Outliers Assignment

Question Sets

Question Set #1 [p. 3 to p. 68 — 15 questions]

Question Set #2 [p. 69 to p. 160 — 15 questions]

Question Set #3 [p. 161 to p. 223 — 15 questions]

Question Set #4 [p. 224 to p. 286 — 15 questions]

What is Outliers About? (from Malcolm Gladwell's web page)

Outliers Web Archaeology

Outliers Interviews


1) Locate an individual who is successful (one who has achieved mastery, not just fleeting fame) in a particular field. Discuss whether you think his/her success had to do with the social and external factors that Gladwell discusses in his book Outliers or whether this person's success was due to the more conventional notion of individual talent that is inherent in an individual. In your discussion of this successful person you may want to decide whether he experienced any of the phenomenon Gladwell talks about:

a) The Matthew Effect

b) 10,000 hours of work in order to become proficient

c) advantageous era of birth

d) born in a demographic trough

e) exposure to meaningful work

f) the ability to express to someone what one wants (the presumption of being heard)

g) cultural practices which encouraged success

2) Your thesis should be a statement that clearly posits whether the person's success was due to external factors or was inherent and which of Gladwell's categories apply to this person (or you may posit one of your own reasons).

3) The paper should be roughly 2000 words with no more than half of that total devoted to discussing the background of the successful person. That is, at least half, if not more, of the total should be dedicated to discussing your application of Gladwell's ideas to a real live person. [Note: in discussing this idea, you may rehearse Gladwell's discussion of it to some extent]

4) MLA documentation should be used for all researched sources.

A potential outline might look like this:

I. Intro: Using some sort of introductory element [fact, statistic, question(s), anecdote, etc.] introduce your successful person. In the thesis, state whether you think his/her success was due to external factors or whether it was due to individual talent that was inherent.

A) Your thesis should state whether you think the persons's success was due to external or inherent factors and why this person was successful.

II. Background material. Provide background material for this successful person is and why he/she is considered successful

III. Support paragraphs. Support your positon on why this person was successful with examples from any of the following reasons Gladwell posits below:

A) The Matthew Effect

B) 10,000 Hour Rule

C) Advantageous Era of Birth

D) Born in a Demogaphic Trough

E) Exposure to Meaningful Work

F) The Presumption of Being Heard

G) Cultural Practices


Some other reason that Gladwell did not cover or a reason which contradicts Gladwell's assertions.

IV. Conclusion. From the discussion of your successful person's life, what kind suggestions for instituional reform might you suggest and why do you think that these reforms would increase the "capitalization rate"

Related "Outliers" websites:

The Writer's Coin [Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell]

Malcolm Gladwell on CNN

Gladwell at AIGA

on Jimmy Kimmel Live 1-13-09

On "The Hour" on CBSTV on Feb. 4, 2009

at The Hudson Union Society [Feb. o4, 2009]

Malcolm Gladwell at 92nd Street Y (in New York City) Jan. 08, 2009 [1:41: 23]

BBC radio interview [Audio Only]

Malcolm Gladwell on "Capitalizing on Human Potential"

Potential topics:

Bill Gates Steve Jobs

Ludwig van Beethoven

Lang Lang Alfred Hitchcock Johann Sebastien Bach
David Beckham Tiger Woods Giada de Laurentiis
Coco Chanel Wilt Chamberlain Joel Salatin
John Lennon Patrick Swayze  

Student Papers