Updated, March 2, 2017 | We published an updated version of this list, “401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing,” as well as a companion piece, “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.” We also now have a PDF of these 200 prompts.
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What issues do you care most about? What topics do you find yourself discussing most passionately, whether online, at the dinner table, in the classroom or with your friends?
Our annual Student Editorial Contest invites you to write an evidence-based persuasive piece on an issue that matters to you. To help jump-start your brainstorming, we have gathered a list of 200 writing prompts from our daily Student Opinion feature that invite you to take a stand.
Though you won’t be limited to these topics for the contest, you’ll see that our list touches on every aspect of modern life, from politics to sports, culture, education and technology. We hope the range inspires you, and we hope the fact that each question links to at least one related Times article gives you a starting point for finding evidence.
So skim the list below to think about the topic you’d most like to take on.
For more information, here are links to our spring 2014 editorial-writing contest, a list of winners from that contest and a related lesson plan on argumentative writing.
- Is Cheating Getting Worse?
- Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?
- Does Your School Hand Out Too Many A’s?
- Should Middle School Students Be Drug Tested?
- Should Reading and Math Be Taught in Gym Class Too?
- How Seriously Should We Take Standardized Tests?
- How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
- Do You Spend Too Much Time Preparing for Standardized Tests?
- Should Schools Offer Cash Bonuses for Good Test Scores?
- Should We Rethink How Long Students Spend in High School?
- Do Schools Provide Students With Enough Opportunities to Be Creative?
- What Are You Really Learning at School?
- How Important Is Arts Education?
- Does Gym Help Students Perform Better in All Their Classes?
- Who Should Be Able to See Students’ Records?
- Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education?
- What Is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
- Is Your School Day Too Short?
- Do You Think a Longer School Calendar Is a Good Idea?
- Should the Dropout Age Be Raised?
- Should Students Be Allowed to Skip Senior Year of High School?
- How Does Your School Deal With Students Who Misbehave?
- Should Schools Be Allowed to Use Corporal Punishment?
- How Big a Problem Is Bullying or Cyberbullying in Your School or Community?
- How Should Schools Address Bullying?
- Should Schools Put Tracking Devices in Students’ ID Cards?
- What Do You Think of Grouping Students by Ability in Schools?
- Do We Need a New Way to Teach Math?
- Does Class Size Matter?
- Should All Students Get Equal Space in a Yearbook?
- Is Prom Worth It?
- How Important Are Parent-Teacher Conferences?
- Should All Children Be Able to Go to Preschool?
- Should Colleges Use Admissions Criteria Other Than SAT Scores and Grades?
- What Criteria Should Be Used in Awarding Scholarships for College?
- Do You Support Affirmative Action?
- Do College Rankings Matter?
- How Necessary Is a College Education?
- Should Engineers Pay Less for College Than English Majors?
- Are the Web Filters at Your School Too Restrictive?
- Does Technology Make Us More Alone?
- Are You Distracted by Technology?
- Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
- Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
- Has Facebook Lost Its Edge?
- Does Facebook Ever Make You Feel Bad?
- Should What You Say on Facebook Be Grounds for Getting Fired?
- Should People Be Allowed to Obscure Their Identities Online?
- What Should the Punishment Be for Acts of Cyberbullying?
- Is Online Learning as Good as Face-to-Face Learning?
- Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?
- Should Tablet Computers Become the Primary Way Students Learn in Class?
- Can Cellphones Be Educational Tools?
- Should Computer Games Be Used for Classroom Instruction?
- How Young Is Too Young for an iPhone?
- Should Companies Collect Information About You?
- Would You Trade Your Paper Books for Digital Versions?
- Are Digital Photographs Too Plentiful to Be Meaningful?
- Do You Worry We Are Filming Too Much?
- Would You Want a Pair of Google’s Computer Glasses?
- How Would You Feel About a Computer Grading Your Essays?
- What Role Will Robots Play in Our Future?
- How Many Text Messages Are Too Many?
- How Much Do You Trust Online Reviews?
- Why Do We Like to Watch Rich People on TV and in the Movies?
- Do TV Shows Like ‘16 and Pregnant’ Promote or Discourage Teenage Pregnancy?
- Does TV Capture the Diversity of America Yet?
- Is TV Too White?
- Is TV Stronger Than Ever, or Becoming Obsolete?
- Does Reality TV Promote Dangerous Stereotypes?
- What Current Musicians Do You Think Will Stand the Test of Time?
- What Artists or Bands of Today Are Destined for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
- What Musician, Actor or Author Should Be a Superstar, but Hasn’t Quite Made It Yet?
- Will Musical Training Make You More Successful?
- Should Video Games Be Considered a Sport?
- Should Stores Sell Violent Video Games to Minors?
- Can a Video Game Be a Work of Art?
- Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent in Real Life?
- When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
- What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
- What Were the Best Movies You Saw in the Past Year?
- To What Writer Would You Award a Prize?
- Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
- Where Is the Line Between Truth and Fiction?
- Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?
- Do We Need Art in Our Lives?
- What Makes a Good Commercial?
- Why Did a Cheerios Ad Attract So Many Angry Comments Online?
- Does Pop Culture Deserve Serious Study?
- Do Parents Have Different Hopes and Standards for Their Sons Than for Their Daughters?
- Is School Designed More for Girls Than Boys?
- Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have ‘Perfect’ Bodies?
- How Much Pressure Do Boys Face to Have the Perfect Body?
- Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks?
- Is It O.K. for Men and Boys to Comment on Women and Girls on the Street?
- What Should We Do to Fight Sexual Violence Against Young Women?
- How Do You Feel About Rihanna and Chris Brown Getting Back Together?
- Do Fraternities Promote Misogyny?
- Why Aren’t There More Girls in Leadership Roles?
- Why Aren’t More Girls Choosing to Pursue Careers in Math and Science?
- Should Women Be Allowed to Fight on the Front Lines Alongside Men?
- Do You Believe in Equal Rights for Women and Men?
- Are Women Better at Compromising and Collaborating?
- Do Boys Have Less Intense Friendships Than Girls?
- If Football Is So Dangerous to Players, Should We Be Watching It?
- Should Parents Let Their Children Play Football?
- Should College Football Players Get Paid?
- When Do Pranks Cross the Line to Become Bullying?
- Has Baseball Lost Its Cool?
- Are Some Youth Sports Too Intense?
- Is It Offensive for Sports Teams to Use Native American Names and Mascots?
- Where Should Colleges and Sports Teams Draw the Line in Selling Naming Rights?
- Should Colleges Fund Wellness Programs Instead of Sports?
- Is Cheerleading a Sport?
- How Big a Deal Is It That an N.B.A. Player Came Out as Gay?
- Should There Be Stricter Rules About How Coaches Treat Their Players?
- Should Athletes Who Dope Have to Forfeit Their Titles and Medals?
- Should Sports Betting Be Legal Everywhere?
- Should Home-Schoolers Be Allowed to Play Public School Sports?
- Would You Want a Bike Share Program for Your Community?
- What Local Problems Do You Think Your Mayor Should Try to Solve?
- If You Were Governor of Your State, How Would You Spend a Budget Surplus?
- When Is the Use of Military Force Justified?
- What Is More Important: Our Privacy or National Security?
- Should the U.S. Be Spying on Its Friends?
- Do You Trust Your Government?
- What Do You Think of the Police Tactic of Stop-and-Frisk?
- Do Rich People Get Off Easier When They Break the Law?
- Should Rich People Have to Pay More Taxes?
- Do Laws That Ban Offensive Words Make the World a Better Place?
- Is It Principled, or Irresponsible, for Politicians to Threaten a Shutdown?
- Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?
- Do Great Leaders Have to Be Outgoing?
- How Should We Prevent Future Mass Shootings?
- Should Guns Be Permitted on College Campuses?
- Would You Feel Safer With Armed Guards Patrolling Your School?
- What Is Your Relationship With Guns?
- Do You Support or Oppose the Death Penalty?
- When Should Juvenile Offenders Receive Life Sentences?
- Do We Give Children Too Many Trophies?
- When Do You Become an Adult?
- When Should You Be Able to Buy Cigarettes, Drink Alcohol, Vote, Drive and Fight in Wars?
- Should the Morning-After Pill Be Sold Over the Counter to People Under 17?
- Should Birth Control Pills Be Available to Teenage Girls Without a Prescription?
- Is Modern Culture Ruining Childhood?
- Are Adults Hurting Young Children by Pushing Them to Achieve?
- How, and by Whom, Should Children Be Taught Appropriate Behavior?
- What Can Older People Learn From Your Generation?
- Do ‘Shame and Blame’ Work to Change Teenage Behavior?
- How Should Children Be Taught About Puberty and Sex?
- Is Dating a Thing of the Past?
- How Should Parents Handle a Bad Report Card?
- Should Children Be Allowed to Wear Whatever They Want?
- How Should Educators and Legislators Deal With Minors Who ‘Sext’?
- Do You Think Child Stars Have It Rough?
- Is Smoking Still a Problem Among Teenagers?
- Are Antismoking Ads Effective?
- Is Drinking and Driving Still a Problem for Teenagers?
- Do You Think a Healthier School Lunch Program Is a Lost Cause?
- How Concerned Are You About Where Your Food Comes From?
- Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?
- Do You Prefer Your Tacos ‘Authentic’ or ‘Appropriated’?
- Should the Government Limit the Size of Sugary Drinks?
- Should Marijuana Be Legal?
- Should Students Be Required to Take Drug Tests?
- Do Bystanders Have a Responsibility to Intervene When There is Trouble?
- Should You Care About the Health and Safety of Those Making Your Clothing?
- Can Money Buy You Happiness?
- Does Buying and Accumulating More and More Stuff Make Us Happier?
- Are We Losing the Art of Listening?
- Do People Complain Too Much?
- Can Kindness Become Cool?
- Which Is More Important: Talent or Hard Work?
- How Important Is Keeping Your Cool?
- When Should You Compromise?
- Is Your Generation More Self-Centered Than Earlier Generations?
- Can You Be Good Without God?
- Have Curse Words Become So Common They Have Lost Their Shock Value?
- What Words or Phrases Should Be Retired in 2014?
- What Words or Phrases Do You Think Are Overused?
- Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?
- How Important Do You Think It Is to Marry Someone With the Same Religion?
- How Long Is It O.K. to Linger in a Cafe or Restaurant?
- Does Keeping a Messy Desk Make People More Creative?
- How Important Is Keeping a Clean House?
- Should Scientists Try to Help People Beat Old Age So We Can Live Longer Lives?
- Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
- When Is It O.K. to Replace Human Limbs With Technology?
- Do You Think Life Exists — or Has Ever Existed — Somewhere Besides Earth?
- Should Fertilized Eggs Be Given Legal ‘Personhood’?
- How Concerned Are You About Climate Change?
- Is It Wrong for a Newspaper to Publish a Front-Page Photo of a Man About to Die?
- What Causes Should Philanthropic Groups Finance?
- Should Charities Focus More on America?
- Should the Private Lives of Famous People Be Off Limits?
- Did a Newspaper Act Irresponsibly by Publishing the Addresses of Gun Owners?
- Would You Rather Work From Home or in an Office?
- What Time Should Black Friday Sales Start?
- Do You Shop at Locally Owned Businesses?
- How Much Does Your Neighborhood Define Who You Are?
Technology and Social Media
Arts and Media: TV, Music, Video Games and Literature
Sports and Athletics
Politics and the Legal System
Parenting and Childhood
Health and Nutrition
Personal Character and Morality Questions
A persuasive essay is a type of writing that attempts to convince the reader that the opinions being presented are right. They are very similar to argumentative essays except for the fact a writer presents a one-sided opinion giving valid reasons and solid facts on why that opinion or argument is correct. With an argumentative essay, the writer creates a discussion on the topic by presenting points on both opposing and proposing sides as is the case with verbal debates. The writer employs logic to reason with and sway the reader into adopting a certain view. Such essay assignments are commonly given to students in high school and junior college. They help students to master persuasive skills which can be useful for students in all disciplines including sciences and social studies; as well as in business and their social life.
Tips for finding persuasive essay topics
Sometimes, essay topics are not given by the professor thus writing persuasive essays begins with selecting a topic. In such a case, a student is required to select an appropriate topic to write about. To help you do that, here are a few tips.
- Think of subjects that interest you. Feel free to select a topic that you will enjoy writing about and not just one that you think will please your professor. Obviously, you should not purposely pick a topic that will bore your audience. Nonetheless, focusing excessively on what you think your teachers would like to read is a mistake. Most professors want to see you write in your own style and argue your own ideas, supported by facts.
- Select a topic you are passionate about; not one on which you are conflicted. You will likely be unable to present your views and convince your audience if you are conflicted about the side on which you stand. For example, it may not be wise to argue that every state should abolish the death penalty yet on the hand, you think that child molesters deserve the death sentence. The audience of your persuasive essay or speech must not detect any sign of internal conflict in your argument. Being passionate about the topic will also make the research and writing tasks enjoyable, and your emotion will also be reflected in your writing. This will help you persuade and change the reader’s mind.
- Don’t over-obsess on political correctness. You should avoid playing it too safe and shying away from a controversial issue. A point to note, however, is that for a school setting, you may want to strike a balance between boldly expressing your views and not offending your audience with overly inappropriate topics.
- Think about your personal experiences or those of people you know. Real life events can be a source of inspiration to help you formulate an interesting topic.
- Think about what you know. Start with general subjects that you are familiar with then narrow down to a specific topic. It will be easier for you to write a good persuasive essay if it is a subject in which you have knowledge. This is especially important if you have limited time to write your essay as you will be able to do the legwork faster.
- Read. Topics abound in books, newspapers, journals and the web if only you conduct research. The importance of research in persuasive writing cannot be overstated. Research is important for formulating your title and finding evidence to back up your ideas. A research paper published in a peer-reviewed journal could present the credible evidence you need. This involves reading widely and sometimes talking to experts in your subject of interest. Sample persuasive essays can also provide inspiration on topics to write on as well as serve as examples on how to write your essay. A point to remember as you conduct research is that your institution likely has a strict policy against plagiarism, therefore avoid presenting someone else’s work as your own.
- Brainstorming helps in coming up with an idea or refining the one you already have. Discuss your ideas with friends or other people around you, but this is not a license to copy someone else’s work. The purpose of brainstorming is to help you get ideas. Weave in your own perspective to make your essay unique.
- Persuasive essay topics are often inspired by contemporary issues in society so pay attention to current trends and events happening around you. It helps to come up with a list of several persuasive essay topic ideas and then carefully evaluate them further to pick the best one.
Selecting a good topic for your essay is one of the most important and often tricky parts for many students. Here are a few characteristics against which you should evaluate your topic before you start writing the essay.
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Qualities of a good persuasive essay topic
The topic should be specific. The essay topic should be broad enough for you to comfortably meet the required length of the essay, but not too narrow that you are unable to write more than a few short sentences on it.
- A great topic should have some complexity and depth.
- A good topic for a persuasive essay is one that is debatable. Pick a topic that society is talking or arguing about.
- The topic must not be overdone. Most times a topic that has been tackled over and over is not the best choice because it is likely that society has already reached a consensus on the matter and it is no longer being debated.
- Is there adequate literature to support your opinions/ideas? There should be enough literature to provide facts to back your ideas in order for you to write a good persuasive essay. You don’t want to start the writing process, then have to find a new topic because you realize, midway, that there’s no credible literature to back your ideas.
We have compiled a few ideas appropriate topics for your persuasive essay assignment.
Some Persuasive Essay Topic Ideas for High School
- Should students perpetrating cyber bullying be expelled?
Cyberbullying can undoubtedly have grave consequences for the victims. There has been agitation in some quarters to have cyber bullies in schools face the consequences such as expulsion.
- Is college education the key to a successful life?
There are varying views on whether a college education is required in order to have a successful life.
- Should the death penalty be abolished?
The death penalty has been abolished in some states, many more still practice it, and others have the death penalty allowing gubernatorial moratoria. Some say the death sentence is a fitting deterrent to serious crimes but is it a cruel, dehumanizing practice that should be abolished?
- Should civilians be allowed to carry guns?
Do civilians with guns to help stop crime such as mass shootings or does the freedom of civilians to carry guns pose more danger?
- Should the minimum voting age be lowered?
21, 18, 17, or 16; just how old is old enough to vote? Are teenagers’ old enough for the responsibility of voting or should voting be reserved for young adults and older citizens?
- National security prevails over individual right to privacy
Should violations of individual privacy rights be allowed for the sake of national security?
- Parental consent should not be required for teenage girls to access contraceptives.
Teenagers have free access to contraceptives, but lawmakers have come up with proposals that will require teenage girls to engage their parents before they can get access. Should the right of teenagers to freely access contraceptives be upheld?
- Smartphones are killing communication
Smartphones have changed the way conversations are carried out, but are they killing the art of communication? Are we missing out on crucial benefits of voice calls and face-to-face conversations?
- Should Medical Marijuana be legalized?
Marijuana helps relieve symptoms of various illnesses. There have been debates on whether Marijuana prescribed by a doctor should be legal. Do you think it should be legalized?
- Is commercial testing on animals, right?
Safety tests for products such as drugs and cosmetics are often tested on animals to ascertain their safety. Animal rights activists and other parties don’t agree with this practice.
- Should mercy killing be allowed?
Euthanasia, the killing of patients with painful, incurable diseases, irreversible coma, is done in order to relieve suffering. The practice is allowed in some states, but it is frowned upon and illegal in many more states. Is an ethical practice that should be legalized or not?
- Should mandatory sexuality and parenting classes be taught in school?
Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children about sexuality, contraceptive use, and parenting. However, do parents sufficiently teach their kids on these subjects?
College Level Persuasive Essay Topics
- Should guns be allowed on campuses?
Research shows that guns on campuses only pose a greater danger of violence and do very little to stop shooting rampages. Do you think guns should be allowed on college campuses or not?
- Should public breastfeeding be allowed?
Mums are given a hard time now and then for breastfeeding their babies in public. However, others are of the opinion that breastfeeding, just like bottle feeding a baby in public should not be controversial.
- Should the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries be implemented?
There have been mixed reactions on whether the executive order to ban visas issuance to travelers from six Muslim-majority countries be implemented.
- Should recycling be required by law?
Recycling helps preserve the environment, but not everyone practices it. Some think that by making it a legal requirement, more people will begin to practice recycling. What’s your position on this?
- Should workplaces have a more relaxed dress code?
Some employers feel that relaxed dress codes negatively impact productivity and should not be allowed in the workplace. Others think that it improves creativity and productivity in the workplace.
- Should the jury system be replaced by bench trials?
There have been arguments that juries are not made up of people with the necessary legal expertise and should, therefore, be abolished and replaced with bench trials where judges are solely responsible for making judgments. These are just a few tips to help you in persuasive essay writing. You can write persuasive essays on a variety of subject including health, food, technology, history, law, religion and governance. Just follow the guidelines stated above, and you’ll be well on your way to writing a good persuasive essay.
The Importance of Research in Persuasive Essay Writing
Whichever topic you choose, always remember the importance of literature sources. These sources serve to enrich knowledge, meet the academic community’s expectations, and identify and support arguments. The questions of whether a topic has been overdone or has enough literature to back it up must always be asked. The answers to these questions can only be found by immersing yourself in literature to filter out the overdone topics and find facts, examples, statistics and quotes to provide supporting evidence for your essay. It requires and demonstrates an ability to research, understand and integrate information from multiple sources. Common reliable sources of literature include journals, scientific magazines, textbooks and reports that can be examined for relevance to the topic at hand. There are multiple online resources and databases to find a book or a journal article that you can use in your search for relevant information sources on which your essay will be based. Possessing good research skills and selecting a good topic is crucial. However, good writing should accompany a good persuasive essay topic and extensive research thus a student must learn the skills of effective writing. Learning good writing skills will help you write better essays that will keep your readers interested and persuaded. This can be difficult for some students, especially for those whom English is their second language; but it is not an impossible task.
Writing Persuasive Essays
Once you settle on the topic and choose the position on which you will base your essay, the rest of the work can then begin. You still need to create an outstanding piece of writing. You will need to research about your topic further to provide evidence to your ideas and then structure your writing according to the persuasive essay structure. As any guide on how to write a persuasive essay will tell you, your essay must be organized in paragraphs with a logical progression from one paragraph to the next. There should be an introductory paragraph that includes a strong, authoritative thesis statement, a body section with at least three paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph with a call to action. Begin the introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing fact, question or contradiction. Each of the body paragraphs should state a single main point and present evidence support for the point, view or argument you are making. Examples may also be included in each of the body paragraphs to further support and clarify your main points. A good persuasive essay must always have a concluding paragraph where you restate your position and include a summary of the essay text. If your introduction included non-rhetorical questions, you should include answers in this section as well. Focus the conclusion on giving your reader a strong message that will linger in his/her mind. Finally, remember that a big part of being effective in persuasion is the ability to appeal to your audience’s emotions. Be creative and take full advantage of persuasion techniques and as with any type of writing, keep your work clear, concise and error-free.
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Need help with your persuasive essay? Yes
Need help with your persuasive essay? Yes