Controversial Essay Topics: Tips from 3 Professors

Controversial Essay Topics: Tips from 3 Professors

A controversial essay is one in which the author takes a particular stance on a highly-charged, contestable issue.  Controversial essays are often argumentative essays, in that they are seeking to argue for or against one side of a controversial issue.  However, not every argumentative essay is a controversial essay, as some argumentative essays are arguing for or against issues that are not highly-charged and contestable.  Furthermore, not every controversial essay is argumentative.  Though controversial essays are often arguing for or against a political stance, ideology, or issue, controversial essays can also be expository essays—essays that inform the reader of a certain issue or topic—that simply take a controversial subject.

Students are sometimes timid about writing controversial essays because such reports require a learner to express strong opinions about a subject that many people have strong opinions about—thus opening themselves to criticism.  However, learners should remember that there are multiple perspectives on all issues, and their opinions are valid, so long as they can be supported with sound reasoning and evidence.  Most of the success of any controversial essay depends on the writer's willingness to confidently assert opinions on a topic of controversy despite the risk of offending opposition thinkers.  This does not mean, however, that the writer of a controversial report should ignore the ideas of her opposition; in fact, an effective controversial essay depends in many ways on the writer anticipating such opposing viewpoints and addressing them in the report itself.

Issues of controversy are issues that elicit strong and often emotion opinions on opposing sides.  Common issues of controversy are those that consistently emerge in political debates, such as the subjects of gay marriage, abortion, capital punishment, and the limits of freedom of speech.  These issues are controversial because people hold extreme (and often persuasive) views on opposite poles of the spectrum.  A controversial essay is not a place wherein the student should seek to accommodate these opposing views, but argue strongly for one side.  This is what makes such a report controversial—it takes a stand.  

Every controversial report should assert its stance on the chosen issue of controversy in a clearly and boldly worded thesis statement early.  This thesis must announce itself with strong language.  For instance, a thesis for a controversial essay on gay marriage that reads "It is unfair for states to prohibit gay marriage because everyone should be entitled to equal rights" is not nearly as bold and aggressive as "The prohibition of gay marriage is a blatant violation of the civil liberties upon which democratic society depends and thrives."  Notice how the second thesis statement presents its stance in strong language that makes the issue seem more pressing.  The entirety of a controversial report should be cast in such language.

A controversial essay will quickly lose validity if it is merely the writer's rant.  Rather than vituperating on injustices or the flaws of the opposition or government failings, the report must maintain a strong but reasoned tone, and support every point with multiple examples.  A controversial essay is not controversial if it seems to be merely the complaints or expostulations of a single individual.  It must strive for an academic and sophisticated tone by being rooted in sound reasoning and logical debate.

Viewpoint of Author #2

Many college courses give students the freedom to research and discuss controversial topics that may not have been welcome in high school.  However, even though college professors often encourage students to explore controversial subjects, students should generally avoid doing so in their college admissions essays.

A college admissions essay is generally not the forum to display one's opinions on controversial essay topics.  Because the college admissions essay is a tool that students can use to set themselves apart from other applicants, students often feel that writing about a controversial essay topic can get them noticed.  And, although writing on controversial essay topics certainly can get students noticed, it is often not in a good way.

The fact is that controversial essay topics are sometimes offensive to the reader.  Offending the reader is certainly not the student's goal when submitting a college application.  It is always best to stick to non-offensive topics when writing a college admissions essay.

Students can relax the controversial essay topic rule once they reach the halls of university learning.  Instructors may sometimes encourage students to select a controversial essay topic.  The popular belief is that students who can explore topics outside of their comfort zones are better prepared to explore and accept information on topics they might be unfamiliar with or with which they don't necessarily agree.

Still, not every college writing assignment is an invitation to explore a controversial essay topic.  College is not necessarily a forum to protest, but rather an avenue via which to explore one's personal and academic growth potential.  For this reason, learners should consider the nature of the course and the personality of the instructor before selecting a controversial essay topic.

Certain courses—such as sociology, psychology, and women's studies—invite the exploration of controversial subjects.  Other courses—such as math, biology, and other sciences—might present students with few or no opportunities to explore controversial essay topics.

What some students fail to recognize is that the personality of the instructor also plays into the advisability of writing about controversial essay topics.  Some instructors have little tolerance for certain subjects.  It is always a good idea to gauge the personality of the instructor before springing a controversial essays on him or her.

Viewpoint of Author #3

It is quite common for students to have to write about a controversial research paper topic.  From abortion to political movements, social activities to morality, there is no shortage of controversial research paper topics for professors to assign.  Regardless of the nature of the topic, learners should approach their documents in the same general way that they would approach any reference project.

In order to write an effective project, students first need to understand the topic that they have been assigned by a professor (or the topic that they have chosen for the report).  A controversial research paper topic is a topic that not only has one strong point-of-view, but also has a strong opposing point-of-view.  For this reason, learners should begin by researching both points of view.  

Some professors want students to write about both side of the argument when they assign controversial research paper topics.  Other times, professors want students to form their own opinions or arguments in favor of just one side of the controversial research paper topic.  When students need to argue just one side, the learner will still need to research opposing views in order to ensure that he or she is able to form a clear argument that also helps to negate an opposing argument.  

For example, if a student is writing about the controversial research paper topic of abortion, the student should understand the moral and ethical decisions that support both sides of the argument if the student is going to be able to present a clear case for or against abortion.  

After a student has studied both sides of the argument, the student should go more in depth with his or her research.  Students may benefit by keeping research journals that clearly outline the research that they have performed in a manner that makes it easy for the students to reference their research when the begin writing the document.  

Next, students need to create an outline for their controversial research paper topic papers.  The outline will need to include the format for the document as well as structure for content that will appear.  Students should remember that when they write about controversial research paper topics, they need to make room for both sides of the argument; not just one side.  

When learners write about controversial research paper topics, they are writing research papers in much the same way that they would write any other type of reference project.  The major difference between writing about a controversial research paper topic and any other topic is the amount of research that the learner will need to do in order to support and negate his or her viewpoint.  Therefore, students need to research the topic from multiple points of view rather than just one.

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