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Narrowing Your Topic


Most of the time you devote to writing should be spent on the planning stage. You need to take the time to find a good topic. Even if you are assigned a topic to write about, you need to examine it, focus it, and consider different ways of approaching it.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When you think of your chosen topic, what are the first things that come to your mind?
  • What do you want your readers to learn?
  • What parts of this topic seem the most interesting to you?

A satisfactory subject is single, significant, specific, and supportable.

Single Focus

Make sure you have a single focus and are writing about one topic only.
Be careful not to stray from your topic and lose your focus.


This sentence has more than one topic.

Recent surveys have shown a dramatic increase in automobile accidents caused by cell phones and also that people are unhappy about the rise in taxes.

This sentence has a single focus.

Recent surveys have shown a dramatic increase in automobile accidents caused by cell phones.


Your subject should be meaningful to you and your readers. It should be worthy of the time and attention you will spend writing about it and others will spend reading about it.


Less interesting topics

The advantages of cotton clothing
The length of time it takes for paint to dry
How long it takes grass to grow

More interesting topics

Recent trends in movies
Ways to save money without trying


It is better to write on a narrow, specific topic than a broad, general one. Your readers want to be both informed by and interested in what you have to say. Broad generalizations are not as interesting as concrete, specific details. You need to narrow your topics by one or more limiting factors like kind, time, place, number, or person. The more specific you can make your topic, the easier it will be to write your essay.


Too general

Children in sports

More specific

A comparison of child tennis stars

You can start with a general topic and narrow it down one step at a time to a more specific topic.


Television programs
Comedy programs
Situation comedies
Most popular situation comedies
Common characteristics of three popular situation comedies


Remember that you have to include specific examples, facts, figures, quotations, stories, and other supporting details. If you don’t know anything about your topic, you will need to do some research.


General and less interesting

Dogs are good pets.

More specific and interesting

Seeing-eye dogs go through extensive training in order to make lives better for many people.