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Persuasive Essay and Paper Topic Ideas

Persuasive writing permeates our lives. Whether it is a television commercial, a printed ad, or an opinion piece written in the editorial section of a newspaper or online, people want to convince other people to buy their products or services or to believe as they do and/or accept their positions. Some of these writers use psychological techniques; others use actual factual data to support their opinions; some use both.

In an academic setting, students will often be required to produce persuasive essays and papers. And the standards are usually high. Students will have to conduct significant research, develop an opinion or take a side, and then, through their writing, attempt to convince others to accept their position.

Usually, persuasive essays and papers have topics that are controversial and over which there is a lot of discussion. The good new is this: There is a lot of research out there on these topics – research that is easily accessible.

So, let’s take a look at some of the topics that would make for good persuasive essays and papers.

  1. Drunk Driving: Decades ago, drunk driving did not command the attention that it has in more recent times. The dangers are obvious – accidents that result in injury and death. Perhaps one of the most vocal organizations that has put a national spotlight on drunk driving is MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). This organization has been responsible for lobbying state legislators for stricter laws and increased penalties. A good research paper topic might be related to this organization and its accomplishments. Another might relate to current imposed penalties, if they are tough enough, and, as well, the rehabilitative efforts that may be in place to assist alcoholics recover from their disease.
  2. Abortion: While this is very much a “tired” topic, it is nonetheless in the spotlight again now. In 1972 the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion nationwide. Since that time, the controversy has not died down. In states where the majority of voters appear to be against abortion, legislators have passed laws restricting abortion and putting unachievable regulations in place that have forced clinics to close. In several instances, abortion doctors have been attacked and even killed. Planned Parenthood has been under attack because it performs abortions. If you choose abortion as a topic for research and persuasion, then you must have your own position clearly defined from the start. And you may want to explore topics that are a bit different from the more common ones – perhaps explore abortion from a civil right perspective or research social programs that promote and supply birth control so that abortions are not necessary in the first place. One interesting topic comes from the book Freakonomics. There is a chapter relating reduction in crime rates to abortion and the decrease in teenage pregnancies that result in births.
  3. Animal Testing: Another hot topic, especially for animal rights activists. For many years, all sorts of companies have engaged in research that uses animal subjects, even in cosmetics development. Proponents of animal testing, especially in the medical field, insist that animal testing is critical and has resulted in many breakthroughs, as well safety of foods and drugs. Obviously, the big question is whether animal testing is moral and ethical. But another topic could relate to the advantages and disadvantages of animal testing from a factual standpoint, and then taking a position that one outweighs the other.
  4. Global Warming: The science is really “in” on this one, though there are still those who insist that the threat is a hoax. How could you convince a non-believer that global warming is real? And what are the politics involved? For example, fossil fuel corporations have a vested interest in continuing to produce and sell fuel products that are clearly responsible for a chunk of climate change. How much sway do they have over legislators, and should they? What about the role of cattle farming? Most large beef producers keep cows in pens where they feed on grains. Why? Because the meat supposedly “tastes” better than grass-fed beef. The problem is, when cows are grown in this environment, they fart – a lot. Cow farts are estimated to produce about one-third of the methane gas that destroys the ozone layer. Persuading consumers to change their beef eating behaviors and cattle producers to alter their methods would both be great topics for a rather unique topic on global warming.
  5. Violent Video Games: The verdict is still out on the impact of violent video games on children and teens and their behaviors. Psychological researchers have only recently begun to study this issue. But there is some research out there that can be explored and reported, as you take you stand and attempt to convince others.
  6. Death Penalty: One of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou shalt not kill.” Throughout history, however, people have killed others during wartime, in self-defense, and, even in earlier times, to settle arguments through duels. Governments have established the death penalty as a punishment for serious crimes. In the U.S., the death penalty punishment is left up to each state. Those who oppose the death penalty state that no man has the right to determine the life or death situation of another. They also point out that wrongful executions have occurred. Those who support it state that some crimes are so heinous that only the death penalty is an appropriate punishment. This controversy is nothing new. But here is a potential topic: In those states that have the death penalty, has crime decreased? In countries that have banned the death penalty at a national level, has crime increased. You will find data that can support your opinion, no matter which side you are on.
  7. School Uniforms: Religious schools have always had uniform requirements. It is their belief that such a policy establishes a stricter more disciplined atmosphere and eliminates the competition for appearance on the part of students. These are all good arguments, and there is research to back up the arguments of why we should have school uniforms in public schools as well. The other side of the coin is this: school uniform requirements are a violation of First Amendment rights, specifically, that dress is a manner of free speech. You may have an initial opinion on this, of course, but it would be a good idea to conduct some research first. Specifically, you should look at the data regarding academic and behavioral changes, if any, upon the implementation of a uniform policy. You can then have an opinion based upon science, not just opinion.
  8. Gay Marriage: Oh dear. If you decide to choose this as a topic for a research piece, you will find no lack of resources, arguments, and threats. No matter what your opinion may be regarding gay marriage, don’t be like the stubborn King Creon who refused to see any other side of the picture. Instead, keep an open mind, and research both sides of the issue before forming your own opinion. You might want to address some legal issues. For example, if gay marriage is legal in one state, and a married couple moves to another state where it is not, what is the status of their marriage? What opinions might you have to solve these legal issues? Are national laws a solution?
  9. Illegal Immigration: Right now, the focus on this issue is at our southern border. President Trump wants to build a wall, as he promised during his campaign, but Democrats and a few Republicans are opposed to this. Illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. is a reality, of course. And the controversy has brought many proposals for immigration reform, none of which have been adopted. But illegal immigration is not just occurring at the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico. Many who come on temporary visas; many who come as students simply do not leave when supposed to. And they are from Asia and the Middle East. Research topics might involve some of these lesser-covered issues, making your paper stand out among the others.
  10. Racism: A topic that is always on the table, especially more recently, given the more visible activity of racist groups and the continual publicity related to the killing of Black males by police officers. There are a number of topics for argumentative essays and papers, such as the recent trend toward rolling back affirmative action programs that universities have had in place for many years. There are other issues of racism as well, for example, discrimination against Muslims, in response to terrorism. Again, try to choose a topic that is not commonly covered, and your instructor will perhaps be more engaged while reading it.
  11. Stem Cell Research:  The controversy surrounding this issue is primarily religious and relates to whether a human embryo is indeed a human life with rights to life. Staunch anti-abortionists tend to oppose stem cell research too. But such research has already resulted in medical breakthroughs and holds promise to positively impact disease prevention and treatment. One potential topic relates to government funding for stem research, especially in terms of grants to university or other medical facilities for such research.
  12. Should College Athletes Be Paid: College sports programs are expensive. And adding pay to athletes obviously increases the costs. There is also the issue that those institutions with large endowments in sports are far more competitive in recruiting top athletes, thus un-leveling the “playing field.” In arguing why college athletes should be paid, many proponents state that athletes are virtually employees of the university, making money for that university, and yet receiving no compensation for their contributions. Opponents also state that most college athletes are on scholarship with tuition, books, and room and board paid for – benefits that most other students do not have. And they end their college careers not in debt, unlike the majority of students today. Thus, they do receive compensation while in school. Your obvious thesis for this issue is in support of or opposed to salaries for college athletes. Pose your argument logically.
  13. Is Breaking the Law Ever Justified: There is an ancient Greek Tragedy, titled Antigone. In it a sister buries her brother against the decree of the king, who believed him to be a traitor and forbid a proper burial. She broke the law but felt justified in doing so. Are there ever instances in which breaking a law can be justified, especially a law that is deemed to be unjust? Rosa Parks, for example, broke the law when she sat in the front of the bus. Black students broke the law when they sat at a dime store lunch counter. The other side of this argument is that laws should never be broken but, instead, opponents should work within “the system” to change those laws they oppose. Pick a side.

Additional Topics On Which You can Take a Stand

  1. Government shutdowns
  2. Term Limits for political leaders other than governors and Presidents
  3. Democracy as the only reasonable system of government
  4. The benefits and drawbacks of paparazzi
  5. Freedom is the primary necessity of human beings
  6. Universal healthcare
  7. Influence of large corporations on legislators
  8. The Electoral College
  9. Prison privatization
  10. Life terms for federal judges
  11. Underground oil pipelines
  12. Emission controls
  13. Paris Climate Accord
  14. Iran Nuclear Agreement
  15. Human rights violators of the world
  16. Russian influence in American elections
  17. Free speech – how far does it go?
  18. Gun control/rights
  19. Affirmative Action
  20. If people told only the truth, the world would be a … more dangerous place
  21. Genetically-modified foods
  22. Animal abuse
  23. Anti-poaching rangers will safe the endangered species
  24. Animal sports should be banned
  25. Using credit scores as factors in insurance costs
  26. Privacy vs. data gathering by government
  27. College costs and student loan debt
  28. Immunization requirements vs. individual freedom
  29. Right to die
  30. Social welfare safety nets – food stamps, housing subsidies, etc.
  31. Industries must be more environment-friendly
  32. Food labeling
  33. Junk food should be banned
  34. Why healthy food  is almost never tasty
  35. Government responses to natural disasters
  36. Offshore drilling
  37. Wrongful convictions
  38. Reparation payments to groups whose rights were violated in the past
  39. Voter suppression
  40. Gerrymandering
  41. Harmful pesticides
  42. Couch Potato kids
  43. Free trade policies
  44. Plight of Native Americans
  45. Stop and frisk policies
  46. Parents should allow their children to draw on the walls
  47. Graphic news reporting and children viewing it
  48. Discrimination against the handicapped
  49. Evaluating teachers on their students’ test results
  50. Children need private space more than adults do
  51. Fairytales distort children's image of real life
  52. People need certain illusions to live in the real world
  53. Games improve children’s fine and gross motor skills
  54. Cartoon violence should not be censored
  55. Ignoring infrastructure needs
  56. Deforestation
  57. Dress codes at work
  58. Age discrimination
  59. Gender discrimination
  60. Legalized gambling
  61. Gambling as a dangerous passion
  62. Reasons PC games make life better
  63. Curse words in music and on television are unacceptable
  64. Prison reform
  65. General education requirements for degree programs
  66. School uniform is for students' own benefit
  67. ”Harry Potter” should be included in the list of school literature
  68. Schools should be free of religion
  69. Co-ed or single-sex public schools
  70. Educational system needs reforms
  71. Studying abroad has more drawbacks than benefits
  72. What is done by night sppears by day: cheating is always revealed
  73. Online slang is a part of teenage subculture
  74. Every teenager needs an idol
  75. Keeping exotic animals as pets
  76. Pets are family members
  77. Chupacabras: the ultimate proof of the spooky creatures’ existence
  78. Paternity leave for fathers
  79. Cloning
  80. Music and academic performance
  81. Pop music is not a "bad" music 
  82. Art should not be used to protest against the hardships of reality
  83. Horror movies are a means to experience adrenalin rush
  84. ”The Simpsons” are more than just a movie
  85. Tobacco and alcohol ads during TV sports events should be outlawed
  86. All forms of betting on sporting events should be prohibited
  87. Fashion models are not good as role models
  88. Eminent domain
  89. Traditional vs. progressive educational models
  90. Academic requirements for sports participation
  91. Cheerleading is a sport and should be regarded as such
  92. Students should receive money for playing sports
  93. College athletes can be smart—don’t fall prey to stereotypes
  94. Colleges waste too much money on sports programs
  95. Not all great sportsmen can become good coaches
  96. Athletes’ inborn talents are more important than the skills of their coaches
  97. Women coaches should work with women athletes
  98. Bodybuilding is inappropriate for women
  99. Women’s boxing is less popular than men’s boxing because of stereotypes
  100. Female and male athletes should not get equal salaries in the same sports
  101. Female tennis players can compete in the men’s league
  102. Every tennis tournament should give a separate award for the loudest player
  103. Sports management: a more lucrative degree than business administration
  104. We should have a separate radio station for sports chants
  105. Women athletes are more likely to have injuries than men
  106. Injuries can cause psychological traumas
  107. Psychological issues such as depression and anxiety can increase the risk of getting injured during exercise
  108. Instead of being prohibited, the use of steroids should be legalized and monetized
  109. Press conferences should be made mandatory for athletes
  110. What should be done about offensive team names in football?
  111. Bayern Munich is only a good team because of its excessive funding
  112. FIFA is too corrupt to function and should undergo a major overhaul
  113. World Cups produce devastating effects on the countries that host them
  114. The World Cup bidding process is flawed and encourages human rights violations
  115. The NBA should implement a stricter dress code
  116. In baseball pitching, control is less important than command
  117. Instant replays should be used in baseball
  118. Major League Baseball should implement a salary cap instead of a luxury tax
  119. Sports positively affect student’s self-perception and confidence
  120. Sports can lead to underperformance in class
  121. Perfectionism is not good in sports
  122. Green exercise and environment are an
  123. Changes in lifestyle can prevent the development of physical and psychological diseases essential aspects of healthy training
  124. Hunting for sport
  125. The first move advantage in chess can help only a good player
  126. Chess is not a waste of time and intelligence
  127. Chess is not a sport
  128. Poker players should be allowed to wear headphones during live events
  129. Cybersport is a sport
  130. The winners of the World Memory Championships should work in international councils
  131. Protection of endangered species
  132. Ocean garbage
  133. Space garbage
  134. Money must be made not of paper but of plastic
  135. Life on Mars is possible
  136. Atlantis did exist
  137. There is no way people see the same colors
  138. Diet fads
  139. Obsession with diets is dangerous
  140. Vegetarianism is dangerous for health
  141. Student athletes drink Red Bull to get wings, but get health problems instead
  142. Estimated benefit from GMO products is higher than their possible harm
  143. Money and the justice system
  144. The Draft
  145. Notebook computers can replace textbooks
  146. Hands-free devices while driving are the solution
  147. Public Wi-Fi should not be free
  148. Internet bullying and harassment
  149. Federal governments should control the internet
  150. The internet makes education more effective
  151. Internet pirates should be punished more severely
  152. Capital punishment should be banned
  153. Frivolous lawsuits
  154. Manipulation of the markets
  155. Advertisements on streets provokes consumerism
  156. Tariffs and trade wars
  157. We should prefer bicycles over cars
  158. Social vs. academic skills – which is more important
  159. Men should wear pastel colors
  160. Team spirit is the key to success in a business 
  161. Using lie detector tests for job interviews violates a person's constitutional rights
  162. Workplace harassment
  163. Biological and chemical weapons
  164. Bank bailouts
  165. Torture as a means to get information
  166.  Racial Profiling
  167. Polygamy (for both genders?)
  168. There is no difference between male and female friendship
  169. The gender war cannot be stopped… and must not be
  170. Ethics of drone warfare
  171. Parking fees on college campuses
  172. Breast feeding in public
  173. Net neutrality
  174. Banning plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam products
  175. Using worms in landfills
  176. Population control
  177. Unnecessary medical testing
  178. Hormone and antibiotic use in chickens and other for-food animals
  179. Slaughterhouses are not going away: we need a more effective method to produce meat
  180. Usury interest rates at Payday and other loan companies
  181. Interest-free student debt repayment
  182. Free public college
  183. Megachurch wealth with no taxes
  184. All greatest discoveries are made completely by chance
  185. What constitutes excessive police force?
  186. Christmas must be more than a reason for a consumption surge
  187. “War on Christmas”

There you have it. Thirteen controversial issues and a host of other potential topics for argumentative research essays or papers. As well, any of these suggestions would make great topics of persuasive speeches too. The next time you are assigned an argumentative piece, refer to this list. You will surely find something that interests you.