Choosing a Topic
Often students will find it difficult to come up with a good topic. They may have a vague notion of what they want to write about, but the topic is too broad many times. When a topic is too broad, then it will cause you to gloss over a large area, rather than being precise about your exposition. For example, let’s say that you wanted to write an essay about pollution. While a topic like this might take any of the three forms, you decide that the best form for your essay is cause/effect. The problem is that pollution is a huge topic! You could write about air, water, ground, or even noise pollution. You do not really want to write about all of these topics because then your essay would just be a gloss. Instead, you decide that you will write about water pollution only. But even the topic of water pollution is a big topic because you might write about ocean, lake, or stream pollution. Then again, you might write about trash and non-biodegradable materials or toxic dumps into water. What would be the best way for you to go about narrowing your topic?
Think about the methods that we discussed in Unit II Lesson 3. In that lesson, we discussed concepts of invention, which were all about coming up with a good topic for you. We looked at methods of prewriting, such as brainstorming, mapping/clustering, and freewriting. Use these methods in your own pursuit of a topic.
Talking to Those Around You
One way that you can narrow a topic is to talk to those around you—your friends, family, co-workers, etc. Sometimes you can become interested in a topic just by seeing what others are concerned or curious about. Many times, when you are drawing a blank on possible topics, you can find that others may be clued in to issues that you may not be familiar with or that did not seem readily apparent to you.
Observing Important Issues
As we discussed in Unit V, public information is a good place to begin when looking for a topic. The best topics are controversies that appear on the news or in print. These types of controversies often demonstrate a smaller concern about a larger topic. For example, if we look at our water pollution example again, we might see something in the news about a specific company that has dumped fracking waste in a particular river in a certain state. These types of news stories can help you to discuss the larger topic of water pollution, while looking at one specific instance of pollution. We often see these stories in our current events.
Another possible source for information can be ongoing issues, such as gun control, education, or civil rights. Again, these are larger issues that are just too big to write about, but you can investigate these larger topics in smaller ways. For example, you might want to write about gun control, but the topic is much too large. Instead, you may find that your state congress is discussing a bill that would allow firearms on all state-funded university campuses. The controversy around this bill is the perfect way to write about the larger controversy of gun control, while still writing about one definite issue that is currently affecting your state.
Similarly, you might want to look at issues that face you and your community locally. Sometimes local issues affecting your state, county, or city can be a great way for you to discuss a controversy without trying to tackle an issue that is too large in scope. For example, you might look at a proposed city tax that would add ½ cent to each transaction within the city limit with the funds going to local animal shelters. Those who are for the measure want to see these shelters supported because they provide an important service for the community. Those who are against the measure want people to have the option to donate if they choose to and/or the option to direct their funds to a different non-profit organization. The job of an expository essay is not to take a side on the controversy—to argue what is right or wrong—but to explain the controversy to someone who may not be familiar with it.
Reflecting on Issues that Are Important to You
Another way to think about or to narrow down a topic is to think about issues that matter to you. Perhaps, you are a hunter, and you are concerned with the length of the turkey-hunting season or the number of birds your state allows each season. You could easily use a topic like that as fodder for your exposition.
Thinking About Topics in Relation to Disciplinary Categories
One other way of coming up with a topic that is interesting to you is to choose something that is important to the discipline that you are studying at CSU. For example, if your major is fire science, then you may want to write an exposition about a particular kind of equipment used or an unsafe type of building material. If you are a psychology major, then you might want to write about the effects of stress on young children. If you have not yet declared a major, then you may want to think about academic disciplines that interest you and what some major issues are for those disciplines.
1. It is important to narrow down the scope of your exposition essay topic as much as possible so that you can write in-depth about a specific topic rather than glossing over a larger, broader topic.
2. One way that you can narrow a topic is to talk to those around you—your friends, family, co-workers, etc.
3. The best topics are controversies that appear on the news or in print. These types of controversies often demonstrate a smaller concern about a larger topic.
4. Another possible source for information can be ongoing issues, such as gun control, education, or civil rights.
5. You might want to look at issues that face you and your community locally.
6. Another way to think about or to narrow down a topic is to think about issues that matter to you.