For many students, their first major writing challenge occurs when they are asked to write a persuasive essay. If you have felt that panic, you are not alone. In fact, there is a very logical reason that students view persuasive essays as being particularly daunting; for the last several years, grades K-12 have emphasized expository writing.
In expository writing, the author is challenged to fully explain a topic. A fully developed expository essay may lead the reader to form a position on a topic but should do so because a neutral presentation of the facts leads to that conclusion, not because the author is supporting a particular position.
Because the expository essay forms a cornerstone of primary and secondary English/ Language Arts (ELA) education, many students are never asked to take a position in their writing. Therefore, they find the persuasive essay, also known as the argumentative essay to be particularly challenging. The persuasive essay is a specific type of essay where the writer has to state a position on a topic and support that position with well-developed evidence.
They can be challenging for students because there has been an emphasis shift in K-12 writing, focusing on the expository essay. The expository essay explains a topic, while the persuasive essay takes a position on the topic. The difference may seem subtle, but is actually critical. If your essay does not take a clear view of a topic, then it is not a persuasive essay. In order to take a clear position on a topic, one must do more than simply state one’s opinion about the topic. The writer must: research the topic; evaluate evidence; and then use that evidence to support the writer’s position.
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Persuasive Essays are essays where a student takes a position and defends that position with the use of evidence. While the writer’s opinion is an important component of the persuasive essay, it is important to note that the writer has to be able to support that opinion with factual evidence. Failure to support the opinion with fact-based evidence means that the essay will not be persuasive.
One of the biggest challenges students face when writing a persuasive essay is separating opinions and facts. An opinion is “a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter” (Meriam Webster, Opinion, 2016). In contrast, a fact is “a piece of information presented as having objective reality” (Meriam Webster, Fact, 2016). Therefore, for a persuasive essay, the writer’s job is to explain what judgment he or she has made about a particular matter, and then use the facts to explain or support that judgment. Opinion is a critical part of the process, but it must be well-supported.
Unfortunately, oftentimes, especially with controversial issues, conflicting opinions are based on people cherry-picking the facts that support their opinion and ignoring the facts that do not support their opinion. However, doing this actually weakens your persuasive position. If there are facts that seem to support a position that differs from your own, it can be important to take the time to discuss those facts and then explain why they have not caused you to take a different position.
Persuasive essay topics can run the gamut from very silly to very serious. You may feel like a serious essay is better for a persuasive essay, but it is better to strongly support your position than it is to pick a “serious” topic. In fact, the most common serious topics for persuasive essays may be presented as black-and-white, but still not actually lend themselves to a strong either/or position. Furthermore, many of the most serious and contentious persuasive essay topics are very opinion-based, particularly ones that deal with religion or religious-issues. Just because someone feels passionately about a topic does not mean that it is a good topic for a persuasive essay.
Therefore, to help you find the perfect topic for your essay, we have broken our persuasive essay topic list down into sections.
Should school fundraisers include high-sugar or unhealthy items like candy or soft drinks?
Fundraisers that sell items like candy and soft drinks are proven money makes for schools, but some people have concerns that schools should not be profiting from encouraging unhealthy behavior for kids.
Should school lunches only include healthy alternatives?
Childhood obesity and lack of access to health foods suggest that school lunches should be healthy, but a healthy diet can include some non-healthy foods and some picky eaters may not eat if only presented with healthy alternatives.
Should children be encouraged to share?
People believe that teaching children to share helps create generous and giving individuals, but adults are not expected to share their belongings and teaching kids that they can simply use another person’s belongings without permission actually teaches behavior that is criminalized in older people.
Should kids get to pick which parent they live with if their parents divorce?
Children often prefer one parent over the other and allowing them to pick which parent they live with post-divorce may minimize the disruption of divorce; however, sometimes the better parent is not the favorite parent.
Should children be required to perform chores for their families?
Children need to learn that certain chores are essential to keeping a household functioning; however, childhood is also the only time period of a person’s life where they are without household responsibilities.
Should children be paid for good grades?
Since the job of children is basically to go to school and get good grades, some people believe that children should receive financial compensation for those grades. Other people believe that children are compensate for their time in school by being fully financially supported by their parents and that paying them for their grades would create an unrealistic incentive program that does not prepare them for reality.
Should children have a right to privacy from their parents in their homes?
Currently, children have no right to privacy in their parents’ homes because parents are expected to provide guidance for their children and are the owners or tenants of homes; however, because children do not have the ability to change their residence, this results in children being unable to exercise some of their fundamental constitutional rights without parental cooperation.
Should the government be able to tax unhealthy items like soft drinks or junk food?
The government already imposes taxes on unhealthy things like cigarettes, but, in moderation, junk food may not have negative health consequences.
Is sexual orientation fixed or can it be changed with intervention?
Many professionals believe that sexual orientation is fixed, but others claim to have changed sexual orientation due to therapeutic intervention.
Should welfare recipients have to pass a drug test before they can get government benefits?
While it makes sense that people do not want to pass any type of monetary benefit to people who are using their money to purchase drugs, in the states that have enacted it drug testing welfare recipients has proven very expensive and has not yielded significant results.
Should felons have the right to vote?
Committing a crime designated as a felony usually results in losing your right to vote, even after your punishment ends, but taking away the right to vote means that the very people impacted the most by laws are unable to impact policy.
Should people face financial penalties for failing to recycle?
Recycling is the most responsible use of resources and helps the population in a number of ways, but it seems like government overreach to financially penalize people for failing to recycle.
Should minors ever be tried as adults?
Sometimes minors commit heinous crimes that seem to deserve a greater punishment than available in the juvenile justice system, but biology suggests that children’s brains are not sufficiently developed to be held to an adult level of responsibility.
Should we be using genetically modified foods?
Genetic modifications can make food more affordable and may make it possible to deal with periodic food shortages that lead to famine, but there are concerns that genetically modified food do not have the same nutritional value.
Should counties charge much higher registration fees for unaltered pets?
Pet overpopulation results in the euthanization of thousands of companion animals nationwide, each day; however, it may not be fair to punish responsible breeders because of problems created by irresponsible breeders and pet owners.
Should breastfeeding be allowed in public?
Breastfeeding is the most nutritious way to feed infants and is why breasts exist, however breasts have been sexualized in our society so that some people will have sexual responses to breastfeeding.
Should churches pay taxes?
Churches do not pay taxes because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion and the concept of the separation of church and state, however churches often make tremendous profits and use their positions to influence non-church related business or government ideas.
Should the government deport illegal aliens who have not committed any other crimes?
The United States has an immigration process in place that allows people to immigrate legally and allowing those who do not follow the process to stay in the United States gives them an unfair advantage over those who follow the legal steps for immigration; however, deporting otherwise law-abiding illegal aliens results in breaking up families, added governmental expense, and can even create tense international relations.
Should parents pretend to be Santa Claus?
Few things in childhood are as joyful as waking up on Christmas morning to gifts from Santa, but is it possible to teach children to be honest if you lie to them?
Is it possible to have a social media addiction?
Many people claim to be addicted to social media, but other people argue that true addictions require biochemical changes that do not occur when using social media.
Should gambling be legal?
Gambling can create significant revenue for the state, but it an also result in very negative results for the families of compulsive gamblers.
Should politicians have to advertise their campaign contributors like race cars advertise their sponsors?
Knowing major financial contributors to politicians might enable voters to better predict their performance, but advertising their contributors may violate the contributors’ right to privacy.
Do video games contribute positively to life?
Many people believe that video games are, at best, a positive distraction from life and have a number of negative side effects which range from decreased attention spans to desensitization to violence; however, video games can develop creativity, logical reasoning, and even abstract thinking skills.
Should we take steps to reduce climate change?
If climate change is driven by human activity, it seems clear that we should take steps to stop that change, but some people believe that climate change is not human-driven and will not have serious negative consequences.
Should the First Amendment protect all speech?
The First Amendment’s free speech protections seem to extend to all speech, but there are compelling reasons to prohibit certain types of speech, such as child pornography.
Should child molesters be sentenced to death?
The victims of childhood sexual abuse often live with a lifelong sentence because of the actions of their abusers and most child molesters will offend with multiple victims over the course of a lifetime; however, child sexual abuse is already underreported because it is usually committed by a family member or trusted friends and underreporting would increase if the death penalty was a possibility.
Should all illegal immigrants be deported?
Illegal immigrants have proven that they are willing to ignore United States laws, but many illegal immigrants were brought here as children and they form an important component of the U.S. economy.
Should torture be legal?
With the growing threat of terrorist attacks around the globe, governments should feel free to use any means necessary, including torture, to get information needed to prevent a large-scale attack. However, there is little evidence that torture results in suspects turning over valid information; even if a subject talks, the interrogator may not know if the information is true. Furthermore, how would an interrogator determine whether a potential event was large enough to trigger torture for the release of information?
Is educating women the key to ending poverty?
Poverty levels are inversely correlated with the percentage of educated women in a country, but there may be insufficient evidence to support causation between the two variables.
Should mentally ill people have restricted access to weapons?
The Second Amendment does not contain any provisions suggesting that mental illness be a disqualifying condition for gun ownership, but the level of gun violence, both homicide and suicide, by the mentally ill suggests that reasonable restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill would save lives.
Is building a wall between the United States and Mexico a good idea?
The lack of a continuous border barrier enables intercountry criminal activity, but the negative message of building a wall between the two countries could have an even greater negative impact than existing crime.
Is Black Lives Matter a civil rights organization or a terrorist organization?
The leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement consider it a civil rights organization, but detractors point to violence at protests and believe it is a terrorist organization.
Should transgender people have the legal right to use the bathroom that conforms with their chosen gender identity, or have to use the bathroom that matches their genitalia?
The transgender community suggests that forcing them to use bathrooms matching their genitalia results in awkward and sometimes dangerous situations for them, but others fear that giving transgender people the legal right to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity will help enable predators.
Should we increase the minimum wage?
Because the minimum wage is not a livable wage, many people advocate for raising it; opponents suggest that the minimum wage is not intended to be a living wage.
Should we repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?
While the affordable care act has resulted in millions of Americans receiving healthcare coverage, it has also resulted in higher healthcare costs for millions of other Americans.
Should professional athletes be compelled to stand for the National Anthem?
Freedom of speech suggests that professional athletes should not be forced to stand for the National Anthem, but it is perfectly acceptable to limit speech in the course of employment.
Should the United States Congress be more concerned about potential Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election or with leaks that have allowed the public to learn about this interference?
While Russian interference in the election, which resulted in Russia’s choice for President being elected is alarming and may have implications about the validity of the election, concentrating on the election results may undermine the current administration and make it impossible for the country to move forward and be less divided.
Should college athletes be paid for playing?
College athletes bring in millions in revenue for their schools without any monetary return, but paying athletes for performance means that college athletes are essentially pros.
Should high school students be allowed to drink alcohol?
The current legal drinking age is 21 because it is believed to result in safer driving for teens, but most teens experiment with alcohol anyway and, because of the potential legal repercussions that can result from underage drinking, may fail to turn to adults for help with any problems that occurred while intoxicated.
Should high schools have a dress code?
While a dress code stifles students’ ability to engage in self-expression, some clothing could be distracting, and possibly even dangerous, to other students.
Should high school students be able to leave campus for lunch?
Requiring high school students to stay on campus for lunch does not recognize that high school students are approaching adulthood and that many are even legal adults; however, allowing students to leave campus increases the risk of traffic accidents, of student misconduct while at lunch, and of students being tardy to class.
Should students’ grades in gym and electives impact grade point average?
Because grades in gym and electives may be based on natural ability, rather than effort, it seems arbitrary to use them to determine GPA; however, it is equally true that some kids have natural abilities that make the excel in these classes and would be penalized if they were not included in GPA.
Should pre-AP classes be ranked higher than non-pre-AP classes for the purposes of determining grade point average?
Pre-AP classes tend to be more challenging than non-pre-AP classes, which supports ranking them higher, however doing so often results in students who are not a good fit for a pre-AP class taking the course anyway in an attempt to elevate GPA.
Should sex-ed be taught in public schools?
Sex-ed classes focus on biology, which should be taught in schools; however, many people view sexual behavior as a question of morality and believe that parents, not schools, should be in charge of religious or moral instruction.
Should students be permitted to bring their phones to school?
Student access to cell phones in school can make it easier for students to conduct research and communicate with parents in the event of an emergency, but they can also be used to cheat, bully people via social media, and may disrupt the classroom.
Should teachers be permitted to use their cell phones in their classrooms?
Teachers can use cell phones to enhance learning and classroom safety, but cell phones can be distracting to students and teachers.
Should students be required to wear school uniforms?
School uniforms have a number of established benefits including equalizing students and reducing the visual recognition of cliques, but they limit student self-expression.
Should cyber-bullying be a crime?
Cyber-bullying has well established negative consequences, but criminalizing it seems as if would impact the free-speech rights of the cyber-bullies.
Should there be a perfect attendance award?
Schools receive state and federal funds based on attendance, so students should be encouraged to attend classes; however, sick children attending school can infect large numbers of students and teachers.
Should states be able to legalize recreational marijuana?
The federal government regulates controlled substances and has not legalized recreational marijuana, however growing evidence suggests that legalizing recreational marijuana increases state revenue and reduces crime rates.
Should birth control be provided free-of-charge to people who want it?
Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a positive goal, but many people believe that the government should not be required to pay for contraceptives, especially since many taxpayers do not believe in contraceptives.
Should how conception occurred impact whether or not abortion should be legal?
Regardless of how a fetus is conceived, it is still a fetus; however, it seems wrong to allow a rapist to force a victim to carry his child to term.
Should cities be able to ban dog breeds?
Dog attacks can cause serious injuries or even fatalities, however dogs of any breed can be dangerous if not properly socialized.
Should the draft be expanded to include women?
Equality suggests that women should be included in the draft, but women are at great risk of being sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers, making the risks they face if drafted quantitatively different than the risks men face.
Should people have to pass a parenting test before having children?
There is no question that many people are not good parents, but passing facially neutral laws that require people to pass a parenting test would almost certainly have a discriminatory impact on minority ethnic and religious groups.
Should the 2nd Amendment be interpreted to prohibit any regulations on guns?
The 2nd Amendment’s clear language gives people the right to bear arms, but it also suggests that this right should be well-regulated.
Should prostitution be legal?
Many people believe that people should be permitted to use their bodies to support themselves in any way they see fit; however, much of the modern sex industry is based upon unwilling labor and human trafficking.
Should U.S. citizens be able to be punished in the United States for crimes they committed abroad?
U.S. citizens often go abroad to engage in activity that is illegal in the United States, like child prostitution. The U.S. does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed in other countries, but also has a compelling interest in preventing its citizens from engaging in depraved behavior while abroad.
Should standardized test results be an important part of college admissions?
Given that standardized test results are only somewhat correlated to college success, should they be considered an important part in the college admission process? Some other factors that schools could consider include: volunteer work, work experience, GPA, and career goals.
Should parents and employers view extracurricular activities as important in a person’s college experience as grades?
For many people, the greatest opportunities provided by college were not the education, itself, but opportunities to meet new people and engage in new activities. However, a person’s success in college is often measured merely by looking at GPA. Should extracurricular involvement and participation be considered as important as GPA in considering a student’s college success?
Should college campuses censor speakers who are invited to visit on campus?
Recently, several white nationalist speakers have been invited by student groups to speak on campuses. At public schools, generally the schools are required to allow any speaker who can comply with facially-neutral guidelines to speak on campus. However, there are arguments that allowing a speaker who advocates that certain groups of students are superior to others creates a hostile environment for students in groups the speaker identifies as inferior. Universities are left to balance free speech rights with the right students have to be free from discrimination in education.
Should people ever purchase dogs or cats?
There is an undeniable pet overpopulation problem that results in thousands of companion animals, primarily dogs and cats, being euthanized each year. Breeding dogs and cats increases this problem, not only because some of those pets invariably end up in shelters, but also because it can provide a disincentive for people to adopt dogs or cats. On the other hand, many breeders are responsible and follow good sales practices, and are able to provide sought-after breeds to their customers.
Should breed-specific legislation occur?
In some cities dog breeds that are identified as dangerous are prohibited. These bans are focused on decreasing the risk of dog attacks. However, they are often premised on misinformation and generally target pit bulls, but may include dogs from other large breeds as well. While pit bulls are considered scary by some, they actually test better in temperament tests than almost all other breeds, even breeds with friendly reputations such as Labrador retrievers.
Given the relatively short career spans of most professional athletes, are they really overpaid?
While many professional athletes receive exorbitant salaries, the median salaries of athletes in many pro-sports is not actually that high. Given that they can only play for a short period of time and that an injury can prevent them from fulfilling even a shortened career-span, are these high salaries really exorbitant?
Should children be permitted to play football before they turn 18, given the increasing evidence linking football to serious head injuries?
Football is a beloved pastime in much of the United States, and is even considered an important right-of-passage in many families. While it has long been considered a moderately dangerous sport, most people assumed that there was very little risk of lasting damage from concussions incurred playing the game. Now that there is a growing body of evidence linking football with lifelong brain damage, should parents still be permitted to allow their minor children to participate in the sport?
Should athletes be discouraged from using their platforms to bring up political issues?
While Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem is the current hot-bottom topic on this issue, the reality is that sports figures have long-used their platforms to discuss political issues, particularly civil rights issues. Muhammed Ali is one of the best examples of an African American using his fame to bring attention to civil rights issues. On the other hand, some sports fans resent being fed a political message when they are trying to enjoy a sporting event and feel like athletes can use other means to convey their political messages.
Regardless of their length, persuasive essays follow a standard format: thesis, supporting evidence, and conclusion. This format makes it easy for your readers to understand your essay, because it tells them your position, explains why you have taken that position, and then restates the position.
The thesis statement should occur within the first paragraph of the essay. Standard five-paragraph format has the thesis as the concluding sentence of the first paragraph. While you may choose a different approach, you should know that your readers will naturally look to the concluding sentence of your first paragraph for your thesis statement. In addition, opening the paragraph by introducing your topic, previewing the arguments in support of your position, and then stating your thesis statement is a strong way to make an argument. Therefore, while you can certainly deviate from this structure, make sure that any deviations actually make your writing more persuasive and are not just done for novelty.
Familiarize yourself with all sides of the argument. One of the reasons that so many people are disgusted with politics in the United States is because when many politicians take a position, they dismiss the idea that any other positions can have any merit at all. It is very polarizing and serves to alienate a large chunk of a potential audience. In reality, few issues are black or white. Therefore, even if you feel strongly about an issue, in fact, probably especially if you feel strongly about an issue, take time to read different positions. One great resource for presenting multiple sides for controversial issues is ProCon.org, which takes a number of controversial issues and presents arguments on both sides of the issue. You may be surprised to find that some of the evidence against your position is compelling; if so, it is probably important for you to address that evidence and explain why it does not change your position.
Consider what type of evidence you want to use. We think of evidence in terms of facts, but even under the broad umbrella of facts there are different evidentiary approaches. You can use statistics, personal anecdotes, and logical reasoning to support your position. However, you must ensure that you support or defend those positions. For example, when discussing religion, many believers find themselves in a logical loop of using words from their holy texts to explain why the texts are holy. Rather than putting yourself in the position of saying something like, “The Bible is the word of God,” introducing a logical loop to your argument, you can say, “According to Christianity, the Bible is the word of God.” While you still make the same point, you have transformed the statement from an opinion that you cannot prove to a factual statement that is easy to prove.
Think about your topic choice carefully and try to put yourself in the reader’s position. You may have a very compelling argument for why the death penalty should be abolished, but how many death penalty essays do you think your professor has read in his or her career. Can you come up with a new approach that will differentiate your essay in some meaningful way? Sometimes, you will be directly asked to address one of the current big three social issues: abortion, the death penalty, or gay civil rights. If so, then take a position and defend it with the best evidence you can find. However, if you are asked to write a persuasive essay and not required to pick one of those topics, consider whether you could write a better essay on a topic that has not been explored as thoroughly.
While it may seem intimidating, writing a persuasive essay does not have to be difficult. Simply find a persuasive essay topic that lends itself to having an opinion, research the topic, choose your position, and then use the evidence to support that opinion. If you are experiencing challenges writing your persuasive essay, consider using your college writing lab to help you with the process.
Have any other amazing topic suggestions? Leave them in the comments below to give students even more ideas 🙂