Finding a Topic
Sometimes topics are assigned; sometimes the writer must choose a topic. Either way, the writer must discover something interesting to say about the topic. Internet discussion groups can help you find a topic to write about, or help you to focus a broad topic. Internet discussion groups range from asynchronous discussions (i.e., e-mail, listservs, and newsgroups) to real-time, synchronous discussions (for instance, MUDs and MOOs or IRC discussions).
E-Mail, Listservs, and Newsgroups
On the Internet, many people communicate with each other on a wide variety of topics. Internet discussion lists use e-mail exchanges to share information between interested participants. Electronic mail, or e-mail, listservs and Internet newsgroups can all be sources of information for a research project, and a good place to begin a discussion to help you discover what you want to say. They can also be good places to ask questions or to find out about other sources. However, before using information obtained using e-mail or listserv messages, make sure you get permission, and always give proper credit. (See Citing Your Sources for more information.)
Some e-mail lists and newsgroups are informal or classroom discussion lists. Some, such as Clarinet, are fee-for-subscription services that offer up-to-the-hour news reporting. Newsgroups come in all shapes and sizes, from the raunchy alt.whatever groups to the moderated groups offering expert information on a wide variety of topics. You can find listservs and newsgroups with a search engine such as Tile.Net or click Liszt or search through newsgroups using click DejaNews. Some listservs, newsgroups, and e-mail programs such as HyperNews can be read on the WWW using a browser, or you may be able to read them in your Internet e-mail editor.
For example, you can find discussions of current news events on the newsgroup, alt.current-events.usa. The Environment in Latin America Network (elan) listserv discussion might be a useful source of information on Latin American environmental issues. Make sure you follow proper netiquette (the etiquette of the Net); although there are many listserv and newsgroup discussions that are open forums, many discussion lists are focused on specific topics, and participants do not want students or others posting queries. It is usually best to lurk for a while, read the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) or other information about the list, and get a sense of the conversation, before asking questions.
© 1999 by Addison Wesley Longman
A division of Pearson Education