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Editorial Writing Assignment Ideas

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.

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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?

Go beyond the ordinary. Using creativity in designing assignments demands creativity from your students. The following assignments were gleaned from a variety of books, handouts and web sites. (See: Sources)

TitleDescriptionType
Nobel Peace PrizeStudents nominate someone or a group for the Nobel Peace prize. Learn about person, prize, jury.Research, writing
Research an eventStudents attend an event (game, concert), write a citation for it and find an article, a book and a web site about the composer, the sport, etc.Research, writing
Topic on WebStudents choose topic and find all websites which discuss it. Include annotated bibliographyResearch, history, writing
Information searchWrite short paper about research process with bibliography of web sites.— state info need, research, evaluate.Research, writing
Historical figureStudents are a historical figure for a day. Research person, time period, costume, culture. Be prepared to talk about it.Research, history, writing
Discussion between historical figuresStudents take persona of historical figure and interact with other figures keeping in character. Research history etc.Research, history, writing
Adopt personaStudents write letters or diary as real person or fictional character about historical event, everyday lifeResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Newspaper storyStudents write newspaper story describing event (social, political, cultural)Research, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Write editorial or column of opinionStudents write editorial or opinion piece. Could be in historical contextResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Create entire newspaperInclude 'reports' of actual events, editorials, letters to editor. Eg. Abolitionist newspaperResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
News conferencesSimulate interviews with real people of period. Questions contemporaries would have asked & questions with hindsightResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Create anthologyStudents compile anthology of articles and/or books plus introduction to show understanding of subjectResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Build book collectionStudents build book collection for fictional library. Provide annotated bibliography with justification, availability, costResearch, analysis, writing
Compare articlesCompare journal articles with conservative vs liberal tendenciesResearch, analysis, writing
Review a performanceWrite a review of a musical or dramatic performance. Reference reviews of debut, history, chronologyResearch, analysis, writing
Compose an examCompose an exam on a topic. Include annotated bibliography of sources and rationaleResearch, analysis, writing
Plan off-campus studyStudents provide itinerary for an off-campus study trip — rationale, sites, annotated reading list for participantsResearch, analysis, writing
Create an action planStudents create an action plan for organizing around an area of interest. Investigate agenciesResearch, analysis, writing
Job interview preparationAssemble background information on a company or organization in preparation for a hypothetical interview.Research, analysis, writing
Write a grant proposalWrite a grant proposal addressed to a specific funding agency, with literature review, budget.Research, analysis, writing
Class peer reviewHave class members peer review any written assignmentAnalysis, writing
Research topicResearch topic in literature from '60s and '70s and then in '80s and '90s. Compare literature in bibliographic essayResearch, analysis, writing
Evaluate psychological testDetermine adequacy of psychological test based on literature. Then develop a test battery designed for clinical situation.Research, analysis, writing, psychology
Criticism of literaturePrepare written criticism of literature on a topic with book reviews, citation indexes and biographical sources.Research, analysis, writing
Primary sourcesUsing bibliographies, guides to the literature and Internet, students find primary sources on an issue or eventResearch, analysis, writing
Responsible patientAs patients, students research a disease and diagnosis. 2 pages describes condition, symptoms, comparison of treatmentsResearch, analysis, writing, biology
Legislation trailFollow piece of legistation through Parliament; understand issue and different political viewsResearch, analysis, writing, political science
Foreign policyFollow particular foreign policy situation as it develops. Organizations involved, history, ideological conflictsResearch, analysis, writing, political science
Research major person in disciplineThrough periodical literature, follow major person in a discipline; CV, bibliography, citationsResearch, analysis, writing
Research a careerDescribe and research an aspired career. Leading companies; outlook for occupation, expected starting salaryResearch, writing
Research a companyChoose a company and find out employment policies, net worth, patentsResearch, writing
BiographyWrite a biographical sketch of famous person including time periodResearch, writing
Research portfolio or journalHave students maintain paper trail — document sources consulted, first draft, working bibliography, reflect on processResearch, writing
In-class writingAssign topic for students to research and bring note cards to class then write the paper in classResearch, writing
Debate in classAssign controversial topic & have students research and bring note cards to class then debate the topic on one side of the issueResearch, writing
Literature ReviewChoose topic applicable to women and examine the literature from the '50s & '60s to see how the topic was being treated thenResearch, analysis, writing
Update literature reviewChoose number of specific psychological phenomena treated in review articles several years ago; student must update the reviewResearch, writing, psychology
Primary sourcesStudents examine primary materials on slave life or abolition and compare them to textbook treatment of subjectResearch, analysis, writing, history
Analysis of journals of opinionExamine body of journals available across political spectrum; select three representing different views; examine editorial opinionResearch, analysis, writing, political science
Analyse differing articlesFind several articles on same topic but with different positions; analyse two differing articles relating to your own ethical theoryResearch, analysis, writing, philosophy
Iconography of work of artWrite paper on iconography of one of eight works of art based on students' own observation, library sources, time period, etcResearch, analysis, writing, fine arts
Dramatize historical eventsGroup of students choose a topic and develop an effective method to present topic to class (trial, debate); background researchResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Compare definitionsStudents write their own definition of Afro-American music and then compile definitions from other sources; then compare; evaluateResearch, analysis, writing, music
Create a portrait of an author and his literary lifeChoose author and reconstruct their life, their times and assess their work; can be highly personal judgementResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Reaction to fictionStudents write a short response to reading a novel giving their honest reactionCreativity, writing
Explore a clicheSelect a cliche and translate into psychological terms; research related issues and state whether you think cliche is trueResearch, writing, creativity, Psychology
Interview family memberInterview older family member about their earlier life; research that time period and weave personal material with backgroundResearch, writing, creativity, History
Early music in its settingSelect piece of music and research setting for an early performance; write fictionalized account of you at performance (letter, diary)Research, analysis, writing, music
Prepare for interview of famous personAs journalist, extensively research an individual, compose intro to interview, draft 10 questions to askResearch, analysis, writing
Personal journalsMath students keep a journal about their thought processesWriting
Letter to a sick friendMath students write to a sick friend explaining what they missed in classWriting, comprehension, math
Letter to a history majorMath students write to a friend who is a history major explaining what Calculus is all about and why they should take itWriting, comprehension, Math
Tracing a chain of eventsChoose an past event and trace how it was covered in the various types of media (news, newspapers, magazines, journals, etcResearch, analysis, writing
Primary sourcesChoose a decade of history and ask students to find primary sources and put together a montage of information and imagesResearch, writing, creativity, history
Primary sourcesHave students read secondary source and determine which primary sources were used. Discuss how they would locateResearch, writing
Primary sourcesGive students a primary source from the time period or topic under discussion; brainstorm on questions it raises and how to researchResearch, writing, creativity