How to Brainstorm Essay Topics: A List of Great Hints


As soon as you have a firm grasp of your essay prompt, the next stage in the writing process is brainstorming for a few ideas to get your research ideas going. Brainstorming is an essential part to all types of writing and should be a skill you practice often. Here is a list of great hints to help you brainstorm good essay topics:

Creating an Idea Map: Drawing a map or cloud of your ideas is a very popular form of brainstorming that can be helpful in many ways. One, people often find that by visualizing their first ideas they can make more connections between related thoughts as well as come up with fresh ideas to complement what is already presented. Second, it helps clarify your thoughts so that you aren’t just trying to come up with a topic based on a jumbled mess. A visual map will help you organize and develop your main talking points.

Creating an Idea List: Similar to drawing a mental map, many writers prefer to brainstorm by simply making a list of their thoughts. This method is quite straightforward, is just as effective, and has the additional benefit of being an early version of an outline that can be used before starting a first draft. Coming up with a few simple lists gives you several essay topic options. Choose the one that makes the most sense to you.

Start a Conversation with a Classmate: After getting your essay prompt it doesn’t hurt to ask some of your classmates what it is they are going to be writing about? It’s not a good idea to copy someone’s essay topic entirely, but you can always diverge or even write on the contradictory point. This exercise is mostly there to help you consider views you hadn’t before by looking through someone else’s perspective. Perhaps you would never consider “humans as predators” on your own. Or perhaps you weren’t aware that deep-sea exploration is more promising in terms of medical research.

Ask Yourself “What If” Questions: This is the most creative hint of the bunch and is often the easiest. Asking yourself a series of “what if” questions will help you get a feel for the sub-topics in a subject that you are genuinely curious about. What if Napoleon Bonaparte had won at Waterloo? What the U.S. had never entered WWI? All of these “what if” questions point to areas within a subject that interests you; and being interested helps motivate you to find some answers. Dig a little deeper and you will have a solid essay topic in no time.

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