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
Are you asking yourself why you should read this blog post?
Are you asking, “What’s in it for me?”
What if I promised that by reading this you’ll learn more about how to write an effective persuasive essay?
What if I promised that by reading this you’ll learn 40 persuasive essay topics to help you get started writing your persuasive essay—and that you’ll even learn some tips about how to choose a persuasive essay topic?
If you’re still reading, then I’ve achieved my goal. I’ve written a persuasive opening. And if you’re assigned to write a persuasive essay, you should definitely keep reading.
The Persuasive Essay Defined
The goal of a persuasive essay is to convince readers.
When writing the essay, you’ll first need to state your own opinion, then develop evidence to support that opinion.
These reasons and examples (evidence) should convince readers to believe your argument.
I know this quick definition gives you the basics, but you should know more about persuasive writing before you attempt to write your own essay.
It may seem tempting to skip past the additional information and go directly to the list of persuasive essay topics. But don’t do it.
Take the time now to read more about persuasive writing. (It’s all about persuasion. Are you clicking the links below yet?)
I’ll trust that I’ve persuaded you to read all three of the above articles. And now that you know how to write a persuasive essay, here are 40 persuasive essay topics to help you get started.
40 Persuasive Essay Topics to Help You Get Started
1. Does Facebook (or other forms of social media) create isolation?
Facebook lets people stay connected and meet new friends, yet some argue people spend so much time on social media that they lose contact with real life and may even become addicted.
2. Should guns be permitted on college campuses?
With recent school massacres permeating the news, people feel as though they should be able to protect themselves by carrying guns in all public spaces. Others, however, feel as though allowing guns on campuses will only increase crime and the death toll.
3. Do kids benefit if everyone on the team receives a trophy?
If everyone on the team receives a trophy (even for participation), kids may feel like part of the team and feel as though their efforts matter. Others believe handing out trophies to all kids on the team simply makes them feel entitled.
4. Is society too dependent on technology?
Technology creates great opportunities, yet some feel people can no longer function without a smartphone by their sides at all times.
5. Should all high school students be required to complete parenting classes?
Parents often believe sexuality, family planning, and parenting should be taught at home. But many don’t believe parents sufficiently educate their children about these topics and feel the school should provide teens with training for adulthood and require parenting classes.
6. Does the school day start too early?
While some simply say kids should go to bed earlier in order to be alert during the school day, others argue teens require more sleep and need to sleep later to function properly.
7. Should the minimum wage be increased?
Many business owners argue that raising the minimum wage would only cause hardship and cause them to raise their prices. But many workers argue raising the minimum wage is necessary to help low-income workers dig out of poverty.
8. Should elementary schools teach handwriting?
If no one knows how to write or read cursive handwriting, the form of communication will be lost, some believe. Others, however, believe handwriting is antiquated, and kids would be better served learning keyboarding.
9. Should childhood vaccinations be mandatory?
Though vaccinations can prevent a number of childhood illnesses, some believe mandatory vaccination violates individual rights and can actually do more harm than good.
10. Are security cameras an invasion of privacy?
Security cameras are in place to protect both businesses and the general public. But some argue cameras have gone too far and actually invade privacy because people are constantly under surveillance.
11. Should citizens be allowed to keep exotic pets?
People feel they should be allowed to keep exotic pets as they are capable of caring for the animals. They feel it is their right to keep such pets. However, others feel keeping such pets creates a danger to other people and is harmful to the animals.
12. Should a relaxed dress code be allowed in the workplace?
Some argue that a more relaxed dress code has created more relaxed and less productive workers. Others argue the more relaxed dress code creates a more casual, friendly, and creative workplace.
13. Is it ethical to sentence juveniles as adults?
The old cliche is, “If you do the crime, you should do the time.” But many believe it isn’t ethical to charge a juvenile as an adult as a child’s brain isn’t yet fully developed.
14. Should corporations be allowed to advertise in schools?
Some think schools should embrace corporate advertising as budgets are very limited. But others believe kids shouldn’t be bombarded with corporate persuasion. Instead, they think kids should focus on learning.
15. Should public transportation be free for all residents of a city?
While some say free public transportation would help the environment and reduce traffic, others think free public transportation is too expensive. They argue that the government can’t afford to pay for it.
16. Is professional football too dangerous for players?
Because of recent discoveries about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), many believe football is too dangerous and that rules need to change. Those on the other side of the argument believe football players know the risks and thus should be allowed to play.
17. Should minors be allowed to get tattoos (if they have parental permission)?
Some feel parents should be allowed to give permission for their minor children to get tattoos as they are making the decision for their own children. On the other hand, because tattoos are essentially permanent, some feel only adults should be able to get tattoos.
18. Should fracking be banned?
Some people argue fracking is an effective way to extract natural gas, but others argue it is too dangerous and is harmful to the environment.
19. Should a college education be free for everyone?
Some people believe education is a right and will make society, on the whole, a better place for everyone. But others feel there is no true way to offer a free college education as colleges would still need to be funded (likely through tax dollars).
20. Should the US assist developing countries with immunization efforts?
Immunizations have been critical to eradicating diseases such as polio and measles in the United States, so some argue that it’s important to distribute immunizations to developing countries where people are still dying from these types of diseases. Others may argue that this type of effort would be too costly or ineffective.
21. Does corporal punishment help children?
If you’ve ever been spanked by your parents, I’m sure you weren’t in favor of corporal punishment. But does it actually help discipline children, or does it promote violence?
22. Does the welfare system need to be revised?
There are many people who clearly need the additional assistance welfare services provide. There are others, however, who take advantage of the system. Because of this, many feel the program should be revised to create alternate or stricter requirements.
23. Is learning a skilled trade more valuable than earning a college degree?
Many companies state they have numerous job openings but cannot find skilled employees. Given the current economy, some feel that it may be more advantageous for people to learn a trade.
24. Should cigarettes be illegal?
Given the trend of legalizing marijuana, it seems that it would be impossible to ban cigarettes, but some believe that cigarettes should be illegal because of the health risks they pose.
25. Should organ donors be financially compensated?
While some feel that people should donate their organs on a strictly volunteer basis, others argue that donations would increase if people were financially compensated.
26. Do laws promote racial discrimination?
Justice is supposed to be blind, though many argue that laws are designed to discriminate against minorities.
27. Do dual-parent households benefit children more than single-parent households?
A dual-parent household may have an advantage of a higher household income and the benefit of one parent who may able to spend more time with children. But many argue that a high income alone doesn’t make a happy home and that quality time spent with children is far more important than simply being present.
28. Is it acceptable for parents to lie to their children?
Most people would probably agree that the small lies parents tell their children in order to protect them or motivate them are harmless (and perhaps even helpful). But others feel that, if parents lie, they are only teaching their children to lie.
29. Are teens unfairly stereotyped?
Teens are often stereotyped as lazy and entitled. Specific groups of teens, such as skaters, are often seen as criminals and addicts. Are these classifications true, or are they unfair stereotypes?
30. Is reality television actually real?
Reality TV is supposed to follow the lives of real people. But are the shows scripted or staged to create more drama?
31. Does illegal immigration harm the U.S. economy?
While some feel that even illegal immigrants contribute to the economy through spending their wages in local economies, others feel that they don’t pay their fair share of taxes, which harms the economy.
32. Should high schools distribute birth control?
Though some claim that the distribution of birth control encourages sexual behavior, others claim that it actually protects teens who are already sexually active.
33. Does elective cosmetic surgery harm self-esteem?
Elective cosmetic surgery can make people feel confident and happier with their personal appearances, but for some people, such surgeries do not address underlying psychological issues. Thus, the surgeries leave people unhappy and striving for unattainable perfection.
34. Should people who teach in low-income areas be allowed to have their student loans forgiven?
Teachers who work in low-income areas are often eligible to have their student loans forgiven after a number of years of service. However, some argue that this practice should not continue. They argue that everyone should be eligible for loan forgiveness and that it shouldn’t only be select professions that are eligible.
35. Should classic literature be taught in high school or college?
Many argue that the classics are important to our history and that they are works of art. Others feel the writings are outdated and generally irrelevant to modern society.
36. Should colleges and universities do more to help incoming freshman transition to college life?
Though most colleges offer orientation programs, many students feel that the college itself does not do enough to prepare them for the realities of college life.
37. Has the No Child Left Behind Act helped students?
The No Child Left Behind Act was designed to help all students succeed, but many people believe that it has been an unsuccessful program.
38. Should team names deemed to be offensive be banned?
Some feel that team names such as “Redskins” or “Chiefs” are racially insensitive and are racial slurs. However, others argue that these names are steeped in tradition and should not be banned.
39. Should fast-food restaurants be blamed for obesity among Americans?
Most people already know that many fast-food meals are high in calories and are often not as healthy as other options. Thus, these restaurants are to blame for increased obesity rates. Others argue that it’s the individual’s responsibility to consume these foods in moderation and that society cannot blame fast-food restaurants for obesity rates.
40. Do modern gender roles harm women?
Though women are generally no longer expected to be stay-at-home moms, many argue that gender roles today continue to harm women. Some argue that media continues to sexualize women and thus perpetuates the classic gender roles of males being dominant over females.
Dos and Don’ts of Choosing Persuasive Essay Topics
After reading this list, I’m sure at least a few topics appeal to you. But how do you know which one of these great ideas to choose for your own paper? Here are a few tips.
Do choose a topic that:
- You care about. It’s easier to write about something that interests you.
- Other people care about too. Why would you write about a topic that no one cares about?
- You are willing to examine from multiple viewpoints. Looking at both sides of the issue shows that you’re educated about your topic.
- You can research effectively in the allotted time. If you can’t find enough evidence to support your viewpoint, you might need to switch topics.
Don’t choose a topic that:
- You don’t care about. If you don’t care about the topic, it will be difficult to persuade others.
- You are extremely passionate about. While passion is important, if you’re so passionate about the topic that you aren’t willing to learn new information or see additional viewpoints, it will be difficult to write an effective paper.
- Can’t be researched effectively. In other words, don’t try to research a topic like the meaning of the universe or why people usually wear matching socks.
In this blog post, you’ve learned how to write a persuasive essay, examined a variety of persuasive essay topics, and learned the dos and don’ts of selecting and narrowing a topic.
So what are you waiting for? Start researching, and start writing!
What? None of these topics are working for you? Try this list of 15 topics or these additional 15 topics.
Need a few pointers to get started with research? Check out 5 Best Resources to Help With Writing a Research Paper and How to Write a Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide.
Looking for even more help? I recommend reading this study guide about persuasive and argumentative essays.
Want to make sure you’re writing is convincing? Why not have one of our Kibin editors review your paper?
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