are a comment on our society.

Sports on television. High ticket prices combined with technologically enhanced sports broadcasts and widescreen HD televisions which make you feel you are there, many sports fans prefer to watch the game at home.


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Analyze the differences between watching sports live and on TV. Consider how the enhancement of television viewing is changing the sport and how it is played. Multicultural identity. We all frequently have to check a box identifying our ethnicity. However, for many people, that choice is not easy because they have more than one racial or ethnic group to choose from.

Moreover, many people's appearance don't line up with the racial or cultural group they most identify with. Analyze how Americans identify themselves and others by appearances.

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Why is having a single racial identity so important to Americans? Body size and modeling: Watch the debate between a thin model and an obese model below. Summarize the points about women, health and body image. Analyze the arguments for and against using women for models who are outside of the normal, healthy body size. Multicultural families.

Adoption and intermarriage between people of different cultures and races has created more families of mixed races and cultures in the United States and other countries. Describe this situation and analyze how adoption and marriage across racial lines affect individuals in those families and the cohesion of the family as a whole. Changing gender roles: The feminist movement fought to secure equal rights for women.

How have the roles of men and women changed over the last 40 years? How have they stayed the same? Analyze the change in gender roles and whether it has been good or bad for relationships and families. How are these changes seen in cultural images? Ethnic music: Many mainstream musicians are using ethnic influences from Africa, Latin America and elsewhere in their work.

Describe the use of ethnic music in one or more artists that you know. Analyze how ethnic or folk music has been used by that artist.

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Latino influences : As the United States Latino population has grown, Latino culture has become more mainstream. Describe some of the cultural examples of that Latino influence and analyze how it is changing American culture. Single parent families: The rise in divorce has created many more families headed, at least for a while, by a single parent. Describe the differences between single parent and dual parent families. Analyze the effects of single parenting on children, on the experience of the parent or on schools and communities.

Explain the changes in a character over the course of a novel. Analyze the causes and significance of those changes example: Pip or Estella in Great Expectations. Examine a setting in a novel. Explain it in detail. Analyze the significance of that setting, for instance how that setting either foreshadows what is to come, explains a character in the novel, or provides contrast example: the setting in Jane Eyre. Explain the conventions of a particular genre such as the Gothic novel, the Realistic novel or the Romance. Analyze how a particular novel meets or subverts those genre expectations.

Find out about the background of an author. Examine one of the author's works and analyze how that author's life influenced what they wrote example: Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, or Ernest Hemingway. Describe the way irony is used in a short story. Analyze how that irony creates meaning. How does using irony work to create meaning in a shorter work? Describe the climax of a work of literature. Analyze how the author builds up to that climax example: Death of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play, the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird. Describe the mood of a literary work.

Analyze how the author creates that mood through word choices.

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Describe a critical dialogue in a play or novel. Analyze how putting the words in a character's mouth is more effective than just having the author narrate the scene and action in it. Describe the use of allegory. Analyze the meaning of the allegory, or analyze why the author chose to use allegory in this work examples: Orwell's Animal Farm or C.

Look at one scene in a Shakespeare play. Analyze how that scene is crucial to understanding the plot or the development of a character example: Ophelia's death in Hamlet.

Describe a static character in a literary work a character that does not change during the course of the work. Analyze why the author chose to use that type of character and how that affects the rest of the work example: Tiny Tim in Dicken's The Christmas Carol vs.

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Describe the narrative voice in a work of literature. Analyze how using that narrative voice impacts the meaning of the work, or how it influences the reader to see events in a certain way. This is an especially interesting critical analysis to do when a work of literature uses more than one narrative voice examples: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, or Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

Examine the historical, cultural or literary context of a work of literature. Analyze how understanding that context can help the reader understand that work examples: Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart , or Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron. Look at the imagery in a poem or poems by a particular poet.

Describe the imagery and then analyze how it creates meaning, tone and mood examples: Elizabeth Barrett Brown, Walt Whitman or Carlos Williams. Examine and describe a poem which has a first person point of view. Pick a really terrible movie you have seen. Summarize it and analyze what makes this movie so bad. Is it so badly done that it actually becomes funny to watch? Examine a movie based on a book you've read. Analyze how well the book has been adapted into a movie.