From Gerald R. Lucas
📝 English Composition Writing FAQ 11011102📖

Write What You Like: Generating Ideas for Essays

Generating strong and focused ideas for essay topics is crucial for producing a successful college essay. One way to do this is to start with broad topics that interest you, such as current events, social issues, or personal experiences, and then narrow them down to specific angles or perspectives. Another strategy is to consider the requirements of the assignment and identify a topic that meets those criteria while also aligning with your interests and passions. Additionally, brainstorming techniques, such as freewriting or mind mapping, can help you generate ideas and connect them in a meaningful way. By taking the time to generate strong and focused ideas, you can ensure that your essay is engaging, insightful, and compelling.

Consider the following strategies for developing essay topics:

  1. Brainstorming: Start by brainstorming a list of potential essay topics that interest you. Write down anything that comes to mind, even if it seems trivial or insignificant. Once you have a long list, you can start to narrow down your options.
  2. Freewriting: Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and just start writing about a general topic that interests you. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; just let your thoughts flow freely. This can help you generate ideas that you might not have thought of otherwise.
  3. Mind Mapping: Create a visual map of potential essay topics by starting with a central idea and branching out to related subtopics. This can help you see connections between different ideas and find unique angles to explore.
  4. Reading and Researching: Read books, articles, and essays on a variety of topics to get inspiration for your own writing. Take note of interesting ideas or themes that you come across, and consider how you might develop them into an essay. (See Support.)
  5. Personal Experience: Think about personal experiences that have impacted you or changed your perspective on a certain topic. These experiences can provide a rich source of material for an essay.
  6. Current Events: Look for current events or social issues that interest you and consider how you might approach them from a unique perspective. This can help you develop an essay that is both relevant and thought-provoking.
  7. Analyzing Texts: Analyze literature, film, or other media to identify themes or ideas that interest you. Consider how you might develop these themes into an essay that provides insights into the human experience.

If you still can’t get a handle on a topic, do a bit of reading. By reading books, articles, and other materials (Wikipedia can be your friend here—just don’t cite it in your paper) related to an assigned subject, you can discover new ideas and perspectives that may inspire you to write about a particular topic. You can also take notes on interesting or important information that you come across during your reading, which can help you to develop and refine your topic. Additionally, reading can help you to identify gaps in the literature or areas that need further research, which can be the basis for a strong essay topic.

Example: Climate Change

These strategies might be used to develop an essay topic on the subject of climate change:

  1. Brainstorming: If you’re interested in climate change, you might brainstorm topics like “the impact of climate change on coastal communities,” “the politics of climate change,” or “innovative solutions to combat climate change.”
  2. Freewriting: Set a timer for 15 minutes and write about a personal experience related to climate change. Maybe you once lived in a city that experienced a severe heatwave, or you’ve seen the effects of melting glaciers on a family vacation. Reflect on how this experience affected you and what questions or ideas it sparked.
  3. Mind Mapping: Start with the central idea of climate change and branch out to related topics like renewable energy, carbon emissions, and climate activism. Consider how you might develop these topics into a cohesive essay.
  4. Reading and Researching: Read articles and essays on climate change to get a sense of the latest research and debates. Take notes on interesting ideas or arguments that you come across, and consider how you might add to this conversation in your own essay.
  5. Personal Experience: Reflect on personal experiences that have led you to care about climate change. Maybe you grew up near a polluted river, or you’ve witnessed the effects of extreme weather firsthand. Consider how these experiences might inform your essay.
  6. Current Events: Read about recent developments in climate change policy, such as the Paris Agreement or the Green New Deal. Consider how you might approach these topics from a unique angle, such as exploring the role of grassroots activism in shaping policy.
  7. Analyzing Texts: Read works of fiction or nonfiction that address climate change, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, or Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature, or William Wordsworth’s “The World Is too Much with Us.” Consider how these authors approach the topic and how you might build on their ideas in your own essay.
Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 04-8-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬