Here’s an all-too-common scenario faced by students everywhere: you’re assigned to write a paper, but you don’t know what to write about. Your prof tells you to write about something unique, something original, something that interests you.
The problem is, right now, the only thing that interests you is finding a topic for your paper.
Perhaps it’s the perfect time to stop thinking about essay topics and check Instagram, Facebook, or maybe even Twitter. After all, your teachers have always said it’s a smart idea to take breaks, right?
But wait just one minute…what if I told you that all of the social media sites I just mentioned are awesome resources for essay topics? Skeptical? Feel like Instagram is only good for checking out pics of what your BFF had for lunch today? Think again!
Check out these four ways to mine social media for essay topics to write about.
4 Ways to Mine Social Media for Essay Topics to Write About
Think about how much time you spend on social media. Now think about how much time you could save if you used the time you spend on social media to not only see what your favorite celebrity is doing but also find potential topics to write about for your paper.
Sweet deal, right? Here’s how you do it.
1. Find hot topics
Social media is always buzzing with the latest news on everything, so log in to the social media site of your choice. Then nose around to see what everyone is talking about.
Here’s what to look for:
- Political topics. Check Twitter for the latest Tweets from the president, arguments between politicians, or the latest proposals and laws. Look at, for example, healthcare and tax reform proposals. This might even be a good time to scrutinize your newsfeed to look for any potential fake news.
- Current news stories. Check Facebook for the latest news updates on what’s happening around the world. You might read about the latest scientific discovery, news about a recent medical breakthrough, or updates about a recent natural disaster.
- Celebrity news. Check Instagram for the latest gossip or pics posted about your favorite celebrity. Is a Kardashian involved in some sort of scandal? Is The Rock starring in a new movie? If you’d rather avoid the gossip, look for news about celebrity activism. Learn more about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work to help the citizens of Puerto Rico or Bono’s efforts to end poverty and hunger in Africa.
Reading about political topics and current news stories can help you find excellent resources for argumentative essays. You can learn about the latest news, identify multiple viewpoints, and then delve deeper by researching more about the topic and its history.
Learning more about celebrities’ past or current work can also help you write a more complete analysis of their work or write an informed opinion about their careers or charitable endeavors.
2. Spot current trends
“Trends” is a pretty broad term, but it can mean anything from fashion trends to social trends. Basically, you’re looking for anything new and fresh that may be the start of a long-term movement or may end up disappearing before you finish writing your paper.
Here’s what to look for:
- What’s trending. Take a look at Facebook to see the latest viral videos, most talked about celebrities, and even the latest social media craze (think the ice bucket challenge or the mannequin challenge).
- New words and phrases. Spend some time reading Twitter feeds to see if you spot any new or unusual words cropping up in everyday language. Think about words like “photobomb,” “binge-watch,” and “ghosting.” Sure they’re part of our everyday vocabulary now, but it wasn’t that long ago that they were new or even unheard of.
- Fashion trends. Check out your friends and the hottest celebrities to see what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it. After all, how else are you supposed to know if you should match your socks, wear jeans with holes in them, or wear your baseball cap tilted in a certain direction?
- Social movements. Social movements sometimes fizzle out before they get off the ground, but others become a strong force. Check out Twitter for the newest or most established movements, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo.
If you’re in a sociology class, what better way to learn about what social trends and social movements than on social media, right? The trends you learn about can be excellent resources to generate ideas and narrow your topic for a final term paper or research essay.
You might also examine social movements to help you write your political science essay. If you’re fighting for equal rights, gun rights, or animal rights, chances are there’s a social media presence for the movement.
See how one student wrote about raising awareness via social media and the internet by reading this example essay on feminism and gender equality, which includes discussion on the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter.
Finally, social media sites are a great place to learn more about the grassroots plans of organizations. They’re also a great place to explore contemporary and controversial social issues.
3. Get the latest news about your community
Social media is a great resource for connecting with people across the planet, but it can also be an excellent resource for learning about your own city or neighborhood.
Here’s what to look for:
- Local food and entertainment. Maybe there’s a new celebrity chef’s restaurant opening in your area. Perhaps there’s a pop-up restaurant that you can’t find out about unless you check its Facebook page hourly. Facebook can also be an excellent place to learn about your favorite band’s touring schedule or local theater performances.
- Local political and social movements. If you want to learn more about (or be involved in) local organizations, protests, or marches as potential topics to write about in your essay, look on Twitter for gatherings in your area. You’ll likely find local groups supporting all types of causes. You can see groups rallying for or against local politicians, groups fighting against racial intolerance, or groups fighting for human rights.
- Local crowd-funding. If you’re interested in learning about (or helping out) a local individual, group, or family, visit sites like GoFundMe. These sites allow the average citizen to raise money for worthy causes, such as a nearby family who might need help paying medical expenses or a local veteran in need of housing.
Local gatherings, concerts, or restaurants can be perfect for reviews, but you can also use local contacts as interview subjects.
You might also examine current local movements and compare and contrast them to other movements or to the larger national movements. Or you could examine the movement to see how it fits into a historical context.
4. Learn more about your college major
No matter what you’re studying, there’s always more to your profession than what you read in textbooks or professional journal articles. Check out social media sites to learn more about what those working in the field have to say about latest trends and the profession in general.
Here’s what to look for:
- Members-only discussions. These don’t have to be exclusive clubs, but you might browse Facebook for groups of professionals who get together to discuss their work. For instance, you might find groups of educators who share tips for classroom management or ideas for lessons. Or you might see a group of engineers discussing their latest designs and projects.
- Professional organizations. Twitter is full of professional organizations and unions. Look for these groups to learn more about professional obligations, legal battles, and professional expectations.
- A day in the life. If you’re looking for a more light-hearted view of a day in the life of someone in your prospective job, check out some Instagram accounts to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of life in the workplace.
Learning more about your intended major might mean that you’ll write an exploratory essay to explain the basics of the profession.
It might also mean that you’ll write a more formal essay about the details of the job or about something specific in the field. For example, you could look at a specific medical procedure, a licensing requirement, or even a review of the best places to work.
You might even discover something you didn’t know about your profession and use the opportunity to research a new topic.
If you’re a business or marketing major, social media could even become your primary research source. You might look at the types of information posted on social sites to evaluate their effectiveness or to determine whether sites are credible.
You could also review a variety of sites to see how they are designed, how you might improve the sites, how people interact with social media, or how you might design a site for your own business.
Let’s Be Friends
Since we’re talking about social media and ways to connect online, why not make a new online friend and get to know a professional Kibin editor?