How to Choose an Essay Topic

by Grace Dickins

There's one thing that stands between you and an amazing essay: a solid topic. The right topic can make or break your grade. It can also mean the difference between smooth sailing and unnecessary frustration. Choosing what to write about can feel immobilizing, but these tips can help you pick the perfect topic.

Follow Your Bliss

Allow yourself ample time to brainstorm. Write down ideas, facts, questions, and your reaction to current events. This brainstorming process should be dictated by the essay type, the audience, and the class for which you're writing.

Once you have a list of possible topics, identify the ones you find most engaging and eliminate the rest. If you've ever tried to write about something uninteresting, you know how monotonous it can be. However, you don't have to pick a bland subject if you've been told you can freely choose. The sky's the limit!

Choose a topic about which you're passionate, but don't get started immediately. First, you have to make sure that it's a topic that can be researched. If there aren't enough authoritative resources, you may end up with a paper that's more "fluff" than substance. Also, you may not reach the minimum page requirement.

Narrow In

Once you've landed on a general idea, take time to zero in on potential subcategories. Failure to determine a specific angle or scope is a common misstep. If your topic is too broad, you may have trouble finding direction and shaping your piece in a meaningful way.

Perhaps you've always been fascinated with the Middle Ages. That's a great start, but you have to get more specific. After all, cramming 500 years' worth of material into one paper is impossible. A paper with a broad topic usually ends up being an overview rather than an in-depth, original piece of writing. Therefore, you would need to think about what specifically interests you about the Middle Ages. Is it theology, mass migrations, or the Black Death?

Again, it's important to be realistic. If you pick a niche that's extremely interesting but turns up research material, you're likely to run into several roadblocks.

Seek Out Support

You're not the first writer to have issues choosing an essay topic, and you won't be the last. If you can't decide what to write about, request some help. Friends, family members, professors, and teaching assistants can offer advice for selecting a smart topic.

Here is one last piece of advice: once you've picked a topic, determined that there's adequate information on it, and started writing, stay on course. Obstacles will occur along the way, but switching subjects midway through is not always the solution.

Choosing an essay topic isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be a chore, either. Rather than dreading the process, view it as an opportunity to learn more about a subject and to share your knowledge with others.

Tags: essay writing
Categories: writing