Generating Essay Topics

17.05.23 The writing process Time to read: 5min

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Lecturers or academic instructors do not always provide specific essay topics when handing out assignments. In such cases, generating an essay topic is the first step you should take before writing the paper. This post will guide you in generating essay topics.

Generating Essay Topics: In a Nutshell

  • Generating an essay topic is a must-do if your instructor has not provided a specific topic for your essay.1
  • The first step is developing ideas on what you would like to write about. This is not a methodical step. Instead, it takes creativity.2
  • When looking for an essay topic, you ought to understand the assignment, talk it out, brainstorm, and look for inspiration.2

Definition: Generating Essay Topic

Generating an essay topic is the process of determining the best subject to cover when writing an academic paper. It takes creativity more than methodology.1 The topic will determine the course of your paper. Therefore, generating it is a serious process.

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Understanding the assignment

The first step of generating an essay topic is understanding the assignment. Your instructor will always provide details like the deadline, the required length of the paper, and the area that you should cover based on what you’ve studied and your research areas.3

Even without a topic, the above information will help you determine the major elements of your paper. For instance, the length and deadline will determine the paper’s complexity.2 Your instructor may also provide a prompt, which will you the type of essay you should write.1

Example of an essay prompt:

Expository essay: Pick a city and explain its significance in society and the history behind it.

Argumentative essay: What was the most important event of the 20th century and why? Support your argument with proof from various sources.

Techniques for generating essay topics

Generating an essay topic is not as difficult as you may assume. Here are some strategies you can take to help with generating an essay topic.


You can talk about the essay with a friend, fellow student, or your lecturer. Talking it out will help you find generate some ideas and think out of the box. It may also help you get inspiration.


Brainstorming is an excellent technique for generating an essay topic. It involves exploring spontaneous ideas from yourself or your family. The key is writing as many ideas as you can as they pop into your brain. Writing down the ideas would come in handy.3 You can always go back to your notes and check out what you have. In some cases, you may discover that some of the ideas have connections.

Writing freely

This is a faster and less reflective approach to brainstorming. You can give yourself a broad topic to explore in your writing. Once you have the topic, write on a paper or your computer about the topic for two to three minutes continuously. Make sure you do not stop even for a moment.

The trick is to write down anything that comes to your mind even if it seems nonsensical. All that matters is that it is related to the topic. You can use a timer to ensure you take the right amount of time.4

Once you are done, read through your text and look for any useful ideas. If the exercise was successful, you will come up with some great ideas for your paper and generate a topic.

Tips for generating essay topics

Here are some guidelines for coming up with essay topic ideas.

You do not need to think logically

Generating an essay topic is a creative process and not a logical one. Some of the best ideas have strange and illogical origins. For instance, an idea may come from your dream or a story with a friend. It does not matter where the idea comes from, as long as it is a good one.4

General work towards specifics

A big mistake people make when generating an essay topic is going for specifics immediately. It helps to start from general subjects and ideas and work towards specifics. For instance, think of a broad topic then narrow it down until you have a precise thesis statement.1

Learn to let go

If an idea does not work, you must let it go. Sometimes, what you thought was an appealing topic may turn out complex or boring when you start researching.

Go for what interests you

Writing about things that interest you is a great idea. You can get inspiration for generating an essay topic from your interests and passions.

Keep noting down things

Keep a pen and paper or notepad close so you can note down ideas as soon as they come up. You may never know when a good idea will come to mind.2

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What’s next

After generating an essay topic, the next step is writing a thesis statement. Next, you can begin planning the essay structure and researching. You are always free to abandon a topic if you decide to change your mind or if it does not work out as you expected.1


You can generate an essay topic by brainstorming, taking it out with friends, family, or fellow students, or through free writing. It also takes creativity.

Your topic will determine the course of your essay. Therefore, it will determine your score and how easily you write the paper.

There isn’t a single source of good ideas. The trick is to stay open-minded and know that a good idea can come from anywhere, even in random places like dreams or movies.

The next step in generating an essay topic is writing a thesis statement. Afterward, you can plan your paper’s structure and start researching.


1 The Writing Center. “Generating Ideas for Your Paper.” Accessed on May 14, 2023.

2 Purdue University. “Choosing a Topic.” Accessed on May 14, 2023.

3 MacOdrum Library. “Choosing an Essay Topic.” Accessed on May 14, 2023.

4 Studocu. “How To Pick The Best College Essay Topics.” October 5, 2022.