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Finding a Topic to Write About: Home

thinking imageTrying to Find a Topic?

Your teacher may have given you parameters regarding your topic - perhaps you are in an English class and the teacher wants you to write about a theme or character in a story.  But sometimes the topic is entirely up to you.  When that happens, it seems like the hardest part of the assignment is figuring out what to write about! 

Its not as hard as it appears.  It just takes a little time and thought.  Here's a couple of places to start:

1)  Brainstorm

Write down something that interests you (hobbies, sports, issues you feel strongly about, experiences, hardships or challenges you've encountered).  Then decide what interests you about that topic.  For example, I like sports and particularly NFL Football.  What is it that interests me about football?  Strategy? Coaching?  Salaries of players? What things have I seen on the news lately about football?  Doping? Players taking a knee? Women referees?  Now use a couple of keywords from your topic to search Discover@Hinds, the Hinds Libraries search engine*.  This will bring up articles and book chapters about your topic.  If you're still not sure, just type in the general topic (in my case NFL Football) and see what comes up!


2)  Browse

Browse for some topics in a topic-oriented database**.  The library has quite a few and below we link you to the "topics" list in four popular ones: 

*Why use library resources instead of Google?

Instead of a search on Google, try searching Discover@Hinds on the library's home page.  Discover@Hinds is like Google except that it is searching a million dollars worth of journals, books, videos and newspapers purchased by Hinds Libraries and the state of Mississippi (your tax dollars).  Most of this quality material is not free on Google plus Google would have tons of websites, blogs and other resources that probably wouldn't be suitable for serious research. 

**What's the purpose of using a "topic-oriented" database to browse for topics?

Hinds Libraries purchase specific databases that are geared for finding research about things considered "hot topics" or "current issues."  These databases usually devote an entire volume to that topic or issue providing the reader with comprehensive overviews, analyses, countering viewpoints and statistical data.

Types of Papers

Determine the Type of Paper to Write

Once you decide on a topic, you must decide what it is you want to do with that topic.  Do you want to:

Inform - present factual information to a reader about a particular thing or issue they likely know little about

Persuade - try to convince people to change their thinking in some way

Demonstrate - describe steps that tell people how to do something

Entertain - tell a story, commemorate someone or something, or tell something inspirational

Research-type papers will probably fall under the "Informational" category, but check what the instructor has outlined for you in their syllabus.

Writing the Paper

Write the Paper

Once you find your topic and decide your angle, its time to research and write. 

1)  Find articles that inform and support your topic (remember, topics sometimes change as a researcher learns more about their subject).

2)  As you read, keep the articles to use when writing and the citations for making your bibliography or reference list.

3)  After reading the articles, write your thesis or statement of what you want to say.

4)  Create an outline of how you will present your information supporting your thesis.

5)  Now that you have a roadmap (outline), write your paper.  Be sure to cite sources within your paper and in the bibliography at the end (see our guide to citing in MLA, APA and Turabian)

6) Edit, check for grammar mistakes, re-write, have others read, take your paper to the Hinds Writing Center to look over.  Some schools even provide a service called Turn-it-in that will check to make sure that you have cited appropriately and have not plagiarized (see our guide on Plagiarizing).

7)  When you are satisfied that it is complete and ready, submit.