Ever want to get involved in a knock-down, drag out, all-out-war of words? Okay—so maybe not—but sometimes you have no choice. Part of growing as a writer is showing that you have the ability to stake yourself to a claim and argue it effectively.
That doesn’t mean you need to produce the rhetorical equivalent of punching your opponent in the nose—no! The art of the argumentative essay is about using logic to convey the rightness of your stance.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to do that—but first you’ll need to wade into the pool of argumentative essay topics to find one right for you. See below for list of 100 topics to help spark your imagination.
Take a Position
When writing an argumentative essay, it is your opportunity to take a position on an issue and make the case for why it is the correct position to take. If you don’t have a position, your argument will come off as weak and poorly constructed—so when you go to choose an argumentative essay topic make sure it is one that you both feel strongly about and also can make a reasonable case for.
Defend Your Topic
If your topic was on trial and you had to defend it to a jury of your peers, what would you say? How would you say it? Would you try to appeal to the jury’s emotions? To their intellect? To their humanity? To their own experiences? To their ideals? Thinking about these things is a good way to get thinking about how to write your argumentative essay. Whatever defense you take, finding facts to support your argument is the most important part.
To get started, think of a topic, an issue, an idea, a book, a film, a political concern, an economic matter, a social problem—anything that gets you fired up—and then mine that subject to write your paper. You’ll want to research the subject, of course, because even the best lawyers go to trial prepared with evidence and support from witnesses who can help make the case. Arm yourself with what others have said about the subject and you will show your reader (the jury of your peers) that you know what you’re talking about.
Research, Research, Research
The more research you do, the more convincing you can be and the more your argumentative essay will succeed. And—just like a prize trial lawyer—you have to anticipate what your opponent will say in response, so be prepared to offer a rebuttal to counter-arguments and do so in your paper. In this way, you’ll cover all your bases and hit a home run of an argumentative paper every time.
Argumentative Essay Format
An argumentative essay should open with a question that frames the issue that you will argue. Most issues have at least two sides, so in the opening paragraph make clear what these sides are. Then, in your thesis statement (which can come at the end of the introductory paragraph), state which side of the issue you will defend and how you will do it (giving a brief description of the evidence you have gathered).
The body paragraphs that follow should provide your supporting arguments, which must be based on the research you have conducted. The first few paragraphs should each address one of your main points, providing details and evidence that makes the point convincing. Transition words and joints can help link your data and claims to one another.
At least one paragraph should be devoted to the counter-argument that your opponent might make. Your paragraph should explain this argument and then provide a rebuttal—i.e., your answer to their challenge. By addressing a counter-argument, it shows that you have considered other sides of the issue and are prepared to defend your side.
Finally, give a conclusion that restates the purpose of your paper using different words. The conclusion can re-state the reasons your argument is better than the opposing argument, summarizing the evidence in succinct terms. The conclusion should be roughly the same length as the introduction and simply boil down the main points of the paper in a few sentences.
Argumentative Essay Topics
Topics for High School Students
High school argumentative essays should focus on issues that are important to high school students. These can range from problems they face in their own lives, such as risk factors that can lead to bad decisions and why they should be avoided, to subjects that impact the broader community.
- Should cell phones be banned in schools?
- Cell phones are a part of many young people’s lives, but they also can lead to a dependency that can get in the way of education.
- Is social media good or bad for teenagers?
- Social media enables virtual communication in a way never before seen, yet it also raises the risk of teens failing to learn how to socially interact in face-to-face situations.
- Do TV and films glorify violence?
- Violence is a part of society, but is the problem of violence exacerbated by the way that media sensationalize and glorify it?
- Should the Internet be censored?
- The Internet has allowed information to spread like never before, but it also opens ups access to many forms of depravity that can get people into trouble (Bitso, 2014).
- What kind of philosophy should be taught in high school?
- Philosophy can be defined as a love of wisdom, but the concept of wisdom has changed over the centuries and there is little agreement about what it means today.
- Does pop culture offer anything substantial for the development of young minds?
- Pop culture is typically mass-produced and insubstantial, yet it is the primary means by which modern people are entertained and in many ways educated.
- Should religion be taught in schools?
- If religion is still an important part and fundamental aspect of society, should not students be made aware of what religions teach?
- Should high school be replaced with real-world co-op opportunities?
- With more and more time being spent in schools and more and more people going into debt as a result, doesn’t it just make sense to give high school kids the opportunity to get out into the real world, learn a job and skip all the years of general studies that lie waiting for them at college?
Topics for Middle School Students
Middle school topics do not have to be heavy but they do not have to be too light either. Middle school students should be ready to start exploring some of the more serious issues of life but they can do so on a level that is meaningful for them.
- Should uniforms be mandated in schools?
- Uniforms take away the worry of having to deal with social pressures such as how one dresses, but they also represent conformity and regulation which goes against the individualism of modern society.
- Should school lunches be healthier?
- School lunches should provide students with proper nourishment but many students prefer foods that taste good as opposed to foods that are just good for them.
- Should soda vending machines be allowed in schools?
- Kids love soda, but adults worry that soda binging can lead to obesity.
- Are video games helpful or harmful to kids?
- Video games can teach useful skills in the Digital Age, yet they also run the risk of exposing youths to harmful side effects.
- Who is the greatest leader in all history?
- There have been many leaders throughout history but one leader stands out above all the rest.
- Should students strive to develop leadership qualities?
- Today’s youths will be responsible for leading tomorrow’s society, but leadership may not be something that every student wants to achieve.
- Are Marvel’s superheroes better than DC’s?
- DC has Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but Marvel has Iron Man, Spiderman, Thor, and many others—so whose are better and why?
Many people feel strongly about sports, which play a very dominant role in modern society, so this can be a great place to mine for an argumentative essay topic. Sports topics can focus on anything from the nature or safety of a game to the fundamental problems relating to a particular sport.
- Is pro football too dangerous or too soft??
- Professional football has changed a lot over the years and many critics have differing opinions on whether the sport is too rough or now too soft.
- Should college athletes be paid?
- College sports bring in a ton of money for universities, but athletes do not receive compensation.
- Is LeBron James the greatest of all time?
- Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson—these are just a few names that come up when the all-time greats are considered; so where does LeBron James fit into that conversation?
- Should professional athletes be concerned about being good role models?
- Like it or not, professional athletes are in the public eye—but not all agree that because of that reason they have a responsibility to be good role models for kids.
- Should video review be used by umpires in the MLB?
- Now that the Digital Era has arrived, pro sports are using technology to clarify calls made by officials—but does it risk slowing down a game already notorious for being too slow?
- Should basketball players have to spend a year in college before turning pro?
- The one-and-done era hasn’t led to more athletes staying in school. Instead it has fostered the idea that college sports are just a way for universities to use student athletes to profit for themselves.
- Are enhancement drugs bad for sports?
- Is there a fine line between what is legal and what is not? Should testing be random? Should testing be done at all? What is the best position to take on enhancement drugs and their use in sports?
College is a place where ideas gain a foothold. Differences are discussed, arguments are made, and new directions take hold. Everything from the issue of free speech to the cost of living is fair game for a college topic.
- Should there be limitations to free speech?
- Free speech is protected by the Constitution, but technological innovations and changes in the social consciousness in recent years suggest that there should be limits to how “free” speech really should be (Carr, 2013).
- Should health care be free?
- Health care is becoming more and more expensive in the U.S. while in other countries, such as Spain, it costs nothing to obtain.
- What is the most important socio-political movement of the modern era?
- Modern society has seen many movements and revolutions over the past few centuries but one stands out above the rest.
- Should the government have the right to spy on citizens?
- The question of whether safety or privacy matters more is one that many people disagree on.
- Should higher education be paid for by taxes?
- While the U.S. government guarantees the loans taken out by students who want to attend postsecondary schooling, our taxes do nothing in the way of actually paying the costs of education.
- Are “safe spaces” good or bad for colleges?
- College students catch a lot of flak for being “snowflakes” and part of that has to do with the concept of social justice warriors needing “safe spaces” on campuses to protect their views and feelings.
- What is the best way to pick a college?
- Not all colleges are created equal, and while some are more expensive than others, the real measure for value is one’s return on investment.
- How does Frankenstein’s monster resemble Milton’s Satan?
- The monster in Shelley’s novel identifies with Milton’s Satan after reading Paradise Lost—so why is this?
Education topics can serve as a great subject for an argumentative essay because there are so many differing views on how education should be conducted. When considering an education topic think about your own experiences and build on what you know by diving into research and scholarly databases that have published academic articles about the issue you want to argue.
- What is the best way to close the achievement gap in secondary schools?
- The achievement gap is widening among certain demographics and there is little agreement about how to close it.
- Should active learning be the dominant method of education?
- For many years the lecture was the primary method of imparting knowledge to students, but recent research indicates that students may actually acquire knowledge more deeply via the active learning approach (Dobbs, 2011).
- Should schools teach character education in the primary and secondary levels?
- While reading, writing and arithmetic are still important, some scholars are indicating that students in modern schools are also in need of character education (Kristjansson, 2014).
- Has Common Core been effective in helping students achieve more?
- While Common Core certainly has its detractors, it also has its supporters, who point to the fact that test scores have improved and that sometimes new approaches to learning can be positive.
- Is social promotion a helpful practice?
- Schools are divided over the issue of whether retention or social promotion should be the solution to the problem of at-risk students.
- Is centralization good or bad for schools?
- The Department of Education oversees education in the United States in a way that has upset some educators who see their role as a teacher reduced to that of custodian or even babysitter.
- What is the most important subject that should be learned in schools?
- Schools teach a lot of different subjects over the years, but what is the single most important subject that can be learned and why?
- Should schools promote bilingualism?
- Bilingualism can be a great skill to have when it comes to securing a new job or starting a career. Maybe schools should do more to help students acquire it.
As Shakespeare said, music is the food of love…but he also noted that love is in the eye of the beholder—so it stands to reason that there should be some disagreement about the merits of different types and genres of music. This makes music topics a terrific source to mine for an argumentative essay.
- Is classical music still relevant in today’s culture?
- Pop music has all but displaced the old world’s classical compositions—yet celebrated films often use classical music to great effect—from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange to Stone’s Platoon.
- What factors contributed to the rise Jazz?
- Jazz came about as a confluence of factors that were years in the making, some of which many are unfamiliar (Adorno, 2002).
- Did the rise twelve-tone system cause musical composition in the modern era to advance or regress?
- Modern music’s shift towards atonality certain left a mark on a certain era of composers.
- Is the Frankfurt School correct in arguing that pop culture and pop music have had a negative impact on modern society?
- Critical Theory, crafted by the Frankfurt School, takes a very negative view of pop culture and pop music.
- Is Nietzsche’s criticism of Wagner fair?
- Wagner was an artist who embraced myths to move his audience—but his embrace of Christianity was apparently too much for Nietzsche.
- What is the greatest musical of all time?
- Is it Sound of Music, Grease, Mary Poppins? There are a ton of options, so make your case for why your favorite is the best.
- Should music from other countries be taught in schools?
- Every country and culture has produced its own style of music. Should these styles and works be studied to better understand the world?
Racism is a big issue in America, mainly because of the various ethnic strains that have come together over the years and the biases that these strains have projected into the American experience. It’s a good subject to argue over as there are many sides to it.
- Was the eugenics movement in the early 20th century motivated by racist ideology?
- Margaret Sanger was certainly motivated by WASP ideology throughout her career, but to what extent did this ideology play a role in the development of the eugenics movement and the push for birth control in America?
- Are the effects of multiculturalism positive or negative for society?
- Multiculturalism has been viewed both as a celebration of culture and a destroyer of culture.
- Would an immigration ban be racist?
- Immigrants have been recognized by presidents as the backbone of America, but today there is a great deal of pushback against this notion (Hafetz, 2012).
- To what degree was slavery a factor in the outbreak of the Civil War?
- Historians disagree as to the extent to which slavery played a role in the South’s decision to secede from the Union.
- Is racial profiling a problem in policing?
- Police call it preventive action but opponents call it racial profiling.
- Is racism a natural condition of human society?
- Has human society always segregated itself according to ethnicity, race, religious and cultural beliefs? What does history say?
- Can racism ever truly be ended or is it simply part of the human condition?
- Why does racism exist and what can be done about it if anything at all?
Good topics for an argumentative essay are those that provide stark contrast between two opposing sides—an either/or situation in which you are either for an issue or against an issue. Good topics are generally subjects that are frequently argued but never fully resolved by commentators. In fact, the more a topic has been argued in the past, the more likely there are to be a lot of good articles and books that you can read to find information to support whichever side you favor.
- Is genetically modified food safe for people?
- The GMO debate continues to rage in the popular press, the alternative press and the academic world—but whose side is right?
- Do nations have a duty to secure their borders?
- The EU has implemented an open borders policy, yet not every nation views this as a good idea.
- Is global warming occurring or is climate change based on fraudulent science?
- Some are certain that the world is undergoing man-made climate change, but not everyone is convinced.
- Do you we suffer from too much technology?
- Technology has certainly made life more convenient in many ways, but there may also be a price to pay in terms of lost humanity.
- Can Buddhist Economics serve as the basis for a successful modern society?
- Buddhist economics focuses on three principles related to the good of work—but modern societies built on the Adam Smith model of economics may not be able to reconcile with these principles.
- Should the Federal Reserve be abolished?
- Ron Paul is adamant that the Fed’s mandate should be revoked—but why?
- What types of government regulation are good and what types are bad?
- Sometimes regulation can be a good thing, but not always: argue for why some regulations are necessary and why others are counter-productive.
If you’re looking for an easy topic for an argumentative essay just start off by thinking about the typical clichéd arguments that you’ve already heard a thousand times before. Then try to decide if you can actually think up some good reasons why one side should be argued over the other.
- Should the drinking age be lowered?
- You only have to be 18 to fight in a war and to vote—yet you can’t buy alcohol until you’re 21.
- What is the greatest movie of all time?
- Picking out the greatest movie of all time may be a matter of personal taste, but that hasn’t stopped film critics from partaking of this exercise.
- Which book should be honored as the Great American Novel?
- There’s Twain, Hemingway, Hawthorne and Melville—and one of them can lay claim to having written the Great American Novel.
- What is the best philosophy of life?
- How should one live? That question was asked by Socrates thousands of years ago—but are we any closer to an answer?
- Is religion still important to people in the Digital Era?
- It may seem that if you have an Internet connection, that’s all you need in the modern age—yet religion is still around: the question is, does it still have some importance?
- Is making friends and getting along with diverse groups of people more important than sticking to one’s principles and potentially making enemies?
- To what extent should one try to make others happy? To what extent should one assert one’s own beliefs in the face of opposition?
- What are the best ways to practice preventive health?
- Eating right and exercising can go a long way in combating obesity and diabetes—two of the biggest epidemics in America today. Argue that engaging in a little preventive health and kicking the bad habits that harm our bodies is really the best way to avoid ending up in the hospital.
The reason controversial subjects are controversial is that there are usually good arguments to be made for either side of the debate. As the writer of an argumentative essay, it is your job to become familiar with both sides, decide which to argue for, and then use evidence and supporting facts to show why the other side’s argument is illogical.
- Should immigrants from predominantly Islamic countries be banned from emigrating to the U.S.?
- The War on Terror has produced some unlikely outcomes, and the immigration issue is one of them.
- Is torture an effective tool in interrogation technique?
- Trump has said that he supports the use of torture, yet Defense Secretary Mattis has stated that he get more useful information out of a detainee with a pack of cigarettes and a beer.
- Should hormone therapy be offered to adolescents who identify as a different gender?
- Hormone therapy is on the rise among transgender adolescents, yet some doctors view this as a dangerous intervention (ACP, 2016).
- Are the Revisionists correct in challenging some of the claims about the Holocaust?
- The Holocaust is viewed as the most disturbing episode in human history, yet some researchers are convinced it did not happen.
- Was World War Two really “The Good War”?
- The Cold War was a war between the West and the forces of Communism—yet during WWII, the West was allied with the largest Communist state in the world, the Soviet Union. Does this undermine the U.S.’s claim that it fought “the good war?”
- Should vaccinations be mandated by law?
- Some claim that vaccinations are harmful for young children, while others think mandatory vaccinations are the only way to stop the spread of disease.
- Is modern Feminism losing ground?
- The role of women in today’s society has become muddied by the various depictions of women in popular media—from sex slave victims to sex sirens to political and business leaders and everything in between (Gill, 2007).
- Does the U.S. spend too much on its military?
- The U.S. has the largest military budget in the world, yet some want to increase it.
Interesting argumentative essay topics will differ according to one’s personal taste—but anything that raises a question with the status quo will likely be of interest to a reader. To be interesting, all an argumentative essay has to do is pique the readers’ interest. Pay attention to what’s going on in the media, choose a popular subject and weigh in on it with facts to support your case.
- How are the philosophical implications of the heliocentric and geocentric views of the world diametrically opposed?
- Have you ever considered how you might think about yourself and the purpose of life if you found out that the Earth was in fact the center of the universe?
- Did Christianity benefit the West during the Dark and Middle Ages?
- From the fall of Rome to the rise of Europe, Christianity existed as a unified system of belief that had a tremendous impact on society.
- Should Socrates have been put to death for corrupting the youth of Athens?
- Socrates posed some challenging questions in his day, but did he deserve to die for it?
- Is homeopathy an effective alternative to conventional medicine?
- With conventional medicine coming under more and more scrutiny, some are beginning to turn to alternative forms of medicine for help.
- Will the electric car replace the gas guzzler?
- TESLA’s stock is through the roof, so one may well wonder if the death of the fossil fuel car is near.
- Is fracking safe for people and the environment?
- Fracking is cheap and effective, but not everyone agrees that it is safe (Bateman, 2010).
- Is “pizzagate” really a big deal?
- What is “pizzagate” and why does it matter if it does matter, and what should be done about it?
Funny topics can an alternative way to approach the argumentative essay. While many people may expect a serious subject from students, there’s no harm in taking on a humorous subject—so long as it is treated with the same sobriety and formality.
- Is lip balm addictive?
- Everyone loves lip balm—but can one ever have too much?
- If the final Battle of the Sexes were held tomorrow, who should represent each side—and who would win?
- The age-old battle of the sexes will probably continue till the end of time, but if the final showdown were upon us these two individuals would put up the best fight on behalf of their respective sexes.
- What is the greatest comic strip of all time?
- Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County, Garfield—there are so many choices, but only one can be called the greatest.
- What is the greatest Bill Murray comedy and why?
- Bill Murray has starred in some classics, but What About Bob? is undoubtedly his greatest because it gets to the heart of what makes both comedies and Murray so beloved.
- Is organic better?
- Just because a producer slaps an organic sticker on its label, does that mean it is any better than the competition’s brand?
- Which American should be sent to Mars soonest?
- If you could pick one single American to send into space (never to return), which would it be and why? Make your case!
- Should mascots be banned in professional sports?
- Mascots are a great part of professional sports and bring an added dose of fun to the games—but sometimes they can go too far! Do run-ins with fans mean that mascots should be banned?
Current Event Topics
Current event topics are always a great place to start because these are timely issues that are fresh in the minds of many and being explored by researchers and writers in numerous formats. It is very easy to find information to support your argument when your subject is a current event.
- Why is health care in the U.S. so expensive?
- Health care in other parts of the world delivers the same kind of quality care in many cases but at a fraction of the cost—so what is it that makes health care in the use so expensive?
- Will Trump be good for America?
- Roughly half of U.S. voters pulled the lever for Donald Trump in November, but what will he do to make America great again?
- Is the modern economic system on the verge of collapse?
- The modern economy is erected on a system propped up by central banks—and not everyone is pleased with it.
- Should the U.S. embrace a multi-polar geopolitical worldview?
- Russia and China are promoting a multi-polar worldview but the U.S. is seemingly less than thrilled with this prospect.
- Will a wall between the U.S. and Mexico be effective in stopping illegal immigration?
- Illegal immigrants come from more places than just Mexico, so how effective will a wall really be?
- What is the single, greatest threat facing America today?
- Some say it is terrorism, others say it is an increasingly Orwellian government, and others point to the economy and the insanity of central bank intervention. What do the facts say? Support your argument with good data.
- Should America really be allied with Saudi Arabia?
- The evidence linking Saudi Arabia to 9/11 is strong, so why does America continue to ink arms deals with the country and side with it in the war against terror?
History is full of stories that are up for interpretation—and for that reason history makes for fertile soil when it comes to picking an argumentative topic. Choose an era or a particular event in history and then argue why it happened or what it led to. In other words, show that history is significant and that the events of history can be judged in a meaningful way.
- What was the real cause of WW2?
- The story goes that Germany was re-arming itself and violating its treating. Pull back the curtain and look more deeply into world events: see why Germany was embarking on this decision and argue that there was more to it than the standard curricula would have us believe.
- How did the Second Vatican Council change the Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century?
- Vatican II was one of the most earth-shaking events of the 20th century and came at a particularly turbulent and revolutionary time (the 1960s). Its decrees upended centuries of Catholic teaching, potentially laying the groundwork for the charge that it was really a “robber council.”
- What does Operation Northwoods reveal about covert action as a part of U.S. policy?
- This false flag plan developed by the CIA in the 1960s shows that American forces were willing to target American civilians while blaming the attack on a foreign government in order to drum up support for war against that same government,
- Explain why the Nixon Shock of the 1970s was the inevitable outcome of the flawed Bretton Woods system.
- Money makes the world go round—but what happens when countries start to devalue their own money?
- How are the ideas of the Enlightenment and Romantic Eras still felt today?
[ Steps to Writing: Think, Prepare, Write ]
Argumentative essay topics are easy to come up with—just think of something that you want to convince others of and then go for it! Your argumentative essay may not be exactly a roundhouse kick to your opponent’s head—but it doesn’t have to be: it’s really just a way for you to use your rhetorical skills to express a convincing point of view supported by research. The purpose of the argumentative essay is not to beat your reader over the head with your opinion but rather to provide solid evidence, convincing analysis, and respectful, formal wording that will sway your reader to your side based on the validity and legitimacy of your reasoning.