Choosing your essay topic

The first step in writing an essay or paper is to come up with ideas. The most creative and methodical step in academic writing is brainstorming.

There are many ways to generate ideas but there is no one way that will guarantee you have a great idea. This article will give you some ideas and techniques to help you choose a topic.
Understanding the assignment

You must first determine the topic area that you are allowed to write about. You must ensure that you fully understand the assignment and know the answers.

How long is the paper required (in pages or words)?
What is the deadline?
Do you think the paper should be related to what you have learned in class?
Are you able to conduct your own research using sources not taught in class?
Is there any restriction on the subject matter?

Your topic’s complexity will depend on the length of the assignment and its deadline. You might be asked to write a specific type of essay. Or, it may give you broad guidelines and suggest the approach that you should use.
Example: Expository essay prompt
Select a historical invention and describe the key events and processes that led to its creation.

This prompt is very broad. Although it doesn’t require a specific type or essay, the word explain implies that an expository essay would be the best answer.
Example: Argumentative essay prompt
What was the most significant invention of the 20th Century? Why? You can support your argument using evidence from a variety of sources.

This prompt asks you to take a different approach on the same topic. This prompt requires you to make a strong argument. You will need to provide evidence to support your argument in an argumentative essay.
Topic ideas generation techniques

It can be difficult to get started. These three simple strategies will help you get your mind moving.
It’s time to talk it out

Talking with a friend, teacher, or fellow student can help you discover new ways to approach your ideas and open up possibilities for you to explore other ideas.

Keep track of as many ideas and take notes as you go. Once you feel that you have a list of the most obvious ideas, you can move on to another one or to explore a similar idea more in depth.

You can also group related ideas together, and make connections between them on a page.
No cost to write

This strategy is similar in concept to brainstorming but is quicker and less reflective. You should choose a broad topic for your writing. Write for at least two to three minutes on a piece of paper or in a word processor. Do not stop for even a second.

You can write down any idea that comes to your mind, regardless of how absurd or common, so long as it is related to the topic. You can also time your writing to ensure you only write for a few moments.

After you are done, go through your writing and look for any good ideas.
Here are some tips to help you find a great idea

Whatever strategy you choose, there are likely to be many ideas. These tips will help you narrow down your choices.
Do not feel that you have to think logically.

Sometimes, good ideas have strange origins. Isaac Newton was struck by an apple, which gave rise to the concept of gravity. Mary Shelley dreamed of Frankenstein, which she later published as her literary masterpiece.

It doesn’t matter how you get it; what matters most is that you find a good one.
You can work from the general to the specific

The first idea you have is not a thesis statement. Before you start looking for an argument, find a topic.

Before you can make it more specific, you will need to consider your topic in broad terms.
Keep momentum

Be positive about your ideas during this stage. It can limit your creativity. You will lose momentum if you dwell on the flaws of your ideas too much.

Creative momentum is essential: The first ten ideas in a series of related ideas may be trash, but the eleventh might be gold. If you stop thinking at the second, you won’t reach the eleventh.
Let the ideas flow

Do not get attached to the first topic that appeals to you. You might think it’s a good idea but you might end up with a bad idea once you get started researching.

You don’t have to think about a different topic. It doesn’t mean you should abandon an old topic. Later, you can easily return to your original ideas and decide which ones are the best.
Select a topic you are interested in

Boredom makes for boring writing. Find something you enjoy writing about or that combines your interests and your topic.

The worst scenario is to choose the most boring topic out of all the boring ones.
Keep a pen and paper handy

You never know when good ideas might strike your mind. Keep them close at hand when they come to you.

People often have the best ideas right before they fall asleep. It might be useful to keep a notebook by your bed.
Next steps

Once you have settled on an idea you can start to work on your thesis statement.

If you are having trouble coming up with a thesis on your topic, you might not be the best choice. You can always change your mind and return to your previous ideas.