How to Select Your Essay Topic?

At the beginning of this process, you may feel as if you’ve entered a strange territory without a map., you need guidelines for choosing you topic if you must select your own or for narrowing a general topic assigned to you. This section shows you how to get ideas for topics and what subjects are best to avoid.

Three Criteria for a Topic

Whether you write a literary, argumentative essay, position, or descriptive paper, the subject you select must meet three important criteria.

1. The topic should interest you.

2. It should be within your abilities.

3. There should be enough information available on it to complete a paper.

The first criterion is the most important. Something besides fear of failure has to sustain you through all the hours it takes to research, write, and revise a report or term paper. Make the paper a process of discovery for yourself- something you want to know or say about a topic. That desire will help to see you through to the end of the project.

The second criterion is also essential. You may be interested in a topic but not have the background or ability to handle it in a paper. Say, for example, you are interested in the flights of Voyagers 1 and 2. you want to do a report on some of the computer programs that send commands to the small spacecrafts. The scientific journals are filled with complex diagrams and explanations, but you find none of it makes any sense to you. You have no background in computer programming and no ability to translate technical information into plain English.

You will either have to find a book or an article that translates the material for you or find another topic-perhaps what Voyager 2 revealed about the rings of Uranus or the surprises the spacecraft uncovered as it passed by the outer planets. Although the topic about the computer programs fulfills two of the three criteria-it interests you and there is plenty of information-if it is beyond your abilities, you will not be able to complete a paper successfully.

Finally, make sure enough information is readily available for you to develop your custom paper For instance, you may have heard about rock-and-roll bands springing up in Tibet. The subject intrigues you, and you feel you have enough musical background to write about it. But preliminary research turns up only a half-page article in a weekly news magazine. Obviously, you are not going to be able to build a tern- or fifteen-page report on one short article. A better topic may be the rise of rock bands in China and Japan, a phenomenon covered in the U.S. and international press.

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