Now that you’re familiar with what an essay is and what types of essays there are, we’re here for the next step: how do you pick the perfect essay topic? Here are a few steps you can follow to do just that: 

Now, the kind of essay that you’ll be working on will be a combination of what your professor has asked you to do and the nature of the topic itself. But you can open up a world of possible topics in just a few steps! 


1: Read the instructions of your assignment carefully. 

If you’ve been given an essay assignment, the instructions are likely to have some guidelines or context which will help you arrive at (at least) a broader topic. Contextualize what you’ve learnt in class to the prompt, and start thinking about how you can bridge the two together. Make connections between the prompt and the readings, and try to find topics within the common links. 

2: Do some basic research about what you want to write about. 

 If you’re unfamiliar with the general area of topics given to you, go do some basic research about it. Cross-check it with your textbook or prescribed readings to make sure that the topic you’re choosing is actually relevant to your class. Use this process to gauge whether you’re interested in the topic, and more importantly, if you are equipped enough to write a few thousand words on it. 

3: Pick an essay topic that’s neither too broad nor too narrow.

Jot down important points you can elaborate on in the essay. Using this basic research, try to form a basic outline to check if you have substantial points. At this stage, the goal is to be able to have clarity about what you want to achieve from the essay. If you find yourself grasping at too many straws, it’s likely that you’re topic is too broad, and you need to narrow it down to a more specific topic. On the other hand, if you sense that you don’t have enough to say, it’s likely that your topic is far too specific, which means you need to broaden the scope of the essay.

Pick something broad enough for you to work with, but not so narrow that you can’t write enough.

4: Ensure that you have the resources to write the essay you want.

Pick a topic you know you have the resources to write about. This is especially for essays that require you to refer to primary sources, such as published papers and archival content. For example, if you want to do a film analysis of a relatively less known silent film, make sure you’re in a position to actually access a copy of that film.

5: Consult peers or professors. 

If you’re still uncertain about the topic you’ve arrived at, or just have so many that’s it’s impossible to decide, talk to a classmate or even your professor to get a second opinion. Not only will they have a fresher perspective, but they will also give you insights about how they perceive its relevance in the class.