The choice of essay topic is crucial to the end result of any form of essay writing. While it is great to be able to choose a topic that one cares passionately about, there won't always be freedom to do so. It doesn't mean, however, that one cannot choose an effective essay topic when specific instructions have to be followed.
Remember that there are different kinds of essays:
- Informative essays
- Literature essays
- Narrative essays
- Definition essays
- Descriptive essays
- Persuasive essays
- History essays
- Classification essays
There are variations of each of these, and, possibly, subcategories under them; the key is to remember the objectives of the essay and to determine the kind and topic based on those objectives. It is worth sticking to one kind of essay, no matter how general or specific the essay topic; otherwise, one might be tempted to go off this topic, and persuade or present an argument instead of merely sharing definition, information, or descriptions.
Be passionate – or, at least, factual
It is also essential that one is able – and has sufficient resources – to thoroughly research a topic before proceeding to write the essay. Passion is one thing; the ability to communicate this passion with the use of fact-based research is an altogether different matter. To prevent sketchy, imprecise essays – the kind that would be as unrewarding to readers as it was for the author to write – one must choose a topic that can be researched, with enough relevant material and credible, authoritative resources.
An effective essay topic is one with a specific set of scope and limitations. If it seems too vague, one might do well to spend as much time as possible looking for subcategories or niches that catch his or her attention: chances are that this subcategory or niche will do the same for the readers. Choosing a topic that does not even mildly interest the essay writer will likely make the writer abandon the essay halfway through.
An effective essay topic is also a realistic one – that is, realistic enough to write about. One must have ample time to research and understand the subject matter, but one must also make sure that the essay can be completed – and the topic sufficiently covered – given the time restrictions, word limits, and specific instructions. Choose a topic that's too broad and comprehensive, such as, say, the Renaissance Period, and there's a risk of tackling three or four centuries' worth of information. Choose a topic that's too particular, thin, or specialized, such as, say, Polygamist Women in the Later Renaissance Period, and there may not be enough information to meet the essay writing requirements. There's a risk, too, of having very little to talk about, leaving the readers with nothing to gain from the essay.
Once an essay topic has been chosen, it's useful to spend time outlining and breaking the subject matter down into subsections. This can help tremendously in planning how one will structure the essay – keeping the crucial points while eliminating redundancies and unimportant information.