Outcome: Topic Selection

Identify Topic Selection Activities

This section will break the concept of “Topic” down into components, in order to show you how to take full advantage of this stage of the writing process.


The Problem of Topic vs. Approach

Some instructors who assign writing projects will leave the choice of what to write about up to you. Others will have a very defined set of topics for you to write from. But even when an instructor assigns a given topic or offers a choice of assigned topics, you have a lot of opportunity for creativity.

TDirt path through woodshe real issue here is approach. When you come to an assigned essay as a project, how you first engage with it will determine your overall experience.  Some students see any writing assignment as an externally imposed task — something they have to do in order to pass the course. This approach will guarantee that those students will eventually hate their assignments, possibly their instructor, and when push comes to shove the whole project of being in school.

Solution: Choosing an Approach to Your Topic

Deliberately choosing how you approach your topic will help you not only choose one that will satisfy the requirements, but also ensure that you enjoy the process of research and writing. After all, no one on earth can do what you do. So, only you can figure out how to write a great essay in your own voice.

It all starts with selecting a topic. How you approach that selection process is vastly important.

The key is to identify what made you take the class in the first place. Something about this class captured your fancy and made you register (particularly in the case of an elective), so place that interest at the heart of your topic.

Look to what you were interested in as a way of finding your paper topic! Use that initial fascination to twist the topic of your paper so that it becomes an excuse to wallow in whatever got you interested in that class in the first place.

Avoiding the Pit of Despair

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your work is simply a required box that needs to be checked and you can’t bring any creativity to the table. Even if the class was required for your program or degree, you still chose that program. There are ways to make almost any writing task enjoyable, or at least something you gain something interesting out of.

What You Will Learn to DoGraphic titled Topic. Bullet list: Assignment criteria, brainstorm, personal interest, selection, refinement. All text in a blue circle bordered by gray arrows.

  • identify strategies for personalizing an assigned topic
  • identify strategies for finding a focus for an unassigned topic
  • identify strategies for moving from general to specific

The Learning Activities for this Outcome Include

  • Text: How to Come Up with a Topic to Write About
  • Text: Ways to Narrow Down a Topic
  • Self Check: Topic Selection
  • Try It: Topic Selection