K S Lane debated at a high-school level for four years and enjoys following debates online.
100+ Debate Topics and Controversial Questions to Choose From
Coming up with a current and fascinating subject to debate can be tricky. You have to consider all sorts of things when picking a subject: whether you'll be able to talk for long enough about it, how excited you feel about it, how easy it will be to research, what your English teacher will think of it and much more.
So, what makes a good debate topic? A good one is simple to define and understand but complex enough to let you have a long and interesting discussion about it. To help you out, this article lists 100 of the best, most current and most compelling debate topics imaginable.
This article provides example debate topics and questions in the following categories:
- Education-Themed Topics
- Political Debate Topics
- Social Subjects to Debate
- Environmental Themes to Debate
- Technology Topics to Debate
- Simpler Debate Topics for Younger Students
- More Controversial Debate and Argumentative Essay Topics
You'll also learn about selecting a topic, writing a debate speech, how debates work as well as tips and tricks for improving your technique.
- A college degree is essential for getting a good job.
- Are student loans exploitative?
- All students should have to purchase a laptop.
- Boarding school is harmful to students.
- Cell phones should be banned in schools.
- College should be free for everyone.
- Contact sports should be required in school.
- Do you need homework in order to learn?
- Education should be privatized.
- Education should focus on maths and science rather than music and art.
- Fast food should be banned in schools.
- Girls should be actively encouraged to enter STEM fields.
- Homeschooling is better than traditional schooling.
- Public schools are better than private schools.
- Religion should be taught in schools.
- Should free STD testing be offered in schools?
- Schools should have armed guards.
- Schools should teach abstinence-only sex education?
- Schools should teach LGBT+ inclusive sex education?
- Should standardized testing be abolished?
- School uniforms should be mandatory.
- Studying a second language should be compulsory.
- Teachers should be given guns to defend students.
- Teachers should be paid as much as doctors.
Political Debate Topics
- All people should be able to own guns.
- All prisons should be governmentally owned and run.
- Britain should leave the European Union.
- Churches should pay taxes.
- Communism is not a good political ideology.
- Is freedom of speech a necessity in a functional society?
- Is owning an automatic weapon morally justifiable?
- Is patriotism ultimately destructive to international relations?
- Is the US voting system democratic?
- Juries should include 24 jurors instead of 12.
- Politics should be kept out of schools.
- Presidential terms should be limited to two years instead of four.
- Rich people and large corporations should pay more taxes.
- Should illegal immigrants be treated as criminals?
- Should the U.N. have a standing army?
- Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
- Should there be limits on the First Amendment (free speech)?
- Should your country make a land claim on Antarctica?
- The British Monarchy should be abolished.
- The country should allow more refugees to enter.
- The U.S. should intervene in overseas conflicts.
- The US should abolish the electoral college.
- The West should lift all sanctions on Iran (or North Korea).
- Voting should be mandatory for all citizens.
Social Subjects to Debate
- Abortion should be available to all women.
- Barbie is a good role model for young girls.
- Burning the flag should be illegal.
- Can censorship ever be justified?
- Censorship is sometimes warranted on the internet.
- Companies should be required to hire 50% male and 50% female employees.
- Drug addicts should be helped rather than punished.
- Drug use should be treated as a mental health issue rather than a criminal offence.
- Euthanasia should be legal.
- Feminism should focus more on men's rights.
- Gay marriage should be legalized.
- Gay people should be allowed to adopt children.
- Has the #MeToo movement gone too far?
- Healthcare should be universal.
- Is feminism irrelevant in the 21st century?
- Is graffiti art just as worthy of regard as classical paintings?
- Is privacy important?
- Marijuana should be legalized.
- Peer pressure is a good thing.
- Police should be allowed to use deadly force.
- Religion does more harm than good.
- Sex work should be legal.
- Should genetic engineering be legal?
- Should human cloning be legalized?
- Should insurance cover cosmetic procedures?
- Smoking should be banned.
- Social media does more harm than good.
- The death penalty should be abolished.
- The government should provide free birth control.
- The harms of patriotism outweigh the benefits.
- The minimum wage should be lowered (or raised).
- We're living in a dystopian society.
Environmental Themes to Debate
- Animals should have the same rights as humans.
- Climate change is the greatest threat in human history.
- Companies should be taxed on their carbon emissions and other negative environmental impacts.
- Electric cars are impractical.
- Everyone should be vegetarian.
- Everyone should purchase electric cars.
- Fracking should be banned.
- Genetically modified foods (GMOs) should be banned.
- Is organic farming the future of agriculture?
- Is the Paris Agreement relevant anymore?
- Is tourism beneficial to the environment?
- Live animal exports should be banned.
- More land should be dedicated as national parks.
- Nuclear energy is the solution to the overconsumption of fossil fuels.
- Plastic bags and packaging should be banned.
- Solar power is the energy of the future.
- The best way to combat climate change is for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint.
- The sale of fur should be banned.
- Zoos should be banned.
Technology Topics to Debate
- All cars should be electric.
- Are robots going to increase or decrease our quality of life?
- Artificial intelligence is dangerous.
- Does social media improve or impede communication?
- Has social media benefitted or harmed people’s social lives?
- Is technology going to save the world. . . or kill it?
- Is technology making people dumber. . . or smarter?
- Is technology the opposite of nature? (Are technology and nature diametrically opposed?)
- Is the use of technology changing people for the better. . . or worse?
- Online schooling is the way of the future.
- Should a person's social media be considered by school admissions, police investigations, and potential employers?
- Should humans colonize other planets?
- Should individuals own their own DNA?
- Robots should have rights.
- Technology will be man's downfall.
- The Turing test is still relevant.
- Vaccination should be mandatory.
- We should invest more money into space exploration.
- What's better: traditional or online education?
- Will the development of artificial intelligence harm or benefit humankind?
Simpler Debate Topics for Younger Students
- All kids over 10 should have a mobile phone.
- Being an only child is better than having siblings.
- Children should play outside more.
- Elementary schools should all teach another language.
- Most parents are too strict.
- School students don't need to learn cursive.
- The government should give all kids an allowance.
- The voting age should be lowered to 13.
- 12 year-olds should be allowed to get a job.
- 14 year-olds should be allowed to get a driver's license.
More Controversial Debate and Argumentative Essay Topics
- Advertising should be banned during children's programs.
- Alternative medicines should be banned.
- Beauty pageants should be banned.
- Can animal testing be justified?
- Children should be exposed to technology.
- Dance should be considered a sport.
- Gaming should be considered a sport.
- Human cloning should be legalized.
- Is bad parenting to blame for childhood obesity?
- Parents should be able to choose the sex of their child.
- Parents should be able to choose their child's hair colour.
- Parents should be able to refuse medical treatment for their children.
- Parents should limit the amount of time their children spend on technology.
- Pop music is the best kind of music.
- Should alcohol be sold after 10 pm?
- Should fines be scaled depending on income?
- Reality television is harming society.
- Unpaid internships should be against the law.
- Violent video games should be banned.
Which Topic Is Right for You?
Before you go picking a topic at random, you should first ask yourself a couple of questions:
Who is my audience?
- If you're giving a persuasive speech in front of your middle-school or high-school English class, then picking a topic related to school or a social issue involving young people is a great way to keep your peers interested.
- If you're debating in front of a college-level audience, then you might try something a little more edgy or political.
What am I passionate about?
Once you've got your general topic pinned down, make sure to pick something that you're passionate about. Rather than choosing the most complex-seeming topic that you think will impress your teacher, pick something that genuinely interests you. Researching and writing your debate will be much easier if you're enjoying yourself, and your passion will enliven your speech and be noticeable to your audience.
How to Write a Debate Speech
The basic formula for writing a debate is:
- to be given an opening line,
- to state and define your topic,
- to signpost your arguments,
- to rebut opposing viewpoints,
- to give your own arguments,
- and then round things off with a nice, simple conclusion.
If you'd like to find out how to optimise this formula and write the best debate speech that you're capable of producing, then check out my other article, How to Write a Debate.
How Do Debates Work?
If you are debating in a classroom setting, the organization of the debate may be more informal than the outline below, but most debates follow a similar structure.
In a formal debate, a topic, often called a resolution or motion, is selected. One team or individual is assigned to argue in favour of the resolution (this is called the affirmative), and the other is to oppose it (this is called the negative). If a team is debating, the debaters usually alternate (i.e., one speaker in favour, then one speaker in opposition, then one speaker in favour, and so on).
Most debates, particularly college-level, have two sides: affirmative and negative. Each side is comprised of a team with three members.
Structure of the Debate
A debate is typically structured as follows:
- First affirmative: The first speaker is debating in favour of the resolution and must introduce the topic and the argument. They need to define the topic as a whole and the key terms necessary to understand the topic. They also introduce the affirmative team's overarching viewpoint (called a team line). The first affirmative also outlines the team split, indicating which speaker will be presenting each argument. Finally, they will also introduce at least one argument in favour of the team's viewpoint.
- First negative: This speaker rebuts any substantive arguments made by the first speaker and, if necessary, rebuts any definitions outlined by the first affirmative that the negative team disagrees with. Otherwise, they share the same role as the first affirmative in introducing their team and position.
- Second affirmative: The second affirmative speaker clears up any definitional issues that need clarification; in addition, this speaker rebuts arguments made by the first negative and delivers several arguments in favour of the resolution.
- Second negative: If any definitional issues remain outstanding, the second negative speaker resolves them. Then, the second negative focuses on rebutting the affirmative team's arguments (focusing on the second affirmative's points) and delivers several arguments in opposition to the resolution.
- Third affirmative: The third affirmative rebuts any outstanding arguments and any arguments presented by the second negative, then delivers a brief conclusion.
- Third negative: The third negative follows the same structure as the third affirmative.
Dos and Don'ts for Debating
- Do make eye contact and speak loudly and clearly.
- Don't read directly from your notes.
- Do use conviction in your speech; this will increase engagement.
- Don't disagree with facts or things that are obviously true.
- Do pause between arguments to add emphasis.
- Don't use many filler words.
- Do have a relaxed posture and demeanour.
- Don't personally attack a speaker rather than their idea. This is an ad hominem argument. Avoid these and other logical fallacies when debating.
Using the Three Pillars of Rhetoric in Debate
Aristotle's pillars of rhetoric and persuasion—ethos, pathos and logos—are the three primary ways the philosopher identified in which an audience can be persuaded. Understanding and being able to implement these rhetorical appeals is a critical tool for excellent debaters.
- Greek for "character" and "ethic"
- Related to ethics, credibility, and character
Ethos is about convincing your audience of your character and credibility. High ethos will help your audience feel connected to you and respect you. To improve your ethos, ensure your attire, verbiage, and mannerisms are in line with what your audience needs to feel a strong connection to you. Research your audience beforehand, show up early, and ensure your sources are reputable.
- Greek for "suffering" and "experience"
- Related to your emotional bond with your listeners
Pathos is about appealing to your audience's emotions; an emotional connection strengthens your influence over your audience. To improve your pathos, use humour, emotionally charged words and phrases, and emotional points.
- Greek for "logic"
- Related to logic and rational argument
Logos is about ensuring your argument is coherent and supported by evidence. Strong, logical arguments, in combination with ethos and pathos, are difficult to dismiss. To improve your logos, ensure the connection between your evidence and your conclusion is crystal clear, use facts and data that cannot be disputed, cite specialists, and use simple and clear language to drive home your conclusions.
And there we have it: 100+ of the best current debate topics to feed all of your speech-writing needs and some helpful information and advice for debating. I hope that you've found a topic that appeals to you on this list. Good luck with your debate!
For a list of thought-provoking philosophical discussion questions, see 105 Philosophical Questions That Will Make You Think & Elicit Debate.
© 2018 K S Lane
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 23, 2020:
Superb. I think we covered many of these in my debate club in college. Great write up.
oofman on March 03, 2020:
they said my comment was too short
Ilhom on March 02, 2020:
Actually, your topics have made a great influence on ours students'mind.Moreover l would like to thank all who ve made a lot of efforts for making warm our discussions.
kenneth lee gibson on February 12, 2020:
do you have a debate essay from 5th grade debate: for underwater and outer space exploration vs not underwater and outer space exploration
mahadevanaalakshminanth on February 12, 2020:
Topics are quite interesting.
Niconael mollel on February 10, 2020:
shapoor khan on February 05, 2020:
awesome. it is very helpful for me and for my student we look forward for this kind of topic
think you Khan
hridya on January 25, 2020:
very nice. I appreciate it that you put so much effort and made all these debate topics for us.
Jordan on January 23, 2020:
Very helpful for me and my class mates
Juma on January 10, 2020:
yassine on December 04, 2019:
YolkCaptain5 on November 26, 2019:
Man! These are great topics
Aaria on November 25, 2019:
these are very nice Topics
imakaren on November 20, 2019:
I have a topic to present in 16 hours and I’m starting just now because someone took mine, wish me luck :)))
Water Castle on November 15, 2019:
All topics are very good.
brandon on November 14, 2019:
Niharika on November 12, 2019:
HIMANSHU on November 08, 2019:
Ikkarma on November 07, 2019:
I am inspired
Kanchan singh on November 06, 2019:
The topics are wonderful !
Moana on October 27, 2019:
I had so much 2 choose!!!
:) thanks for these
Olona on October 22, 2019:
Thank you so much my debate trials were the exact same questions
bob on October 22, 2019:
Lakshay Sehrawat on October 21, 2019:
It is very helpful to me
Armstrong Cheeks on October 17, 2019:
Thanks this is interesting to learn
Whizprince on October 17, 2019:
I found it helpful
Recommended for You
boiiii on October 16, 2019:
Timur on October 15, 2019:
Very thankful towards your work and effort, so much yet to be grasped!
Charlotte on October 09, 2019:
all the topics are good ideas
Somon on October 09, 2019:
I have learnt many interesting informations
kantavia on October 01, 2019:
Narges on September 28, 2019:
Thank you very much
brains on September 22, 2019:
Very helpful too
Phuong phuong on September 13, 2019:
a messenger on September 09, 2019:
topics given are really good .
A student on September 05, 2019:
This is one of the best sites where we can find the best debate topics.
Prathana on September 04, 2019:
Nice work keep it up
Samuel M. on August 30, 2019:
Pranali on August 25, 2019:
Topics are really good for improvement
pink on August 16, 2019:
Jaivansh Sharma Khataulvi on August 11, 2019:
Excellent support to gonna-debaters.
Now I'm sure,my students will lift t trophy.
Raven white on August 03, 2019:
Thank you . I am suposed to be in a debate . Now i hawe no worries.
soa milodguè n'ni on July 24, 2019:
Thanks for your tremendous contribution in the process of helping English language learners. I incorporate them in my teaching program at Community English Center Togo and students love deliberating on all, except none.
iwata on June 19, 2019:
Lucas Agyemang on June 18, 2019:
helped me pass my English exam
keji on June 12, 2019:
Lana on June 09, 2019:
Really helping in my english class with my essays!
THE REAL BOI on June 03, 2019:
helpful in english
James Charles Number Two Fan on May 27, 2019:
helpful for my assignment in english!
Isabella on May 23, 2019:
This helped with my homework. I was supposed to at least have 1 debate topic now I have about 24
James Charles Number One Fan on May 21, 2019:
helpful for my assignment in english!
Moyo on May 16, 2019:
Nice topics.It helped with my school assignment.
Anonymous on May 16, 2019:
This was helpful
Yay on May 02, 2019:
Durinisas on May 01, 2019:
this was helpfull thx
kirideku on May 01, 2019:
this was very helpful
Bakugo on May 01, 2019:
This was very helpful for my school speech! Thank you so much! This also gives me things to think about!
Narnia on April 22, 2019:
thx very helpful for my assignment
person on April 21, 2019:
I like these topics, they are all very good options, but i am an elementary school student looking for a debate for debate club, which one should I use?
Peytan on April 10, 2019:
these topics are very helpful...
Alexia on April 10, 2019:
This helped me with my english assigment thx
Mary-Beth Bethbeth on April 04, 2019:
These topics are very interesting!
Egede Asuquo peter on March 30, 2019:
There are interesting and educating topics
Akanksha Kumari on March 26, 2019:
It is very helpful to me
Zafarjon on March 25, 2019:
They are helpful topics thanx
Unknown on March 23, 2019:
Really helpful for my son to refer any topics at here
toni on March 21, 2019:
thanks for all the great topics they really helped me with my lesson thx
Ryland Walker on March 14, 2019:
Jack on March 11, 2019:
Smoking should be banned because it is bad for you
`12345 on March 07, 2019:
cant find one but all are good
CAJIV on March 05, 2019:
Helped me with persuasive essay, thx.
Kotaro Tanaka on February 27, 2019:
Very helpful for my English assignment to.
navin on February 13, 2019:
all topics are very nice
Love you on February 06, 2019:
I love this
Stephen K on January 29, 2019:
This is a good list thx very much. Helpful for my English assignment.