Controversial Topics 2012 For Essays

Different kinds of sources are useful for different reasons when you are researching current issues.

News Articles report on recent events, as they are happening or just after.  They focus on the "who", "what", and "where", and perhaps not as much on the "why" or "how." News articles typically do not feature citations, so you have to take the author's word that they are reporting their facts and sources accurately.  This kind of article is sometimes all you can find when you are researching very recent or very local current events, but it's best not to rely on too many news sources if you don't have to when you are writing research papers.

Academic Journal Articles most often feature in-depth discussions of specific issues -- the "why" and "how."  Often they have a very specific focus, so it can be harder to find academic articles that provide a brief overview on a topic -- usually they are longer and more in-depth.  Academic articles almost always feature citations, a works cited page, or a bibliography, so it's easy to figure out that the author knows what they are talking about and has done a lot of good research.  Keep in mind that sometimes a current issue might just be too new to have anything published about it yet in the academic press.

Primary Sources are directly written by participants in current events, providing a first-hand account of what happened.  Interviews, blog posts, and Twitter feeds can be considered primary sources (but check with your instructor to make sure these are acceptable sources for your topic).

Print Sources (books and eBooks) can be useful for background and in-depth analysis of long-standing issues.  Often it takes a long time for books to get published, so the information in a printed book might be less current than in an online source.  Make sure to check the date a book was published, to make sure you're getting the most up-to-date information about a current issue or controversial topic, if you need it.  In some cases, particularly when it comes to getting background and philosophical or ethical considerations, how new or old a resource is may not be as important for your topic.

When in doubt, Ask a Librarian for help in finding the most appropriate resources for your assignment.

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.

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