Tackling The Essay Assignment

You've been given an essay assignment. Now what?

Here's how to get started:

Break the assignment down

Is the essay:

Open topic
This one is a double-edged sword. Sure, you can choose what to write about. But the possibilities are overwhelming.

One of a number of given topics
Your teacher has narrowed the scope of subject matter. Now you have to find one you can write about. Not always the easiest task.

Specific topic
I can hear the groans for this kind of writing assignment already. You have little choice in what subject to write about. That doesn't mean you have no choice at all. (We'll get to that in a minute)


Even if you've got a specific topic to write about, you need to brainstorm how you want to approach the subject. Specific topics tend to be too broad by themselves to make a good essay.

No matter what type of essay assignment this is, sit down with a piece of paper and get to work - brainstorming, that is.

Set a timer for three minutes. During that time, write down as many ideas about your topic as you can. Don't worry about quality. Go for quantity. More is better.

Done? Good.

Narrow the choices

What makes a topic ideal for essay writing?
  • It is an important idea.
    Don't choose something too easy to argue

  • You can argue your stand on the topic.
    Stay away from one-sided issues, such as "murder is bad."

  • It provides insight.
    Feel free to express your views and beliefs through your arguments, as long as they fit the topic.

  • Your topic is unique.
    Avoid jumping on the bandwagon. If others are writing on a certain topic or angle, choose a different, or controversial, stand.

  • It is narrow.
    You can't cover all aspects of the evils of drink in a single essay. Choose a specific evil to address, instead.
Your chosen topic idea should fit the criteria above. If not, go back and do more brainstorming. If so, move forward with creating your thesis statement.
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