Skip to content

Top 20 Topics For Essays For Middle School

Updated, March 2, 2017 | We published an updated version of this list, “401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing,” as well as a companion piece, “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.” We also now have a PDF of these 200 prompts.

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter and get five new Student Opinion questions delivered to you every week.


What issues do you care most about? What topics do you find yourself discussing most passionately, whether online, at the dinner table, in the classroom or with your friends?

Our annual Student Editorial Contest invites you to write an evidence-based persuasive piece on an issue that matters to you. To help jump-start your brainstorming, we have gathered a list of 200 writing prompts from our daily Student Opinion feature that invite you to take a stand.

Though you won’t be limited to these topics for the contest, you’ll see that our list touches on every aspect of modern life, from politics to sports, culture, education and technology. We hope the range inspires you, and we hope the fact that each question links to at least one related Times article gives you a starting point for finding evidence.

So skim the list below to think about the topic you’d most like to take on.

For more information, here are links to our spring 2014 editorial-writing contest, a list of winners from that contest and a related lesson plan on argumentative writing.


Education

  1. Is Cheating Getting Worse?
  2. Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?
  3. Does Your School Hand Out Too Many A’s?
  4. Should Middle School Students Be Drug Tested?
  5. Should Reading and Math Be Taught in Gym Class Too?
  6. How Seriously Should We Take Standardized Tests?
  7. How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  8. Do You Spend Too Much Time Preparing for Standardized Tests?
  9. Should Schools Offer Cash Bonuses for Good Test Scores?
  10. Should We Rethink How Long Students Spend in High School?
  11. Do Schools Provide Students With Enough Opportunities to Be Creative?
  12. What Are You Really Learning at School?
  13. How Important Is Arts Education?
  14. Does Gym Help Students Perform Better in All Their Classes?
  15. Who Should Be Able to See Students’ Records?
  16. Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education?
  17. What Is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
  18. Is Your School Day Too Short?
  19. Do You Think a Longer School Calendar Is a Good Idea?
  20. Should the Dropout Age Be Raised?
  21. Should Students Be Allowed to Skip Senior Year of High School?
  22. How Does Your School Deal With Students Who Misbehave?
  23. Should Schools Be Allowed to Use Corporal Punishment?
  24. How Big a Problem Is Bullying or Cyberbullying in Your School or Community?
  25. How Should Schools Address Bullying?
  26. Should Schools Put Tracking Devices in Students’ ID Cards?
  27. What Do You Think of Grouping Students by Ability in Schools?
  28. Do We Need a New Way to Teach Math?
  29. Does Class Size Matter?
  30. Should All Students Get Equal Space in a Yearbook?
  31. Is Prom Worth It?
  32. How Important Are Parent-Teacher Conferences?
  33. Should All Children Be Able to Go to Preschool?
  34. Should Colleges Use Admissions Criteria Other Than SAT Scores and Grades?
  35. What Criteria Should Be Used in Awarding Scholarships for College?
  36. Do You Support Affirmative Action?
  37. Do College Rankings Matter?
  38. How Necessary Is a College Education?
  39. Should Engineers Pay Less for College Than English Majors?

  40. Technology and Social Media

  41. Are the Web Filters at Your School Too Restrictive?
  42. Does Technology Make Us More Alone?
  43. Are You Distracted by Technology?
  44. Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
  45. Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
  46. Has Facebook Lost Its Edge?
  47. Does Facebook Ever Make You Feel Bad?
  48. Should What You Say on Facebook Be Grounds for Getting Fired?
  49. Should People Be Allowed to Obscure Their Identities Online?
  50. What Should the Punishment Be for Acts of Cyberbullying?
  51. Is Online Learning as Good as Face-to-Face Learning?
  52. Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?
  53. Should Tablet Computers Become the Primary Way Students Learn in Class?
  54. Can Cellphones Be Educational Tools?
  55. Should Computer Games Be Used for Classroom Instruction?
  56. How Young Is Too Young for an iPhone?
  57. Should Companies Collect Information About You?
  58. Would You Trade Your Paper Books for Digital Versions?
  59. Are Digital Photographs Too Plentiful to Be Meaningful?
  60. Do You Worry We Are Filming Too Much?
  61. Would You Want a Pair of Google’s Computer Glasses?
  62. How Would You Feel About a Computer Grading Your Essays?
  63. What Role Will Robots Play in Our Future?
  64. How Many Text Messages Are Too Many?
  65. How Much Do You Trust Online Reviews?

  66. Arts and Media: TV, Music, Video Games and Literature

  67. Why Do We Like to Watch Rich People on TV and in the Movies?
  68. Do TV Shows Like ‘16 and Pregnant’ Promote or Discourage Teenage Pregnancy?
  69. Does TV Capture the Diversity of America Yet?
  70. Is TV Too White?
  71. Is TV Stronger Than Ever, or Becoming Obsolete?
  72. Does Reality TV Promote Dangerous Stereotypes?
  73. What Current Musicians Do You Think Will Stand the Test of Time?
  74. What Artists or Bands of Today Are Destined for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
  75. What Musician, Actor or Author Should Be a Superstar, but Hasn’t Quite Made It Yet?
  76. Will Musical Training Make You More Successful?
  77. Should Video Games Be Considered a Sport?
  78. Should Stores Sell Violent Video Games to Minors?
  79. Can a Video Game Be a Work of Art?
  80. Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent in Real Life?
  81. When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  82. What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
  83. What Were the Best Movies You Saw in the Past Year?
  84. To What Writer Would You Award a Prize?
  85. Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
  86. Where Is the Line Between Truth and Fiction?
  87. Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?
  88. Do We Need Art in Our Lives?
  89. What Makes a Good Commercial?
  90. Why Did a Cheerios Ad Attract So Many Angry Comments Online?
  91. Does Pop Culture Deserve Serious Study?

  92. Gender Issues

  93. Do Parents Have Different Hopes and Standards for Their Sons Than for Their Daughters?
  94. Is School Designed More for Girls Than Boys?
  95. Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have ‘Perfect’ Bodies?
  96. How Much Pressure Do Boys Face to Have the Perfect Body?
  97. Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks?
  98. Is It O.K. for Men and Boys to Comment on Women and Girls on the Street?
  99. What Should We Do to Fight Sexual Violence Against Young Women?
  100. How Do You Feel About Rihanna and Chris Brown Getting Back Together?
  101. Do Fraternities Promote Misogyny?
  102. Why Aren’t There More Girls in Leadership Roles?
  103. Why Aren’t More Girls Choosing to Pursue Careers in Math and Science?
  104. Should Women Be Allowed to Fight on the Front Lines Alongside Men?
  105. Do You Believe in Equal Rights for Women and Men?
  106. Are Women Better at Compromising and Collaborating?
  107. Do Boys Have Less Intense Friendships Than Girls?

  108. Sports and Athletics

  109. If Football Is So Dangerous to Players, Should We Be Watching It?
  110. Should Parents Let Their Children Play Football?
  111. Should College Football Players Get Paid?
  112. When Do Pranks Cross the Line to Become Bullying?
  113. Has Baseball Lost Its Cool?
  114. Are Some Youth Sports Too Intense?
  115. Is It Offensive for Sports Teams to Use Native American Names and Mascots?
  116. Where Should Colleges and Sports Teams Draw the Line in Selling Naming Rights?
  117. Should Colleges Fund Wellness Programs Instead of Sports?
  118. Is Cheerleading a Sport?
  119. How Big a Deal Is It That an N.B.A. Player Came Out as Gay?
  120. Should There Be Stricter Rules About How Coaches Treat Their Players?
  121. Should Athletes Who Dope Have to Forfeit Their Titles and Medals?
  122. Should Sports Betting Be Legal Everywhere?
  123. Should Home-Schoolers Be Allowed to Play Public School Sports?
  124. Would You Want a Bike Share Program for Your Community?

  125. Politics and the Legal System

  126. What Local Problems Do You Think Your Mayor Should Try to Solve?
  127. If You Were Governor of Your State, How Would You Spend a Budget Surplus?
  128. When Is the Use of Military Force Justified?
  129. What Is More Important: Our Privacy or National Security?
  130. Should the U.S. Be Spying on Its Friends?
  131. Do You Trust Your Government?
  132. What Do You Think of the Police Tactic of Stop-and-Frisk?
  133. Do Rich People Get Off Easier When They Break the Law?
  134. Should Rich People Have to Pay More Taxes?
  135. Do Laws That Ban Offensive Words Make the World a Better Place?
  136. Is It Principled, or Irresponsible, for Politicians to Threaten a Shutdown?
  137. Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?
  138. Do Great Leaders Have to Be Outgoing?
  139. How Should We Prevent Future Mass Shootings?
  140. Should Guns Be Permitted on College Campuses?
  141. Would You Feel Safer With Armed Guards Patrolling Your School?
  142. What Is Your Relationship With Guns?
  143. Do You Support or Oppose the Death Penalty?
  144. When Should Juvenile Offenders Receive Life Sentences?

  145. Parenting and Childhood

  146. Do We Give Children Too Many Trophies?
  147. When Do You Become an Adult?
  148. When Should You Be Able to Buy Cigarettes, Drink Alcohol, Vote, Drive and Fight in Wars?
  149. Should the Morning-After Pill Be Sold Over the Counter to People Under 17?
  150. Should Birth Control Pills Be Available to Teenage Girls Without a Prescription?
  151. Is Modern Culture Ruining Childhood?
  152. Are Adults Hurting Young Children by Pushing Them to Achieve?
  153. How, and by Whom, Should Children Be Taught Appropriate Behavior?
  154. What Can Older People Learn From Your Generation?
  155. Do ‘Shame and Blame’ Work to Change Teenage Behavior?
  156. How Should Children Be Taught About Puberty and Sex?
  157. Is Dating a Thing of the Past?
  158. How Should Parents Handle a Bad Report Card?
  159. Should Children Be Allowed to Wear Whatever They Want?
  160. How Should Educators and Legislators Deal With Minors Who ‘Sext’?
  161. Do You Think Child Stars Have It Rough?

  162. Health and Nutrition

  163. Is Smoking Still a Problem Among Teenagers?
  164. Are Antismoking Ads Effective?
  165. Is Drinking and Driving Still a Problem for Teenagers?
  166. Do You Think a Healthier School Lunch Program Is a Lost Cause?
  167. How Concerned Are You About Where Your Food Comes From?
  168. Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?
  169. Do You Prefer Your Tacos ‘Authentic’ or ‘Appropriated’?
  170. Should the Government Limit the Size of Sugary Drinks?
  171. Should Marijuana Be Legal?
  172. Should Students Be Required to Take Drug Tests?

  173. Personal Character and Morality Questions

  174. Do Bystanders Have a Responsibility to Intervene When There is Trouble?
  175. Should You Care About the Health and Safety of Those Making Your Clothing?
  176. Can Money Buy You Happiness?
  177. Does Buying and Accumulating More and More Stuff Make Us Happier?
  178. Are We Losing the Art of Listening?
  179. Do People Complain Too Much?
  180. Can Kindness Become Cool?
  181. Which Is More Important: Talent or Hard Work?
  182. How Important Is Keeping Your Cool?
  183. When Should You Compromise?
  184. Is Your Generation More Self-Centered Than Earlier Generations?
  185. Can You Be Good Without God?
  186. Have Curse Words Become So Common They Have Lost Their Shock Value?
  187. What Words or Phrases Should Be Retired in 2014?
  188. What Words or Phrases Do You Think Are Overused?
  189. Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?
  190. How Important Do You Think It Is to Marry Someone With the Same Religion?
  191. How Long Is It O.K. to Linger in a Cafe or Restaurant?
  192. Does Keeping a Messy Desk Make People More Creative?
  193. How Important Is Keeping a Clean House?

  194. Science

  195. Should Scientists Try to Help People Beat Old Age So We Can Live Longer Lives?
  196. Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
  197. When Is It O.K. to Replace Human Limbs With Technology?
  198. Do You Think Life Exists — or Has Ever Existed — Somewhere Besides Earth?
  199. Should Fertilized Eggs Be Given Legal ‘Personhood’?
  200. How Concerned Are You About Climate Change?

  201. Other Questions

  202. Is It Wrong for a Newspaper to Publish a Front-Page Photo of a Man About to Die?
  203. What Causes Should Philanthropic Groups Finance?
  204. Should Charities Focus More on America?
  205. Should the Private Lives of Famous People Be Off Limits?
  206. Did a Newspaper Act Irresponsibly by Publishing the Addresses of Gun Owners?
  207. Would You Rather Work From Home or in an Office?
  208. What Time Should Black Friday Sales Start?
  209. Do You Shop at Locally Owned Businesses?
  210. How Much Does Your Neighborhood Define Who You Are?

A word cloud created from all the questions compiled below.

Updated, June 20, 2017 | Looking for more lists of student questions? Try these:


We’ve posted a fresh Student Opinion question nearly every weekday for almost three years now. Here are the 163 we asked during the 2011-12 school year.

Each question is based on content from that week’s New York Times, and all of them are still open to comment by anyone from ages 13-25.

Teachers tell us they use our questions to help students practice writing persuasively, as inspiration for lessons, as jumping-off points for class discussions and debates — or just to encourage engagement with current events and with students from classrooms around the world.

Given the emphasis in the Common Core Standards on both reading informational texts and writing arguments, having your students answer our question daily can help address several literacy goals at once. And since we don’t allow last names, and we read every comment before we post it to make sure it conforms to our standards, The Learning Network is also a secure place for students to post.

And, because this blog and all the Times articles we link to on it are accessible without a digital subscription, each linked article is free to read.

Below, 163 recent questions, with bonus links at the end to nearly 250 more. How will you use them?


  1. Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
  2. Do You Keep a Diary or Journal?
  3. Should Schools Offer Cash Bonuses for Good Test Scores?
  4. Would You Like to Take a Class Online?
  5. Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education?
  6. What Is Your Personal Credo?
  7. How Do You Personalize the Things You’re Required to Have at School?
  8. Should Students Be Required to Take Drug Tests?
  9. Do You Participate in Class?
  10. Do Attractive People Have Advantages Others Don’t?
  11. What Motivates You?
  12. Do You Support Affirmative Action?
  13. What Role Does Television Play in Your Life and the Life of Your Family?
  14. Why Do You Write?
  15. How Do You Use Facebook?
  16. What Journey Do You Most Want to Make?
  17. What Are You Afraid Of?
  18. What Have You Made Yourself?
  19. Do You Trust Your Government?
  20. What Are Your Favorite Cartoons?
  21. Who Is Your Role Model?
  22. Does Pop Culture Deserve Serious Study?
  23. Do You Have Good Manners?
  24. What Causes Should Philanthropic Groups Finance?
  25. Should Fertilized Eggs Be Given Legal Personhood?
  26. What Challenges Have You Set for Yourself?
  27. Have You Experienced Sexual Harassment?
  28. Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?
  29. Would You Want to Be Home-Schooled?
  30. Do Presidential Candidates Need to Be Good Debaters?
  31. Do You Shop at Locally Owned Businesses?
  32. Are You a Brand?
  33. Do You Sympathize With the Occupy Wall Street Movement?
  34. What Do You Read, and How Do You Read It?
  35. Should People Be Allowed to Obscure Their Identities Online?
  36. Which Is More Important: Talent or Hard Work?
  37. Do Your Parents Support Your Learning?
  38. What Are You Grateful For?
  39. What Time Should Black Friday Sales Start?
  40. What Are You Good At?
  41. Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks?
  42. When in Your Life Have You Been a Leader?
  43. What Would You Put in Your Emergency ‘Go-Bag’?
  44. What Artists or Bands of Today Are Destined for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
  45. Which Republican Candidate Will Win the Presidential Nomination?
  46. What’s Next for Computing?
  47. What New Emoticons Does the World Need?
  48. Should the Morning-After Pill Be Sold Over the Counter to People Under 17?
  49. Are We Losing the Art of Listening?
  50. Do You Discuss Religion With Friends?
  51. What Places in Your Past Do You Appreciate More Now, From a Distance?
  52. Would You Consider Deleting Your Facebook Account?
  53. Is It Wrong to Sell Store-Bought Pastries at a Bake Sale?
  54. What Will You Remember Most From 2011?
  55. Have You Ever Interacted With the Police?
  56. Can You Be Good Without God?
  57. What’s Your Favorite Holiday Food Memory?
  58. How Are You Spending the Holiday Break?
  59. Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions?
  60. Do You Have a Signature Clothing Item?
  61. Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?
  62. What Would Your Personal Mascot Be?
  63. What Is Your Favorite Place?
  64. What if Your Parent Ran for President?
  65. What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
  66. What’s Your Favorite (Printable) Slang Term?
  67. Should Charities Focus More on America?
  68. What Is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
  69. Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
  70. Who Would You Share Your Passwords With?
  71. Do You Think You’re Brave?
  72. What Is Your Most Memorable Writing Assignment?
  73. What Would You Like to Learn on Your Own?
  74. What’s Your Response to Obama’s Third State of the Union Address?
  75. What Are the Best Movies You Saw in 2011?
  76. Should the Dropout Age Be Raised?
  77. How Should You Handle the End of a Friendship?
  78. Do You Have a Blog?
  79. Do You Watch the Super Bowl?
  80. Do You Cook?
  81. Do College Rankings Matter?
  82. Do You Like Being Alone?
  83. What Story Does Your Personal Data Tell?
  84. How Would You Make Over Your Mall?
  85. How Do Male and Female Roles Differ in Your Family?
  86. Should Home-Schoolers Be Allowed to Play Public School Sports?
  87. Do You Eat Too Quickly?
  88. Who Inspires You?
  89. Are You a Novelty-Seeker?
  90. Would You Rather Attend a Public or a Private High School?
  91. How Much Information Is ‘Too Much Information’?
  92. Should Companies Collect Information About You?
  93. What Do You Eat During the School Day?
  94. What Are Your Favorite Young Adult Novels?
  95. What Kind of Feedback Helps You Improve?
  96. What Are Your Family Stories of Sacrifice?
  97. What’s the Racial Makeup of Your School?
  98. Fluent in Vocal Fry, Creaky Voice or Uptalk?
  99. What Would You Name Your Neighborhood?
  100. Can Kindness Become Cool?
  101. What Is Your Reaction to the Rush Limbaugh Controversy?
  102. What Have You Done to Earn Money?
  103. What Questions Do You Have About How the World Works?
  104. What Are Your Favorite Junk Foods?
  105. How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  106. How Important Is It to Have a Driver’s License?
  107. Do Social Media Campaigns Like Kony 2012 Stunt or Stimulate Real Change?
  108. How Do You Feel About Zoos?
  109. Would You Quit if Your Values Did Not Match Your Employers?
  110. Should the R Rating for ‘Bully’ Be Changed?
  111. Are Antismoking Ads Effective?
  112. Where Is the Line Between Truth and Fiction?
  113. How Productive and Organized Are You?
  114. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in a Museum?
  115. What Is Your Reaction to the Trayvon Martin Case?
  116. What Can Other Schools Learn — and Copy — From Your School?
  117. What Do You Hope to Be Doing the Year After You Graduate From College?
  118. What Small Things Have You Seen and Taken Note of Today?
  119. Do You Know How to Code?
  120. What Movies, Shows or Books Do You Wish Had Sequels, Spinoffs or New Episodes?
  121. What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?
  122. Do You Want to Write a Book?
  123. How Do You Celebrate Spring?
  124. Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
  125. How Do You Archive Your Life?
  126. Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?
  127. What Is Your Fantasy Vacation?
  128. Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?
  129. What Things Did You Create When You Were a Child?
  130. When Did You Last Have a Great Conversation?
  131. Why Do You Share Photos?
  132. What Leader Would You Invite to Speak at Your School?
  133. What Have You And Your Family Accomplished Together?
  134. Is TV Too White?
  135. How Necessary Is a College Education?
  136. How Much Does Your Life in School Intersect With Your Life Outside School?
  137. How Important Is Keeping Your Cool?
  138. Do You Prefer Your Tacos ‘Authentic’ or ‘Appropriated’?
  139. What’s Cluttering Up Your Life?
  140. When Have You Ever Failed at Something? What Happened as a Result?
  141. What Teacher Do You Appreciate?
  142. Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
  143. When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  144. How Should Parents Address Internet Pornography?
  145. Does Mitt Romney’s High School Bullying Matter?
  146. Is TV Stronger Than Ever, or Becoming Obsolete?
  147. When Is It O.K. to Replace Human Limbs With Technology?
  148. How Far Would You Go for Fashion?
  149. How Often Do You Interact With People of Another Race or Ethnicity?
  150. What Would Your Fantasy Road Trip Be Like?
  151. Would You Consider a Nontraditional Occupation?
  152. How Full Is Your Glass?
  153. What’s On Your Summer Reading List?
  154. What’s Your Comfort Food?
  155. What Cuts Should Cash-Strapped Schools Make?
  156. When Do You Become an Adult?
  157. Who Would Be the Ideal Celebrity Neighbor?
  158. How Close Are You to Your Parents?
  159. How Do You Keep Up With the News?
  160. What Advice Would You Give to Somebody Who Just Started Dating?
  161. What Is Your Opinion About the Morning-After Pill?
  162. Do You Have a Job?
  163. When Should Juvenile Offenders Receive Life Sentences?

Not Enough? Here are 150 Student Opinion questions from 2011, as well as 55 and another 40 from 2010.