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English Composition

This guide will help you with finding resources for argumentative writing and other English Composition assignments.

Choosing a Topic

Getting Started

Choosing a topic can be the most difficult part about getting started with a persuasive research assignment. If your assignment allows you to choose any topic that you are interested in, keep these tips in mind!

  • Start with doing background research on a broad topic or question.Even though you may have an opinion or stance in mind, be open to your stance being challenged by the research.
  • Even though you are taking a stance on a topic, your topic should have at least two valid sides. For example, everyone pretty much agrees that "smoking is bad for your health," so that wouldn't be a good topic because you wouldn't find any evidence to the contrary. But, choosing something like "smoking cigarettes should be illegal" would allow you to find a variety of viewpoints debating the validity of outlawing cigarettes. Remember that you need to acknowledge and understand all points of view in the debate in order to argue your own point of view.
  • Be sure that your topic is narrow enough to write a focused essay, but not so broad that you don't know where to start or what to focus on. For example, choosing a broad topic like "gun control" will be difficult to manage because there are so many directions in which you could go. But, choosing something like "guns should not be allowed on college campuses" would enable you to find plenty of resources that take various positions and to focus on one topic.


It will take time for you to select your topic! Building in time to select a topic is important, and changing it after you start your research is a very normal part of the research process. This is called "pre-search."

Research and Writing Help at ODU

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