What do you do when your teacher gives you a topic to write about, but that topic is too broad?
For instance, what if your teacher says, “Write about natural disasters”? Right off the bat, you know you are in trouble. That topic is too large; there are too many possibilities. It would take a few books to cover everything, and your essay is due in two days.
How to narrow down a topic
You narrow down a topic to a manageable size by thinking of smaller topics within the “natural disasters” topic, like this:
important earthquakes around the world
the earthquake that shook San Francisco in 1906
Alaskan earthquake in 1964
largest earthquakes in the world since 1900
how a recent earthquake shaped the geology of my country
an important flood in my area and how people recovered from it
Are floods getting worse near the coastal areas of the world?
the Yangtze River flood of 1931
how to prevent floods
the effect of Noah’s Flood on the geology of my area
how disease and pandemics follow natural disasters—and is there a way to prevent that?
warning systems for natural disasters
And I’m just getting started! You’ll notice that not all of my ideas are written in complete sentences. That is perfectly okay because these are just ideas. You’ll want to write down your ideas as quickly as you can without judging them or scrutinizing them in any negative way. Just get them down and think about them later. Complete sentences are not needed.
If you are stuck for ideas, pick up a reference book on the topic and read the chapter titles, or, with permission, search the topic on the Internet. These will give you an idea of the types of items you can write about.
Now it’s your turn: So many natural disasters are happening around to world today; you have your choice of them. Also, October 9 is Fire Prevention Day, so you could use the topic of fire, if you wish. Narrow down the topic of fire (or another you are interested in), just as I did with the topic of natural disasters. Because you are brainstorming, write down everything you think of, whether it is silly or serious. You never know what idea will spark another one that you can actually use.
You can brainstorm on a piece of paper, a large whiteboard, a pile of sticky notes, the back of an old envelope, or anything else that feels comfortable to you.
You won’t have to write an essay on this topic or on any of the narrowed-down topics you come up with unless you just can’t help yourself. Write at least seven ideas.
Let your imagination out of its cage. Let it wander around some, sniffing here and there, growling at a juicy topic or two.
Share your topic and your three favorite ideas for it in the comment box below!
Copyright © 2014-2017 by Sharon Watson
Do your students tell you they have ideas in their heads but can’t get them on paper? Click here to get help with that problem in my latest article “Writing: Let’s Make it Easier!” in The Informer. You’ll want to go to page 7.
Would you like to know what the “C” word is and how horrible I was at it? Click here to read my guest blog on Marcy Crabtree’s benandme.com.
Want daily writing prompts to tempt reluctant writers and delight eager ones? Find out more about Sharon’s daily writing prompts posted on SchoolhouseTeachers.com under “Dailies” or click here.
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