Toxic Topics


Throughout college we do a lot of writing—like A LOT. On the plus side, professors give us a pretty wide range of genres to work in and with so many different professors to study under, we get a healthy dose of variety. Not only is this awesome practice for reading and writing in multiple genres for the rest of our lives (assuming we survive college) but it keeps us from going “Crazy” writing the same thing over and over!

Below are a few genres you may find yourself writing in and topics to look out for when writing. While these ideas are termed “toxic,” keep in mind that you are free as a bird to write about whatever you please. You is kind, you is smart, you is important! However, it’s important to remember that you are writing for an audience that is not just you.

Don’t turn off your reader!

These are not topics to absolutely avoid, but be wary and pay attention to how these topics can be addressed skillfully and successfully.

Research Papers:

  • Very broad topics
    1. “The history of Rome”
      • Good luck! That’s thousands and thousands of years to cover in a semester or even a unit.
      • What about… “The road to Rome?” This way, we’re specifically looking at how the birth of Rome came to be.
  • Ambiguous topics
    1. “The Effects of World War II”
      • This could mean a lot of things—positive effects or negative effects? Economic or cultural effects? Long term effects? Not only is this broad but it could mean so many different things!
      • Maybe try… “The negative effects of World War II on the family unit.” Or… “The economic effects of World War II” Perhaps… “The effects of World War II on America’s workforce”
  • Extremely Spiritual topics
    1. “Is God real?”
      • While a topic like this may have personal meaning, it will make for a difficult research project! Research writing depends on evidence and conducted research; it would be nearly impossible to research a spiritual entity’s existence.
      • Instead… “The evolution of Christ: Examining ancient to modern cultures.”

Persuasive & Argumentative Papers:

  • Very broad topics
    1. “Women Are Mistreated”
      • While this could be a good starting point, where would the argument even start or end? There are too many years, situations, cultures, movements etc., to work through. Plus, yes, they are mistreated but so are men, children, and even animals—there’s no argument.
      • Go further with… “The objectification of women in the media is negatively influencing the romantic interactions between teens.”
  • Stereotyping
    1. “People raised in wealthy families are snobbish.”
    2. “Men are manipulators.”
    3. “Women love to talk.”
      • Let’s refer back to, “Don’t turn off your reader!” The last thing we want is to offend or alienate our readers.
      • Solid arguments with evidence can’t be formed on stereotypes.
  • Newer concepts/ideas/theories
    1. Be wary of choosing topics that are fresh in the field you’re working in. While newer topics are intriguing, there may be little research done yet, making the argument weak.

Memoirs & Narratives:

  • Extremely personal topics
    1. While we may be comfortable writing about it, the reader may be uncomfortable reading it—especially if the connection between reader and writer has not yet been built.
    2. Simply, be aware of the topic: its implications, how detailed it is, how it might make the reader feel etc. Ultimately, it is 100% up to you, and it won’t hurt your grade whatever you decide.
  • Too shallow topics
    1. “One time I lost $50 and it sucked.”
      • Okay, let’s get a little more personal than that! There is definitely a happy-medium. Memoirs and narratives are meant to be reflective, show personality, lessons learned etc.
      • Instead, “One time my best friend stole $50 from me because they really needed it and I learned how to forgive and talk things out when I’m angry”
      • Maybe even stick with losing $50! Just tweak it…“One time I lost $50 and in the end, I learned that money isn’t the most important thing in life”

Don’t forget—if you’re struggling with a topic idea, the Writing Center is happy to help!


written by Amy S.



One thought on “Toxic Topics

  1. Pingback: Controversial Topics | The Draft

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