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Saturday / November 18

How to Come Up with Better Essay Ideas

What’s your ultimate goal as an educator? You want to inspire your students to think. You want them to be able to express thoughts clearly. That’s exactly why you assign essays. Your students, however, don’t understand the purpose of essay writing and think writing essays akin to torture. How do you overcome this resentment towards academic writing?

Throughout my experience as a writer for BestDissertation, I understood the reason why most students hate academic writing: they are not inspired by the topics. They expect these assignment to be boring. You need to change that mindset.

Everything starts with the topic. It’s all about finding the balance between challenging enough, but not impossible to write. The topics you assign should be interesting and thought-provoking. Keep in mind that they should also be easy to research online. It’s all about finding the balance!

Try implementing the following 10 tips when thinking of the next essay topics to assign:

  1. Make It Slightly Personal

This kind of topic allows your students to share their point of view. If they don’t have a cause, it inspires them to find one. When you motivate your students to share a personal story, you will see the passion in their writing.

Of course, you can’t limit the assignments to narrative topics, but you can give some space for personality. When you assign a topic for World War II, do it in a way that makes them express opinions. Never limit academic writing to doing research and sharing impressions. Ask what they think about the matter in question.

  1. Remember Important People

 Ask your students to explain how and why a certain person inspired them. How did they first encounter this person? How did that encounter change their points of view?

  1. Ask Thought-Provoking Questions

When you’re thinking of a topic, it has to provoke genuine thoughts and ideas. Yes, you want your students to do some research. However, you want them to use the sources to support their own ideas. Think of a question that makes the students think. Even better – tell your students to ask any question during a brainstorming session. Then, turn one of those questions into a topic.

  1. Try Reverse Thinking Topics

The term reverse thinking is self-explanatory. Instead of assigning a topic that asks for logical progression of ideas, reverse it into a negative challenge. The topic What We Can Do to Save Earth can become How to Lead Earth to a Total Disaster. The topic How to Improve the Educational System can become Steps to Making Students More Ignorant than Ever.

These reverse thinking topics can be much more fun. However, you have to explain the concept behind them. You don’t want your students to take them too seriously.

  1. Dig into the Context of a Topic

Each topic gives you context. Look into the untypical events, discoveries, and personalities that make it special. The entire curriculum is full of notable things to explore in deeper context. If, for example, you’re asking your students to write an essay about Orwell’s Animal Farm, pick a particular animal and form a topic around it.

  1. Assign a Brainwriting Topic

These are pretty easy. You think of a concept and you assign it as a topic. For example, the topic can be Pop Music.

Ask the students to pen down their ideas without conducting research. They can write whatever comes to  mind. Give them about 15 minutes with the topic. Then, each student will pass the paper over to someone else. Give them few minutes to read the papers of their classmates, and then tell them to pass them around again. At the end of the class, you’ll collect the papers, so you can read them, too.

  1. Let Them Try Freewriting

This exercise will be similar to the previous one. The student will write whatever they want to. However, you’ll give them a general subject area and flexibility to narrow it down into their own topic. For example, the broad topic can be Renaissance. You’ll be surprised with the topics your students will think of. Some of them will focus on a particular person. Others will choose music. Some will even explore the fashion of the era.

  1. Keep a List of Ideas

Just as you advise your students to practice creative writing, you should practice topic creation, too. Instead of trying to think of a special topic when the time for an assignment comes, add a few ideas to a list every day. It will be easy to turn some of those ideas into topics when you need them.

  1. Connect a Few Ideas into a Topic

Mindmapping is a great technique that helps you think of creative topics. Write down the first ideas that come to your mind.

Renaissance, architecture, fashion. This is an example of concepts that don’t seem directly related. You can connect them into a single topic: The effects of Renaissance Architecture on the Fashion of the Era. Okay, this may seem like an overly advanced essay assignment, but you get the idea, right?

  1. It’s Okay to Be Generic

What’s the biggest problem of a teacher trying to think of an essay topic? They try to think of unique and brilliant prompts every single time. The truth is, even the most boring topics can result in brilliant essays. You should absolutely try to inspire your students to change the way they perceive academic writing through creative topics.

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Written by

Kaitlyn is an ESL teacher from Los Alamos, New Mexico.

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Latest comment

  • All of the different ways to create innovative topic ideas are wonderful! I’ve heard of a few as freewriting and asking thought-provoking questions, but the others, especially the reverse thinking is great! Thanks for the good information!

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