What Is a Topic?

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A topic is the general theme, message or idea expressed in a speech or written work. Effective writing requires people to remain on topic, without adding in a lot of extraneous information.

In some writing assignments, students are given a topic by their teacher. The topic could be related to something that was studied in class such as a piece of literature or a history or science concept. Students then need to research that topic to gather information before writing their paper. Other times, students are free to choose their own topic to write about. In that case, students need to spend time brainstorming ideas to come up with an idea. When choosing their own topic, students need to keep in mind the guidelines of the paper and make sure their topic offers enough information to support an entire paper.

Sometimes, teachers ask students to identify the topic in a piece of writing. To do this, students must read the piece and and then ask themselves what the writing was about. In general, a longer piece of writing may talk about different aspects of one topic, but the overall piece of writing still talks about one thing. To help identify the topic of a chapter or longer piece of writing, it is best to first identify the main idea of each subsection, then look for the overall idea that ties each section together.