How to Choose Writing Topics

Whether you’re embarking on choosing your doctoral dissertation study topic or choosing a simple theme for a short creative writing essay, choosing the right topic, and knowing where to start, can be tricky. The topic you choose may depend on many things, such as the purpose and length of the writing.

This quick and easy read highlights five simple steps of choosing writing topics, no matter what project you’re working on. To get you started, we’ll cover steps like:

  • 1. Defining the purpose of your writing,
  • 2. Listing your options,
  • 3. Narrowing your focus,
  • 4. Picking your topic and making sure your topic meets any writing requirements.

Last, we’ll review some writing best practices and tips.

Define the Purpose of Your Writing

The first and most important step of choosing a topic is to thoroughly understand the purpose of your writing. For instance, if you’re writing a dissertation, you’ll likely want to choose a topic you can find related research on, but that’s indicative of a gap in research, like “understanding minority perspectives on healthcare,” or “effective interventions for improving ESL students’ learning.”

However, if you’re writing a short, descriptive essay, you might choose to write about your favorite vacation spot. Similarly, if you’re writing a poem for a creative writing class, you’ll want to choose a topic that has emotional meaning to you or is easy for you to describe. Ask yourself what purpose your writing will serve and what guidelines your topic must meet.

List Your Options

Once you have a clear understanding of your topic requirements and the purpose of your writing, list all the related topics you can think of. Jot down all that comes to mind. Don’t worry if they sound silly or irrelevant at first. You’ll be able to narrow your choice later.

Narrow Your List to Researchable Topics

Does the writing you’re about to do require research? If so, choose a topic you know can be researched, to make the rest of the process easier. If you know you won’t need to research your topic, skip this step.

Pick a Topic-Based on Your Interests or Experience

No matter what your writing assignment is for, try to choose a topic that interests you. This will make the writing process much easier, less boring and more fun! Plus, you’ll probably end up writing content that’s much more engaging. Also, choose a topic that relates to your experience. This is especially true if you’re writing a piece like a scholarship essay or study proposal.

Here are some examples:

If you’re writing a…

Choose a topic that relates to your interests and experience like…

A creative writing essay

Your most memorable travel experience

A scholarship essay

How you’ll contribute to nursing education using your compassion for patients, education and experience as a certified nurse aide

A dissertation in psychology

How bereavement influences childhood development

An essay about business planning

Keys to planning a successful IT or food service business

Make Sure Your Topic Meets Guidelines

Once you’ve chosen your topic, revisit the requirements of your writing assignment. Make sure the topic you’ve chosen aligns with any guidelines you were given. If it doesn’t, repeat the steps above until you’ve found a topic that works.

Pro Tips

1) Be specific with your topic

Generally, the more specific your topic, the more focused your writing will be. Focused writing is usually more engaging than writing that’s too vague.

2) Be creative and original

Sometimes topics that come to mind first are common (because we’ve heard them a lot), which means they’ve already been written about many times. Write those down to get them out of the way, and then ask yourself how you can choose a topic that hasn’t been discussed yet. How can you introduce a compelling, new idea? This will help your writing stand out.

3) Do a little preliminary Research

If you’re not sure if your topic is researchable, spend a few minutes looking it up online to see what types of credible sources come up.

4) Reach for help when you’re stuck

Choosing a topic can be tricky, especially when you want to be sure it meets writing guidelines, is interesting, and is researchable. If you’re still stuck, don’t let writer’s block or overwhelm stump you. Writer Tools is just a click away to help you choose a topic that’ll work best for your assignment.