Should I Like My Essay Topic?

Do you think it’s best to write an essay on a subject that you love, hate, or feel neutral about? It’s a question which probably doesn’t have a definitive answer, but is useful to consider when approaching a piece of work. This blog explores the positive and negative aspects of each of these approaches.

Writing on a Subject You Love

PROS: The biggest benefit of writing about something you enjoy is that…you are writing about something you enjoy! Ideas and arguments may come more easily to you, particularly in defence of the topic that you like. Looking over my old work, the essays where I’m writing about a play that I love have almost certainly been the most fun to create. A lot of my highest grades have also arisen from topics I enjoy, because I could clearly envision my positive arguments from the very start of the writing process.

CONS: It goes without saying that writing on a subject or text that you love could risk losing the critical eye in your writing. Quite often I’ve fallen in love with a play, and only spotted glaring problems in it once another student has pointed them out to me. In addition, you may also swiftly fall out of love with a subject. Creating work to be assessed can often be a frustrating process. Although you might begin loving a text or topic, the problems that arise while creating an essay may put you off a text forever. This issue is doubled when it comes to longer pieces of writing – you don’t want to be left passionately hating a text that you used to passionately love!

Writing on a Subject You Hate

PROS: As with writing about a topic you love, writing about something you really don’t like can help you easily create arguments. If you’ve already criticised a text in a seminar, or even just in your own head, you can simply transfer your thoughts into the draft structure of an essay. Hating a topic can also really heighten your critical eye, allowing you to argue well against secondary sources that may have a contrasting opinion. Catharsis is also a huge benefit – sometimes it just feels good to rant about a topic you really don’t like!

CONS: Disliking a subject has the risk of making you entirely biased by your own strong opinions. Personally, I’ve found that essays in which I’ve railed against a certain aspect of a topic have generally done worse when it comes to grades. Perhaps my bias against a text made my arguments too one-sided! Of course, this may just be a personal issue – if you can constantly keep in mind the balance your writing needs, then you’re sure to steer clear of this problem. In addition, subjecting yourself to spending time with a topic that you hate can almost be a form of self-torture! Don’t begin an essay on a topic you dislike, unless you are prepared to finish the essay hating the topic even more.

Writing on a Neutral Subject

PROS: Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever written an essay where I feel completely neutral about the subject. However, the ones where I haven’t felt a strong passion about a topic have generally scored more consistently than any with a positive or negative sway. This is probably because you are much less influenced by your own bias. Feeling neutral about a topic can make it easier to be analytical from a more objective point of view. Perhaps this could be particularly useful in comparison essays, where it’s helpful to treat both subjects equally as you find connections.

CONS: In contrast to the other two methods, this technique may require you to search harder for your points. You may need to take more time to decide what you will argue without an existing preference, and then be required to constantly ensure you are sticking to it. It can also be tougher to generate the same conviction for your argument without a pre-existing instinct.

Do you prefer to write essays on subjects you love, hate, or feel neutrally about? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

by Hannah Filer

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