High Quality Persuasive Essay Topics (Updated for 2017)

High Quality Persuasive Essay Topics (Updated for 2017)

All of us use persuasion informally in our everyday lives and have done so since we were young. When you were younger, didn’t you try to persuade your mother to allow you to have dessert without eating your vegetables or to stay up late past your bedtime?  Haven’t you tried to persuade a friend to see a particular movie or to help you with your homework? Think of all the many ways you tried to persuade people to see your point of view. Now all you have to do is translate those same feelings into a persuasive essay.

However, a persuasive essay is a little bit different than how you use persuasion in daily life because you are trying to persuade someone to change his or her mind using a formal argumentative structure.  Your language needs to be academic, as you are maturing as a writer. You need to be as rational as possible, even when there is an emotional side to your argument. There should be two sides to the issue you are discussing and you should use logical as well as emotional reasoning to convey your thought process.

What is a Persuasive Essay?

Beginning a persuasive essay can seem daunting at first. Unlike conventional informative essays, a persuasive essay has to express a particular point-of-view.  The critical element of a persuasive essay is that it contains an arguable thesis, preferably stated in one sentence at the end of the first paragraph. All of us use persuasion informally in our everyday lives and have done so since we were young. When you were younger, didn’t you try to persuade your mother to allow you to have dessert without eating your vegetables or to stay up late past your bedtime?  Haven’t you tried to persuade a friend to see a particular movie or to help you with your homework?

But a persuasive essay is a little bit different than how you use persuasion in daily life because you are trying to persuade someone to change his or her mind using a formal argumentative structure.  There should be two sides to the issue you are discussing and you should use logical as well as emotional reasoning to convey your thought process.

How to Start a Persuasive Essay

Students often throw up their hands in despair when asked to create a persuasive thesis. “I don’t have any strong opinions on anything,” they often say.  The first step of writing a persuasive essay is to brainstorm ideas.  As yourself what do I believe?  What issue am I passionate about?

It cannot be stressed enough that it is extremely important that there are two sides to the issue you are arguing.  For a good essay, the two different sides should be compelling. For example, many students want to use the topic “you should stop smoking” for their persuasive essays.  But there are no really good arguments in favor of people choosing to smoke.  Yes, it is true that people still do smoke despite the overwhelming evidence that smoking is bad for their heath.  But there are no logical reasons to embrace this bad health habit. A persuasive claim must have a reasonable counter-argument using logos, ethos, and pathos (logic, ethics, and emotion).   Ask yourself: if you had to debate the opposite side of the issue you are arguing, could you do it? If not, you do not have a good topic for a persuasive essay.

Once you have selected your topic, it is time to do some more research. After learning more about the different sides of the issue, you can refine your thesis or perhaps even change it.  Have a good sense of your audience when reframing your claim. If your intended audience is extremely familiar with the topic, you will not need to give a great deal of background information. On the other hand, if you know your professor knows very little about the issue (for example, if your persuasive speech is about online bullying and you know that your teacher is not active on social media) you may need to provide a more extensive setup.  Even if you give information to your reader about the topic, however, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are not writing a purely informative essay.

What Are Persuasive Essay Topics?

The goal of a persuasive essay is to convince the reader to think or act differently. Persuasive essay topics can be about controversial subjects, but they are different from argumentative essay topics in several key ways.

For one, a persuasive essay does not use the same rhetorical devices as an argumentative essay no matter what essay topics you choose. A persuasive essay is similar to an argumentative essay in its overall structure but your advice should appeal to reason and urge the person to agree.

Second, a persuasive essay is more about getting the reader to take action or convincing the reader to adopt your point of view. An argument can be about an abstract issue or principle. With a persuasive essay topic, you genuinely want to urge the reader to take action, not just make a philosophical case about an issue.

How to Find Good Persuasive Essay Topics

Beginning a persuasive essay can seem daunting at first. The hardest part is figuring out what to write about. If you are being asked to write a persuasive essay on any topic whatsoever, you might find yourself wondering where to begin. Settling on a topic is never easy, even for expert writers.

This article will help you by giving you some good and unusual ideas that will impress your readers. You will learn about how to pick the best persuasive essay topics in any subject area, and make your persuasive essays stand out from the crowd.

However, sometimes you will be assigned a persuasive essay topic from your class or professor. If you have been assigned a specific topic, or have to pick a persuasive essay topic from within a specific subject area, this essay will also help you to write better. You will learn how to narrow down your topic and use rhetorical devices and strategies that will actually convince your reader to adopt your point of view.

Good Persuasive Essay Topics Are Specific

Unlike conventional informative essays, a persuasive essay has to express a particular point of view.  The critical element of a persuasive essay is that it contains an arguable thesis, preferably stated in one sentence at the end of the first paragraph. Ideally, your thesis not only shows what you believe, but also why. Get as specific as you can about what you are going to write about. Here are some examples:

Instead of: Jay Z is a better artist than Kanye West.

Go with: Jay Z is a better artist than Kanye West because his music is more sophisticated, his lyrics are more political, and his influence on popular culture is more positive.

Instead of: Meat should be banned in the United States.

Go with: Meat should be banned because it is bad for the environment, bad for health, and because it is unethical to kill animals.

Instead of: All American students should learn three languages by the time they are ten.

Go with: All American students should learn three languages by the time they are ten because it leads to expanded opportunities in the job market.

Persuasive Essay Topics That Interest YOU

Students often throw up their hands in despair when asked to create a persuasive thesis. “I don’t have any strong opinions on anything,” they often say.  The first step of writing a persuasive essay is to brainstorm ideas.  Do some soul searching. Ask yourself, “What do I believe, and why?” Or, “What issue am I passionate about?” You will write best about what you care about most.

You might be thinking, “How can I pick a topic that interests me if I know nothing about it?” Here’s where you need to do a little research online first. Even the most boring subjects can become interesting when they become controversial. Let’s say you know nothing about current events and politics but need to come up with a persuasive essay topic. Start by doing a Google search on current events. You can focus your search on a specific country or issue like oil and energy, climate change, or gender. Pretty soon you can come up with some good persuasive essay topics like these, based on current events:

  • China recently decided to ban the internal combustion engine by 2040, and the United States should do the same.
  • Trump is correct, and the United States should build a border wall across not only the southern border with Mexico but also along the northern border with Canada.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi should have her Nobel Peace Prize revoked because of the way she is treating the Rohingya.

Topics Should Have At Least Two Sides

It cannot be stressed enough that it is extremely important that there are two sides to the issue with any persuasive essay topic.  To write a good persuasive essay, you should be able to convincingly argue two or more points of view, which means you need to be open minded and willing to do research. Also, the two or more different sides of the issue should be compelling. You want your reader to remain interested in the persuasive essay topics.

For example, let’s say you want to persuade the reader to stop smoking as the persuasive essay topic. Persuading the reader to stop smoking might have been a good persuasive essay topic fifty years ago, but now most people are aware of why smoking is bad and there are few good arguments in favor of smoking. Yes, it is true that people still do smoke despite the overwhelming evidence that smoking is bad for their heath, but there are no logical reasons to embrace this bad health habit. For this reason, smoking is not usually a good persuasive essay topic.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Have you heard of the term “devil’s advocate?” Playing the devil’s advocate means arguing for a position you do not necessarily agree in yourself, or a position that could even be considered unethical. It means arguing for the sake of arguing. When assigned a persuasive essay topic, you might find yourself in the position of playing the devil’s advocate. Playing the devil’s advocate is one of the best ways to improve your skills in writing persuasive essays. For example, if you truly believe that abortion is immoral, it can be helpful to write a persuasive essay on the topic of why abortion should be legal. Playing the devil’s advocate ensures that you will reveal both or multiple sides of an issue.

Using Rhetoric

Rhetorical devices can transform a good persuasive essay topic into a great persuasive essay. The three primary elements of any good rhetoric include pathos, ethos, and logos (emotion, credibility, and logic). Pathos refers to the emotional undercurrent in your persuasive essay. With pathos, you prevent your essay from being dry and boring. This is why it is important that you care about your subject. Writers who care about the subject will write better persuasive essays. Ethos refers to the overall credibility of your claim, which is why you need to find credible resources including primary and secondary sources that either substantiate your persuasive essay topic or provide the counter-argument. Finally, logos is the logical framework you use to convince your reader. Few people can be won over by ethos or pathos alone. You need logic and reason to make a good case.

Remember the importance of research in a persuasive essay topic. Research adds the logos to your persuasive essay. Without research, your persuasive essay will rely too heavily on pathos, or emotion. Although emotions are necessary to ultimately persuade people to act, few people can be persuaded only by emotion.

Rhetorical Devices

There are also a number of advanced rhetorical devices you can use to make your persuasive essay topic even better. Some of these include analogies, metaphors, similes, and allegories. When you use rhetorical devices like analogies, you build conceptual bridges in the reader’s mind, linking what they already know with what you are trying to convince them of. Therefore, you can relate material they do not necessarily understand in ways that becomes more familiar to them, using language, symbols, and imagery your reader knows. Using metaphors and analogies also improves your writing. You can learn how to develop and improve your rhetorical skills by referring to a writing tutor or asking your professor for advice.

Agree to Disagree

Remember, a persuasive claim must have a reasonable counter-argument using logos, ethos, and pathos. You do need to anticipate that other people will disagree with you. Your persuasive essay topic will be stronger when you can put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Ask yourself: if you had to debate the opposite side of the issue you are arguing, could you do it? What would someone who holds the opposite point of view say in response to your persuasive essay topic? If cannot anticipate counterclaims, perhaps you do not have a good topic for a persuasive essay. As one college points out, you need to anticipate that your reader will disagree with you when writing a good persuasive essay.

For example, if you are persuading your reader that cannabis should be legal at the level of federal government, you would anticipate some of the counterarguments. The counterarguments might include references to health scares, or to being afraid that children would have easy access to drugs. When you anticipate the counterargument, you are well on your way towards recognizing good persuasive essay topics.

Good Persuasive Essay Topics

Consider the following persuasive essay topics. Do you believe you could argue both sides of the issue?

  • Being a vegetarian is healthier than being a meat-eater.
  • The U.S. should switch to a single-payer healthcare system.
  • The U.S. should legalize same-sex marriage in every state.
  • Members of Congress should be subject to term limits.
  • NCAA athletes should receive a salary.
  • GMOs should not be allowed in the food supply.
  • Marijuana should be legal in the U.S. for medicinal purposes.

Interesting Persuasive Essay Topics

Interesting persuasive essay topics are unique, rather than subjects your teachers or professors have heard about a million times before. Consider the following as unique persuasive essay topics.

  • Carriage horses should be banned in New York City.
  • Religious institutions should be able to be taxed in the United States.
  • The U.S. should not have invaded Iraq.
  • All businesses should be required to cover employees’ contraception through their health plans.
  • The current movie rating system should be liberalized to allow teenagers into R rated films.
  • Teenagers should be tried as adults when they commit violent crimes.

Topics for College Students

College students are expected to have a wide range of knowledge and be able to write convincingly about any topic. Depending on the class you are taking, the persuasive essay topics you choose could be about anything from agriculture to fine art. Consider some of the following persuasive essay topics for college students to get you started. You can also refer to a New York Times blogger for more persuasive essay topic ideas.

  • Van Gogh is an overrated artist.
  • Puerto Rico should be the 51st state in the union.
  • The South should have been allowed to cede and form their own country.
  • All cities should offer free public WiFi.
  • Donald Trump can and should be impeached.
  • Meat should be banned.
  • The death penalty should be abolished.
  • There should be a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing equal pay for men and women.

Topics for High School Students

High school students are still learning the art of persuasion. The persuasive essay topics high school students choose reflects their level of education, the classes they are taking, and their personal interests. Some good persuasive essay topics for high school students are about their daily lives or education. Other persuasive essay topics for high school students are more familiar topics. Consider some of the following persuasive essay topics, which you can use when you have been given the option to write about anything you want.

  • Schools should have dress codes.
  • The benefits of a college education outweigh the costs.
  • You should adopt your next pet from a shelter.
  • School lunches should have higher nutritional standards.
  • Schools should have a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying.
  • The school year should be longer.
  • The SAT should not be a significant factor in college admissions.
  • Sugar should be banned in all public school cafeterias.

The Importance of Doing Research On Persuasive Essay Topics

Once you have selected your topic, it is time to do a lot of research. After learning more about the different sides of the issue, you can refine your thesis or perhaps even change it.  Have a good sense of your audience when reframing your claim.

If your intended audience is extremely familiar with the topic, you will not need to give a great deal of background information. On the other hand, if you know your professor knows very little about the issue (for example, if your persuasive speech is about online bullying and you know that your teacher is not active on social media) you may need to provide a more extensive setup.  Even if you give information to your reader about the topic, however, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are not writing a purely informative essay.

What it Takes to Write About Any Persuasive Essay Topic

Although research is not necessarily required when writing a persuasive essay, doing research can help you write the best possible persuasive essay. In some cases, research will be essential for a good persuasive essay. It helps to know how to do research both in libraries and online.

Persuasive essay topics can be about things you simply feel passionate about but do not know why. Unless you are a famous expert in your field, your reader cannot just take your word on faith. You need to do research to substantiate your claims. Researching your persuasive essay topic also adds credibility to your work.

Credibility is the essence of ethos, one of the primary rhetorical strategies the experts use. Therefore, research adds both logos and ethos to your persuasive essay topic. You have the facts to solidify your claim, and to show readers that you know what you are talking about. Yet by doing research, you are also citing the experts in the field, including researchers and scholars who have a great degree of credibility when they are published in peer-reviewed journals. Take care to refer to credible sources as much as possible.

Remember that Good Persuasive Essay Topics Are Like Advertising

The purpose of all advertising is to persuade you—the consumer—to buy products or services. Companies spend billions of dollars on marketing schemes and strategies because it pays off. A good persuasive essay topic is like a good marketing campaign. Your goal is to get your readers to change their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

Next time you watch an advertisement anywhere, try and pay attention to the methods they are using to persuade you. Consider all advertisements as persuasive essay topics and it may help you. The next time you are looking for a good persuasive essay topic, or want to write a better persuasive essay, pretend you are a marketing executive!

Advertising is persuasive because it relies on pathos, evoking emotion in you. When you pick a persuasive essay topic to write about, remember to get passionate about your cause. As important as research is to your persuasive essay, you need to interject emotion into your writing to prevent the paper from being dry, boring, or too much like an ordinary term paper. A persuasive essay has emotion, by definition, but your emotional appeals are backed up by research, evidence, and reason.

Conclusion

Ultimately, you should be writing about persuasive essay topics that interest you. In this article, we tried to give you some ideas about what to write about no matter what class you are taking. If you are taking an English composition class and the instructor has asked you to pick any subject, remember to start with what you know.

Sometimes you will be assigned a persuasive essay topic you know nothing about. Don’t worry! You can always seek help from a writing tutor online or in person. Even subjects you know little about can become interesting when you do enough preliminary research and find out why and how you can persuade the reader. Alternatively, you can start doing research now on the subject so that you get to know all sides of the issue. With the best tools, writing a persuasive essay is not as hard as you think, and it can even be fun.

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