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How to Choose a Topic

3 Steps to Enjoy Your Writing Process

By Faith Wickstrom



ne thing that has consistently inhibited me from confidently choosing something to write about is having to choose between a topic I will enjoy writing about and learning about or one that is easier and takes less time. When given a certain amount of freedom over what topic to choose, there comes the temptation simply to pick the easiest thing you know to write about, something you’ve perhaps written about many times before, or personally have significant knowledge of, and I understand that well myself; however, is there perhaps some middle ground—a way to choose a topic that is not too difficult to accomplish and of which you’re also passionate about? After writing countless assignments, I have found a process to get to the middle ground, and I want to share this with you.

  • My first step to choosing a good, fun topic is to read, carefully, the guidelines for the assignment even if the professor explained or discussed it in class.
    I know this may seem obvious, but making sure you read every requirement can make the difference in the levels of difficulty a topic will pose. Say, for instance, you have an assignment that requires you to use primary sources, but the topic you want to choose doesn’t have many, or any, primary sources that viably relate to it. You might have a harder time writing about it in this case, but looking over the rubric or guidelines can help you determine a good and feasible topic that will easily fit into the guidelines.
  • Next, think of what lessons, lectures, or readings in class have shocked or excited you.
    Did the professor ever have a lecture you thought was interesting or invigorating to listen to? If you can take any of these lessons that have stood out to you and use them as inspiration, it is likely you will have more fun researching and writing about your topic. However, if you can’t think of anything that stands out, there is value in looking at your own life and interests to see if you can find a topic that incorporates these. I’ve found that I work harder and enjoy the process because it’s something I really care about.
  • After you’ve narrowed down your choices, I would recommend looking at sources to ensure that you can find some other thoughts to add to your own repertoire of ideas.
    Whether sources are required or not for your assignment, you can look at what other people think and quote them or use their work to inspire your own and get a new perspective. Especially for assignments that require sources, it is important for there to be reliable sources. If you can find a decent amount of these reliable works, then your topic will be solid.

I hope that these steps will help you find a topic that you both enjoy and that is doable for you at any stage in the writing process. It can be hard to choose a topic that you might have to work a bit harder on, but I believe that these topics, the ones that you are passionate about, will be the ones that you remember, the ones that come back to you later in life. I had this choice at one point when I was a freshman. I could’ve chosen to debate something simple, something that people would agree with me on. “But is that really the spirit of a debate?” I asked myself, and I wound up choosing something that I truly believed in. Now, I’ll never forget that paper and what I learned from it.


Faith Wickstrom is a senior English education double-major from Fort Collins, Colorado. This fall, you’ll find her in the Writing Center on Mondays from 7-7:45 PM.

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