A persuasive essay is a type of writing that attempts to convince the reader that the opinions being presented are right. They are very similar to argumentative essays except for the fact a writer presents a one-sided opinion giving valid reasons and solid facts on why that opinion or argument is correct. With an argumentative essay, the writer creates a discussion on the topic by presenting points on both opposing and proposing sides as is the case with verbal debates. The writer employs logic to reason with and sway the reader into adopting a certain view. Such essay assignments are commonly given to students in high school and junior college. They help students to master persuasive skills which can be useful for students in all disciplines including sciences and social studies; as well as in business and their social life.
Tips for finding persuasive essay topics
Sometimes, essay topics are not given by the professor thus writing persuasive essays begins with selecting a topic. In such a case, a student is required to select an appropriate topic to write about. To help you do that, here are a few tips.
- Think of subjects that interest you. Feel free to select a topic that you will enjoy writing about and not just one that you think will please your professor. Obviously, you should not purposely pick a topic that will bore your audience. Nonetheless, focusing excessively on what you think your teachers would like to read is a mistake. Most professors want to see you write in your own style and argue your own ideas, supported by facts.
- Select a topic you are passionate about; not one on which you are conflicted. You will likely be unable to present your views and convince your audience if you are conflicted about the side on which you stand. For example, it may not be wise to argue that every state should abolish the death penalty yet on the hand, you think that child molesters deserve the death sentence. The audience of your persuasive essay or speech must not detect any sign of internal conflict in your argument. Being passionate about the topic will also make the research and writing tasks enjoyable, and your emotion will also be reflected in your writing. This will help you persuade and change the reader’s mind.
- Don’t over-obsess on political correctness. You should avoid playing it too safe and shying away from a controversial issue. A point to note, however, is that for a school setting, you may want to strike a balance between boldly expressing your views and not offending your audience with overly inappropriate topics.
- Think about your personal experiences or those of people you know. Real life events can be a source of inspiration to help you formulate an interesting topic.
- Think about what you know. Start with general subjects that you are familiar with then narrow down to a specific topic. It will be easier for you to write a good persuasive essay if it is a subject in which you have knowledge. This is especially important if you have limited time to write your essay as you will be able to do the legwork faster.
- Read. Topics abound in books, newspapers, journals and the web if only you conduct research. The importance of research in persuasive writing cannot be overstated. Research is important for formulating your title and finding evidence to back up your ideas. A research paper published in a peer-reviewed journal could present the credible evidence you need. This involves reading widely and sometimes talking to experts in your subject of interest. Sample persuasive essays can also provide inspiration on topics to write on as well as serve as examples on how to write your essay. A point to remember as you conduct research is that your institution likely has a strict policy against plagiarism, therefore avoid presenting someone else’s work as your own.
- Brainstorming helps in coming up with an idea or refining the one you already have. Discuss your ideas with friends or other people around you, but this is not a license to copy someone else’s work. The purpose of brainstorming is to help you get ideas. Weave in your own perspective to make your essay unique.
- Persuasive essay topics are often inspired by contemporary issues in society so pay attention to current trends and events happening around you. It helps to come up with a list of several persuasive essay topic ideas and then carefully evaluate them further to pick the best one.
Selecting a good topic for your essay is one of the most important and often tricky parts for many students. Here are a few characteristics against which you should evaluate your topic before you start writing the essay.
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Qualities of a good persuasive essay topic
The topic should be specific. The essay topic should be broad enough for you to comfortably meet the required length of the essay, but not too narrow that you are unable to write more than a few short sentences on it.
- A great topic should have some complexity and depth.
- A good topic for a persuasive essay is one that is debatable. Pick a topic that society is talking or arguing about.
- The topic must not be overdone. Most times a topic that has been tackled over and over is not the best choice because it is likely that society has already reached a consensus on the matter and it is no longer being debated.
- Is there adequate literature to support your opinions/ideas? There should be enough literature to provide facts to back your ideas in order for you to write a good persuasive essay. You don’t want to start the writing process, then have to find a new topic because you realize, midway, that there’s no credible literature to back your ideas.
We have compiled a few ideas appropriate topics for your persuasive essay assignment.
Some Persuasive Essay Topic Ideas for High School
- Should students perpetrating cyber bullying be expelled?
Cyberbullying can undoubtedly have grave consequences for the victims. There has been agitation in some quarters to have cyber bullies in schools face the consequences such as expulsion.
- Is college education the key to a successful life?
There are varying views on whether a college education is required in order to have a successful life.
- Should the death penalty be abolished?
The death penalty has been abolished in some states, many more still practice it, and others have the death penalty allowing gubernatorial moratoria. Some say the death sentence is a fitting deterrent to serious crimes but is it a cruel, dehumanizing practice that should be abolished?
- Should civilians be allowed to carry guns?
Do civilians with guns to help stop crime such as mass shootings or does the freedom of civilians to carry guns pose more danger?
- Should the minimum voting age be lowered?
21, 18, 17, or 16; just how old is old enough to vote? Are teenagers’ old enough for the responsibility of voting or should voting be reserved for young adults and older citizens?
- National security prevails over individual right to privacy
Should violations of individual privacy rights be allowed for the sake of national security?
- Parental consent should not be required for teenage girls to access contraceptives.
Teenagers have free access to contraceptives, but lawmakers have come up with proposals that will require teenage girls to engage their parents before they can get access. Should the right of teenagers to freely access contraceptives be upheld?
- Smartphones are killing communication
Smartphones have changed the way conversations are carried out, but are they killing the art of communication? Are we missing out on crucial benefits of voice calls and face-to-face conversations?
- Should Medical Marijuana be legalized?
Marijuana helps relieve symptoms of various illnesses. There have been debates on whether Marijuana prescribed by a doctor should be legal. Do you think it should be legalized?
- Is commercial testing on animals, right?
Safety tests for products such as drugs and cosmetics are often tested on animals to ascertain their safety. Animal rights activists and other parties don’t agree with this practice.
- Should mercy killing be allowed?
Euthanasia, the killing of patients with painful, incurable diseases, irreversible coma, is done in order to relieve suffering. The practice is allowed in some states, but it is frowned upon and illegal in many more states. Is an ethical practice that should be legalized or not?
- Should mandatory sexuality and parenting classes be taught in school?
Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children about sexuality, contraceptive use, and parenting. However, do parents sufficiently teach their kids on these subjects?
College Level Persuasive Essay Topics
- Should guns be allowed on campuses?
Research shows that guns on campuses only pose a greater danger of violence and do very little to stop shooting rampages. Do you think guns should be allowed on college campuses or not?
- Should public breastfeeding be allowed?
Mums are given a hard time now and then for breastfeeding their babies in public. However, others are of the opinion that breastfeeding, just like bottle feeding a baby in public should not be controversial.
- Should the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries be implemented?
There have been mixed reactions on whether the executive order to ban visas issuance to travelers from six Muslim-majority countries be implemented.
- Should recycling be required by law?
Recycling helps preserve the environment, but not everyone practices it. Some think that by making it a legal requirement, more people will begin to practice recycling. What’s your position on this?
- Should workplaces have a more relaxed dress code?
Some employers feel that relaxed dress codes negatively impact productivity and should not be allowed in the workplace. Others think that it improves creativity and productivity in the workplace.
- Should the jury system be replaced by bench trials?
There have been arguments that juries are not made up of people with the necessary legal expertise and should, therefore, be abolished and replaced with bench trials where judges are solely responsible for making judgments. These are just a few tips to help you in persuasive essay writing. You can write persuasive essays on a variety of subject including health, food, technology, history, law, religion and governance. Just follow the guidelines stated above, and you’ll be well on your way to writing a good persuasive essay.
The Importance of Research in Persuasive Essay Writing
Whichever topic you choose, always remember the importance of literature sources. These sources serve to enrich knowledge, meet the academic community’s expectations, and identify and support arguments. The questions of whether a topic has been overdone or has enough literature to back it up must always be asked. The answers to these questions can only be found by immersing yourself in literature to filter out the overdone topics and find facts, examples, statistics and quotes to provide supporting evidence for your essay. It requires and demonstrates an ability to research, understand and integrate information from multiple sources. Common reliable sources of literature include journals, scientific magazines, textbooks and reports that can be examined for relevance to the topic at hand. There are multiple online resources and databases to find a book or a journal article that you can use in your search for relevant information sources on which your essay will be based. Possessing good research skills and selecting a good topic is crucial. However, good writing should accompany a good persuasive essay topic and extensive research thus a student must learn the skills of effective writing. Learning good writing skills will help you write better essays that will keep your readers interested and persuaded. This can be difficult for some students, especially for those whom English is their second language; but it is not an impossible task.
Writing Persuasive Essays
Once you settle on the topic and choose the position on which you will base your essay, the rest of the work can then begin. You still need to create an outstanding piece of writing. You will need to research about your topic further to provide evidence to your ideas and then structure your writing according to the persuasive essay structure. As any guide on how to write a persuasive essay will tell you, your essay must be organized in paragraphs with a logical progression from one paragraph to the next. There should be an introductory paragraph that includes a strong, authoritative thesis statement, a body section with at least three paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph with a call to action. Begin the introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing fact, question or contradiction. Each of the body paragraphs should state a single main point and present evidence support for the point, view or argument you are making. Examples may also be included in each of the body paragraphs to further support and clarify your main points. A good persuasive essay must always have a concluding paragraph where you restate your position and include a summary of the essay text. If your introduction included non-rhetorical questions, you should include answers in this section as well. Focus the conclusion on giving your reader a strong message that will linger in his/her mind. Finally, remember that a big part of being effective in persuasion is the ability to appeal to your audience’s emotions. Be creative and take full advantage of persuasion techniques and as with any type of writing, keep your work clear, concise and error-free.
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Whether you are working on a persuasive unit or preparing your students for assessment, these writing prompts can serve as a starting point for building persuasive (argument) essays. Encourage students to use the PAST strategy to analyze the prompts, and share six strategies for writing arguments to help them do their best work.
Beginning Persuasive Prompts (Grades 4–5)
Share these prompts with students who are beginning to write essays.
1. What Season Is Best?
Some people love hot summers at the beach or pool. Others love cold winters with sleds and snowmen. Maybe you like crackling fall leaves or tender spring flowers. Write an essay that names your favorite season and gives reasons why it is best.
2. My Pet of Choice
If you could have any pet, what pet would you choose? Dog? Cat? Snake? Tarantula? Write a letter to your parent or guardian naming the pet you would most like to have and giving reasons why you should get to have this pet.
3. Time for a Vacation
What vacation would you like most? Hiking in a state park? Visiting Grandma? Going to an amusement park? Write an essay to your parent or guardian naming what would be a perfect vacation and giving reasons you would like to take it.
4. A Change I'd Make
Think of a problem at your school. What causes the problem? What bad things happen because of it? What should be done to fix the problem? As a concerned student, write a persuasive essay noting the problem, suggesting a solution, and convincing your principal to take action.
5. Valuing a Second Language
Many schools require students to take foreign language courses. Does your school? Do you think it's a good idea for students to learn a second language? Why or why not? In an essay, make a case why it is (or is not) important to learn a foreign language.
Intermediate Persuasive Prompts (Grades 6–8)
Share these prompts with students who regularly write essays.
6. What's My Age Again?
Is it better to be a child, a teenager, or an adult? What are the benefits of each age? What are the drawbacks? Choose the period of life that you think is best and write an essay arguing why it is the best time of life. Support your position with anecdotes from your own life as well as facts and details drawn from the lives of others.
7. Preparedness vs. Overplanning
John Lennon once observed, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” If that is true, is it better to live life without a plan, to carefully follow a precise plan, or to somehow balance planning and spontaneity? Write an essay arguing for how a person should plan (or not plan) life. Support your claim using examples from your life and the lives of other students.
8. Future President
Some day, you and your classmates will be the adults in charge of running the world. Is that thought exciting or terrifying? Which of your classmates would make the best president of the United States? Write an editorial announcing a presidential bid by a classmate of yours (or yourself). Tell why the person would make an excellent president, provide the person’s qualifications, and urge readers to vote for the candidate.
9. What Is Music For?
Archeologists have uncovered ancient flutes carved from bird bones and mammoth ivory, showing that music has been with us for a very long time. Even so, what is music for? It doesn’t provide food or shelter. It doesn’t cure disease or solve problems. What does music do? Write an essay that tells what music does for human beings and argues for its value in our lives.
10. New Class Offerings
Think about a class not currently available that you would like your school to offer. Now write an editorial to your school newspaper that identifies the new class and provides strong reasons for including it in your school’s curriculum.
Advanced Persuasive Prompts (Grades 9–12)
Share these prompts with high-school level writers. Refer them to the 7 C's for Building a Rock-Solid Argument infographic to review the key parts of an effective argument.
11. Drug Testing for All?
The Supreme Court ruled that random drug testing is constitutional for high school students involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities. Write an essay that argues for or against random drug testing of all students.
12. Would You Eat Test Tube Meat?
Some 9 billion animals are killed and used for food each year in the United States. The animal waste produced by factory farms causes water and air pollution. Yet the demand for meat grows stronger. In an attempt to curb the use of factory farms while satisfying the population’s demand for meat, food scientists have begun producing in vitro meat—muscle tissue that’s cultured from animal cells and grown in a laboratory. How comfortable would you be eating test-tube meat? Write an essay that argues for or against in vitro meat.
13. Tests, Tests, Tests
Standardized tests are used as a measuring stick for student performance. Your test scores decide, in part, whether you are admitted to certain colleges. They are also used to measure readiness for certain careers, such as law and medicine. Test scores impact the funding that public schools receive from the federal government. Write an essay that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of standardized tests. In your essay, decide if standardized tests are the proper measuring stick for student performance. If, in your opinion, they are not, describe alternatives that could be used to measure achievement.
14. Should the Internet be Copyright Free?
In 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill was introduced to the United States House of Representatives. Among other things, SOPA would expand criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted movies, music, and television. Many free-content sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit boycotted the bill as a threat to free speech. A draft of the bill was postponed in 2012, and it remains tabled today. Write an essay that weighs the interests of copyright holders such as recording artists and movie producers against the rights of users of the free Web. Should sites be able to host copyrighted material free of charge? Is it ethically right to stream pirated music and movies? Provide reasons for your response.
15. Tackling National Debt
In last 40 years the United States federal government has accumulated unprecedented debt, meaning that it has spent more money than it has collected in revenue. In fact, the national debt is approaching $20 trillion and rising by the day. The debt crisis is a complex problem that could eventually cost citizens and weaken the U.S.'s standing in the global community. In a problem-solution essay, explore the causes and effects of the national debt problem. Then outline possible solutions and recommend how the federal government should act to solve the crisis.