It goes on many names—the research project, the essay that is persuasive the term paper—but all mean the same thing: you’re writing a disagreement.

Before you wrench in agony, understand that a smart approach and planning phase (like the one you’re in right now) could make the process of writing a disagreement approachable, even enjoyable.

Choose your topic—carefully. Check your ideas against the following three criteria before finalizing your topic:

•Your topic must be arguable. The phrase “everything’s a disagreement” is certainly not quite true—most things are, although not everything. Use the common twelfth grade editorial topic of “cliques are bad”: it’s a common opinion, sure, but who really disagrees? Your topic needs to be debatable; there needs to be an obvious argument that is opposing others support. Ask yourself: who would oppose me? Why? •Your topic must be relevant and contemporary. Arguments try not to exist in a vacuum; they arise because people of varied beliefs connect to the other person each and every day (or simply just bump heads). Your essay, even if it is concerning the past, should connect with values and ideas for the present. Turn to current events or issues for inspiration—what’s taking place in the world that’s inspiring discussion and/or disagreement? Think about: does my topic matter to people at this time? Why? •Your topic must have value for you. (more…)