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Select paradigm cases

Determine which cases capture the issue tension



Figure out the paradigm cases that see the issue


In order to compel your readers to care, you need to articulate the core aspects of the problem cases that are creating the tensions.


Explore your list of problem cases to identify the key tension and use that understanding to select the paradigm cases.



To explore the issue, you have to see it through your own eyes, not as an abstraction expressed through the words of other authors.  This technique will help you do that.



You will need:

  • the list of problem cases that you created earlier
  • a word processor


1. Explore each case

Narrate the frustration - find a problem case from your list and write a paragraph narrating the problem case from the first person as if it were happening to you.  Have another person read/listen to the story and give you feedback about whether the story succeeded/failed to have impact.

Identify important aspects -- next, to better understand the frustration, identify the key aspects of the problem case, including the

  • agent 
  • action
  • goal
  • result

Vary the aspects -- try tweaking the underlying aspects to better capture/produce the tension underlying the problem case.

Write your own description -- write a 1-2 sentence description of the problem case in your list so you remember what is causing the tension.

Consider similar cases -- see if the problem case reminds you about any cases similar cases from your personal experience, if so, add these to the list and explore them as well.

2. Select your paradigm cases

After exploring your problem cases, decide which ones will serve as your paradigm cases -- the ones that first come to mind when you discuss an issue and that are central and most important to that issue.



By the end of this technique you will have created:

  • a list of problem cases for which you have described the key tension
  • a set of paradigm cases


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. 178-187).