A topic trail is made up of words and phrases that express a topic in a text. In a text entitled Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year in Europe by 2100 (BBC News 05.08.17 ), there are words and phrases such as climate change, heatwave, greenhouse gas emissions, wildfires, windstorms. Another set of words and phrases weaving through the text includes scientist, study, journal, expert, re-search centre, projection. And a third set can be identified: disaster, threat, peril, harmful, urgency, kill, death, extreme. More sets can be identified.
Each one of these sets is a topic trail. They can be named, e.g. extreme weather, research, danger. When the sets are highlighted in the text using different colours, they display interweaving trails. They are not only visually at-tractive but they raise our awareness of the fact that texts are rarely about one thing. Furthermore, the weave hints at the relationships between extreme weather, danger and research, albeit within the confines of this text and from the author's point of view. When we find texts that deal with similar topics, we can explore related concepts and their wordings in the guise of wide reading in language pedagogy and intertextuality in linguistics. This is a top-down approach to working with text.
Click the buttons for some examples of texts with their trails indicated and more.