How to Choose Topic Writing Tip. Custom Essay Writing

   

How to choose topic?

K.I.S.S.

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, had in his office a sign reading "K.I.S.S.," which, he was glad to tell anyone, meant "Keep It Simple, Stupid." "Simple" does not have to mean simpleminded. Keeping it simple means avoiding the complexity of too many competing, confusing factors. This applies to choosing a paper topic as well as writing a sentence or running a business.

Pick one topic, one argument, that is finite, limited, and can be defined. Do not try to explain everything; it can't be done. Even if you think you know everything, avoid the temptation to put it all in every paper. We college professors do not simply skim the page searching for the magic words that get awarded "points," which we then add up to determine the grade. We actually want a coherent essay, not a bushel of babble. Narrow in on a specific question or problem or character. Pick a word, a phrase, an image, or an event. Ask a specific question: "Why does the author use this particular word or image in this paragraph?""Why did the Americans in Texas declare their independence in 1836 instead of 1835?""Why does Jesse Jackson prefer the term 'African American' to 'Afro-American' or 'black'?"

Your analysis of that specific question can then widen to include the larger problems of the text, or of life. Begin with your specific fact or quote or problem and then expand to the larger contexts, first of the work under consideration, then of the author and his or her world, and then, if you are feeling ambitious, of the cosmic whole. But do not leave us floating in outer space. Keep the original rock from which you started in sight and be sure to return to it at the end.

When you do not have to answer the question of what the entire text is all about, the problem of choosing a topic is considerably simplified. You do not have to "understand Faulkner" or "the causes of the Great Depression" or "the meaning of existence" in order to write a sophomore paper. Begin with whatever interests you, even if it is only a single person or phrase or event.

And speaking of stupid, boycott all the Cliff's and Monarch and other shortcuts to an easy C that can be found all too easily in every college bookstore. Many of these can also be found on professors' bookshelves. We read them too. Some of us (may Allah be merciful) write them. At the very least, we eventually come to recognize key sentences because of the many times innocent undergraduates have repeated them. I even had one lamebrain student list the Monarch.

Notes edition of a text in his bibliography.

The biggest problem with these notes is not that they save you from having to work or even think, but that they are altogether simpleminded when not outright wrong. They are written for consensus. That is, they represent the lowest common denominator of opinion about any given text, and that bar is pretty low. Their generalities are about as insipid as you can get, for the simple reason that any opinion we academics all agree on must necessarily be pretty vague. Think of a politician who has managed to run for president offending neither the AFL-CIO nor the Wall Street Journal , neither Louis Farrakhan nor the ACLU, neither the right-to-lifers nor NOW. This person may have no enemies but won't have any friends either. When I teach Moby Dick, after spending considerable effort unveiling many of the complex layers of significance in the chapter "The Whiteness of the Whale," if I have any time left at the end of class, I read the banal comments found in one of the standard crib notes. Most of the students get the point.

   
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