What to Write about: Modes of Development

“What am I going to write about?” That’s the usual response when students have to write a modes of development paragraph. Not knowing how to choose a suitable topic, students often fall back on repetitive (and weak) subjects: For a comparison/contrast paper, sports cars vs. SUVs. For a process paper, a recipe. And so on.

So I’m going to offer some suggestions. You’ll notice that all these recommendations have something in common: a meaning. There’s a reason for making the comparison, outlining the process, and so on. (For an introduction to modes of development, click here.) A good modes paper doesn’t just list facts: It always gives readers useful information.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Comparison (notice that all these topics show that two things that seem very different are actually very similar)

  • public schools offer the same educational experiences as private schools, at a much lower price
  • a low-cost US vacation offers the same enjoyment as a pricey European trip
  • volunteer work can be as impressive on a resume as a full-time job
  • rescue animals are as much fun to own as purebreds
  • the fitness facility on campus is just as good as a gym you pay for

Contrast (notice that all these topics show that one thing is better or worse than another)

  • a Mac is better than a PC
  • term insurance is better than whole-life insurance
  • reading on a Kindle is better than reading a conventional book
  • taking a year off after high school is better than going to college right away

Cause (notice that you’re focusing on factors that that came before a problem or event)

  • why students drop out of high school
  • what inspired you to enroll in college
  • reasons you broke off a relationship
  • what your committee did to ensure that your prom was successful

Effect (notice that you’re focusing on factors that that came after a problem or event)

  • problems students face when they don’t complete high school
  • how your life got better after you break off a relationship
  • how a part-time job helped you mature
  • results of a new law in your state

Process (notice that all these topics show how to do a step-by-step process in a better way OR take a stand about a process, showing that it’s easy, beneficial, or harmful)

  • how to bake a better cake
  • a better way to organize your tax documents
  • a soothing way to get your child ready for bed
  • how to disagree without damaging a relationship
  • what happens to a fetus when a pregnant woman consumes alcohol
  • donating blood is easy
  • a task you know how to do better than other people
  • an environmentally friendly way to clean your apartment
  • a process that more people should do
  • a process that’s a waste of time

Classification (notice that all these topics offer readers multiple options for dealing with a particular situation)

  • three types of diapers
  • three ways to discipline a misbehaving child
  • three ways to study for a test
  • three ways to amuse a cat
  • three ways to get experience to put on a job application
  • three types of birth control
  • three ways to stop procrastinating

Definition (notice that these define the best or worst person or thing in a particular category)

  • the best (or worst) date
  • the best (or worst) parent
  • the best (or worst) boss
  • the best (or worst) party
  • the best (or worst) place for students to live

Narrative (notice that every story happened ONCE and makes a point)

  • a disagreement that you resolved in a positive way
  • an experience that taught you something
  • a time when you realized how much you appreciate your family
  • an experience that caused you to end a relationship
  • a time when you solved a problem in a creative way

There you have it! I hope these suggestions will help you find a topic that’s meaningful and meaty enough to earn you a good grade.


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