“What Should I Write About” How to Select Your Topic


At the beginning of this process, you may feel as if you have entered a strange territory without a map. You need guanidine for choosing your 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, position, or description paper, the subject you select must meet three important criteria.


The topic should interest you.
It should be written your abilities.
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 of 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 of ability to handle it in a paper. Say, for example, you are interested in the flights or 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 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 your 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 ten- 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.  







Finding a General Area of Interest

Suppose your must choose the topic of a paper yourself. Although this task might seem somewhat overwhelming at first, it can be broken down into manageable steps. The first step knows where to go for ideas about general of broad subject areas.

There are several major sources for topic ideas; textbooks; reference books that list term paper or report topics; teachers and librarians; your own or your friends’ interests and experiences; and on-line databases, Internet, and Web sites. If you must do a term paper for a history course, for example, skim through your history textbook to find a broad subject area that interests you. Perhaps you find the European voyages of discovery appealing. Or your interest may be piqued by the medical practices of the Middle Age or the complex politics of the Balkans in the mid-1990s. 


If your textbooks do not provide a topic of interest, investigate the reference section of any bookstore or library. You are likely to find books that list hundred of term paper or report topic under all subject areas—history, literature, art social science, political science, and psychology. One of these topics may appeal to you.


Teachers and librarians are also good sources for ideas. They can help you to pinpoint an area of interest or can suggest topics that you haven’t considered. It is a good idea to get to know your reference librarian, and this can be one way to introduce you. Good reference librarians are invaluable guides through the maze of research and reference sources. Their expertise can save you hours of effort.   


If none of these sources yields any result, you can fall back on yourself or on your friend. Think about the movies, magazine, books, or activities that interest you: science fiction, sports, the war on drugs, international relations, music, the environment, psychic phenomena.


What would you like to know about these topics? What opinion do you have about them? Do you think drugs should be legalized? Do you feel that the government should do more or less to help protect the environment? In your opinion, have science fiction movies or TV series had any impact on shaping our current world? Should professional athletes be allowed to play in the Olympic Games? Are psychic phenomena real or imaginary?


One of these four sources—textbooks, reference books, teachers and librarians, your own or your friend’ interest—will give you a general topic area for your paper.


Subject Areas to Avoid


Part of the process of choosing a topic knows which subjects not to use. In your search for a topic, keep in mind these guidelines for subjects to avoid.


·        Subjects that is too recent. If   a new law has just been passed, for example, there will not be enough information about its impact to serve as the subject of paper.

·        Subjects that is too sensitive or controversial. Some issues, such as the firing of a popular principal or a recent racial incident in school, are highly emotional and likely to provoke strong reaction on all sides. It is often difficult to find objective information to present a fair treatment of the topic.

·         Subjects that is hard to investigate. This can include subjects that are too narrow or specialized to have much information, too technical for your own and the readers’ background, or for which information is too difficult to acquire. For example, the information may be in specialized libraries closed to the public, in international institutions, or written in a language you can not read.

·        Subject that are distasteful or uninteresting to you. You may be tempted to accept any topic just to have something to write about. However, material that is unappealing to you at the beginning will tend to become more so as you would on it. If you dislike the subject of your paper, it’s a good bet your readers won’t like the way you write about it. Your own distaste or boredom will come across in your writing.


Remember the three criteria mentioned previously as you search for a usable topic: It must interest you, it must be within your abilities, and there must be enough information readily available on the topic to complete a paper.



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The authors wish to thank the wonderful folks for their years of dedication and faith in all our work, and all the successful students who have used our site.

For information about all aspects of paper writing especially essay, term paper, research paper, thesis and dissertation please visit the author?s Web site.

Katharine Hansen




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