Controversial Essay Topics for College Students

Controversial Essay Topics

College is a time for new experiences and learning. For many students, this includes debating controversial topics in their essays. Some professors will even assign these topics to help students think critically and opinions on complex subjects. If you’re struggling to develop an interesting topic, here are six of the most controversial ones: abortion, gun control, capital punishment, gay marriage, national healthcare, and climate change. Picking one of these will get your essay noticed!

What are Controversial Essay Topics?

Controversial topics can cause an argument or disagreement in most people. When writing a controversial topic, you want to write about something most people have strong feelings about. In your research, you will want to explain both sides of the controversial topic so that the reader can understand what they believe. When writing a controversial paper, you will want to stay neutral and not a stance on which side you believe is correct.

Good Controversial Essay Topics

Ten of the most controversial topics for essays are:

1. Abortion

Abortion has been one of the toughest topics to write about because there are many different views on it. The issue of abortion has been argued for many years whether it should be legal or illegal. Abortion is an extremely controversial topic among high school and college students alike. While there are several arguments for both sides, it is important to maintain a neutral position as you conduct your research and complete your research paper. If you were to take a side on this matter, your reader would not consider anything else you had to say regarding the topic at hand.

2. Gun control

Another controversial topic for essays is gun control.  This controversial topic is rooted in a person’s belief in personal freedom and government control. Those who believe that the government should regulate guns say that protecting innocent people from gun violence is necessary. Those who believe in the Second Amendment and think that guns should be freely accessible cite their freedom to bear arms.

3. Capital punishment

Opponents of the death penalty claim that it is unconstitutional and discriminates against racial minorities. Supporters of the death penalty say that it is an important part of justice, which is necessary to keep society peaceful.

4. Gay marriage

Proponents of gay marriage believe that it is a basic human right to marry the person you love, while others are against it because it goes against what they believe is the definition of marriage.

5. National healthcare

Everyone has an opinion about national healthcare because each side believes that their stance is best for the United States. Those against national healthcare say that it will give the government too much power and hurt small businesses. Those for national healthcare say that it is a basic right to help the economy.

6. Climate change

Climate change is another controversial topic for essays because it involves science, which many people do not trust. Many people against climate change say that it is a natural part of Earth, while others say humans cause it.

7. Assisted suicide

This is another controversial topic that gets to the heart of a person’s beliefs. Those who are for assisted suicide believe that every human being’s right to end their life on their terms. Those who are against it argue that the government has a responsibility to save lives and that suicide is never the answer.

8. Women’s reproductive rights

Opponents of women’s reproductive rights say that abortion should be illegal and that contraceptives do not work or are dangerous. Those who support women’s reproductive rights believe in the right to choose and access contraceptives.

9. Transgender bathroom laws

Both sides of the transgender bathroom law argument are passionate about their beliefs. Those who oppose it say that allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice is an invasion of privacy. Those who are for it say that the law should protect transgender people from being discriminated against.

10. Illegal immigration

Those who believe in stricter laws for illegal immigrants say that they should not be granted citizenship and that it is the only way to keep our country safe. Those who disagree say that undocumented immigrants are already part of society and should live without fear of deportation.

How to Choose Controversial Topics for Essays

The best way to choose a controversial topic for essays is to first think about what you already know. What are your passions? What are your beliefs? What are issues that are important to you? Think about how you can use this information to write an engaging essay.

A controversial topic should be something that you are educated on. You do not want to choose a topic simply because it is controversial, although the more controversial, the better. You want to choose a topic on which you can write an interesting essay.

List of Controversial Essay Topics

Below is a list of 56 controversial topics for essays that you can use when crafting your essay:

  1. Gun rights
  2. Capital punishment
  3. Gay marriage
  4. National healthcare
  5. Climate change
  6. Assisted suicide
  7. Reproductive rights for women
  8. Transgender bathroom laws
  9. Illegal immigration
  10. Abortion laws
  11. Death penalty for teenagers
  12. Stem-cell research
  13. Vaccines causing autism
  14. Abstinence-only sex education
  15. Euthanasia
  16. Global warming hoax
  17. Evolution vs. creationism
  18. Feminism
  19. Animal rights issues
  20. Atheism vs. religion
  21. Militarization of police force
  22. War on drugs
  23. Privatization of prisons
  24. Parental leave
  25. Gun control
  26. Tougher punishments for criminals
  27. Maintaining social security Minimum wage laws
  28. Universal healthcare
  29. Affirmative action
  30. Legalization of marijuana
  31. Child labor laws
  32. Regulating firearms
  33. Affirmative action in colleges and universities
  34. The legalization of prostitution
  35. Equal pay for equal work
  36. Having to show identification as a requirement for voting
  37. Socialized healthcare
  38. How much control the government should have over citizens
  39. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use
  40. Medical amnesty for people who call 911 in an overdose situation
  41. Protection of citizens by police officers
  42. Gun licensing and registration laws
  43. Prohibition of alcohol
  44. Alcohol taxes and regulations
  45. Mandatory military service for citizens
  46. War on drugs
  47. Abolition of the death penalty
  48. Ban on solitary confinement for prison inmates
  49. Placing limits on how much CEOs can earn
  50. Free speech zone on college campuses
  51. Ban on handguns
  52. Mandatory seminars for men about the definition of consent
  53. Abandonment of public schools in favor of private schools
  54. War on poverty
  55. Ban on air conditioning
  56. Ban on public restrooms for opposite sexes

6 Purposes of Good Controversial Research

Controversial research paper topics can be a good thing or a bad thing. That is up to you, but there are both positive and negative aspects of controversial research papers. Here are seven purposes of good controversial research:

1. Explain in depth

The first purpose of good controversial research is to explain a subject in great detail. Many people have emotional ties to an issue but cannot explain their side of the argument because they do not have enough information. You can provide detailed information on a sensitive topic through your research paper. This helps calm people’s fears and allows them to see the issue from another viewpoint.

2. Reveal hidden truths

A controversial topic draws attention to itself and brings out more discussion on the subject. This can help reveal hidden truths about a sensitive issue that allows for a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

3. Learn new things about the issue

Through your research, you may find out new facts about a particular issue that was previously unknown or misunderstood by many people involved in the situation. This knowledge can benefit everyone involved by bringing more light to their understanding of the situation and how it affects others.

History of the topic. Check out its history and previous research when you think about your topic. What was said about it in the past? What were other people’s opinions? Read through all the sources you have at hand and get as much information as possible. If your topic is too young, there probably won’t be many sources available, and you will need to look for them yourself or ask around.

4. To teach students to think critically

It helps students understand the importance of taking a closer look at the issues in our society. When they read such research papers, they will be able to understand better the topic discussed in the paper, which will give them a chance to analyze it further.

5. To show students how to form their own opinions about any issue under discussion

to come up with their own decisions based on what they have learned from reading such papers. This can also help students develop a sense of maturity and integrity because they will know how to make up their minds even when there are several opinions on an issue.

6. To teach students how to use all resources available

They can use this for research to gather more information about an issue and become more knowledgeable about it, thus giving them a better understanding of what’s happening around them and in their community. Students have no other option but to do controversial research if they want to master this skill.


Controversial topics are very important in essays for college students. Some of these controversial topics can simply be your own opinions about a certain debate, whether on politics, religion, or something as simple as the legalization of marijuana, which usually sparks lots of controversies and can lead to a great essay topic for any student to start writing about.