The fourth step in syntopical reading from How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren is defining the issue.
Excerpts from pages 321-322:
“If a question is clear, and if we can be reasonably certain that authors answer it in different ways—perhaps pro and con—then an issue has been defined.”
“When only two answers are given by all of the authors examined, the issue is a relatively simple one. Often, more than two alternative answers are given to a question. In that case, the opposing answers must be ordered in relation to one another, and the authors who adopt them classified according to their views.”
“Usually differences in answers must be ascribed to different conceptions of the question as often as to different views of the subject. The task of the syntopical reader is to define the issues in such a way as to insure that they are joined as well as they may be.”
We will tackle in the near future, step five, which is analyzing the decisions.