Choosing a Topic

Student writing an essay.Most teachers will give students a variety of topics from which to choose. Sometimes you are even allowed to choose your own topic. When choosing a topic you need to ask yourself a variety of questions:

Will I be able to find relevant research on this topic? Relevant research does NOT include searching Wikipedia or choosing a website that has no known author or is biased. If you cannot find relevant academically approved research on a topic you may want to seriously think about changing that topic-if you are not sure ask someone-talk to your teacher, see a librarian, get other people’s opinions, check for research before you decide that you want to work on that topic. The last thing you want is to get stuck with that topic and not be able to find good sources.

Is my topic too narrow? A narrow topic would be a topic that is so specific that you have trouble finding even a few articles on it. If you know that your paper will not reach the designated page length because you cannot find a lot of information on it, that is a good indicator that your topic is too narrow. An example of a topic that might be too narrow would be “junk food in middle schools”; a better topic might be “junk food in schools” or just the general term “junk food”-you are much more likely to yield better results with an expanded topic.

The same could be said if you choose a topic that is too broad-how do you know your topic is too broad? If you are assigned a 5-10 page paper and you know that your topic could actually end up being a 50 page paper, that is a clear sign that your topic is too broad. An example of a topic that would be too broad for a 5-10 page paper could be “poverty.” Instead focus on narrowing your topic to “poverty in the United States."