There’s No Such Thing as an Insignificant Topic By Shannon Austin

posted Apr 24, 2018, 12:52 PM by Writing Center

This semester, I completed my MFA thesis, a full-length poetry collection which centered on themes of gender, time, the female body, and legacy. This collection also includes a poem about Catwoman.

I’ve had many students talk to me in the past about why they dislike writing, specifically why they dislike writing academic essays. There are various reasons, but one in particular derives from that single, soul-crushing word: academic. This occurs mostly in the English composition courses, where students are expected to write argumentative essays on topics that they must choose themselves.

In these courses, the students have by this point read essays and articles on various subjects like gender, race, social class, technology, etc., and by the time the students are given the task to write on a topic of their choosing, they sometimes find it hard to pick something that they actually want to write about. This is either because some topics are too broad or because they simply feel like they are supposed to write about something suitably academic (which, to some, translates to boring).

Truth be told, these papers and the research involved do not have to be boring. They shouldn’t, in fact. The freedom to choose one’s topic means that a student should feel free to explore avenues in which their own interests lie. One student I taught wrote about what actually constitutes “high” versus “low” art. Another student was interested in nuclear storage at Yucca Mountain. Some of my students have written about e-games, while others have written about fashion.

The most important thing a student should realize when picking a topic is that any topic can become a great paper as long as it means something to that student. Popular culture can be just as engaging and relevant (and, indeed, scholarly) as a paper on social justice. In fact, it’s possible to blend the two together.

Back to Catwoman. I’m interested in gender equality. I’m just as interested in superheroes, time travel, and television shows from the 90s. I put all of these in my thesis.

So if you want to write a paper about Superman or Star Wars for your next English essay, I say go for it!

 Just remember that the next step is figuring out exactly what you want to say about them.

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