The Topoi: a tool for examining a subject through a variety of categories or lenses. (More Examples)
Contrast | Values | Cause/Effect | Change | Form/Structure
Look for aspects of our subject that differ either internally or with reference to other subjects.
tension/opposition, contradictions, paradox

Ex. Subject: UN Peace Keeping Forces. Contrast the mission of the UN to create political unity among nations with its ability to deploy military forces. Note the paradox of an army that attempts to establish peace by not directly intervening in on-going military disputes.

Consider the value of a subject or object in various social realms.
ethical/moral, practical, social, political, spiritual/metaphysical

Ex. Subject: a soldier: what is his practical value? How might our relationship to him be an ethical or unethical one? What political questions does the use of soldiers connect to--now and historically? How has the use of professional soldiers affected social and societal arrangements in different eras? What spiritual lessons can we learn from soldiers?

Consider the causal relationship surrounding any subject.
[Relationship] means/ends, assumptions & antecedents, implications & consequences

Ex. Subject: Statue in a public park. What caused the statue to be erected? What is its effect on different audiences? What does the erection of the statue assume about the society for whom it was erected? What forerunners to the statues can we identify?

Examine the circumstances of a subject, and how they have changed, are changing, and are likely to change.
evolutionary, revolutionary, growth/decay

Ex. Subject: Any social institution. (The office of the Presidency, or the art of political campaigning, or the techniques the police use to fight crime.) What kinds of changes have these institutions undergone? Are they evolutionary, revolutionary, or cyclical?

Consider connections between form and function, or between superficial and deep structures.
superficial vs. deep, form vs. function

Ex. Subject: Changing news industry. Which are the superficial problems for newspapers in the digital age, and which are the deep or fundamental ones? What are the formal differences between the media? What are the underlying differences in their use or audience.

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