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An argumentative essay is just what it sounds like: an essay where you argue. You pick a topic, take a stance, research information to support your opinion, state your claims, and voilà! You’ve got your essay.

Choose a topic that is debatable. You need to present your own personal stance but also discuss an opposing point of view. If the topic is too universally agreed upon, it won’t work.

As simple as that may sound, writing a persuasive essay can be quite difficult for even very experienced writers. It takes excellent organization and planning to clearly address your thoughts and requires stellar research skills to find valid arguments that support your claim.

But before you can state your case, you first need to come up with the topic you’re going to argue about.

How to Choose a Topic for an Argumentative Essay

When you choose a topic for an argumentative essay, it’s important to keep these tips in mind:

  1. Your topic must be debatable.

    Duh... this seems obvious, but it’s worth stating. You need a topic that has (at least) two sides. Choosing a topic such as Puerto Rico is My Favorite Place is not really debatable. However, picking a topic like Puerto Rico Should Become the 51st State to Join the United States is something arguable. Some people agree with this statement, and others do not. There are pros and cons that can be discussed.

  2. Write about what people are talking about.

    Watch the news. Browse the internet. It’s more engaging to write about something that’s relevant right now. For example, if you keep hearing a lot about immigration, you might choose a topic such as America Should Close Its Borders. Or if you read a lot about standardized testing in schools, you can create a topic like Colleges Should Eliminate Standardized Testing From Their Application Process. When a topic is current and intriguing, it makes for a more interesting essay.

  3. Reflect on your interests.

    It’s always better to write about something for which you have a passion. If you love video games, you could write a persuasive essay such as Video Gaming is Healthy for Teens. If you’re passionate about sports, you could cover something like College Athletes Deserve to Be Paid. Researching and writing an argumentative essay takes quite a bit of time, so you should pick a topic you’re fascinated by to make the process a little less painless.

Forming General Arguments

To test whether or not the prompt you have in mind is up to snuff for an entire essay, you can test it out by putting it in a general argument.

Pick the topic you’re thinking about and see if it works as a two-sided debate in any of the following formats:

  • Is…effective? Productive? Helpful? Worth it? (i.e. Is school choice effective?)

  • Is…hurtful? Harmful? Wasteful? (i.e. Is fracking harmful to the environment?)

  • …should be allowed for… (i.e. Alcohol should be allowed for all people who are 18 and older.)

  • …should be forbidden for… (i.e. Football should be forbidden for children under the age of ten.)

If you can make a topic from any of these, you’re ready at this point to start outlining your essay. If not, you need to find a more specific starting point.

To see if your topic has enough depth to fill up a full essay assignment, try putting it into a general argument. This will help you determine if the prompt you have in mind is truly debatable.

Argumentative Essay Topic Ideas

Need some ideas to help you choose a topic? This list will get you started.

Note that these are listed as questions so you can take your own stance. For example, Should everyone have free healthcare? gives you at least two possible topics depending on your point of view: Everyone is Entitled to Free Healthcare vs. It is Not the Government’s Responsibility to Provide Healthcare for Everyone.

Laws & Policies

  • Should the drinking age be lowered/raised?

  • Should military participation be mandatory for all citizens?

  • Should all Americans be required to speak English fluently?

  • Should Americans be required to speak Spanish?

  • Should teachers be armed?

  • Should gun control laws be stricter?

  • Should the military age be lowered/raised?

  • Should there be limits to free speech?

  • Should marijuana be legal?

  • Should the internet be censored?

  • Are gun control laws too strict?

  • Should people of the same sex be allowed to marry each other?

  • Should abortion be legal?

  • Should laws be grounded in religion?

  • Should churches be tax-free institutions?

Politics

  • Should the voting age be lowered/raised?

  • Should felons have the right to vote?

  • Should the electoral college still exist?

  • Should Puerto Rico become a state?

  • Should all politicians have term limits?

  • Should everyone have free healthcare?

  • Should social security be privatized?

  • Should the United States build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico?

  • Should the minimum wage be raised?

  • Should wealthier citizens pay more taxes?

  • Should the use of the penny be eliminated?

  • Should every citizen be required to vote?

History

  • Is life better now than it was X years ago?

  • Who is the greatest president of all time?

  • Who is the most ethical/moral politician that has ever served?

  • Is globalization a good thing?

  • How can governments prevent World War 3?

  • Is democracy the best form of government?

  • Are teenagers now smarter than teenagers of past generations?

  • Does revolution result in real change?

  • Should the U.S. get involved with other countries’ wars?

Education

  • Should cursive writing be taught in schools?

  • Should students have to wear school uniforms?

  • Should all students have free college tuition?

  • Should teachers be paid more?

  • Should K–12 school selection be based on where you live?

  • Should all students be required to study abroad?

  • Should year-round schooling be mandatory?

  • Should high school start times be later?

  • Should everyone be required to learn a foreign language?

  • Should schools have mandatory metal detectors and security guards?

  • Is standardized testing fair?

  • Should prayer be allowed in school?

  • Should sex education be required for all students?

  • Are single-sex schools more effective?

  • Should students be required to take a year off before starting college?

Science & Technology

  • Should we invest in space travel?

  • Are nuclear weapons helping make the world safe?

  • Are video games harmful?

  • Do video games cause children to be violent?

  • Does screen time have an effect on a child’s social behavior?

  • Should animals be used to test new products?

  • Has technology helped or hurt society?

  • Does technology make life easier?

  • Are online relationships legitimate?

  • Is cloning ethical?

Health

  • How can we best fight against the obesity epidemic?

  • Should smoking be illegal?

  • Should energy drinks be banned?

  • Are diets helpful?

  • Is technology making healthcare more/less personal?

  • Should schools offer healthier food choices?

  • Should doctor-assisted suicide exist?

  • Should unhealthy foods and beverages be taxed at a higher rate?

  • Should physical education be mandatory for everyone?

Climate

  • Should recycling be mandatory?

  • Should every household have a trash limit?

  • Should people eat vegan to help save the environment?

  • Should tax money be used to save endangered species?

  • Should cars be outlawed in cities?

  • Should plastic straws and bags be banned worldwide?

  • Should there be limits on water usage?

  • Should solar and wind power be used more often than other energies?

Sports

  • Should college athletes be paid?

  • Should players have to stand for the National Anthem?

  • Do athletes have a responsibility to be role models?

  • Who is the greatest athlete of all time?

  • Is football too dangerous for young athletes?

  • Should sports betting be illegal?

  • Does playing a sport help build character in young children?

  • Should professional sports have cheerleaders?

Pop Culture & the Arts

  • Should beauty contests be terminated?

  • Should artwork be censored?

  • Do celebrities have responsibilities to be role models?

  • Is social media helpful or hurtful?

  • Do television shows accurately represent current American lifestyles?

  • Should music be censored?

  • Should people live together before marriage?

  • Should children be put in the spotlight at a young age?

Ethics

  • Does money lead to happiness?

  • Should the death penalty be abolished?

  • Is there any time when breaking the law is okay?

  • Is money the root of all evil?

  • Are we responsible for other people or only for ourselves?

  • Do the ends justify the means of any action?

  • Can people ever change who they are?

Once you have chosen a topic that is relevant, debatable, and worth discussing, you are free to begin organizing your argumentative essay. Outline your opinion, do some research, and get started!