Controversial Essay Topics & Research Paper Writing Help

(Updated on June 26, 2017 by Michelle Williams)

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A controversial essay is one in which the author takes a particular stance on a highly-charged, contestable issue.  Controversial essays are often argumentative, in that they're seeking to argue for or against one side of a controversial issue.  However, not every argumentative essay is controversial, as some argue for or against issues that aren't 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.

Controversial Essay Topics & Research Paper Writing HelpStudents 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 doesn't mean, however, that the writer of a controversial report should ignore the ideas of his/her opposition; in fact, an effective controversial essay depends in many ways on the writer anticipating such opposing viewpoints and directly addressing them.

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 isn't 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" isn't 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's 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 isn't 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.

Controversial Essay Topics

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's 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 completing 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 isn't 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/her.

Controversial Research Paper Topics

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's 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 complete 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/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, he/she 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, he/she should go more in-depth with his/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 its content structure.  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're completing 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/her viewpoint.  Therefore, students need to research the topic from multiple points-of-view rather than just one.

Our Top 264 Controversial Essay Topics

Abortion
Abstinence-Based Sex Education
Advertising Self-Regulation
Advertising Effect on Children
Affirmative Action
Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
Afrocentric Education
Alcohol Advertising
Alt-Right Movement
Alternative Medicine
America's Global Influence
Animal Cloning
Animal Rights
Antibiotic Usage
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Assisted Suicide
Atheism
Barack Obama
Bell Curve
Bigfoot (Sasquatch)
Bilingual Education
Biofuels
Biotechnology
Black Lives Matter (BLM)
Border Fence
Boycotts
Brazil Political Crisis
Breastfeeding
Cameras in the Courtroom
Campaign Finance Reform
Capital Punishment (Death Penalty)
Capitalism
Catholicism & Contraception
Censorship
Charter Schools
Child Marriage
Childhood Obesity
Christmas in Public
CIPA
Circumcision
Citizens United
Civil & Criminal Forfeiture
Civil Liberties & Anti-Terrorism
Civil Rights
Civil Unions
Climate Change
Cloning
Common Core
COPPA
Corporal Punishment
Courts vs. Press
Creationism
Cuba / U.S. Relations
DDT
Defense of Marriage Act
Deportation of Illegal Aliens
Donald Trump
Dress Codes in School
Drug Courts
Drug Legalization
Drug Testing in Schools
Eating Disorders
Ebonics (Black English)
Educational Standards
Electoral College
Electronic Surveillance
Employee Monitoring (Electronic)
Enemy Combatants & U.S. Law
Energy Crisis
Environmental Protection
Estate Tax
Eugenics
European Union
Euthanasia
Executive Orders
Extremism
Factory Farming
FARC
Fast Food Industry
Federal Interest Rates
Federal Reserve
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Flag Burning / Desecration
Flat Tax
Flint Water Crisis
Food Irradiation
Foreign Aid
Fossil Fuels
Fracking
Free Speech vs. the Internet
Free Trade
Freedom of Speech
Gambling
Gay Marriage
Gay Parents
Gay Rights
Gays in the Military
Genetic Engineering
Genetic Screening & Testing
Genetically Modified Food
George W. Bush
Global Warming
Globalization
Gluten Intolerance
Gold Standard
Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp
Gun Control
Gun Rights & Concealed Weapons
Hacking
Hate Speech
Health Care Reform
Health Insurance
Hezbollah
Hijab
Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Homeschooling
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
Identity Theft
Immigration
Immigration Reform
Immunization of Children
Income Inequality
Indian Gaming
Insanity Defense
Intelligent Design
Interest Groups in Politics
Internet Censorship
Internet Content Filtering
Internet Gambling
Internet Pornography
Internet Privacy
Iran Nuclear Deal
Iran-Iraq War
Iraq War
ISIS
Islamic Law
Islamophobia
Israeli Settlements
Kennewick Man
Kyoto Protocol
Labor Unions
Late Term Abortion
Legal Drinking Age
Legalization of Drugs
Legalized Prostitution
Lethal Injection
Living Wage Movement
Lobbying
Local Food Movement
Mandatory Sentencing
Marijuana Legalization
Mass Incarceration
Media Mergers
Medicaid & Medicare
Medical Marijuana
Medical Rights & Children
Migrant Crisis
Militarization of Space
Military Intervention
Military Tribunals
Military-Industrial Complex
Minimum Wage
Missile Defense System
Multiculturalism
NAFTA
National Health Care
National Retail Sales Tax
NATO
Negative Political Campaigning
Net Neutrality
No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
North Dakota Access Pipeline
Nuclear & Hazardous Waste
Nuclear Disarmament
Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Freeze Movement
Nuclear Proliferation
Occupy Movement
Offshore Drilling
Organic Food
Outsourcing
Partial-Birth Abortion
Patriotism
PETA
Planned Parenthood
Political Action Committees (PACs)
Political Activism
Political Correctness
Polygamy
Pornography
Poverty Gap
Prayer in Public Schools
Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription Drug Advertising
Privacy
Pro-Choice Movement
Pro-Life Movement
Progressive Tax
Quebec Nationalism
Racial Profiling
Racism
Recycling
Redistribution
Refugee Crisis
Reverse Discrimination
Roe v. Wade
Same-Sex Marriage
School Reform
School Uniforms
School Vouchers
Self-Defense Laws
Sex Education
Sex in Advertising
Sexual Assault on Campus
Shakespeare Authorship
Sharia Law
Shroud of Turin
Slavery Reparations
Smoking Ban / Laws
Social Security Reform
Socialism
Spanking (Child Physical Punishment)
Standardized Testing
Stem Cell Research
Stimulus Spending
Subliminal Advertising
Super PACs
Sweatshops
Syrian Civil War
Tax Reform
Teenagers & Contraception
Telecommunications Deregulation
Term Limits
Title IX
Tobacco Advertising
Torture
Transgender Rights
Transracial Adoption
UK Leaving EU (Brexit)
Unemployment Insurance
Unfunded Mandates
United Nations (UN)
Urban Agriculture
USA Patriot Act
V-Chip
Vaccination / Vaccines
Video Game Violence & Children
Violence in the Media
Voter ID Laws
War in Afghanistan
War on Drugs
War on Terrorism
Waterboarding
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Welfare Reform
WikiLeaks
Women in the Military
Women's Rights
Year-Round School
Zero Tolerance Policies
Zika Virus

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I was looking for a good contentious topic and your list really helped me and i took about 4 topics to choose from. Thanks, Michelle.
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