essay writing prompts


An essay is an opportunity to show an instructor that you not only comprehend the class material, but that you are able to think beyond literal interpretations of a text, form your own opinions, and support those opinions with evidence from the text. Whether the assignment is for an expository or an argumentative essay, the main goal will be to convince your audience that you are an expert on your chosen topic. Choosing your topic begins with the demands of your assignment and your audience.

Freedom of Choice versus Narrow Choice

You might find that you have complete freedom of choice when it comes to your topic. However, “free choice” is a misnomer. It does not mean that you can write about anything you wish. It means that you are free to choose what you will discuss, as long as you write a particular type of essay, following preselected guidelines. Your own interests will assist you in finding a topic. With informative essays, where you must explain a subject to a reader, your topic should be one that is familiar enough to your audience that they can follow your discussion without needing supplemental information to understand your main points. The guidelines for writing the essay will shape how you present the information.

On the other hand, an argumentative essay forces a more narrow choice. There are only two sides to any argument: you agree or disagree. With this type of essay, your criterion in making a choice is to find an issue that lends itself to arguing for the issue or against it. Another type of argumentative essay may ask you to decide between two options: choice A or choice B. Again, your choice is much narrower than if you could come up with your own topic.

Guidelines for Choosing a Topic

When choosing a topic for writing a high school essay, remember:

  • Choose a topic that is in line with the interests and expectations of your audience.
  • Choose an issue that lends itself to arguing for the topic or against it (if that is required).
  • Choose a topic that you can support with information from the text you read for class, or from an easily verifiable source.
  • Choose a topic that piqued your interest.

Ultimately, the subject matter and the requirements of the assignment will guide your topic choice.