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Evaluate problem definitions

Judge the relevance of each problem definition



Test your problem definitions against your paradigm cases.


Testing your problem definitions will help you figure out which problem definition to use for your contribution.


 To test your problem definitions, you will see which aspects of the problem definition are similar or different to the aspects of the important paradigm cases.



 For this technique you will need:

  • your list of paradigm cases
  • your list of problem definitions
  • a word processor


1. Create a table of paradigm cases and problem definitions

2. For each cell, evaluate how well the problem definition narrates the tension by asking: "How many aspects of the problem definition match aspects of these cases?"

3. Add the evaluation back to your list of problem definitions.  The evaluation should look like the following:

<problem definition>

  • Evaluation:
    • Strong (relevant) with respect to
      • (List paradigms here)
      • (List aspects here)
    • Faulty (irrelevant) with respect to
      • (List paradigms here)
      • (List aspects here)
    • Incompatible (conflicting) with
      • (List paradigms here)
    • Because of
      • (List incompatible assumptions here)

4. Repair "faulty" problem definitions

  • go back through your problem definitions and look for problem definitions you thought were compelling but that were rejected
  • see if your paradigms should be expanded or reduced -- maybe you rejected a good problem definition because it didn't cover a problem case that isn't central to the problem
  • see if you can fix the problem definition by rewording it



By the end of this technique you will:

  • have added evaluations to each of your problem definitions
  • repaired faulty definitions


Kaufer, D. S., Geisler, C., & Neuwirth, C. M. (1989). Arguing from sources: Exploring issues through reading and writing. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (p. 198-209).