Choosing and Refining Topics

A Definition of a Topic

A topic is the main organizing principle of a discussion, either verbal or written. Topics offer us an occasion for speaking or writing and a focus which governs what we say. They are the subject matter of our conversations, and the avenues by which we arrive at other subjects of conversations. Consider, for instance, a recent class discussion. Although your instructor determined what topic you discussed initially, some students probably asked questions that led to other topics. As the subjects of our discussions lead to related subjects, so do the topics we write about lead to related topics in our academic studies. However, unlike the verbal conversations we have, each individual piece of writing we produce usually focuses on a single topic. Most effective writers learn that when they present a well-defined, focused, and developed topic, they do a better job of holding their readers' attention and presenting appropriate information than if they had not attempted to place boundaries on the subject of their writing.

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Introduction