Good Multi Genre Topics For Essays

Note: This is the second in a series of posts about Multigenre Research Projects.  For an introduction, read more here. I am going through this project step-by-step to avoid a really long post. I hope you’ll find some of it interesting and worthwhile!

You might think I would start by telling you exactly what multigenre research and composition is. But, I’m going to hold off, just as I did with my students for the first couple of weeks of the project.  (Organizational note:  We completed the project over the course of seven weeks, meeting once a week during that time period. Much of each class meeting was spent on the fundamental principles of writing pedagogy. About a hour of each class meeting was dedicated to this multigenre research project, including time for explanation, mini-lessons about research and genre, independent writing, peer and teacher conferencing, and sharing.)

There were two main contributing factors to the design of this assignment. First, the instructor who taught the course before me included a multigenre project on diversity. The idea appealed to me, but I didn’t commit until an event happened last semester, when I taught a Children’s Literature and Oral Language course. During that semester, the students in our elementary education program pulled some faculty together to share their views on what was working in their program and what wasn’t.  They taught us a lot that day, but one critique struck me particularly hard. The students said that they heard about diversity a lot in their classes. But, our students told us, when we talked about diversity, we only seemed to talk about racial diversity or students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

In my department, we work to develop anti-racist educators who are also mindful of social class. While we still have a long way to go, we have definitely made this a priority for discussion in many of our classes and we will continue to work on these topics. In spite of all this talk about diversity, though, I knew the students were right. They were not getting nearly enough information about all the other ways people can be diverse, at least not in my classes. When I re-designed the multigenre research project, I thought about this problem, and decided to develop the project to address it.

To begin, I invited the students to select a group of people, different than themselves, that interested them. The group would be their general topic of study. This was a tricky proposition for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I didn’t want my students to become more rigid or monolithic in their thoughts about diversity. So, we talked about the way that any group we chose to study would contain a lot of diversity in itself.  Our work will always be oversimplified.  This does not mean that the work isn’t worth doing, but that we always have to keep this complexity in mind. Thankfully, multigenre research seems to invite complexity. But, more on that later.

For the first week, that was it. The students’ only assignment was to think about what they wanted to study. They could interpret “diversity” however they chose. To my surprise, it did not take long for people to ask me if they could study groups that they belonged to themselves. It turns out that many of my students felt like they were part of cultural groups that were misunderstood. They wanted to research and write about themselves and their cultures to help others (and even themselves) understand. Not really knowing how this would turn out, I agreed to let the students pursue this self-focused kind of research as well. I thought back to my experience conducting an I-Search in my Information Literacy course with Dr. Julie Tallman. As Dr. Tallman used to say, when we do personal research we do not choose our research topics, “our research topics choose us.” With that in mind, I encouraged the students to pursue whatever topic about culture that seemed to pull at them.

Here is a sampling of their topics:


Verbal abuse

Students with gay parents




Perpetrators of school violence



Emotional and Behavioral Disorders



Institutional racism

Students with chronic illnesses


Students who have been incarcerated

Teen mothers

Asian-American identity

Visual Impairments


Victims of sexual abuse

Holocaust survivors

Students with alcoholic parents

Tourette’s Syndrome


Childhood Obesity

Hearing Impairments

and more…

As you can see, the students selected a wide range of topics.  If I had developed a list for them to choose from, I’m quite certain that most of these topics would not have appeared. For many of them, the simple process of choosing a topic was an opportunity to think about what “diversity” means to them. It turned out to be much broader than many of them had considered. This became even more clear when they heard about all the other topics being studied.

Here we are at the end of the post, and many of you may still be wondering what multigenre research is. At this point, so were the students.  I asked the students to trust that I would guide them through the process, and I guess I’m asking that of you as well.

In the next post, we will talk about information sources and the way they managed their research. We welcome your comments!

Like this:



Your Multigenre Web
Everything you need to know to succeed.



The purpose of any paper is to explore and learn about a subject and to extend our thinking. The multi-genre web accomplishes that purpose, but it also gives you the opportunity to express the idea/subject in a less linear way than a regular paper. Writing is thinking, and each time we write, we are teaching our brains to think. In addition, when we publish our writing on the web, we are sharing our ideas, our feelings, our thinking with others, which creates a web of human understanding.


What is a genre?
A genre is a type of writing. A poem is a genre.  A traditional research paper is a genre.  A newspaper editorial is a genre. So are plays and diaries and cartoons and billboards.  

What is a multi-genre essay?
It's a collection of pieces written in a variety of genres, informed by your research on a particular subject, that presents one or (more likely) more perspectives on a research question or topic. A multi-genre paper is personal, creative, and can’t be copied from some othersource. It involves you, as a writer, making conscious decisions about what information isimportant and how it should be presented to the reader.

What are some genres I might use?
You could write an editorial, a poem, a dialogue between characters, a letter, a debate.  You could include a collage, a poster, a book, a CD cover.  You will have much choice about what to include.  But beware -- this should not be a haphazard collage of disjointed stuff; you must connect the genres and what they represent with a central, significant theme (a thesis).  Your creative efforts must be informed by solid research, including research about the genres themselves.

But I've never done anything like this before.  What do I do?
As you research, you'll need to consider an audience or audiences who would be interested in your topic, and you need to consider what genre/s would be effective for communicating with those audiences.  In other words, what genres will "speak" to the people whom you want to reach?  (Those are the ones you can use in your multi-genre project.)  And why?  You'll need to be fully engaged in your research -- don't approach it as if you were on a scavenger hunt to find information to spit back in an "academic" paper, because you're not.  Instead, you'll need to think about what you want to do, for whom, and how best to do that. 

Creating a central theme:

We want to encourage our students to choose themes/subjects/ideas/concepts from across the curriculum. What this means is that you may want to write about an idea that you studied in history or in science or in health, and not just in English. All topics must be researchable. Therefore, a very personal topic, such as your dog, would not be a good choice. While you could research information about a breed of dog, there would be little else you could research.

Also, a good topic will be one that has a human element: humanity in conflict with society, science, itself.

All topics must be approved! Do not begin work until you have verified your topic with your teacher.

Click here for some specific topic choices for Sheboygan Falls students.

Questions to ask about your topic:
1. Am I truly interested in this topic?
2. Do I have access to enough information?
3. Is the subject limited enough?
4. Is there a human element to the topic? Can I personalize it? Could I create a character who would represent the main problems, struggles, or ideas of this topic?

Limiting the topic: 
We begin with the general idea and move to the specific.  See an example of the selecting process below.

General Subject Area


Specific Subject

Concentration Camps

Focus or Special Interest

How concentration camps affected people's lives.

AuschwitzPeople sent to Auschwitz often lost family members, lost faith in God, and lost a sense of self.

Choose your topic from the list of SFHS topics or from one of the links below:

Links to lists of topics: from Old Dominion University

More topics links:

Parts of your Multi-Genre Web
SectionDescriptionLinks & Help
1. Title Page

No black backgrounds. No graphic backgrounds. You may add a photo if it is not a copyrighted image. Be sure you check.

This cover page includes the following information (centered, in this order):
  • title (not label)
  • your first name only
  • the date (due date)
  • teacher & course name
  • a link to your webfolio page
  • a link to the table of contents page
  • optional link to your index page
How to open your web page, make a new page, and make a bookmark. click here 
2. Table of ContentsThis page will help your reader navigate your web.  Each title is a hyperlink to one of your genre pages.

This page also needs a link to the title page.

Example: Table of Contents

Follow the example for this table of contents. Do not deviate from these instructions.

3. Opening/Preface


This preface, forward, or introduction will greet readers and give a bit of background information about your project.  You'll need to introduce the subject and anything you think the reader should know about you and/or your project before they read it.For help writing your opening/preface click here. 
3.  Body

Your body consists of at least seven base pieces from at least seven different genres.  You can repeat genres only after you have completed the initial seven.

There must be a minimum of five in-text hyperlinks in the text overall. They may be scattered among the seven genres or clustered in one or two pieces as you deem appropriate. These links must be to information that is relevant and that adds to your readers' understanding of your subject.

Drawing and design are in addition to the seven base pieces. Think of the presentation quality of your web.

To unify the separate pieces, use some type of repetend or unifying device.

The body of your multi-genre web is composed of the various pieces you create to help your reader understand your subject.  Here is where multi-genre happens.  Some of the pieces will be written, some visual, and some a combination.

This part of your web may include several pages linked to the opening page.  It will be important for you to create a logical order.  In other words, as the writer you have to be aware of how your reader will read your web.

Each of these pages must be linked back to the table of contents page.

You may also choose to link these pages to each other in some logical way.

Imbed hyperlinks into the text.

Setting up pages
& making links.




4. EpilogueThis is your conclusion. It should have its own page. Link this page back to the table of contents page.For help writing your epilogue click here. 
5. Annotated Bibliography

You must have four (minimum) sources from a variety of information types.

This list of your sources includes a brief description of the source and its value to your project. Link this page back to the table of contents page.

An annotation is a note that is included with the bibliographic citation that gives a brief summary of the source and sometimes a judgment of its value.

Your annotations should be between 30-50 words.

Falcon Skills & Style Handbook on Citing Sources

MLA Style
Annotated bibliography
Annotated Links, help for annotating Internet sites.

Directions for annotated bibliography : How to set up the page.

Types of Genres:
The genres here are linked to examples or descriptions. Use real life examples as models whenever you can.

Before you select a genre from this list, ask yourself, why am I choosing it? What do I want to be able to say or express through this genre? If you can't answer that question, you are not ready to work on it.

Gathering information:

Getting ready to research: 

  • make a list of what you already know about this topic

  • make a list of what you need to know or want to find out

  • use a KWHL chart to help you plan

  • create a concept map of related ideas or use a brainstorming web

  • make a list of ideas you have about where to find the information you need

Types of sources: 

Choose a variety of sources.  You must have at least four different sources from the following list. 

Radio Transcripts*VideosInternet sites
Personal interviews*These sources are easily found using the Electric LibraryEncyclopedias

Taking notes:

  • Taking notes is important, and many people have found success with 3 x 5 note cards. A system for using note cards is detailed in your Falcon Skills & Style Handbook. The main thing to remember about note cards is that you have to have the following information on each card: 1. the title of the source, 2. the page or other marker for identifying just where the information has come from, 3. the context of the note (what the discussion or paragraph or situation is about), and 4. one note only: either a direct quote, a summary, or a paraphrase.

  • Use a dialectic approach where you take notes and comment about each note.

  • Another note taking option is to open a Word document and transcribe your thoughts there as you read from print or online sources. Be sure that you keep track of everything you get from sources, so you won't accidentally pass off borrowed information as your own writing. This is plagiarism, and it's stealing.

Preparing information for your annotated bibliography:

  • Make a note card for each source, or keep a log of sources in a Word document. For each source, consult the MLA guide to see what information you need. For example, what you need for an Internet site is different from what you will need for a magazine article. Your Falcon Skills & Style Handbook has an abbreviated MLA guide for your convenience. For a book, you will need to record the author, the title, the date of publication, and the publishing company. Be sure you know exactly what you need and keep a complete record of each source that you consult. Later on, you will use this information in your annotated bibliography.

Use of repetend: 

Repetend is something added to your multigenre web project that repeats or continues. The purpose of repetend is to create unity among the various genre pieces and to give the writer an editorial voice that the reader can easily relate to.

Because multi-genre essays are unique and non-linear, they require a lot of work from a reader.  You, as a conscientious writer, do not want to let your reader get confused as they move from genre to genre. If you provide your reader with reoccurring images or phrases, or a running commentary or even a narrative or story, you will create unity that will help your reader better understand your central theme. This can be much like making sure to weave your thesis throughout a traditional essay paper.  The multi-genre web, however, offers a lot more creative possibilities.

Repetend options are given below. Each student must find some way to incorporate repetend.

Ways to incorporate repetend in your multi-genre web:

  • include the same phrase, sentence, or passage in each genre page as a heading or somewhere else in the text

  • include a description or design in each piece (written or graphic), placed strategically for easy recognition

  • include a running commentary from you, the writer, following or preceding each genre piece

  • create a character and follow his/her reactions to pieces

  • create a character involved somehow in each piece of writing--an ongoing little story

  • create a cartoon strip at the top or bottom of each genre page that comments on the ideas presented

How do I decide what works for my paper?

Think about your specific topic.  What is the strongest image associated with that topic?  What words could powerfully express that image?  You could use those words to help you decide what should be emphasized and repeated throughout your web.  You might want to just start writing.  After you begin to read through your writing, circle or highlight language and images that might serve as strong repetitions. 

Avoiding plagiarism:

If you're not sure if what you're doing is stealing someone else's ideas, check out this site listed below.

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