essay writing tips

How to Come Up with Ideas for Essay Topics

Finding a good idea may be the trickiest part of working on your essay. Here are several techniques to help you generate ideas.

In-Depth Reading

Start with extensive reading in the field related to your topic. Your search may include books, textbooks, online resources, and essays written by other people. This is a great way to see which topics are discussed often and which remain unexplored. As you read, you may run into a question that you would like to answer. The more knowledge on your subject you acquire, the more interesting and unique the topic you can come up with will be.

If your essay involves a book analysis, this step is especially important. Try to find an aspect that no one has discussed before. To do it, you may need to read the book several times carefully.


Sit down and write all possible ideas for your essay topic that comes to mind. Let them be funny, ridiculous, or irrelevant. Do not restrict your flow of thought in any way; just put down everything. Write for 5-10 minutes without a stop, then look at your notes and select two or three ideas that you like best. To choose among them, you may need to spend some time thinking or to read more literature.


This is a useful technique to narrow down the focus of your paper. Write your general idea (a single word or two) in the middle of the page. Draw a circle around it. Outside the circle, put down all associations with this word that you can come up with. For example, if the general idea is “Global warming,” your associations may include “Glaciers melting,” “Hot summers,” or “A myth?” Then, put each association in a circle too. Think of what impact each may have, how it can be done (or prevented), or why do you think it is true. Write your ideas around the circle.


If you can’t focus on your essay because there are other problems bothering you at the moment, try freewriting. Just take a pencil and write down everything you are thinking about. It does not have to be related to your essay subject. Do not mind the spelling, grammar, or organization. Let your thoughts come out as they are, without the “right – wrong” filter. After several minutes, stop and look at your notes. There may be valuable ideas you can use. Even if there are none, this technique will clear your mind and make further brainstorming more effective.

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