Purpose & Problem Statement

Identifying Gaps in the Map: The Purpose & Problem Statement

The Purpose and Problem Statement (PPS) focuses the TEQ Sheets.  It asks you to connect these sheets to the specific assignment. Thus, it forces you to review the purpose of the class and the relation of the paper to the purpose of the class.

The Purpose and Problem Statement is also the place where you directly ask about the gaps in the map. Thus it forces you to name the problems in the existing map that you can fill with your own insight.  Separate your PPS into two sections:


The Purpose

The Purpose portion of the statement has two sub-sections.  The first section reviews the the strategies and tactics of the course.  A course based on the "Key Concepts" link (above)  might say something like,

This course teaches students how to understand information created by knowledgeable people who have already thought about a subject.  Second, it teaches us how to read their work to spot the places where we can make a correction, add a new idea, or make things more thorough. Once we see where we can “add to the conversation,” we have the basis for a paper.  This whole process can be summarized in a map metaphor: we map a topic, find the gaps in the map, and then re-draw the map to make it more complete.  For each step of the map metaphor we have a tool: TEQ Sheets for the mapping; Purpose & Problem Statement for identifying gaps in the map, and the Prospectus for proposing a new map.                   

The second section of the Purpose explains how the specific paper assignment is connected to the the purpose of the course.  For an assignment asking students to compare the kinds of student targeted by two colleges' web sites,  this part might say something like,

This assignment will build on what we learned about types of education in the first assignment so that we can understand how the web sites from Evergreen and Macomb are designed to attract a specific type of student with specific values and beliefs about education. The assignment requires the use of the TEQ Sheets, Purpose & Problem Statement, and the Prospectus to begin building a claim about how my own values and beliefs fit with those of the two colleges.                                                                                                                                                   

Note:  The writer asks basic questions about the expectations for the task:  its level of formality; required documentation; formats.  Note that the writer is identifying key tasks that s/he will have to understand to produce a document that meets the expectations of its audience. Whether at school or work, you need to do the assignment. Reviewing the purpose of the writing helps you succeed.


The Problem

The Problem paragraphs ask the specific questions the student has about the topic. The questions should recognize any of the following:

• An error in the existing discourse

• A contradiction in a specific source, or a contradiction between several sources

• An important aspect of the topic that hasn’t been discussed

• Evidence that would improve the understanding of the issue.

These questions identify the opportunities for improving the discourse or providing an insight into its nature. This section often builds upon the queries from the TEQ sheets. However, the questions are much more developed. These statements often are half-way between questions and answers. The questions contain terms, phrases, ideas, sources and tactics for dealing with the assignment. Note that you remain open to ideas. You are willing to leave some questions unanswered, but you are clearly pointing toward what is important to the way you will re-draw the map. A student might use the following to for a strong

For the  assignment asking students to compare the kinds of student targeted by two colleges' web sites,  this part might say something like,

Web sites seem to be “information,” but also they seem to have values and beliefs hidden in their images, words, and even in the way they’re organized.  What are the hidden values and beliefs of the Evergreen website that appeal to a specific kind of student?  How does the web site create those hidden values?  If I look at Macomb’s web site, does it also have hidden values and beliefs?  If so, what are they, and how are they created?  I want to be careful NOT to compare the schools, but instead to use the web sites to compare the types of student that each of these sites targets.  Do these differences tell me anything more general about education?  Do they tell me anything about how I view education?