Essay Writing Guide: Choosing A Topic, Brainstorming, and Outline Writing

Choosing a topic for an essay is much harder than it may seem. While picking an area of interest may be a good place to start, it isn’t always a good place to start an essay. It is important to think about a few things before launching into the research and writing process itself. Oftentimes, writers tend to jump right into a project. While this is a great way to get started, it is not the best way to put together a coherent essay or research paper.

Many students and writers, when faced with a longer essay or research project, become overwhelmed and prefer to ask any essay writer free to help. This can happen when the writer is not organized and/or prepared for such an undertaking. Writing an outline can help ease this burden as well as help the writer create a well-organized, high-quality product.

Selecting an Audience for an Essay

The first thing to consider when selecting an essay topic is the audience. Choosing an audience will help dictate the research that will inevitably follow. It will also help set the tone for the essay itself.

Think of it this way. An essay geared towards children would be completely different than one geared towards a college classroom, even when on the same topic. The writer needs to consider vocabulary and concepts that will be appropriate to the audience. Some information may need to be left out of a paper for children. This same information may be crucial to a paper for a college course.

So, be sure to identify an audience before moving forward with any sort of essay project.

Choosing an Appropriate Topic for Essay Research

Sitting down and choosing an area of interest is easy, but choosing a topic appropriate for a research paper may not be that easy. There are quite a few things to consider. The first thing the writer should think about is the length of the paper. If the paper needs to be three hundred pages, writing on something obscure and local may not be the way to go. However, if the paper only needs to be three pages, writing something on a smaller scale may be preferable.

Once the length of the paper has been determined, the author then needs to decide whether or not the chosen topic will yield enough/too much information for the research process to make your creative writing process. Choosing something broad like “Cats” or “England” will yield thousands and thousands of results. For a time-sensitive matter, this may not be the way to go. The author may need to narrow the topic down to something like “African Jungle Cats” or “London Tourist Attractions.”

The same is true for the reverse. The writer doesn’t want to start too specific as research may not yield enough information to write a paper from. Something like “The Effects of Saltwater on Wisconsin Field Mice” may not yield any search results. So, if the paper needs to be ten pages, the writer may want to open the topic up just a bit to allow for more research materials. Perhaps, “The Effects of Saltwater on Mice,” would help get an appropriate amount of research from which to create a paper.

Don’t Shrug Off Essay Topic Selection

So, while choosing a topic may seem like the easiest part of a project, in most cases, it is not. Make sure to carefully consider the task at hand, the audience, and the research before committing to a topic. There may be some trial and error involved in choosing the topic, but the time and effort will be worth it in the end.

A good topic will lead to good research material which will, in turn, lead to a good paper. A bad topic will lead to difficult research which will, in turn, lead to stress and a sub-par paper.

How Pre-Writing Activities Can Help During The Writing Process

There are a few problems that writers run into when starting the writing process. Oftentimes, when a form of brainstorming/pre-writing is not used, writers will have trouble putting a coherent piece of writing together. Writers tend to go off on tangents and stray from the purpose. There are also times when a writer becomes disorganized in trying to get all of their ideas down on the paper. All of these things can be avoided with a little bit of planning and prep work.

Pre-Writing Activities

There are many different types of pre-writing activities, not all of which will work for everyone. The three activities described in this article will appeal to different types of writers and learners. They are all very helpful in the planning stage of the writing process. Hopefully, the explanations will reveal how and why they can aid writers during the research process.

  1. Free-Writing Free writing is pretty much as simple as it sounds. The writer should find a quiet place where they will not be disturbed for at least 15 minutes. During this time, the writer should begin to write–anything–down on paper. While freewriting will generate a great quantity, the material may not always be quality. However, there will be tidbits and maybe even sentences that can be used later on down the line. One problem that writers run into is a lack of motivation or writers’ block. In this instance, it is best to start writing about how there is nothing to write about. Eventually, something will come out on the paper.
  2. Graphic organizers graphic organizer has been called many different names. It is sometimes referred to as webbing or bubbling. The writer starts with an idea at the top or in the center of the paper and they use a series of circles or boxes to write subtopics and details that are associated with the main topic. This activity has several different uses. It will show the writer which areas can be used in writing and which areas maybe don’t have enough support to incorporate into the actual project. Also, it will help construct paragraphs when the writer begins the writing process.
  3. List Making List making is as simple as it sounds. Once the topic has been chosen, the writer simply needs to write down ideas and sub-topics that are associated with the main topic of the paper. From this point, the writer can re-arrange the items in the list into like groups and/or eliminate things that don’t quite fit in. This can be likened to the practice that some shoppers go through when compiling a shopping list. Once the list is completed, some shoppers will re-organize things by department or their location in the store. This makes the shopping trip much more efficient, much like the pre-writing will make the writing much more organized and efficient.

There are quite a few activities that were not mentioned in this article, but this is a good sampling of pre-writing activities. They help get ideas down on paper and make sure they are organized before actually writing the paper. Pre-writing also lends itself nicely to the outline-making process.

Why Write an Outline?

There is always a bit of skepticism from writers when it comes to writing outlines and many will not write an outline unless it is required. However, by “cutting corners,” the writer is only cheating himself or herself out of a very helpful tool. The outline can help to expedite the writing process.

There are many different reasons to write an outline. When such a large project is being undertaken, the writing can become disorganized or muddled. The writer may also wind up going off on a tangent, especially when the topic holds personal importance. All of these things take away from the cohesiveness of the writing.

When there is an outline, the paper writes itself. The writer knows where to start, where to end, and which points to hit along the way. In short, an outline eliminates the guesswork and the paper pretty much writes itself.

Outline Writing Process

There are a few steps to complete before actually writing an outline. The writer must first decide on the paper’s purpose. From there, the writer needs to choose an audience and write up a thesis statement. Then, the writer should do some brainstorming. Finally, the writer can begin to write the actual outline.

It is important to follow all of the steps in the outline writing process. Skipping steps can lead to a misrepresentation of information. This will nullify the efficacy of the outline itself.

Proper Outline Formatting

There is no proper format when writing an outline for personal use. However, if the outline is part of a project or assignment, it should follow proper outline writing guidelines. When it comes to outlines, the requirements differ slightly based on the format being used (APA, MLA, Chicago Manual). Be sure to check for the specific guidelines that are required by the chosen format.

However, these are some basic pointers. Outlines should be alphanumeric. The thesis statement should be complete and written at the top of the outline. Situationally dependent, instructors may also ask students to write out the introductory and conclusion paragraphs. If this is not required, it is still a good practice to have. The introduction and conclusion are both very important and will help the writer accomplish their main objectives.

Outlines are great tools. While they are an extra step in the writing process, they do save the writer time in the end. They also help to improve the quality of the writing itself. When in doubt, write an outline anyway!

About the author: Bianca J. Ward is a professional marketing manager at essaywriterfree. Besides, she is a passionate photographer and traveler who has visited 52 countries all over the world. Bianca dreams about creating a photo exhibition to present her works to others.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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