essay topics


How to Choose the Perfect Essay Topics

Pages:30 (8979 words)



Document Type:Writing Guide


Essay Topics

This article will cover some of the typically assigned essay topics in various categories such as controversial essays and current event essays.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of paper writing can be selecting a topic or figuring out what you want to write about!

If you are stumped for ideas, use this article to stimulate your mind and come up with some possible ideas.

For each of the above, we will also provide you with some additional information to help you develop your own research question and essay.

Controversial Essay Topics

A controversial essay is about a topic that typically gives rise to heated debates: just think about anything you would not want to talk about with your family at Thanksgiving. It should be fairly easy for you to come up with a controversial topic, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Should public schools allow teachers to carry weapons?

Additional information: In an essay about a controversial subject like guns in public schools, you should take a stance but always entertain the opposite point of view. Responding to the opposite point of view is known as a rebuttal, and makes your essay stronger.

2. Should cannabis be legalized nationwide in the United States?

Additional information: There are many ways to approach this controversial subject. Most likely, you would want to research the outcomes of statewide legalization in Colorado and California, or the federal legalization of cannabis in Canada to support your argument or provide the opposing view.

3. How can the problem of mass incarceration be addressed more effectively?

Additional information: Mass incarceration is a complex issue. Therefore, be sure to address some of the major issues associated with mass incarceration such as racial disparities in sentencing, the war on drugs and what types of alternative sentencing might help reduce mass incarceration.

4. Should GMOs be allowed in the food chain?

Additional information: The subject of GMOs remains controversial, even though there is little evidence to suggest that these organisms cause harm to human beings. Therefore, the impact of GMO on biodiversity and other environmental concerns could be a better approach to the subject. You could also discuss the ways GMOs could be used to increase global food security, by increasing drought tolerance or pest resistance.

5. Should the death penalty be abolished?

Additional information: Unlike many other democratic industrialized nations, the United States continues to practice capital punishment. In addition to taking a strong stance on either side of the debate, you can talk about the history of the death penalty as well as the pros and cons of keeping capital punishment on the books.

Personal Essay Topics

A personal essay is a broad category of essays. They can include personal reflections on what you have learned in a class, or essays about your psychological development. Unlike other academic essays, you may use the first person point of view in a personal essay.

1. What was the most meaningful vacation you have ever taken?

Additional information: The vacation could be to a local place; it does not have to be some extravagant international trip. A personal essay is one of the few opportunities you will have in class to write in the first person, and in a relatively informal style. When reflecting on a vacation or any other event in your past, make sure to involve as many of the five senses as possible to make your reader feel like he or she was right there with you. 

2. Describe the loss of a pet or a person and how it affected you.

Additional information: An essay that asks you to explore sadness, grief, and loss gives you the opportunity to practice honing your interpersonal communications skills. It is important that you demonstrate how you processed the feelings of sadness and how the loss of the person or a pet changed you in some way.

3. When have you been in a position of leadership, and what did you learn from the experience?

Additional information: Leadership is a common subject for college entrance exams or job cover letters, which is why it is good practice to write about any position of leadership you might have held, however small. For example, you could describe an incident in which you led a group of friends through town.

4. Describe a time you failed, and how you learned from the experience.

Additional information: Many times, you will be asked to describe one of your failures and how you learned from your mistakes. All successful people have failed many times. What distinguishes the successful from the unsuccessful is the ability to move on from a failure and to learn from the experience through honest self-reflection. This essay asks you to do exactly that.

5. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Additional information: Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is part of any self-reflection process. You may be asked to write about your strengths and weaknesses in a college entrance essay or a job application. Try your best to be honest, without being boastful about your strengths or overly critical about your weaknesses.

Narrative Essay Topics

A narrative essay uses the tools and techniques of storytelling. You can tell a story about yourself, about a specific incident, or about another person. In a narrative essay, you may be asked to use the first person or to avoid it—always verify your teacher’s preferences before beginning. Here are some ideas you can use for a narrative essay.

1. Describe your childhood upbringing.

Additional information: In a narrative essay, you are asked to tell a story. Sometimes that story is about you. In classes about ethnicity and personal identity, you may be asked to describe your childhood upbringing so that you can become aware of the ways culture and family shaped your values, beliefs, prejudices, and outlook on the world.

2. Describe your personal identity construction, including factors like the influence of gender and ethnicity.

Additional information: A narrative essay gives you the opportunity to think about yourself as if you were a character in a novel or a film. In this essay, you can analyze the various sociological functions of race, class, and gender and apply those to your own life.

3. Describe a time where you experienced fear or danger, and how you dealt with the situation.

Additional information: Some narrative essays will ask you to describe a single event using narrative literary techniques. If you are describing an event like an accident or a time when your life was in danger, you want the reader to be as riveted as if he or she were watching the event on TV. Describe exactly what you saw, felt, and heard, and how you reacted—both your physiological response and your mental and emotional reactions too.  

4. Describe a formative experience that made you into the person you are today.

Additional information: A formative experience is any incident or encounter that made a major impact on your life. It could have been meeting a person you came to admire as your role model, or it might have been a time when a stranger reached out to help you in a totally selfless and compassionate way.

5. Describe your experiences either with privilege or subordination.

Additional information: In sociology classes, you may be asked to write a narrative essay about your experiences with discrimination or privilege. It is important to be honest in these essays. Many people will have experienced both privilege and subordination in different social situations.

Pop Culture Essay Topics

Essays about popular culture allow you to think more critically about celebrities and what impact they have on fans, or even more broadly, the impact celebrities have on shaping the attitudes of the public on significant issues like climate change or LGBTQ rights. Essentially, you are asked to think a lot deeper about pop culture than People magazine.

1. Who is your favorite musical artist and why?

Additional information: Many students enjoy reflecting on their favorite musical artists, but may have a hard time explaining in writing why they feel that way. This type of essay challenges you to explore the qualities of the music itself, the artist’s stage persona or presentation, or the ethos, message, and values of the artist.

2. What is one male and one female role model from popular culture. Why did you select these individuals?

Additional information: In this essay, you are asked to reflect on the importance of popular culture icons as role models. Young people are influenced by the celebrities they admire, so it is important to reflect on the quality of the role models young people have.

3. What genre of music do you dislike the most, and why?

Additional information: This essay is unique because it asks you to examine more closely a subconscious emotional response to certain types of music. We all have types of music that rub us the wrong way. Writing about it challenges you to figure out why, or perhaps trace your feelings back to a memory. For example, does that type of music remind you of a certain person you don’t like?

4. What was your favorite film of 2019. Explain why it made a big impact on you.

Additional information: Whether this essay is for a cinematography/film appreciation class or not, you just need to choose a film that you enjoyed and talk about why you enjoyed it. It might help to consider factors like the actors and the acting, the theme or plot, and also the cinematography.

5. If you could interview one living celebrity, who would you choose and what would you ask them in the interview?

Additional information: For this popular culture essay, you place yourself in the shoes of a talk show or podcast host who has the ability to interview any celebrity or high profile figure of your choice. Use your imagination, and pick someone with whom you can have a meaningful conversation with in order to make your essay stronger.

Process Essay Topics

A process essay does exactly what it says: describes the step-by-step method or procedure for accomplishing a goal.

1. Describe the process of washing a car.

Additional information: For this essay, describe the process of washing a car, remembering to talk about both the interior and the exterior. You may want to begin with an assessment of the materials you need, such as a vacuum, special soap, rags, and chamois.

2. Describe the process of making muffins or cookies.

Additional information: The good thing about a process essay is that it requires you to think sequentially and chronologically. For example, when you write about the process of baking muffins or cookies, you will need to mention that you gather all the ingredients first, then preheating the oven, and then mixing the ingredients, and so on, right up to the point of pulling the tray out of the oven.

3. Describe the process of writing a dissertation or thesis.

Additional information: Writing a long document like a thesis or dissertation involves a systematic process. Here, you would talk about how you first settled upon an appropriate research question. Then you would discuss your methodology, going onto describe how you gathered the data.

4. Describe the process of training a new employee for your current position.

Additional information: If you do not have a job, you could just write about training an employee for any position you would like. In this essay, you can start with a good job description before describing the steps you would take to train the new employee to become competent fulfilling the duties of the position and the role within the organization. Be sure to mention factors like company policies and dress code.

5. Describe the process of starting a new business.

Additional information: A helpful topic to write about, the process of starting a new business begins with a good idea about identifying a gap in the market or an unmet need for consumers. Then you would go about describing the process of raising money, going onto the steps needed to get the appropriate licenses, before discussing the logistics of setting up the business itself.

Problem/Solution Essay Topics

A problem/solution essay is one in which you first describe a problem—like climate change or a social injustice or an epidemic—and then offer a solution. Usually, you will be asked to provide evidence to back up all your claims. Therefore, choose a problem/solution topic that you can research easily.

1. The war on drugs has arguably done more harm than the drugs themselves. Ending the war on drugs would involve an international committee to dismantle current drug policies and create legitimate markets for these substances.

Additional information: In a problem/solution essay, you begin with a well-worded problem statement. You then support the problem statement with evidence, followed by recommended solutions to that problem. In this essay, you frame the war on drugs as the problem, citing information about the death toll in many countries, actual wars, and mass incarceration. Then you would offer solutions supported by credible resources.

2. Obesity remains a major problem, and incidence rates are climbing worldwide. The solution to the problem requires public awareness campaigns and infrastructure improvements to promote healthy lifestyles.

Additional information: Here, you identify obesity rates as the problem. Be sure to also mention the poor health outcomes associated with obesity. Then, you could discuss the success of the anti-smoking public awareness campaigns to support your position that the solution to the problem lies with good public awareness campaigns as well as improved public infrastructure.

3. Racial wealth disparity persists in the United States. One solution to the problem is to revisit methods of providing the African American community with reparations.

Additional information: In this problem/solution essay, you begin with a problem statement about wealth disparity. Then you suggest that reparations is a workable solution that would help stimulate African American small business growth, leading to long-term reduction in the wealth disparity.

4. The mental health system is failing to meet the needs of the American public, and has become manifest in problems like the opioid epidemic and mass shootings. The solution to the problem is a complete overhaul of the mental health system.

Additional information: With a problem statement related to mental health services, you need to show how such services could be improved to yield more promising outcomes. Then you could discuss alternative approaches like solution-focused therapy.

5. The current educational system is failing to prepare many American students to compete in the global marketplace. The curriculum needs to change so that students can develop the social and academic skills they need to achieve their goals.

Additional information: A discussion about the education system is bound to be complex and thorny. Therefore, focus on a specific aspect of education that you believe is problematic and for which you can find substantial evidence to support your claim. Likewise, locate credible sources of information to support your suggested solution, such as a curriculum overhaul.

Proposal Essay Topics

A proposal can be for funding, or for a policy change, or for a novel initiative in your community.

1. Write a proposal for original research on a sociology topic of your choice.

Additional information: In some sociology classes, you may be asked to design a simple observational research or a survey. You write the proposal essay before you ever get started on the actual research. Here, you just propose the research question or hypothesis, the strategy you will use to gather data, and how you will analyze the data.

2. Propose a community-based initiative to increase resilience to natural disasters.

Additional information: In this proposal, you will be asking an imaginary audience such as a city council, to approve an initiative. A proposal essay can be short and brief, or it could actually be more in depth, requiring you to do some research to support your proposed idea.

3. Write a business plan proposal.

Additional information: Many students will want to practice writing business plans, especially those who one day intend to start their own businesses. The proposal for the idea does not need to be as thorough as an entire business plan; think of the essay as more of an informal way of introducing your idea to a potential investor. What is your target market? How much start-up capital do you need? Questions like these can guide your proposal.

4. Propose a piece of new legislation or a change to an existing public policy.

Additional information: Another type of proposal essay is for public policy or legislative initiatives. In this proposal essay, you would identify an issue or problem and then propose a change to public policy based on your findings.

5. Write a proposal asking for funding for a new technology.

Additional information: What if you were an employee at Google? Or let’s say you were a scientist who just came up with a new alternative energy source. This proposal essay asks you to pitch your idea to possible investors without divulging the details of your invention or technology.

Current Event Essay Topics

Current event essays help you remain engaged in the world. They can also improve your media literacy skills by asking you to compare the news coverage from different sources, on the same exact subject or event.

1. Reflect upon and react to the Trump impeachment proceedings.

Additional information: With current events, the news changes daily and sometimes hourly. The Trump impeachment hearings have dominated the news lately, giving you a lot to write about and consider as you write.

2. Discuss the various possible outcomes in the upcoming Israeli election.

Additional information: Netanyahu has been in power for a long time, but given that this is Israel’s third election in just a year, it seems that his power may be waning. Reflect on the other parties and their candidates, and discuss your positions on the issues that matter to Israelis and for security in the Middle East.

3. What is your current favorite news podcast or television program?

Additional information: In this current event essay, you are reflecting more on the media than the content of the news. This gives you a chance to comment on how news is covered, the level of discourse, cognitive biases, and why you prefer one news source over another.

4. Comment on the recent bill to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers.

Additional information: With immigration reform being one of the most important political issues in the United States, it is important to understand the various ways lawmakers are reaching compromises. The new proposed bill is not a panacea, but it does provide a reasonable first step towards resolving some of the immigration rhetoric.

5. Comment on the upcoming election in Great Britain and what the various outcomes might mean.

Additional information: By discussing the elections of a foreign country, you can write about how the election results might impact the global economy, or foreign relations between that country and the United States.

Argumentative Essay Topics

One of the most common types of essays assigned to students in high school and college is the argumentative essay.

An argumentative essay is exactly what it sounds like. You are going to take a stand and argue your case. It’s alright to get a little emotional in your argumentative essay, as long as you keep your diction and style professional and scholarly. Unless you were told otherwise, avoid the use of first person (I or me) as well as second person (you) in an argumentative essay.

In fact, using emotion (pathos) is one of the three classic rhetorical strategies for a good argument. The other rhetorical strategies include legitimacy/credibility/ethics (ethos), and logic/facts (logos).

If you are writing an argumentative essay for an English composition class or other general English writing class, then you may be able to choose from almost any controversial topic you want to write about.

However, if you are writing an argumentative essay for a specific course or class, the list of topics will already be pre-defined by the instructor.

Consider the following examples when choosing a topic for your argumentative essay.

1. Teachers should be allowed to have guns in school in order to respond quicker to school shootings.

Additional Information:

This essay takes a strong and controversial stance on an issue. To write this essay effectively, you would want to cite information from credible sources, including legal sources outlining the rights and freedoms of individuals. You would also want to refer to articles from public safety officials including law enforcement, as well as articles published in journals about education.

2. Plastic bags should be banned.

Additional information:

In this argumentative essay, you are arguing that plastic bags should be banned for environmental reasons. To make a successful argument, you would want to find alarming facts and statistics about plastic bags. You could mention how long it takes for plastic to break down, and how bags accumulate in landfills and in the sea. To make your argument even more impressive, you would want to offer the reader some action steps related to how to effectively replace plastic bags with reusable bags without additional cost or inconvenience to the consumer.

3. All drugs should be legalized.

Additional information:

One of the thrills of writing an argumentative essay is choosing a controversial topic and finding sufficient credible resources to back up your position. In this case, you would easily locate articles discussing the death toll from the “war on drugs,” to show that the criminalization of drugs causes more problems than the drugs themselves. You would also discuss the ways legalization would liberate resources that could be directed better towards combatting the more serious problems of gang violence, organized crime, human trafficking, and terrorism.

4. Brexit is good for England.

Additional information:

If you have been asked to take a stance on the issue of Brexit, you are in luck because there is no end to the number of articles published in news media and scholarly journals on the subject. Depending on what level of school you are in, you would want to develop your argument by focusing on a few specific issues related to Brexit. For instance, you might want to focus on the intended economic ramifications of Brexit or on the negative effects that joining the EU had on Britain.

5. Gender pay equity should be legally mandatory.

Additional information:

Taking a stand on gender pay equity allows you to explore the topic from various points of view. The approach you take with this essay depends on whether you are writing it for an economics class, a gender studies class, or a sociology class. Once you narrow down your topic, you would want to discuss the possible ways gender pay equity policy could be enforced. Alternatively, you could focus more on social justice and ethics.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

A compare and contrast essay may be assigned at almost any grade level, as it helps you to build your analytical and academic writing skills.

Typically, you will compare and contrast two different items or ideas: they could be people, concepts, or things.

It may be possible to compare and contrast three things, if your instructor approves, but your essay may become disorganized if you do so without first having practiced the way to write effective compare and contrast essays.

When you write a compare and contrast essay, you start by making a list of the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing. Then, decide whether you want to use the block format or the point-by-point format for your essay.

The block format of a compare and contrast essay has you writing about one item at a time. For example, if you are comparing apples and oranges, you would write a paragraph about apples first. Then, you would write a paragraph about oranges.

In the point-by-point format of the compare and contrast essay, you write about one feature at a time. If you are writing a point-by-point compare and contrast essay about apples and oranges, you would first write a paragraph about how they are botanically similar since they are fruits, but that oranges are citrus fruits and apples are orchard fruits. Then, you would write a paragraph describing the sensory experiences when eating apples and oranges, describing how both can be both sweet and tart.

Here are some usable examples

1. Compare and contrast the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.

Additional information:

In this essay, you will start by making a list of the presidents’ respective domestic and foreign policies. Then, you could locate the points of similarity and difference that you can use to structure your compare and contrast essay.

2. Compare and contrast Chinese and French cuisine.

Additional information:

A compare and contrast essay challenges you to find both similarities and differences. For this topic, you could focus on the history, cultural context, and comparable level of sophistication between these two global cuisines. You would then be able to clearly explicate the differences between the cuisines in terms of ingredient use and cooking methods.

3. Compare and contrast American and French foreign policy.

Additional information:

This essay requires you to perform some background research. You could narrow down your topic to focus on a specific policy area, or more broadly discuss three different policy points to compare and contrast. Another way to approach this topic would be to show how American and French foreign policy has changed over time, comparing and contrasting their respective political and social evolution.

4. Compare and contrast cognitive-behavioral psychology with positive psychology.

Additional information:

When you write an essay comparing and contrasting theories, you start with the fundamental parameters, assumptions, and frameworks guiding those theories. Then, you can begin to compare the theories in terms of those underlying features before you discuss factors like their differences in terms of therapeutic interventions or goals of therapy.

5. Compare and contrast iPhone/iOS and Android.

Additional information:

A straightforward comparison of two objects like this one is a good place to start writing a compare and contrast essay for an English composition class. If you are writing a more advanced comparison of these two products for a technology class, then you would take a different approach than you would for an English comp class. In either situation, your emphasis would be on various features.

Expository Essay Topics

An expository essay is a broad category that includes most types of academic writing. The word “expository” comes from the word “expose.” In an expository essay, your job is to expose, explain, or simply describe the facts or details about a subject. Typically expository essays are assigned to students who are new to writing in English, but you can write an expository essay about anything. Expository essays are almost always written using formal language, and in the third person. Avoid using first person (I, me) or second person (you, we) in an expository essay. Here are a few sample topics for writing an expository essay.

1. Write an expository essay on the structure of the American judicial system.

Additional information:

Here, you are asked to explain or describe the structure of the American judicial system. You begin by outlining the various types of courts and their respective functions, delineating      both criminal and civil courts. In the essay, you would also want to differentiate between the different jurisdictions such as county courts, federal circuit courts, and courts of appeal. 

2. Write an expository essay on the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Additional information:

Expository essays are sometimes assigned in English literature classes. This sample topic is fairly broad, so you could narrow it down further by focusing on the character of Miss Havisham, for example. Before you start writing this expository essay, outline your ideas and decide what specific aspects of the book you want to discuss. You might want to write about setting, tone, style, or characterization for your expository essay on Great Expectations. Make sure you develop a strong argument, because you will likely be asked to provide a strong thesis statement.

3. Write an expository essay on climate change.

Additional information:

An expository essay is a good format for writing an academic paper on environmental issues such as climate change or global warming. Within the expository essay, you could discuss the most important effects of global warming on human or animal populations.

4. Write an expository essay on Einstein’s theories of relativity.

Additional information:

You do not need to be a physics student to write an expository essay on Einstein’s theories of relativity. An expository essay is sometimes a good way for you to digest what you learned in a science class, and to show your teacher that you really understand the basic concepts. When you write an expository essay on Einstein’s theories of relativity, you would summarize and explain the basics of both general relativity and special relativity.

5. Write an expository essay on your favorite film.

Additional information:

You can also write an expository essay on a piece of art, music, literature, or film. The expository essay could be about the plot and theme of the film, or it could be more about the cinematography.

Persuasive Essay Topics

In a persuasive essay, you take a strong stance on a controversial subject, and you use words to persuade your reader to adopt your point of view.  A persuasive essay should have a strong and unequivocal thesis statement. You are not just describing an issue or outlining its parameters, but you are actively urging your reader to think critically, see a different side of things, or even alter behavior. When you write a persuasive essay, you can adopt a worldview or perspective that is different from the one you typically have. For example, if you have liberal views, you can still write a persuasive essay from a conservative standpoint. The goal is to elucidate your argument using research and rhetorical strategies like pathos, ethos, and logos. Here are a few persuasive essay topics to get you started.

1. Trump should/should not be impeached.

Additional Information:

Current events make for great topics in a persuasive essay. In fact, many social studies or political science classes require you to write persuasive essays because of how important rhetoric is in these fields. The persuasive essay exercise gets you to think critically about the current event issue, rather than just reflexively react based on the opinions, values, and impressions you already have about a topic like the Trump impeachment trials.

2. GMOs are harmful/harmless and should/should not be banned.

Additional Information:

Any controversial topic, for which multiple points of view can be held, is a good subject for a persuasive essay. You will want to back up your claims with evidence about GMOs, preferably from peer-reviewed sources and other credible sources of information.

3. Human cloning should be banned.

Additional Information:

Bioethics topics have become very popular at all levels of education, and are particularly important for nursing students. You can write a persuasive essay on a bioethical topic by conducting the requisite research, and citing credible sources

4. Bilingual or multilingual education should be mandatory in the United States.

Additional Information:

Many persuasive essays are thought experiments, rather than being For a topic like this, you are not persuading your reader to take any sort of direct action. You want your reader to think differently about language, culture and identity in an essay about multilingual education. Your teacher will be looking for a logical argument, even if it is an unrealistic goal or outcome.

5. Write a letter persuading the academic committee to readmit you to the school after an expulsion or suspension.

Additional Information:

Some persuasive essays have actual pragmatic value in the real world. For example, you might want to write a letter to a congressperson about a bill or law you want passed. Alternatively, you may need to hone your persuasive writing skills so that you can persuade a teacher to change your grade, to persuade a scholarship fund to give you money, or to get readmitted to school after being kicked out.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

In a rhetorical analysis essay, you are charged with the task of reading and picking apart what someone else has to say. Your target could be a historical document like the Emancipation Proclamation, or it could be an essay published in a prominent journal or newspaper. When you write a rhetorical analysis essay, pay attention to the author’s tone, style, and diction. You also want to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the argument, and clearly explicate the author or speaker’s main points. Here are a few examples of rhetorical analysis essay topics.

1. Write a rhetorical analysis on the Emancipation Proclamation.

Additional Information:

For this essay, you could choose to analyze Lincoln’s choice of words when talking about slavery. You could also place the document within its historical context to question Lincoln’s choice of diction, tone, and style.

2. Write a rhetorical analysis on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Additional Information:

A common assignment for English language learners or students in an English composition class is to analyze historical speeches and documents like King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Your instructor will probably ask you to comment on King’s use of pathos, ethos, and logos.

3. Write a rhetorical analysis on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”

Additional Information:

When you write a rhetorical analysis on a satirical piece like Jonathan Swift’s essay, you can talk about how the author effectively uses his strategies to make a political statement in a wry, subtle, and clever way.

4. Write a rhetorical analysis on an opinion piece in today’s newspaper.

Additional Information:

Major newspapers include editorial columns and opinion pieces. These are essentially persuasive essays, and your teacher is asking you to analyze the effectiveness of the author’s rhetoric—including the author’s use of logical fallacies or the author’s biases.

5. Write a rhetorical analysis on a State of the Union address.

Additional Information:

For a political science, history, or civics class, you may be asked to systematically analyze one State of the Union address of your choice.

Scholarship Essay Topics

Applying for admission to a college or university requires countless hours of paperwork, including the forms you need to fill out if you are simultaneously applying for financial aid and/or scholarships. Scholarships are more than just need-based awards. They are typically prestigious awards conferred upon eligible candidates who exhibit desirable skills or promise. When you apply for a scholarship, be sure to take the essay writing process seriously. Students are often stumped when they have to come up with topics for their scholarship essay, so these sample ideas should help:

1. Describe an incident in which you exhibited strong leadership skills.

Additional Information:

Asking for your leadership qualifications is a common scholarship essay topic. Even if you have never served in a position of official leadership, you can still describe situations in which you took the lead in a small but meaningful way.

2. How do you resolve interpersonal conflicts? Describe a situation in which you resolved the conflict well, and one in which you did not.

Additional Information:

Many scholarship essays will ask that you be honest and show your vulnerability as well as your strengths. Take advantage of this opportunity to show the scholarship admissions committee who you really are, endearing them to you as a well-rounded person.

3. What in your background and experience qualifies you for this scholarship?

Additional Information:

A general question such as this provides you with the opportunity to write about any experiences that have prepared you for the scholarship. This does not mean that your experience needs to be directly related to your intended major, and you can discuss anything from your experience working in a fast food restaurant to counseling at summer camp.

4. If you receive this scholarship, what do you see yourself doing five, ten, and twenty years down the road?

Additional Information:

Scholarship admissions committees want to award their funds to people who have clear goals and a vision for the future. This is your chance to daydream and fantasize about your ideal life down the road.

5. This scholarship favors applicants from an underserved population, including minority groups. Please describe your identity as a minority, and what your identity has meant in terms of your personal and professional development.

Additional Information:

Many scholarships are especially designed for special populations. If you qualify as one of those special populations, chances are you will need to write about that qualification.

Analytical Essay Topics

An analytical essay can be about any subject. Similar to an expository essay, an analytical essay should be objective, and yet you still need a thesis statement. When you write an analytical essay, you are systematically picking apart any subject. The subject could be a work of literature, and often an analytical essay will be about a specific work of art or music. Alternatively, the subject of an analytical essay could be a current events issue, a political policy, or an ethical dilemma. Take the following example topics into consideration:

1. Analyze gender roles in a television comedy of your choice.

Additional information:

This assignment gives you the opportunity to use both creative and critical thinking as you take notes while watching a television show. You should be applying the concepts you learned about in class, related to gender norms and roles, when you write your analytical essay.

2. Analyze Brexit, taking into account historical, cultural, political, and economic factors.

In this essay, you are being asked to analyze a complex current event. An analytical essay is the ideal format for such an exercise, because you want to consider all possible angles in your discussion. The point of the assignment is to help you practice critical thinking. Instead of writing about your opinions or arguing for or against Brexit, you are analyzing the economic forces that gave rise to the policy, the political climate surrounding Brexit, what demographic groups were for or against Brexit and why, and the historical context of Brexit.

3. Analyze a character in a Shakespeare play.

Most likely, you will be studying a specific Shakespeare play or any other word of literature. Character analysis essays are extremely common. .If you take enough literature classes, you will inevitably be asked to analyze a character. When you perform a character analysis essay, start by jotting down all the physical and psychological characteristics of that character. Then ask yourself why the character behaves in certain ways or says certain things. You are essentially pretending to be the character’s psychotherapist, asking questions such as whether a traumatic incident in the character’s past or her cultural environment impacted her reactions to a specific person or event in the story.

4. Analyze a case study for a business or leadership class.

Many classes in management, business, or leadership involve the use of case studies. Case studies are in-depth narrative accounts of a company, focusing on specific things like the company’s performance over time, the company’s expansion into a new market, or a company’s inability to keep up with technological advancements. Some case studies are about a specific leader within that company. When you analyze the cae study, you are being given probing questions related to human and organizational behavior within that specific context.

5. Analyze the results of a qualitative or quantitative study related to your evidence-based practice question.

Nursing students and other students in the healthcare sector may frequently conduct empirical studies. After you gather your data, you need to analyze that data. You need to decide whether the data supports your research hypotheses or whether additional information is needed. Even if you are not required to perform statistical analyses, you still need to consider why you received the results you did and how to improve the research methodologies in the future.

Informative Essay Topics

When you write an informative essay, your objective is to inform the reader. It is a straightforward task, but don’t let the simplicity of the assignment fool you. An informative essay can be difficult to write well. The key to a good informative essay is choosing the right topic, such as these:

1. Write an informative essay about Brexit. What is it, why did it come about, and what are some of the key arguments for and against it?

In this essay, you are being asked to write about Brexit from an objective stance. Your main job is to inform the reader about the facts surrounding Brexit. Those facts may include the historical and social context, as well as the reactions to Brexit in the media. Unlike an argumentative or persuasive essay on the subject, you are not being asked to argue for or against Brexit but only to inform.

2. Write an informative essay about childhood obesity.

An informative essay serves a similar purpose as an encyclopedia entry. You distill all the most relevant facts and information about a topic into comprehensive but brief report. The informative essay about any public health issue includes etiology, prevalence, risk factors, socioeconomic variables, and more.

3. Write an informative essay about the changes to the most recent version of the DSM.

When changes are made to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, used in all psychological sciences for diagnostic consistency, those changes are based on recent empirical evidence and also on consensus within the professional community. An informative essay asks you to list each of the updates or changes to the DSM and to inform your reader about the implications and reasoning behind those changes.

4. Write an informative essay about driverless cars.

You can also write an informative essay on any new technology like driverless cars or artificial intelligence. The informative essay helps the reader gain better understanding about a new technology, which is why an informative essay is a good way to practice your technical writing skills. An informative essay helps demystify a complicated issue in any subject area.

5. Write an informative essay about a public policy area or proposed public policy initiative.

Informative essays are also helpful in the social sciences, particularly when you want to inform your reader about a pertinent policy issue. If you are concerned that the media or public opinion misleads the public about a specific issue, now is your chance to inform readers of the truth by citing credible sources of information. Alternatively, if there is a glut of information available and you want to help your reader make sense of it all, the informative essay becomes the perfect vehicle.

Synthesis Essay Topics

To synthesize essentially means to bring together. When you are assigned a synthesis essay, your instructor expects you to weave several different things into a common whole. A synthesis essay is a fairly advanced form of academic writing. You will often be asked to synthesize several different sources by different authors about the same subject, and develop your own informed opinions based on those sources. Here are some other sample synthesis essay topics:

1. Write a synthesis essay based on the class readings. Where do the authors agree? How do they disagree?

In many subject areas, you will be asked to read a variety of scholarly sources dealing with a specific subject. The subject could be about shamanism in different cultures, or about gender identity, or about critical race theory. No matter what the subject, your goal in the synthesis essay is to take what each author has to say and synthesize that information into your own views. The synthesis essay consists of creatively weaving various sources into a whole new way of looking at or thinking about the subject.

2. Synthesize what you have learned from your field work with what you have learned from course readings.

If you are a student in the social sciences who conducts field work experiments, one possible synthesis essay assignment would be to combine what you learned from your unique experiments with the results of the experiments already performed and published in peer-reviewed journals. This type of activity will become more useful to you as you advance your career.

3. Synthesize various views on American immigration policy and make policy recommendations based on what you learned.

Other areas of study that rely heavily on synthesis essays include public policy or political science. These areas encourage you to consider a variety of sources on a policy issue or problem. Then you synthesize the results of all the surveys and other empirical studies, so that you can come up with a set of implementable and effective policy decisions.

4. Synthesize the research to predict emerging trends.

A synthesis essay can also be used for making educated guesses about future trends. You can use this approach to a synthesis essay in marketing classes or in the social sciences like economics. A synthesis of the research can also help people in the healthcare industry to make effective policy recommendations related to public health or improving patient outcomes.

5. Write an essay synthesizing Hindu and Buddhist texts regarding views of reincarnation.

A synthesis essay can also be about historical documents and religious texts. Frequently, cultures evolve organically as a synthesis of various cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism. This type of essay can also be used in other subjects, showing how some cultures are the result of the synthesis of disparate ethnic groups and their respective worldviews.

Cause and Effect Essay Topics

Cause and effect essays are very effective tools for helping you improve your writing. When you are first learning how to write academic papers, your instructor may ask you to write a cause and effect essay about a historical event or situation. Sometimes, you will focus more on either the cause or the effect of something instead of discussing both in the same essay. Consider the following examples for cause and effect essay topics:

1. Write a cause and effect essay about the Civil War.

Additional Information:

One of the most common essay topics in American schools is the Civil War. A cause and effect essay helps you commit to memory the many political, social, and economic causes of the Civil War, as well as the political, social, and economic effects of the Civil War.

2. Write a cause and effect essay describing a personal change you made in your life.

Additional Information:

If you were asked to write a more personal cause and effect essay like this, you could use the first person to describe the causes of the change in behavior. Then, you would write about the change or action you took, followed by a discussion of the effects of that change.

3. What were the causes and effects of the Second World War?

Additional Information:

Cause and effect essays are common in history classes, which is why you may want to practice writing these types of essays.

4. Discuss the causes and effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Additional Information:

A cause and effect essay can also have you explain the etiology of a disease, the symptoms of the disease, and the other effects of the disease such as its impact on family members or finances.

5. Write a cause and effect essay on the 2008 economic crisis.

Additional Information:

You can write a cause and effect essay about anything in chronological time, or anything else that can be described in terms of its cause and effect.

Descriptive Essay Topics

A descriptive essay is as it sounds: a writing assignment in which you describe someone. For example, you can have a descriptive essay assignment on a work of art such as Van Gogh’s Irises. You can also write a descriptive essay on a piece of music, or on a person—fictional or real. In a descriptive essay, you can also describe events. When you write a descriptive essay, the key thing to remember is to use a lot of detail. Details are what separate a good descriptive essay from a great one! Use topics like these for your descriptive essay, or come up with one of your own.

1. Describe the character of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play.

Additional Information:

This descriptive essay topic illustrates the difference between a descriptive essay and an analytical essay. If this were an analytical essay, you would delve deep into Hamlet’s motives, citing lines from the play. However, a descriptive essay simply asks you to objectively describe Hamlet’s behavior, appearance, and other features. Ideally, you would also cite specific passages from the play to back up the claims you make in the descriptive essay.

2. Go to a museum and describe your experience as you walk through the galleries.

Additional Information:

A descriptive essay is often one that is written in first person, particularly if you describing an event or experience. You will be expected to engage your reader’s senses, describing not just what you saw but also what you heard, smelled, tasted, and touched.

3. Describe the function of the United States Supreme Court.

Additional Information:

This descriptive essay requires that you do some research so that you can correctly describe the form and function of the United States Supreme Court. You can refer to the Constitution and other primary sources that directly describe those official functions, while also mentioning that the Supreme Court serves many other indirect functions too.

4. Describe the concept of deity in Jainism.

Additional Information:

A descriptive essay in an anthropology or religious studies course can be more analytical in nature, as when you are asked to describe an abstract concept. Alternatively, you might be asked to describe something more concrete like the role a specific ritual has in another culture.

5. Describe the events that take place to Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey.

Additional Information:

In this descriptive essay, you would use your own words to describe Odysseus’ journey. The assignment offers you the chance to use your creative writing skills as well as your skills in describing people, places, and things.

Reflective Essay

A reflective essay seems easy. After all, you don’t have to do research, right? While some reflective essays can be short and sweet, a good many are actually important assignments that your instructor or professor will use to assess your learning in the course. Even if your reflective essay is short, you will want to think deeply about the subject you are reflecting on. Generally, there are two types of reflective essays. The first type is a reflective essay about your performance, and is more personal than the second type. The second type of reflective essay is about your reactions to something you learned about in class, a film you had to watch, or a book you had to read. Here are some other examples of reflective essay topics.

1. Reflect on the Trump impeachment trials. What are some of the key events or moments that stick out to you?

Additional Information:

Reflecting on a political issue or current event helps you to effectively process what you have heard or read about in the news, what your parents and teachers have told you, and how your peers have reacted. Then you can compare these external voices to your own, in an exercise of self-awareness and critical self-reflection.

2. Write a reflection essay on a book read in class.

Additional Information:

One of the most common reflective essay topics will be on a book. The assignment might be on a chapter or section of a book, or an article in a magazine too. Regardless, you are being asked to reflect on the author’s intent, the author’s message, and the context of that message. If the reflective essay is formal, you may retain the third person point of view and avoid talking about how you felt when you read the material. Reflect on the impact of that piece of writing,  or on how someone else might respond to the author.

3. Reflect on a moral dilemma you recently faced at work.

Additional Information:

Reflecting on moral or ethical issues is a common writing assignment. These reflective essays should show that you have considered multiple sides of the issue, and that your reflection has led to some insight or awareness.

4. Reflect on your learning in this class.

Additional Information:

Students are increasingly being asked to reflect on their learning at the end of a semester or term. These types of reflective essays are summative, in that you are adding up all you learned and reflecting on the course as a whole rather than on any one assignment.

5. Reflect on Casey’s performance in the case study. What could Casey have done differently to exhibit better leadership and communication skills?

Additional Information:

A business, management, or leadership course might include several reflective essays like this one. Sometimes you will be reflecting on your own experiences as a leader, and other times you will be given a case study to reflect upon as part of your learning.


There is no end to the variety of essays you may encounter in your academic career. Here in this article, we named but a few of the most commonly assigned types of academic essay. Yet this list is far from exhaustive. The farther you get in school, the more different types of essay you will be asked to write.

By providing you with a brief description of what the assignment requires, you have a better idea of how to organize your thoughts and begin writing. The list of sample topics for each essay type gives you an example of that type of essay, so you know if you are on the right track. Always ask your instructor if you have any questions, or seek help from a librarian or writing tutor.

Cite this Document

Join thousands of other students and

"spark your studies".