Introduction to Topic Selection

Evaluate topic selection activities

Graphic titled Topic. Bullet list: Assignment criteria, brainstorm, personal interest, selection, refinement. All text in a blue circle bordered by gray arrows.I have likened writing . . . to going on a journey, with some notion of the destination I will arrive at, but not the whole picture–which emerges gradually as a series of revelations, as the journey goes along.  – Rose Tremain, novelist and Chancellor of the University of East Anglia

A world map; countries noted by large typographic representations of their namesMetaphors are a powerful way to take ownership of any task you’re given. Creating a personal metaphor will allow you to interpret the process in a way that makes sense to you, and to anticipate more clearly all the steps that will be necessary to complete the task.

For now, let’s consider the metaphor that Ms. Tremain offers us here: writing is a journey. Compare the process of receiving a writing assignment to receiving the opportunity to take a trip. Sure, one may sound like a lot more fun initially than the other, but it’s not hard to see some interesting overlaps in the process involved to prepare for either one.

With either a new essay project or a new trip, the first task is to figure out a destination. You will have some limiting factors initially. The length of the finished essay; the length of time you’ll be traveling. The amount of time before the essay is due; the amount of time before the trip begins. The number of resources required to consult; the number of stops you can make along your way.

Your Own Writing Metaphor

Perhaps this writing-as-travel metaphor makes sense to you. Perhaps not. Are there other comparisons to the writing process that hold more personal value for you? Consider what parallels you see as you move through this module.

What You Will Learn to Do

  • evaluate strategies for personalizing an assigned topic
  • evaluate strategies for finding a focus for an unassigned topic
  • evaluate strategies for moving from general to specific