Anglistisches Seminar Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
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Early Stages: Finding a Topic

The first step in writing any paper is to identify a topic. Some instructors assign specific questions you need to answer in your paper, others give you topics but ask you to develop your own thesis, and still others leave the choice of a topic and a thesis up to you. If you know you will be asked to select your own topic, note down potential topics of interest throughout the semester.


Responding to an Assignment

When answering a set question or writing an essay in response to a particular assignment, start by trying to get a sense of the focus of the assignment.  Ask yourself some questions about the question that has been set: Why did the instructor choose this particular question? Is there a motive or intention behind this assignment that is not obvious? What are you being asked to do, exactly? Why? How?


Assignment terms, like “analyze,” “discuss,” “consider,” “illustrate,” “compare/contrast,” “to what extent,” etc. are all, in essence, coded suggestions that you should come up with a thesis statement—an argument—of your own, one which will be specific, complex, and debatable. A good argument will not simply restate the terms of the question, but will propose an answer that develops the topic in a different direction - the direction you wish to pursue.


Further, you may want to decide on whether there is a broader context that seems appropriate or relevant for your essay. For example, a question that makes reference to the “historical period” of a literary work probably requires historical and/or social/cultural context to be included, whereas a question that suggests ideas about “gender” might need a less historical, more theoretical framework.


Finding a Topic Independently

If your instructor gives you a general topic or asks you to find one on your own, your first task is to gather ideas. One way to do this is to ask yourself a set of questions similar to those above; another might be to design a question or set of questions yourself, and try to answer them. Often, an Internet search will reveal a number of potential topics. Make a list of things that you have found interesting about whatever you have read, watched, or discussed in your course, and try to proceed from these various topics or themes to the questions and issues that interest you the most. When you have a reasonably solid idea of the topic you want to write about and the kinds of questions you find interesting, check with your instructor to make sure you are on the right track.

Letzte Änderung: Föhr am 07.August 2015
Verantwortlich: Lusin, Föhr