Choosing an Essay Topic

stuck writerWhen having to write an essay, students often find themselves between a rock and a hard place, so to say. If their instructor gives them a topic to write a paper on, they feel unsatisfied, because the topic seems complicated or boring. However, when the instructor proposes that the students choose the topic on their own, students can get even more frustrated. Why? Because they have to choose from a vast amount of possible topics, and even when they manage to choose one, it is not necessarily satisfying and easy to write about. Knowing how to choose a topic is crucial for all writing, and below is a brief guide explaining how to do it.

Steps for Choosing a Writing Topic

  1. Within the discipline you need to write the paper on, choose something that is interesting to you. If you cannot find anything that interests you, try searching for a topic that looks more interesting than others.
  2. Analyze the chosen topic. You need to figure out whether the topic is broad or narrow. A broad topic is one which does not provide you with specific information about what you need to write about. For example, the topic “Minerals on Mars” is an extremely broad topic, because it is unclear whether you need to write about all mineral deposits across the entire planet of Mars, or if you should focus only on crystalline minerals, or whether you should prove something true or wrong, and so on. A narrow topic provides you with a clue of what and how to write. For example, “Methane deposits on Mars as a source of fuel for Earth industries” is easier to write a paper about than a general topic.
  3. Make sure there are sources from which you can retrieve information on the topic of your choice. Even when your topic is narrow, if there are no materials on it, it will be impossible to write about.

Key Points to Consider

  1. Besides a topic being interesting personally to you, it should also match another important requirement, which is, “How much do you actually know about this topic?” An interesting topic can be so difficult that you may not write a single word, even if you are craving to do so. Therefore, choose carefully and make sure you know something about the topic of your choice.
  2. It is alright to reuse a topic that you have already written a paper on. Just try approaching it from a different angle; for instance, if you wrote a persuasive essay against abortions, try writing a persuasive pro-abortion paper.
  3. Asking your teacher for a hint or a piece of advice on what topic is better to write about is a prudent idea.
  4. Choosing offbeat topics just for the thrill of it is not good, because the more uncommon the topic is, the more difficult it will be for you to find sources.

Do and Don’t


  • Decide on which kind of essay you are going to write about before you start choosing a topic.
  • Make sure you can access all the materials on the topic. Decide on the topic, find sources, and then after you can start writing. If there are little or no sources, choose another topic.
  • Brainstorm on the ideas for the topic of your paper. It is an effective method if you feel like you cannot come up with any topic.

  • Hesitate to change the topic simply because it is a little difficult to write about.
  • Be lazy and not narrow the topic down. Even if the topic looks quite specific, check if it can be narrowed down even more.
  • Try to look smart by choosing rare and peculiar topics.

Common Mistakes

- Choosing a boring topic just because it is easy to write about. Being bored with the topic means writing a boring essay.
- Not narrowing a topic down and trying to write a paper about a “minerals-on-Mars” kind of topic.
- Reusing an old topic, but writing a paper from exactly the same perspective as the previous time.


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