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Selecting a Topic for Your Essay 

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When given essays to write, it is not unusual for students to find themselves somewhat at sea. They are often not satisfied when their tutors or course instructors assign them a topic because they might feel this is too complex or too boring. Yet students can still be left feeling frustrated when tutors or instructors leave them free to select their own topic.

What is the reason for this? It is usually because there is such a vast range of potential topics to choose from, and even if they succeed in finding one, it may not necessarily be one that is sufficiently satisfying or sufficiently easy to write an essay on. Hence, it is crucial to know how to select a good topic for all types of writing. The following are a few tips on choosing topics: 

Steps Involved in Selecting a Topic to Write About 

  1. Look within the field of study or discipline your assignment relates to and select something you are interested in. In the event you are unable to find anything that interests you, look for something that appeals to you more than the others.
  2. You will need to perform an analysis on the topic you have chosen. First, determine if the topic is quite broad-ranging or is already quite narrow. Topics that are too broad do not provide specific enough information on what needs to be written about. A topic like “Minerals on the Planet of Mars,” for example, is a very wide-ranging one and it is not clear if you should write about all minerals on the whole planet or if you should simply focus on one type, or whether you need to prove if something is true or false, etc. A topic that is narrower provides more clues as to what you need to write about and how to do so. The following topic, for instance, is much simpler to base an essay on “How methane found on Mars could be used as a fuel source for industries on Earth.”
  3. Check that the topic has sufficient sources for retrieving information. Even in the case of narrow topics, it will not be possible to write about them if source material is scarce or non-existent. 

Main Points for Consideration

As well as choosing a topic that is of personal interest to you, another important consideration is your existing knowledge on the chosen topic. A topic that is interesting can even be too difficult to write a single sentence on, no matter how much you want to write about it. It is, therefore, important to be careful in your selection and to ensure you have some knowledge of a topic.  

  1. You may write about a topic you have previously written about. The key thing is to find a new angle from which to approach it. If, for example, you have already written a persuasive paper arguing against abortion, you could now try to write a paper in support of abortion.
  2. It is a good idea to ask your tutor for advice or tips on a choice of topic.
  3. It is not a good idea to choose unusual topics just for the fun of it since it can be difficult to find good or plentiful sources for unusual topics.

Common Errors

  1. Selecting a topic that is boring just because writing about it will be easy. A boring topic is likely to result in an uninspiring essay.
  2. Failing to narrow down a topic and attempting to write about an extremely broad topic.
  3. Reusing a previous topic and writing about it from the same angle as before.

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What You Should and Should Not Do

What You Should Do

  • Decide what type of essay you will be writing before beginning to choose a topic.
  • Find out if you will be able to access sufficient topic-related materials.
  • Choose the topic and identify sources, after which you can begin writing.
  • Choose a different topic if there are no sources or just a few.
  • Do a little brainstorming to generate topic ideas to write about. This method is effective when you cannot otherwise think of topic ideas.

What You Should Not Do

  • Do not be in a hurry to change your topic just because it seems difficult.
  • Do not be too lazy to whittle down your topic. Even if it seems specific, ask yourself if it could be made even narrower.
  • Avoid trying to appear smart by selecting topics that are unusual or rare.

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