Earlier this week, I was coaching for a Bay Area high school in preparation for the UC Davis Model United Nations Conference, and the students asked a good question: how do we go about researching our topic when the background guide or topic synopsis has not been posted yet? If you want to be the Best Delegate, you cannot wait for the chair to post the guide (or rely on background guides that may not be written with a clear framework of issues to address). The procrastination-busting technique that I recommend you take the initiative to use is Framing Your Topic. Here’s how the three-part process works:
First, you frame your topic. Brainstorm six to ten different sub-issues that you might encounter regarding this topic. If you have trouble brainstorming, think of sub-issues categorically: political, economic, social, financial, humanitarian, environmental, security, etc.
Next, list adjacent to each sub-issue in your framework the past actions that have been taken to resolve that sub-issue as well as possible solutions that your country has proposed or would like to propose.
Finally, you select the three most salient sub-issues to your country. These will become the three key points you will use when you Frame Your Speech and will be central to your position paper and draft resolution. You will want to conduct more research into them so you can become the subject matter expert on them when they are debated at the conference. Of course, you will also want to be familiar with the other points that you have framed because you can include them in your resolutions, and some of these will be the key points for other delegates and you will want to be knowledgeable enough to collaborate with them on these sub-issues.
Here are two examples of UC Davis topics that the students I was working with brainstormed on the spot:
Topic: Nuclear Proliferation
1. Technology transfer (by governments and individuals)
2. Government Policies toward nuclear weapons
3. Security (of stockpiles, facilities, etc.)
4. Internal strife (e.g. Pakistan)
5. Disarmament of stockpiles
6. Economic arguments behind proliferation
7. Security/alliance factors behind proliferation
Topic: Preservation of Indigenous Languages
1. Suppression by governments
2. Language and cultural dominance
3. Official language policy
4. Grassroots/local efforts in preservation
5. Education & research
6. Incentives for indigenous language abilities
These will need to be filled in with past actions and proposed solutions, but that requires research of your topic and an understanding of your country policy. A filled-in sub-issue will look like this:
Sub-Issue –> Past Actions –> Proposed Solution
Note that the above frameworks are comprehensive but not complete. You could probably brainstorm a few more sub-issues for each. More important, when the background guide or topic synopsis gets posted, make sure you read to understand what sub-issues your Chair wants the committee to address and adjust your framework accordingly.
If you have trouble with framing, I would suggest getting your entire class or club do it for the topic. I found that brainstorming as a group produced much more comprehensive lists of sub-issues than individually trying to dissect your topic.