Persuasive essay guidelines and Prompts

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PERSUASIVE ESSAY Guidelines and Prompts

Choose an Issue
The first step for writing a persuasive essay is to decide what you are trying to persuade someone to believe. Is there a compelling social issue you'd like to correct, a situation within your school that you'd like to change, an issue from history that you'd like to address, or maybe even a political condition you'd like to explore—the possibilities are endless!

Here's a list of possible topics:


  • School Uniforms

  • School Choice

  • Bilingual Education

  • Locker Searches

  • Homework

  • Year Round Schooling

  • Computers in the Classroom/Technology in the Classroom

  • Online school

  • Mandatory Community Service before graduation

  • Field Trips


  • Women's Rights

  • Civil Rights

  • Vietnam War

Social and Political Issues

  • The Death Penalty

  • Cruelty to Animals

  • Gun Control

  • Cloning

  • Drilling Oil

  • Violence in the Media

  • Censorship

  • Life in the country vs. life in the city

  • Hunting

  • Censorship

  • Research Paper and Argument Topics

Race and Ethnicity

  • Should high-school history classes and social-studies curriculum be changed to reflect diversity and multicultural perspectives?

  • How do certain television programs perpetuate racial or ethnic stereotypes?

  • Should schools only purchase textbooks that offer revised or alternative histories of historical events?

  • What should be done about racial disparities in the sentencing of criminals?

  • Should the American government pay reparations and return land to Native Americans?

  • Should hate groups have the right to distribute literature on university campuses?

  • If research shows that certain racial or ethnic groups receive poorer medical care on average, how should this problem be corrected?

  • Should governmental organizations have staffs that accurately reflect the racial, ethnic, and gender balance in society?

Gender Issues

  • What should be done to eliminate salary disparities between men and women?

  • What should be done to create equity in executive positions for women in particular corporations and industries?

  • Should women be allowed in military combat? To what extent?

  • Is healthcare for women underfunded? In what ways?

  • In what ways does gender play a difference in student success and teacher attention in the classroom?

Multiculturalism and Diversity

  • Should English be made the official language of the United States?

  • Should ESL students be taught content courses in their native language?

  • Should Columbus Day be discontinued in favor of a new post-colonial perspective?

  • Should Christmas, Easter, and other religious observances be considered national holidays?

  • Should the United States have a more stringent immigration policy?

Advertising and Marketing

  • How do certain kinds of advertising perpetuate racial stereotypes?

  • How does mass marketing and manufacturing affect originality and creativity in the arts and other fields?

  • Does the American consumerist society conflict with democratic values? In what ways?

  • How does advertising treat convenience as necessity?

  • What kind of advertising is unethical?

  • What current issues of truth in advertising exist?

  • Should product placement in movies, film, and other media be controlled?

  • Should product advertising and selling by permitted in public schools?

  • Should communities retain the naming rights to baseball parks and football stadiums, or should businesses be allowed to purchase these rights?

  • Does the modeling industry bear any responsibility in providing healthy, realistic physical role models for young women?

  • Is the use of sexual imagery in a certain ad campaign unethical?

  • Should tobacco and liquor advertising be allowed on television?

  • Should all billboard advertising of alcohol be banned?

  • Should tobacco and alcohol companies be allowed to use ad campaigns that could be considered child-friendly?

  • Why are alcohol companies now allowed to advertise on television under certain conditions (after prime time, with responsible drinking messages in some ads, etc…)?

Economic Issues

  • Should the local sales tax be increased/decreased?

  • Should "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco be increased to help pay for the increasing costs of medical care?

  • Should the state increase the use of toll roads to pay for local road improvements?

  • Do local power and utility companies operate as monopolies?

  • Argue for or against a controversial trade tariff or tax.

  • Does America have a responsibility to assist its industries financially and politically if other countries' industries receive similar assistance from their own governments?

  • Argue for or against Federal Reserve strategies that attempt to keep inflation low.

  • Large corporations, such as Walmart and Barnes & Noble bookstores, have been criticized for driving mom-and-pop shops out of business. Is this a valid criticism when considering the nature of supply and demand?

  • A few years ago, the U.S. Mint issued a new form of dollar-bill coin. Argue for against the continued use of this new currency.

  • Should the United Kingdom join other E.U. countries in converting its currency to euros?

Environmental Issues

  • Should national environmental policy focus on developing more oil resources, or developing renewable energy sources?

  • Should our national energy policy focus on building more nuclear power plants?

  • How does overseas oil dependency influence our economy/ international policies?

  • Should genetically engineered food be labeled differently?

  • How do city zoning laws and ordinances effect development and conservation?

  • What civic policies should be changed to encourage conservation rather than new land development?

  • Should recycling be mandatory?

  • How should recycling efforts be funded?

  • Should fines for littering and dumping be stronger?

  • Should fines and penalties for corporate pollution be more punitive?

  • Should the fuel efficiency of SUVs and pick-up trucks be raised?

  • Should the government offer tax credits for the purchase of hybrid or alternative energy vehicles?

  • Should the designations of endangered and threatened species be changed?

  • Should loss of economic/industrial benefit be considered when land is preserved for endangered species?

  • Should more civilian oversight be created to monitor government and military pollution?

  • Should environmental studies become a mandatory part of science curricula in public schools?

Media Issues

  • How does profit motive in media corporations influence what and how information is broadcast?

  • What ethical considerations or conflicts of interest exist for a corporate media news channel?

  • How and why do certain media outlets contribute to sensationalism in news reporting?

  • Is the Internet a positive development for news reporting? Does it represent a more democratic medium of information?

  • How does specific media bias affect how news is interpreted and delivered?

  • How has the conglomeration of media companies influenced radio and TV content?

  • Do cable companies represent a monopoly?

  • Should cable services be offered on an a la carte system?

  • Should a stiffer rating system be imposed upon television programming?

  • Should tabloid television be scheduled only for late night time slots?

  • Should parental locks be optional or mandatory on televisions?

  • After 2006, only high-definition television will be broadcast, and older television sets will require a type of converter box to interpret the new digital signal. Argue for or against this development.

  • Consider media influence on national political campaigns fifty or a hundred years ago in comparison with such influence today. Should new regulations be imposed to make current campaign coverage more equitable?

  • Should music-sharing programs on the Internet be outlawed?

  • Should websites that allow the free download of bootlegged movies be shut down? Do production companies have the right to shut down websites that allow the free download of sound or video clips from their media?

Consumerism and Convenience Culture

  • Should the official work week be shortened/extended?

  • How is shopping an American cultural value?

  • What American or cultural values does the mall represent?

  • How does the concept of consumer credit influence our economy?

  • How does American consumer culture deal with the concept of death?

  • How are the values, expectations, and rituals of specific holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day influenced by consumer culture?

  • What role does product packaging play in consumerism?

  • What role does the national debt play in consumer's spending awareness?

  • Consider the issue of disposable products and packaging and their impact on the marketplace as well as the environment. Argue for or against new regulation.

  • Should third-world countries be held to the same levels of pollution control as more advanced nations?

  • Argue for or against new environmental regulation concerning a specific industry (e.g., clear-cutting for cattle raising vs. tropical rain forest protection).

  • Argue for a specific regulation that will make a certain business or industry more environmentally safe.

TV and Film

  • Should TV ratings be re-evaluated in regards to sex and violence?

  • Is there a double standard regarding nudity, sex, and ratings on television?

  • Is male nudity rated at a different "level" than female nudity?

  • What values do "reality television" shows appeal to? How have they changed television viewing?

  • What does the trend towards voyeuristic TV programs reveal about modern American culture?

  • To what extent has television as a source of entertainment changed American neighborhoods and leisure activities?

  • What values/philosophies/worldviews are expressed by a certain television program?

  • What impact has 24-hour news coverage had on our TV watching habits? How has it changed our view of information?

  • How does MTV contribute to celebrity and image-selling?

  • Should more customer options be available with cable television?

  • Should consumers be able to purchase viewing rights to TV channels in an a la carte fashion (for example, paying $40 a month for 40 channels individually chosen by the consumer)?

  • How has the television as an invention changed the American household and family life?

  • Why is the TV and Film industry considered so hard to break into?

  • Because celebrities are so often in the public spotlight, do they have ethical responsibilities to set good examples for young people?

  • In the past, the Screenwriters Guild of America has pushed for the credit "A Film By [director's name]" to be banned. Why would the SGA want this, and is this a justified request?

  • Do scriptwriters have a right to be allowed on the set of a movie they wrote, or is this a privilege to be allowed at the discretion of the direction?

Sports and Entertainment

  • How has the increase in ticket prices and athlete salaries negatively affected professional sports?

  • Should professional tennis players only be able to use wooden rackets?

  • In World Cup soccer matches that end in ties, should penalty kicks be discarded for some other method of determining a winner?

  • Should professional sports leagues such as the NBA , NFL, and MLB establish a promotion/relegation system that rewards strong teams from lesser leagues with promotion, while relegating poor teams to a lower division?

  • What changes, if any, should be made to NBA rules to preserve the integrity of the sport?

  • Do sports stars or celebrities bear any responsibility for being role models for children?

  • Should the instant replay remain in effect in the NFL? Should it be extended to other sports as well?

  • Should teams with potentially offensive logos and nicknames (like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins) change their names to be more racially sensitive?

  • To what level should collegiate sports be funded? What is their relationship to academics?

  • Should college athletes be exempt from taking classes?

  • Should college athletes be paid to play?

  • Does Title IX actually promote gender equality in college sports?

  • Should GPA standards for college athletes be raised, or more rigidly enforced?

  • How have professional sporting events been negatively influenced by entertainment, including Jumbotrons, music, and crowd-pleasing activities?

  • What kind of performance-enhancing drugs should be allowed in different sports? Should creatine be banned from Major League Baseball?

  • Should women be allowed to play in professional sports leagues that have no female league equivalent (the NFL, NASCAR, the NHL)?

  • How have the four major professional American sports (baseball, basketball, football, and hockey) affected the rise of other sports such as soccer and lacrosse?

  • How has ESPN and other media sources influenced (positively or negatively) professional sports in the last twenty years?

  • Should communities bear all, part, or none of the burden of financing new sports arenas for professional teams?

Criminal Justice

  • Should the judicial system be reevaluated or changed because of racially unfair sentences?

  • Should certain non-violent crimes be punishable by fines rather than jail time?

  • Should children who commit certain crimes be treated as adults? If so, is there a lower age limit to this policy?

  • Are exile programs (where a criminal is sent to prison in a distant state) fair?

  • What kinds of rights should criminals have?

  • What conditions of incarceration are fair?

  • Are certain kinds of capital punishment cruel and unusual?

  • Should capital punishment be suspended?

  • Should prison be punitive or rehabilitory in nature?

  • Now that genetic/DNA evidence is admissable in court, should controversial closed cases be re-opened?

  • If someone has already been executed, should his or her case be re-opened under certain circumstances? Should some kind of reparation be made to the families of the wrongfully accused?

  • Should there be a limit to the number of death row appeals that can be made?

  • Presuming that capital punishment is allowable, what types of crimes should this apply to? Only murder? Treason?

  • Is society's obligation to simply remove a criminal from society, to actually punish the criminal for crime, or a combination of both? Considering this, then what is the nature of the death penalty in America today?

  • Should the legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant be changed?

  • If an officer finds something that he was not looking for (e.g., narcotics in an automobile that was being searched for firearms), why should or shouldn't the officer have the right to take the accused into custody? Consider the issue of "reasonable suspicion" in your discussion.

  • Why are lawyers stereotyped as sharks? Is this a fair representation, and if not, why is it so prevalent?

  • If being tried in our court system, should the citizens of other countries have the same rights as citizens of the United States?

The Political Process

  • Should the electoral college be discarded in favor of a simple popular vote in presidential elections?

  • Do alternative political parties in America receive fair treatment during elections?

  • Should third parties be allowed to participate in national debates?

  • How does the media help or hinder third parties? Should they receive equal and free airtime on major networks?

  • Should the campaign financing system be reformed?

  • Should presidential candidates be barred from spending their own money for their campaigns? Does personal campaign finance represent free speech?

  • Should terms of senators and congressmen be further limited?

  • Should a national form of health care be created, or should health care remain a private industry?

  • Examine the historical role reversal of the value systems of Republicans and Democrats.

  • Should a particular Congressional District be reapportioned?

  • Argue for a policy change that would make the American democratic process more efficient.

  • Are checks and balances a crucial element in American government? Do this process work as it was originally intended?

  • Has the executive branch of the American government gained too much power in the last fifty years? Cite specific examples in your argument.

  • How has/will new technologies like the Internet change the political process?

  • How can the voting process in national elections be made less confusing?


  • Is standardized state or national testing (such as the FCAT) helping or hurting American schools?

  • Is the current system of public school funding--primarily through property taxes--unfair? How does it contribute to inequality in the public school system?

  • Should tracking be used in determining courses for public schoolchildren?

  • Should magnet and charter schools be encouraged or discouraged?

  • Should the system of busing students to school be amended?

  • Should local school districts be redrawn to create schools that are more equal?

  • Should federal school vouchers be used at religious schools?

  • Consider the needs of a teacher's salary vs. the realities of the funding schools now have. Argue for a change in education budget allocation.

  • Do teachers in classroom of thirty or forty children accomplish their intended tasks as educators? Should they be expected to?

  • Some standardized tests scores factor in to how much money a school will receive in the next fiscal year. Is this an ethical way to demand accountability from a school, or does this further punish lower-performing schools?

  • Consider the benefits and drawbacks of a home-school education vs. a public school education.

  • Conservatives, liberals, and radicals all have different ideas about the purposes of a public education. Research several perspectives and argue for or against a particular viewpoint.

  • How necessary are the arts in the public-school system? Argue for or against a change in funding for a particular district.

National/International Policy

  • In what cases is U.S. military intervention in other countries justifiable? In what cases is it not?

  • What policy should the American government have towards certain political crises? To the Middle East? To Israel? To Tibet?

  • What should our policy be towards trade with China?

  • Should the United States support the expansion of NATO to include the Baltic states?

  • Should mandatory military service be required for all men and women in America?

  • Consider the CIA's pre-September 11th policy of non-assassination, and its post-September 11th policy of pro-assassination. Argue for or against this new stance.

  • Does the United States have a right to protect itself from terrorist attacks by attacking nations accused of sponsoring terrorism?

  • Not considering the United States, what is the most powerful nation on the planet? Explain the criteria used in making this judgement.

  • Should the United States change its policies on educating foreign nationals and issuing student visas?

Civil Liberties

^ Counter-Culture Issues

  • Should people under eighteen years of age be required to have parental permission to get tattoos and piercings?

  • Is ear piercing of children of a certain age child abuse?

Youth Issues

  • Should the minimum age for attaining a driver's license be increased? Should this be a national standard?

  • Should the mandatory age for quitting school be raised or lowered, or is the current age of sixteen justified?

  • Should computer skills be a fundamental part of education curricula?

Here's a list of commonly used transitional words and phrases to use when you write:


to sum up




to sum up











in other words

on the other hand

Purpose: To exert an impact; to influence others to take an action, see your point of view or bring about some change.

Objective: Develop a five paragraph persuasive essay using THREE outside sources that relate to the topic.


Step #1-Select a controversial topic worthy of writing about. SCHOOL APPROPIATE

Step #2- Research various academic websites/textbooks that support and counter argue your position and create a bibliography. CHOOSE 3

Step #3- Create a strong arguable thesis statement.

Step#4- Create a plan to use to develop your essay.

Step#5- Write a rough draft.

Step# 6- Revise and revise and revise again.

Step #7- Submit a hard copy to the teacher.


  • Create a rough draft of your essay.

  • Embed quotes from your sources into you own sentences and cite each one in the proper format.


  • Include a “Works Cited” page in the proper MLA format.

List the Arguments

It's impossible to persuade someone to believe your viewpoint without supporting your point of view with evidence taken from credible sources. No essay is complete without Facts, Reasons, Examples and Details.

Plan Your Structure

Your paper will need to contain the following elements.

  • Opening/Introduction: In this area you will introduce your readers to the topic and give a little background information. It works well to state your topic in the form of a question—Is the Iditarod an example of cruelty to animals sporting event? Be sure to state your thesis statement on the issue within the last sentence of the paragraph. In the opening, you want to pull the reader in and give his/her a reason to keep reading. Use a quote!

  • Body: The body of your essay should contain at least three paragraphs. Each paragraph must state a different viewpoint on your topic. Many of the best examples of persuasive writing save the most compelling viewpoint for third body paragraph leaving the reader with the strongest point before closing. The defense must be supported with evidence documented through your research. Within each paragraph you need to be sure to use powerful transitional words and phrases as you compare each point.

  • Closing/Conclusion: The conclusion should always restate the issue and then quickly tie in the three viewpoints examined in the body paragraphs. You should never introduce new information in the closing. Simply summarize the arguments and then close with a powerful statement relating to your originally stated issue.


Topic & Brainstorming:

A controversial Topic and Brainstorming is due on_________________. (Begin bibliography and reading sources-print and highlight)


Use the Microsoft References Tab-three sources required. Source Worksheet and Bibliography and Highlighted Notes are due on ______________________________________

  1. Click on references and switch style to MLA

  2. Click on Insert Citation Add New Source

  3. Pick Type of Source and fill in the blanks

  4. In Text Citations- (LAST NAME PG. #)

Thesis Statement and Notes Due Date:

Academically written Thesis Statement and Organized Notes DUE on ______________

Outline Due Date:

The organizational Draft Outline is due on _______________________________.

Rough Draft Due Date:

The rough draft must be ^ DOUBLE SPACED and include at least five paragraphs. The rough draft due date is ______________________________.

Final Draft DUE DATE: ____________________________


Just don’t do it! It is dishonest and illegal! It can get you kicked out of schools!

Break Down Of Points:

Bibliography 5points

Thesis Statement 5 points

Outline/Plan 5 points

Rough Draft 10 points

Peer Edit Sheet 5 points

Final Draft 100 points

Total Points 130 points

I am grading on (also see my rubric for a detailed explanation):

Structure- Paragraphs and sentences are well developed and flow into one another. The paper is easy to read.

Organization- Paper is organized well. Introduction explains what the paper will discuss. Sub-topics are presented in a logical pattern, which emphasizes and supports the thesis statement. Strong conclusion.

^ Grammar and Mechanics-Virtually no grammatical errors. If there are any, they do not distract from the paper. The paper is relatively clean from spelling errors, capitalization problems, sentence fragments, run-ons and comma splices, etc. Developing the Central Idea- The writer establishes a well-developed central idea (thesis statement) by using supporting evidence (facts, concrete details, etc.)

^ Sentence Fluencey- the student presents a variety of sentence structures and utilizes transitions.

Word Choice-the student uses appropriate word choice for their subject matter.

Voice-The author utilizes the appropriate tone and/or voice for their argument and exhibits fluidity and passion for their topic.

MLA Format

Characteristics of a Persuasive Essay:

The writer’s position on the issue is clearly stated in the thesis statement within the introductory paragraph.

A series of arguments developed throughout the body paragraphs supported with researched evidence and detail.

A final argument or conclusion drawn from the arguments.

Engages the reader in the first paragraph by giving contexts for writer’s opinions and purpose for writing. Begin with a great hook or lead to gain reader interest and attention.

Expresses the writer’s opinion clearly; free from strong emotion, which can weaken the argument.

Maintains the focus with a consistent point of view throughout.

Provides specific, relevant details that support the writer’s point of view and focus.

^ Avoids phrases like: I think, in my opinion, it seems to me, or I for one…

Avoids introductions that state: My paper is going to be about…, In my essay, I will…, I want to tell you about…, I hope you enjoyed my paper

 ^ Draft Outline 

Student name: _____________________________ Date: _________________

Use this worksheet as you review your notes.

^ Possible Titles:




Great Quotes I Plan to Use:




^ Possible Beginning "Hooks"




^ Possible Endings:




^ Thesis Statement: _________________________________________________________


(First Main Idea)

I. _______________________________________________________________________


(Supporting Details)

A. ______________________________________________________________________

B. ______________________________________________________________________

C. ______________________________________________________________________

(Second Main Idea)

II. ______________________________________________________________________


(Supporting Details)

A. ______________________________________________________________________

B. ______________________________________________________________________

C. ______________________________________________________________________

(Final Idea)

III. ______________________________________________________________________


(Supporting Details)

A. ______________________________________________________________________

B. ______________________________________________________________________

C. ______________________________________________________________________

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