Choosing an Article Topic
Tips for Writers
Any one article is potentially an island of information, and for this reason it is important to employ a great deal of care when selecting your article topic. A meticulously chosen topic will lead to a greater number of editors accepting your pitch and a greater number of readers enjoying your article, thus generating a ‘fan base.’ A poorly chosen topic will naturally have the opposite effect.
Specific topics are invariably more attractive to readers than broadly based topics. Writing on a specific topic requires the writer to know a few technical details about the subject. Writers therefore need to research the broader topic in some detail before they begin concentrating on the more specific topic. Online research may seem like an unlimited resource, but quality research cannot be exclusively web-based. Knowing beforehand which resources are available to you will not only make it easier to choose a good topic, but also result in a wider variety of popular topics to choose from.
List making is a great tool to use when deciding on both broad and specific topics. Starting with broad topics, list all elements in a certain field of expertise that you can think of. When you feel that you have sufficiently covered the range of broad topics that you wish to deal with, select the one you find most interesting and start researching its specific sub-topics.
A popular technique, which can be used in conjunction with list making, is adding specific questions under each of the broad topics. If the subject deals with the fitness industry and the broad topic is on cardiovascular health, the questions you ask regarding the material should relate to popular ideas linked to the fitness industry. Examples of these questions are “What is cardiovascular health?”, “How does the fitness industry relate to cardiovascular health?” and “How can readers improve their cardiovascular health?”
During the process of choosing a topic, a good writer also needs to consider all the angles from which it can be approached. Dividing a topic into its broadest elements, namely entertainment and information, is a good place to start. It is unwise to focus too much on one or the other. Instead, a careful balance should be maintained between facts and aesthetics. This is especially the case if your article is to be published online. Research has shown that nearly all readers of online articles are looking for useful information. Always bear this in mind when deciding on a topic, while simultaneously acknowledging that entertaining information is the most attractive to a reader.
A freelance writer, who has to complete work before a certain deadline, bears a greater burden. For these writers, choosing a topic that they later have to abandon in favour of another can mean catastrophe. The most common reason for abandoning a topic halfway through is realising that the amount of information available on that topic is insufficient. It is therefore of the utmost importance to determine what sources you will draw from before making a final decision on a topic. Making columns for all the topics which are being considered, and filling each column with the sources supporting it, is a sound method in determining which topics are feasible. Consider the length of the articles that you will be writing, matching the volume of research available on the specified topic to the article length. If the sources are insufficient, it is preferable to abandon the topic or try and find another approach. To find a different approach to a specific topic, it is often easiest to research related topics, finding out which approaches have worked in the past, and then using these to your advantage.
There is a huge and undeniable chasm between the quality of articles which have been written on topics of interest to the writer, and the quality of those topics which the writer is not interested in. Having a genuine interest in the topic which you write about is incredibly important. A writer who dislikes the topic is more likely to rush the research phase, leading to poorly written articles containing useless content. Naturally, not all your projects will concern topics which interest you. A good writer must have the ability to find an angle which interests them on nearly every topic they choose to write on. To achieve this, it is often necessary to break the topic up into its smallest constituents. Only then will it be possible to take a step back and see the topic clearly, making it easier to focus on those elements which spark your interest.
Finally, the topic must be focused enough to appeal to a specific audience. Limiting the specific time frame and geographic area which the topic will cover, in order to attract a certain demographic, is a wise move. It is nearly impossible to write an article that will be of interest to everyone. Start by selecting the approximate age group that you wish to attract, and think about ways to fit your topic into that demographic. If you are writing for a younger audience you may wish to adapt your article topic, targeting specific interests such as adventure and fashion, rather than more serious trends such as economy or commerce.
When determining which topics will appeal to a specific demographic, it is good practice to read material which clearly targets those groups. Even if those articles are not related to the topics you are considering, the spin which professional journalists put on their own topics can be an excellent interest indicator, providing you with a floor plan to use when defining where the focus of your topic will lie.