Published 12 Apr 2019

How to Write an Essay If You Don’t Have Any Ideas

Uncover the creative techniques and strategies to write an essay even when inspiration is in short supply, as we delve into this topic in our blog post.

a pencil and an eraser on a white paper

Writing an essay indeed requires inspiration and mood. But what is even more important is the idea behind it.

Sometimes getting the opportunity to choose an essay topic yourself is much better than having to write on the teacher’s assigned topic. But this is true only in the cases when you already have some thoughts on what you want your essay to be about.

So, what should you do if you need to write an essay but have no clue what to write about? Some of our tips might be helpful to you:

  1. Move from general to specific.
  2. Find inspiration in someone else’s work.
  3. If you are struggling too much, don’t write it at all.
  4. Use search results.
  5. Go back through your notes.
  6. Brainstorm.
  7. Choose a topic that resonates with you.

Keep reading to learn more about each of these techniques that every student can use to improve their studying.

Tip #1 – Move from General to Specific

The basic rule of working from big to small and from general to specific can be applied to many processes. Actually, it also can be applied to your essay.

When you need to come up with a topic, you can start by researching the subject or the information within its general sphere first.

For example, if you need to write an essay on volcanoes, you can:

  1. Start by googling everything about volcanoes, such as:
    a) Their history
    b) Their general or geographical facts
  2. After that, you can start narrowing down your topic, by choosing one volcano to write about and its characteristics.
  3. Specify the topic even more, and come up with an excellent topic for your essay, like:
    a) How People Use Volcanic Ash and Perlite
    b) How Volcanoes Benefit Our Environment
    c) The Influence of Volcanoes on the History of Civilization

When you have an opportunity to take a general look at the sphere of your research before starting your essay, you can dive deeper into your topic when you choose one.

Moreover, you can come up with a topic that you have much more information about. So, instead of looking for information to suit your topic, you can form the topic that will suit the most interesting facts or illustrations that you were able to find.

Tip #2 – Find Inspiration in Someone Else’s Work

Is taking someone’s topic called plagiarism? Of course, it is. As such, you should use your own imagination and your ideas. But getting some inspiration from someone’s work or idea is not a crime.

When you have nothing to write about, you can always turn to the internet which is stuffed with ideas, like essay samples or topic lists. You can get a few hints when looking through these materials and then adjust the ideas you have found to match your needs.

For example, there are lists of topics for high school and college students which you might find helpful. Each of the topics on these lists can be narrowed, evaluated, or even compiled to build up the idea for your essay.

Anyway, if you don’t know what you want your essay to be about, looking through other essays or essay topics will definitely help you to come up with an idea.

Tip #3 – If You Are Struggling Too Much, Don’t Write It at All

This is one of the simplest options for you (and actually the first one that usually comes to mind). If you are struggling with your essay, if you don’t have any motivation, if you are not in the mood, or if you are too depressed to write an essay, just don’t write it.

It’s always your choice whether to put your effort into another assignment or not. Actually, not every assignment is worth struggling with, especially if you have tried doing it too many times, and still can’t pull it off.

If you are afraid of the consequences of such a choice, you can ask a writing service to help you out, by writing an essay for you. This way, you will have something to hand in without having to struggle to write your essay. Many students prefer using such services instead of trying to find an answer to the question of “How do I get in the mood to write an essay?” They do so because they either have part-time jobs or are not that good at writing.

Tip #4 – Use Search Results

If you often say to yourself “I can’t start my essay,” just type out a word related to the subject, use it to look through Google search results, and pay attention to headings and questions based on it. Typically, you will easily find a few good ideas that can be transformed into essay topics.

For example, by typing out the word “volcanoes,” you can see information and suggested search queries on:

  1. Volcano names
  2. Active volcanoes
  3. Does lava move fast?
  4. Can one survive a volcanic eruption?
  5. What will you do before a volcanic eruption?

See, each of these ideas can be expanded and used to find a lot of useful information and write an essay on it.

Tip #5 – Go Back Through Your Notes

Every time you have a class, your teacher highlights certain key points and thesis statements. Each of them can also be a great basis for an essay. You can start developing your idea based on the information in your notes, and by narrowing your topic by diving deeper into research.

Many students say “I can’t start my essay,” when they actually have a good basis to begin working on it. You can also find great ideas in your textbooks or additional materials that your teacher may have mentioned.

Eventually, you can speak straight to a professor and share your experience to get some useful advice on a point that you might be able to start with, such as a book to use in your research or other sources that might become a basis for furthering idea development.

Tip #6 – Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of the main methods that is utilized to find an idea or a solution to a problem when a student can’t think of anything to write for their essay. You have probably already heard of this method, and now it might be the right time to try it out.

Brainstorming is simple. It requires providing as many thoughts on the topic as possible while considering each of the thoughts as suitable for further development. In other words, none of the thoughts are declined no matter how silly they seem, as they might transform into an excellent idea.

So, basically, when you need to come up with an idea for your essay, you just need a notepad and a pencil to start writing down every idea around the subject that comes to your mind. You should start with the easiest thing, such as a single word around the sphere of your research.

For example, if you have an assignment to write an essay on, such as how certain foods and beverages can ruin your health, you can start with “fast food,” “sugary soda drinks,” or “energy drinks.”

Then write down everything that relates to these starting phrases, for example:

  1. Obesity
  2. Heart disease
  3. Oversells
  4. Diets
  5. Health control

After you have a list of the ideas, start filtering them out and pick the one that can be developed into a great essay idea, for example:

  1. How the government should regulate the market of energy drinks.
  2. The importance of nutritious diet control for children.
  3. Is fast food our problem #1? The correlation between obesity and fast food chain development.

Tip #7 – Choose a Topic that Resonates with You

You probably have some topic that speaks to you more than the others. If it can be used to write a particular assignment, then it’s great. But, sadly, it’s not always possible, as many school programs cover a lot more than topics that you might find interesting. Though, you still can come up with an idea that can be related to your sphere of interests or hobbies.

For example, if you need to write an essay on damaging foods, you can find points that connect this topic to your sphere of interests, such as ecology. In this case, your essay topic can be something like this: “Energy drink production damage,” or “How to reduce the negative effects of fast food packaging?”

This way, you can say a lot more on the topic, and you will enjoy researching and writing this assignment.

Wrapping Up

Coming up with a good essay idea is not an easy thing, especially if you have tight deadlines and have to write your essay in a hurry. So, you can always consider the option of asking for help from a professional writing service. Or, you can just brainstorm some ideas yourself.

If you struggle with essay topics often, you should get used to carrying a notepad with you to write down good essay ideas that you can use in the future. This way, you won’t have to struggle and say how “I can’t write this paper because I have no ideas” anymore.

Karen Palmer Karen Palmer
I am an only child (and not spoiled, really) who spent twelve years in Catholic schools and seven more off-and-on years in college, but my education largely took place at the Cahuenga Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Decades later, not much has changed. I again live in L.A. and I still spend a lot of time at the library — if I had to choose between reading and eating, I’d be dead in a week.
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