Interdisciplinary Writing & Thinking Survival Guide

Sample Topic:  Who Gets Custody of Mutzie? 
Pet Custody Issues in Contemporary American Society

Tiffany and I have been roommates and then apartment-mates since we met at college, and then got jobs in the same town.  My company was sold six months ago and I had to look for work.  Finally, I found a good job, but it is 500 miles away.  I'm happy about being employed, but it creates a problem.  Who gets Mutzie?  I'm amazed at how emotional I am at the prospect, and I'm surprised at the various societal issues it raises.  I'm going to research the problem.

The Topic:
Pet custody issues in contemporary American society

Step 1: Find 2 primary references (articles or books)
These are articles that explain the issues and provide background, contexts, and overviews.  I can find these using the library's FirstSearch program.  Definitions are important here.

Step 2:  Three Main Aspects of the Issue
A) The Family Pet -- roles and relationships
Find five articles.  Make bullet list of 5 ways they relate to the main topic under study.  This is a good place to define your topic and the basic issues.

B) How pets' roles are expanding in American society--- a look at medical care for pets, pet products, the treatment of pets
Find five articles.  Make bullet list of 5 ways they relate to the main topic under study.

C) Pets and human health -- psychology, social aspects
Find five articles.  Make bullet list of 5 ways they relate to the main topic under study.

Step 3:  Your Discussion on the Topic
After reading and researching this topic, what emerges as the primary issues and problems?  Why?  How do you know?  Be sure to think of things in terms of the different disciplines.  Look at issues from multiple points of view, and connect one discipline to another.

Step 4:  Case Studies that Illustrate Key Points
The topic is narrowed down and key points are highlighted.  Now case studies (or research) can be presented to help one's understanding of the topic.  Two or three case studies would be idea.  You may wish to use one of the case studies earlier in your paper to help expand your definition of the problem or to illustrate the issues involved.

Step 5:  Conclusions and Findings
Here is where the conclusions, findings, and connections are presented.  You may wish to conclude with a  discussion of where further work could be done. 

graphics & survival guide © 2003 by susan smith nash, ph.d.