Professors love argumentative essays as much as students hate them. It is the most common writing assignment in many classes, yet learners fail time after time. If you are tired of an endless string of Cs, let’s go over the writing process one more time. We’ll also provide you with a list of controversial essay topics to choose from if you can’t find the one you love.
Argumentative Writing Recap
Before we plunge into the specifics of choosing the topic and writing an argumentative paper, let’s do a quick recap of what it entails. An argumentative essay is usually a capstone or final project that requires you to:
- Choose a debatable topic
- Research both sides of the argument
- Take a firm stance on the issue and stick with it
- Generate, collect, and analyze the evidence
- Deliver the intended message or convince the reader to take your side of the argument
Sometimes students confuse this paper with expository essay. The latter is similar but needs less research and evidence. Professors use expository papers to evaluate your writing during in-class tests and exams.
Persuasive essays might also seem similar. However, they allow a wide variety of persuasive techniques, including emotional manipulation (pathos) and relying on authority (ethos). Meanwhile, for argumentative writing, only hard facts and evidence (logos) are appropriate.
Before you set out to write an argumentative paper, make sure your professor doesn’t expect a persuasive or expository one. Read the prompt carefully and pay attention to verbs that specify what you need to do. If you are still not sure, ask your professor to elaborate on what essay type you are expected to write. Remember there are no silly questions in school, so don’t be afraid to ask them.
How to Choose among Argumentative Essay Topics
Before you scroll down to our list of argumentative research paper topics or look for examples elsewhere, know that not all issues are equal. There are bad, good, and great topics. And since selecting the theme is your first prewriting step, it’s the most crucial one. If you make a mistake this early, you will waste time and effort on a paper that will never get an A.
When a topic catches your eye, think about it and answer these five questions. The more affirmatives you get, the higher your grade is likely to be.
Are you excited to learn more about the issue?
While everyone is hyped about cryptocurrency, you break out in hives every time someone talks about Bitcoin. It’s a sure sign the topic is not right for your paper. However, if you daydream about artificial intelligence and can quote Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics, this is the direction your essay should take. The more passionate you are about the topic, the better your writing will be. Moreover, you won’t have to battle procrastination, as you are always eager to learn more about your interests.
Is the topic relevant at the moment?
You can talk about the repercussions of the Dotcom crisis on the American economy, but Bitcoin rise and fall would be much more exciting to write about. In our ever-changing world, the news’ shelf-life is no more than a couple of days. While heavier topics have longer-lasting effects, they go out of trend quickly too. News reports, social media, and YouTube are your best bet at finding a trending issue to discuss.
How many people would get into an argument with you over this issue?
No one will argue against exercise being good for health, so there is no point in writing an argumentative essay on this. Body shaming would be a better topic to discuss, as it is a current issue, and some might argue that controlled shaming could motivate people to take better care of their health. Some issues divide people in half, such as Republicans vs. Democrats, Marvel vs. DC, or vegetarians vs. meat-lovers. Other topics have multiple sides and might be more complicated to research, so you better avoid them.
Can you squeeze your argument within the required word count?
If you want to research multiple theories concerning JFK shooting, you won’t be able to fit all valid points and evidence in a two-page essay. Moreover, research will take too much of your time, and you won’t be able to submit the assignment before the deadline. Alternatively, if your topic is too narrow, you’ll have to resort to filling the paper with useless ramblings when you can’t formulate enough arguments.
Can you find enough credible sources to support your stance?
You might be a firm believer of the theory that aliens built Egyptian pyramids, but you are unlikely to find peer-reviewed journals articles on the topic. For argumentative essays, reference credibility is a must, so you should not settle for blog articles by UFO conspiracy fans. Obscure issues are also not the best choice even if they are exciting. Without proper evidence, your arguments will be weak, and you won’t get a high grade.
Argumentative Essay Topics 2020
As always, our list is only here to light a spark of imagination and inspire you to come up with an original topic on your own. Fair warning: these are not argumentative essay topics for middle school. Most of them are tailored for college or high school, but you can adapt them to suit a lower academic level. You can also use our list to come up with persuasive speech topics for college, adding pathos and ethos to make your argumentation more impactful.
- Prostitution should be legalized to increase state budget income
- Workplace diversity increases tensions within teams
- Globalization erases cultural differences between nations
- All major crimes should be punished by death sentence
- Parenting classes should be mandatory in all high schools
- Weekends should be 3 or 4 days long to increase productivity
- Music and film awards do not reflect the actual merits
- We should get rid of libraries because they are no longer needed
- The church should gain more power with modern governments
- Welfare payments prevent people from seeking employment
- Humanity is not ready for the potential of artificial intelligence
- Cryptocurrencies will never replace paper money and credit cards
- Online businesses should pay for users’ personal data
- Basic programming skills should be taught instead of the second language
- Smartphone cameras have ruined the art of photography
- Self-driving cars will cause more accidents than prevent them
- Internet addiction should be treated as a psychological disorder
- 3D printing will never replace traditional manufacturing
- Space exploration is a waste of time and money
- Climate change is irreversible because of technological advances
- Brexit is the beginning of an end for the European Union
- The USA should ban all immigrants from entering the country
- Governments will become obsolete in the age of international corporations
- Monarchy is a superior regime to democracy
- Younger generations are disillusioned by politics and will not vote
- Politicians should be prepared for their positions since childhood
- Anyone can create a new country in international waters
- Governments should spend more on education than the military
- Political reforms are impossible without social unrest
- The President’s worth can only be defined decades after his or her term
You can turn any of the items into argumentative speech topics, mix two or three together to come up with something new. You’ll also notice each topic supports one position, but you can support the opposing view in your paper.
How to Write an Argumentative Essay
Formatting, proofreading, and editing are the last steps of the writing process that make the paper look polished and refined. By now you should know everything about the value of freewriting and iterative editing, so we won’t waste your time on repeating the obvious. Instead, let’s focus on the prewriting stages that cause confusion and panic among students. We are talking about planning and outlining the essay before writing.
Argumentative Essay Checklist
Here is a checklist for you to go through before writing to ensure you get the highest possible grade:
- You have researched all sides of the issue and have compiled a list of pros and cons. This preliminary work will help you address opposing arguments that take argumentative writing to the next level.
- You have decided your stance on the problem based on the list of pros and cons. To make your life easier, select the side that has a few potent arguments, instead of the position has the most arguments. Choose quality over quantity.
- You have selected at least three points that support your stance. Discard weak and inconsequential arguments, the ones you can’t support with enough evidence and those that rely on pathos rather than logos.
- You have at least two pieces of evidence to support each of the points. Note the supporting facts, statistics, quotes on separate cards or in a document. Save citation data for every piece of evidence to accelerate the referencing.
- You have formulated the most potent argument (or three) for the opposing stance. You’ll need them to make a balanced and objective paper, which professors appreciate.
- You have the rebuttal(s) in mind for the opposing position. You can’t mention the alternative view without addressing it, so find evidence to refute the argument and support your initial position.
- You have a vague draft of the thesis statement. It’s easier to formulate once you have a list of critical points and opposing views. Take the time to draft the thesis. You can polish it later, but the preliminary version should always be close by when you write.
- You have a two-level outline. Besides knowing you’ll have the opening and closing paragraphs and a few body passages in the middle, you can turn your critical arguments into topic sentences for the body and use them in an outline. We’ll talk more about the possible structures in the next section.
Argumentative Paper Outlines
Argumentative essay body paragraphs give students the most trouble. They don’t know how to fit all the information gathered during research into a 500-word paper. There are several tried-and-true options we’ll share with you. These outlines only concern body paragraphs, so remember to include an introduction at the beginning and a conclusion at the end:
- Two pro points + 1 con point with a rebuttal. Three body paragraphs make for a traditional five-paragraph essay. It’s the most straightforward structure there is.
- Three opposing points with rebuttals. It’s the same five-paragraph essay with a twist. Instead of supporting your stance, you methodically strike against the alternative position. Remember to be objective, not critical.
- Alternating pro and con points with rebuttals. This plan is useful for longer papers when three body paragraphs are not enough. Play around with pro and con points until their order makes sense and remember transitions to make the flow smoother.
- All con points with rebuttals + all pro points. Useful for longer assignments, this structure allows you to trash the alternative stance before establishing and supporting your view of the issue. Arguments’ order and transitions are as crucial as in the previous case.
With all preparations out of the way, you are ready to write your argumentative essay. Follow the outline, use your notes, and always circle back to the thesis statement. Editing and proofreading are not optional.
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