Finding Topics

magnifying glassSometimes, your professors will assign argument topics for you to write about. For example, if you’re discussing an issue in your Criminal Justice class, you may find that your professor assigns all students a topic related to that issue. However, many times, you’ll have options for your argument assignments.

Most students are initially pleased to find they can choose any issue they want to write about, but this can be more difficult than it seems. What issue will you choose? How will you narrow your topic? What will your audience think about your issue? What will your audience already know about your issue?

There is a lot to consider, and, sometimes, students feel overwhelmed by the process of trying to find a good argument. Thankfully, there are some strategies to help you, and exploring good writing process habits discussed in other areas of the OWL can help.

  • First, as always, consider your assignment requirements and try to think rhetorically about your audience, your potential ideas for topics, and what your professor is asking of you. The Thinking about Your Assignment page from The Writing Process area of the OWL will help.
  • Once, you understand the parameters of your assignment, it’s time to think about your goals within those parameters. For example, do you have to write about an issue related to your major? If so, what issues stand out in your field? Or, do you have to write about an issue in your local community? If so, do you know of any issues? If not, how can you find out? At this stage, you may need to do a little preliminary research to help you find out more about current issues.
  • If you feel really stuck, take advantage of some excellent topic resources on the web. You can may find resources like 200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing or Topic Suggestions for Argumentative Research Papers helpful.
  • If you’re still uncertain about your topic, even after you have gathered some general information about it, some prewriting activities can help. You might try taking two or three potential issues and engaging in one or two of the prewriting activities in the The Writing Process area.

These strategies can help you choose an issue to write about that will interest you, engage your audience, and meet your assignment requirements.

Of course, once you have found your topic, you still have to find your argument. What angle will you take? What kind of argument would work best? On the next page, you’ll see a few examples of students taking a topic or issue and finding a strong, engaging argument for your paper.

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