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Essay Contests—How to Write for Subject Specific Topics

How does one write for different subjects in essay contests? Each subject requires its own perspective, orientation, and structured content. Topics span literature, science, technology, defense, history, psychology, law, geography, languages, politics, and environment. Before you plunge into the act of essay writing, you need to ensure that your style suits the subject.

Literature requires you to be conversant with the text and its multiple layers and nuances, its characters, setting, language, tone, plot, background/context, writing style, images, and implications.

Sample topics:

i. Relate Howard Roark’s character in Fountainhead to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of the self.

ii. Argue your stand in the debate over Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays.

Science, technology, environment, and law subjects would require you to understand the technical details of the topic, their significance to human life, the process of their discovery or invention, and the specific linguistic style that should be used. The language would be less creative, more technical, and factual.

Sample Topics:

i. Explore one major factor responsible for ecological degradation.

ii. Analyze the challenges facing arbitrators of juvenile law in America.

Politics, History, and Philosophy permeate many spheres of life and experience, knowledge and activity, and these subjects require an eclectic awareness. The research for these subjects could start on a more general footing and move towards specific details, facts and inferences. The exploration is a bit more intensive and the facts not as concrete always as for science and other technically oriented subjects.

Topic sample:

i. Is Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence still relevant in the modern world? Analyze.

ii. Did the Civil War in America owe its successful resolution to largely to Abraham Lincoln?

Many of the contests reward the winners by not just giving cash prizes, but also publishing the winning entries in their magazines and journals. This provides exposure and a forum to get your self heard. Many of these organizations have corporate funding or funding from social service organizations that want to encourage young people to think beyond their limited horizons and ruminate upon larger concerns that may affect them as they mature.

These essay contests force you to think out of the box and bring a fresh approach to a common issue. For example, if the modern college or schools student is asked to analyze the relevance of Gandhi’s philosophy in the modern world, it will compel the student to familiarize her/himself with not just aspects of the modern world, its affinity for violence, and belief in “an eye for an eye” philosophy, but also venture beyond the national boundaries to Asia and India, their thoughts, philosophy, Gandhi’s ideals, his place in history, and the circumstances that contributed to his growth. This is a huge leap of knowledge and awareness of the world around the young student, and this inevitably broadens his/her horizons exponentially.

Essay contests can therefore be seen as stepping stones to a more mature and grounded understanding and awareness of various aspects of life that contribute to making better and more complete individuals out of us.

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