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Choosing a Topic

In a general writing course, you might be encouraged to explore any topic that interests you. If so, you might find yourself struggling to settle on one topic. Most people have plenty of interests, but some might find it difficult to choose one topic that is both broad enough for investigation, yet focused enough to manage. Here are some tips for selecting a manageable and engaging topic:

  • Visit a museum. If you are unable to visit a brick and mortar museum, explore a virtual museum or exhibit such as the Google Art Project. What catches your interest? When was the art or artifact created? What economic, social, or political events might have influenced its creation?
  • Investigate the origins, history, politics, law and legislation, or social impact of popular or controversial issues in the news. Do you disagree with what the news anchors, experts, or other guests are saying? Consider using one of the Current Issues/Controversies databases made available through EKU Libraries to learn more about the issue.
  • Listen to a lecture about a topic that interests you. You could attend campus lectures or discussions, such as EKU's Chautauqua Series, or find online lectures, such as TED Talks. Listen for something you disagree with or want to know more about.

In some courses, your instructor may assign your topic or place restrictions as to the type or scope of your topic. If your course is focused on a particular subject or discipline (American Literature, International Relations, Psychology, etc...), your topic is often restricted to course-specific material. Don't worry, often you can still tailor the topic a bit; check with your instructor or refer to your assignment instructions if you are unsure of how much freedom you have to modify your topic. You might start by listing narrower issues within the broader issues relevant to your class or assigned topic, or consider these tips:

  • Browse your library's magazines and journals, focusing on special interest or discipline-specific publications. Does something catch your interest? Can you identify a theory, practice, or idea with which you are unfamiliar or disagree? Take note of calls for papers, conference announcements, and reviews to identify trends.
  • Ask your instructor to help you identify contested or intriguing issues or concepts in your field of study, or check out blogs from experts in the field.
  • Take excellent notes in class and participate in class discussions, then consider these brainstorming techniques to help you identify and explore a topic from class lectures and notes.

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