Having already gotten into the bulk of my English classes required for my major, I felt that this class would be unnecessary, as I had already learned many of the foundational skills I need by being thrown into the fire of upper-level coursework. However, this class provided something I haven’t had since English 110: an open-ended research topic. I could write about anything, which was as restricting as it was liberating.
I had trouble narrowing down what I would like to write about, and furthermore, what I could write about for many weeks without getting tired of the topic. I remained indecisive until I thought, “What would I actually like someone to read? What would I like to contribute to any field of discussion?” And so I sought to write about a topic that I felt was legitimate that I wouldn’t have the chance to write about for another class.
However, it was the process of developing my topic that was the most constructive for me. While thinking about my topic, I found my paper splitting between two paths. On one hand, I had the study of Fallout and the psychological and social appeal of playing a game that depicts the realization of a common modern fear: nuclear destruction. On the other hand, the course of my research (and the not-so-surprising lack of scholarly sources on Fallout) took me to the post-apocalyptic genre in general. It was then that I started having other interesting ideas that I’d like to explore. I developed an argument that the post-apocalyptic genre is actually the necessary continuation of the American Western genre, but then I had strayed too far from my original paper, and too far from the significance of Fallout as a source.
As a result, I had to drop that idea from my paper, even though I was trying very hard to make it work. In total, I learned that focus on a single thesis is key in maintaining a concise research paper, and sometimes you will have to save some ideas for a different paper entirely.