Online Writing Lab

Finding a Topic

Picking the right topic for an essay can save any writer time and can help set up the essay for potential success before beginning.  A bad topic will do the opposite and can lead to a frustrating writing experience.   With this in mind, here are a few elements a writer should always consider when considering a potential essay topic:

  1. Pick a topic that interests you:  The more interested you, as the writer, are in the topic, the easier it will be to write about.  If the essay requires research and the use of outside sources, pick a topic that you are interested in learning more about to make the research process more interesting.

  2. Pick a topic that you have experience with:  Having experience with a particular subject provides a foundation that can be expanded upon through the writing process.   The more experience you have with a particular topic, the better.  However, keep in mind that having experience with a particular subject is not the same as being an expert (although you may, in fact, be one), but some form of experience provides a basis for writing and possible research. 

  3. Pick a topic that will interest the reader:  If the topic interests you but doesn’t interest others, it may not be worth writing about.  Remember that good writers consider their audience throughout the process, even at this early stage.  This often means avoiding topics that have been written about extensively and, instead, choosing topics that are more current. 

  4. Make sure the topic fits the guidelines for the essay:  Even if your paper is interesting and well written, if it doesn’t fit the guidelines established by the instructor, the end result will not be successful.  When in doubt, discuss the topic with the instructor and make sure it is appropriate before beginning.

  5. If outside sources must be used, make sure there are enough credible sources available:  If you must perform and incorporate research into your essay, do some of this research before committing to the topic.   Starting to organize or write and later finding out that there aren’t enough sources to use can waste a lot of time.  To avoid this, make sure that there are enough credible sources to use before committing to a topic and beginning the actual writing.  For more information on doing research, view the finding sources and effective internet searches pages.