When you’re allowed to choose your own topic for a writing assignment, this freedom is an exciting opportunity to write about a topic you are passionate about, but sometimes having so many choices can be overwhelming. Below are some categories and broad topic ideas that you can pull from the clouds, or maybe you’ll be inspired by related ideas, either of which might get you going in an exciting direction.
Also included in this handout are examples of how to take a broad topic and narrow it, tailoring the idea to the type of assignment you’re writing, such as a narrative, an argument, or a causal analysis (causes/effects).
Sex education, homeschooling, school bullying, non-smoking campus, learning disabilities, Common Core, affirmative action
Intolerance, hate groups, sexism/feminism, racism, religious freedom, criminal justice
Urban/suburban/rural, St. Louis versus New Orleans, violence and gangs, The Gateway Arch/Forest Park, volunteerism, poverty, homelessness, materialism/consumer debt
Romantic love, online dating, communication, domestic violence/abuse, marriage/divorce
Parenting styles, mementos, unconditional love, personal boundaries, forgiveness
Fly-fishing, rock climbing, video games/MMORPGs, NASCAR, casinos
Networking, microlending, current or future job/career, customer service, labor unions, leadership
Body modification, tattoo art, standards of beauty, fashion trends, retro styles
Portion size, industrial agriculture, micro-brewed beers, organic food, genetically modified foods, heirloom seeds/gardening
“Green” building, single-use plastics, alternative energy, climate change, national parks, biodiversity/extinction, animal rights
Social networking sites, digital manipulation of photos, open source software, technology's effects on children's social skills, net neutrality, screen time
Historical preservation, inventions, nonviolence/disobedience, Martin Luther King, Jr./Gandhi, women's rights/suffrage, World War II
Political partisanship, terrorism, immigration, anarchy, helmet laws, protests
Snowboarding, professional sports, Baseball Hall of Fame, martial arts, stadiums
Diseases and conditions, eating disorders, learning disorders, vaccines, health insurance, mental health
Mass transit/buses, bicycling, MetroLink/Trains, alternative fuels, Electric/Hybrid cars
Alternative/Punk/Rap music, reality TV, performance artists, cult/classic movies, celebrity culture, animé
Competition, duty/obligation, persistence/determination, creativity, resilience/perseverance, heroes
Think about what makes you feel strong emotions and what you are passionate about. Consider these questions:
- What makes you angry? What do you think is really unfair or wrong?
- What is a problem or solution you’ve been thinking about?
- What are you excited about? What do you like to talk about and do?
Narrowing and Shaping Topic Ideas Based on the Type of Assignment
Below are some examples of broad topics and some ways of writing about the topics
based on some
specific assignment types.
Broad Topic: Work
- Narrative: Write a story about a work-related event that changed a way you think or behave;
- Observation: Using concrete, sensory language, describe an interesting workplace creating a
- Causes or Effects: Examine what caused the disappearance of unions in the United States
and/or the effects;
- Definition: Define and discuss various meanings of “work”;
- Literary Analysis: Analyze a workplace scene (e.g., Sinclair’s The Jungle; Ellison’s Invisible
Man) from fiction. What does it tell us about the society in which the work is set and the author’s
attitude toward the topic?
- Argument: Argue for or against the four-day workweek/NAFTA/unions/crossing strike lines.
Broad Topic: Duty/Obligation
- Narrative: Tell the story of a specific event involving your fulfillment of a duty and how it
- Observation: Using concrete, sensory detail, describe an event that involved the fulfillment of
particular obligation (e.g., a military battle; caring for a sick person; mowing the lawn, etc.);
- Definition: Define and explain various types of duty;
- Cause/Effect: Discuss the actual or possible effects of failing to fulfill a specific obligation
making child support payments; registering for the draft, perhaps during an unpopular war;
keeping up with home repairs; fulfilling commitments to aiding foreign governments);
- Argument: How much do we owe to our parents? Our country? Our religion? Our
sorority/fraternity? Our friendships?
Broad Topic: Love
- Narrative: Tell about a specific personal experience involving some aspect of love that changed
the way you perceive or relate to the world or other people;
- Observation: Observe couples of different generations in a public place and compare and
contrast their generational behaviors and interactions;
- Definition Essay:
- Define and discuss one or two types of love;
- Define “family”;
- Evaluation: Develop some criteria for a loving relationship and evaluate the relationship of
characters in a work of literature;
- Argument: Argue for or against arranged marriage, polyamorous relationships, divorce versus
staying married for the sake of the children.