Choosing a Topic
Choosing a topic can be extremely difficult—even more difficult than deciding which Ben & Jerry's flavor to try next. No, scratch that. Nothing will ever be harder than that decision.
|Essay Writing||Writing Elements and Process|
…but you’re still probably going to lose a majority of your audience before the third
paragraph. Once you feel you may have chosen a winning
topic, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
No need to ask them out loud. Quietly or in your head is fine. Besides, other people are
trying to study in here. Question numero uno:
What is the most interesting element of this topic?
Going back to our paint drying example, what is the most interesting thing you could say
That some brands dry faster than others?
That drying it under natural sunlight works better than drying it under a heat lamp?
That… sorry, we were going to finish this train of thought, but our brain is falling
asleep, and we don’t want to leave you with half a video.
UGH. Boring. On the other hand, take a topic like… America’s national pastime of baseball
being gradually replaced by football.
Even if you aren’t a sports nut, you have to admit that there’s a deep well to draw
Fans of each sport are fiercely passionate about their respective games…
…the sports themselves have fascinating and turbulent histories…
…and hey… who can’t get behind nachos and hot dogs?
Long story short, it’s clearly a richer topic that would be more interesting than
watching paint dry, or… God forbid… reading about it.
Okay, next question… who are your intended readers?
Why do you want to know who’s going to be reading your opus?
Well, if for example you’re trying to change your readers’ minds about something, they
probably don’t all already agree with you.
You’ll want to have some idea of where they’re coming from, so you know the best way to craft
You wouldn’t try to sell somebody a vacuum cleaner if they’ve already got one, would
you? Next, what is your belief about the topic?
Are you just kind of meh about it? If so… probably not a great topic.
You need to be able to take a strong stand on one side of the issue or the other.
There’s no room here for wishy-washiness…
…unless your topic has something to do with Laundromats.
How might your beliefs differ from those of your readers?
To bring everyone else over to the… Dark Side… you’ll need to have the ability
to play devil’s advocate.
If you can anticipate what their responses might be to your argument, you can… head
‘em off at the pass. What evidence or examples can you use to support
your point of view?
“Because I said so” doesn’t hold a ton of weight in an essay.
If you can’t think of at least two or three strong supporting point that lend credence
to your argument…
…you might be barking up the wrong tree. Finally, and this goes with the whole devil’s
…what evidence would your readers be able to provide that would counter your argument?
Yeah, it’s basically like one great big game of chess.
If you’re able to look four to five moves ahead…
…you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning the game.
Does your topic pass the test?
Or should we start… fluffing our pillows?