Teachers and students are both very likely to need essay topic ideas at some point throughout the education process, and professional writers will also need to develop ideas. It helps to first know and understand any parameters set forth for the essay before trying to generate essay topic ideas; this is helpful because such parameters may limit what you can write about, or they may open up new options. Such guidelines may include the class or the topics currently being discusses in class; the audience for which the essay will be written; and if applicable, the magazine's space and subject matter requirements.
Brainstorming and outlines are helpful tools for developing essay topic ideas. Brainstorming webs or clouds can be drawn on a piece of paper to consider the many angles from which a single topic can be discussed. The writer will start by writing a general topic or idea in the center of the paper, and then thinking about issues or topics related to that main idea. Single word ideas are fine, as these will simply be guide markers for developing a more specific idea. Outlines serve the same purpose, but in a different format. A writer can write the general topic and then make a bullet point list of ideas that relate to that topic.
If no parameters have been set for essay topic ideas and you must develop them from scratch, think carefully about what subjects you have expertise in, what topics you would be interested in researching, and what topics would be interesting or marketable to your primary audience. You will also need to consider what type of essay you intend to write: an opinion essay will be written and researched differently than a personal narrative essay, or an expository essay. Be sure you know what type of essay you want to write before generating essay topic ideas, as some topics will be better suited to certain types of essays than others.
It is important to avoid plagiarizing other works or stealing another person's essay idea. It may be tempting to do a search on the internet for essay topic ideas, and while this is acceptable, it can be very tempting to simply steal those ideas. Avoid doing so, as plagiarism can get a student punished, or a professional fired from a job.