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Discovery Strategy: Probing Your Topic


Our possessions are reflections of who we are, what we have done, and what we value. In this project, we will take one of our belongings and describe it in detail in a single paragraph, showing why it is important to us.

Before we can write an effective descriptive paragraph, we need to do two things:

  • find a good topic, and
  • study the topic carefully--a strategy that we call probing.

Finding a Topic: List Your Belongings

Probably the best way to get started on this project is to walk through your house, apartment, or dorm room and take inventory of those things that carry a special meaning.

Rummage through closets, drawers, wallets, or purses; check shelves, mantels, and desk tops. The items may be intrinsically valuable (or at least costly)--a new laptop or a diamond ring, for instance. Or they may have sentimental value--an old baseball glove or a tattered doll. Make a list of these items.

Probing a Topic: Ask Questions

Now, choose one of the items from your list, an item that you can study carefully and describe in detail. Probe your topic by answering as many of the following questions as you can:

  • What does this item look, feel, sound, taste, and smell like?
  • What size is it?
  • What shape is it?
  • How heavy is it?
  • What color is it?
  • What are its outstanding characteristics?
  • What other thing does it resemble?

By carefully observing the item and responding to these questions, you should be able to come up with a long list of precise descriptive details--details that will serve as the raw materials for your descriptive paragraph.

NEXT STEP: Draft a Descriptive Paragraph.

RETURN TO: How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph

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