Research Paper Middle School Topics For Talk

Business

Cheap labor U.S. companies that move factories to undeveloped nations barely pay employees enough to live on. Is it unethical to pay cheap wages or are companies doing those workers a favor?

Fitness programs Should companies allow employees to exercise on work time?

Mining What safety measures made the recent Canadian mining accident a noncasualty event, while recent U.S. mining accidents have been fatal?

Oil companies Do oil companies make big bucks while the rest of us pay over $3 a gallon?

Wage gap Women still earn only 75 cents for every $1 a man earns. Explain why.

Wages There’s a minimum wage, but should there also be a maximum wage/salary a person can earn?

Workaholics Do Americans work too hard? Does working more actually reduce productivity? Is a 40-hour workweek too much? Should there be a mandatory cap on the number of hours a person can work? Should there be changes in employment laws to give Americans more relaxation time?

Education

Athletes in high schools Should shoe companies be able to give away free shoes and equipment to high school athletes?

Censorship Should parents censor textbooks and other literature for children in schools?

College athletics Should college athletes be paid?

Electronic information preservation Does the Information Age mean we are losing important historical information?

Exams Exams often do little more than measure a person’s ability to take exams. Should exams be outlawed in favor of another form of assessment?

Flag Should children be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance in schools?

Gap year Should teens in the U.S. adopt the British custom of taking a “gap year” between high school and college?

Grades In some European schools, fewer than 10% of students get A’s. Is there grade inflation in the U.S.? Why so many A’s for Americans?

No Child Left Behind Act Is it working?

School lunches Should government impose restrictions on what kinds of foods can be served in school cafeterias?

School uniforms Pros and cons of school uniforms.

Single-sex schools Do children learn better in boys-only and girls-only schools?

Environment

Climate change Is global warming a hoax? Is it being exaggerated?

Coal Should the use of coal be subjected to stricter environmental regulations than other fuels?

DDT Should DDT be reapproved for use in the wake of recent bedbug outbreaks across the country?

Wind energy Is wind energy really that cheap? Is it effective? Is it practical?

Government Policy

Airport security Should the government use invasive pat-downs and body scans to ensure passenger safety or are there better methods?

al-Qaida Has U.S. policy actually spread terrorism rather than contain it? Will it get better or worse? Why and how?

Arming pilots Good idea?

Bridges, roads, waterways Why the government gets a bad report card on America’s infrastructure.

Health care crisis Most developed nations have universal health coverage. Why doesn’t the U.S., the wealthiest nation, have it?

Homeland Security Are we safer since the creation of this department?

Immigration Should illegal immigrants be made legal citizens?

Internet regulation Should the federal government be allowed to regulate information on the Internet?

Iraq War Is America winning or losing the war? What is the measurement of success? Have the benefits outweighed the costs?

Iraq War vets Are they being cheated on medical benefits?

Lead poisoning Should the U.S. stop importing Chinese-manufactured toys?

Marijuana legalization Should the federal government legalize the use of marijuana?

Military Should the U.S. have mandatory military conscription? For whom?

Moms Should stay-at-home moms get a salary from the government?

Obesity and weight loss Should thin people have to pay Medicare and other health costs for the health problems of obese people? Should obese people have higher premiums?

Prescription medicines Should there be a national database to track controlled substances (i.e., oxycodone) or should it be a state issue?

Privacy Should the government be allowed to wiretap without permission?

School lunches Should government impose restrictions on what kinds of foods can be served in school cafeterias?

Sex offenders Once they leave prison, are laws about where they may live and be employed unfair?

Smoking bans Should the federal government pass a nationwide indoor smoking ban?

Health

Fast food Are we taking it too far by blaming fast-food restaurants for obesity? When is it individual responsibility and when is it appropriate to place blame?

Fitness programs Should companies allow employees to exercise on work time?

Food Steroids. Antibiotics. Sprays. Are food manufacturers killing us?

Health care crisis Most developed nations have universal health coverage. Why doesn’t the U.S., the wealthiest nation, have it?

Lead poisoning Should the U.S. stop importing Chinese-manufactured toys?

Malpractice How can we balance the need to lower the cost of malpractice insurance with the fact that physician malpractice is one of the leading causes of death?

Models Should there be a minimum weight limit?

Noise pollution How much is too much noise? What, if anything, should we do to curb it?

Obesity and weight loss Should thin people have to pay Medicare and other health costs for the health problems of obese people? Should obese people have higher premiums?

Prescription medicines Should there be a national database to track controlled substances (i.e., oxycodone) or should it be a state issue?

School lunches Should government impose restrictions on what kinds of foods can be served in school cafeterias?

Smoking bans Should the federal government pass a nationwide indoor smoking ban?

Social media Can excessive use of social media contribute to addictive behaviors (drugs, tobacco, alcohol) or mental health issues?

Steroids Should they be legalized?

Vaccines Should parents avoid vaccinating their children?

Human Behavior

Nonverbal communication How do men and women communicate differently using body language, and why does it matter (in dating, the workplace, social circles)?

Road rage Why do normally patient people become impatient behind the wheel?

Social anxiety How is it different from shyness? And, are we a society of anxiety?

Suicide bombers What kind of person becomes a suicide bomber?

Terrorism Can terrorism ever be justified?

Legal Issues

Airplane accidents Who is responsible? Should families of victims be entitled to compensation?

Bullying laws Should the state or federal government put laws into place to prevent bullying?

Civil disobedience Is breaking the law for a cause justifiable?

Civil unions If civil couples have the same rights/privileges as married people, why get married?

Holocaust Should denial of the Holocaust be illegal?

Infidelity In some states, it is illegal to cheat on a spouse. Should we prosecute cheaters? Is a law that’s not enforced really a law?

Juvenile offenders Should juvenile offenders be tried and punished as adults?

Organ sale Should we legalize the sale of human organs?

Parents Should parents be held responsible when their children break laws?

Sex offenders Once they leave prison, are laws about where they may live and be employed unfair?

Statutory rape Recently, a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. Are statutory rape laws patronizing to girls and discriminatory to boys?

Media and Freedom of Speech

Advertising Should certain kinds of ads be banned in the interest of health/morality/annoyance – alcohol, cigarettes, prescription meds, etc.?

Art A few years ago, an artist was criticized for depicting the Virgin Mary with elephant dung. When is art not really art?

Censorship Should parents censor textbooks and other literature for children in schools?

Church arson Hate crime?

Flag Should children be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance in schools?

Journalism Should newspaper reporters be required to reveal their sources?

Media Does the media, both print and broadcast, report fairly? Does it ever cross the line between reporting the news and creating the news?

Paparazzi What, if any, limitations should be applied to the paparazzi?

Pornography Parental filters on the Internet. Does censorship actually increase curiosity and use of pornography?

Public figures Does the public have a right to know about a public figure’s private life?

Racial bias in media Does news coverage favor whites?

Religion

Church arson Hate crime?

Religion Is there one true religion?

Women in the clergy Should women be priests, pastors, ministers and rabbis?

Social Issues

Abstinence programs Do they work?

Alcohol Should the U.S. lower the drinking age to 18?

Animal rights Should it be illegal to use animals for sports and entertainment?

Beauty contests Do they serve any purpose in society?

Campus sexual assault Are sexual assault incidences on college campuses on the rise or has awareness just increased?

Child soldiers Why and how children are used for war

Civil unions If civil couples have the same rights/privileges as married people, why get married?

Cyber crime What are the latest ways to steal identity and money?

Divorce Should we reform laws to make it harder to get a divorce?

Felons and voting Should convicted felons have the right to vote?

Feminism Is feminism still relevant? How do young women view feminism?

Gay marriage Should there be a constitutional amendment that allows gays and lesbians to legally marry?

Generations How four different generations in the workplace can work together.

Infidelity In some states, it is illegal to cheat on a spouse. Should we prosecute cheaters? Is a law that’s not enforced really a law?

Internet and children Are children smarter (or more socialized) because of the Internet?

Intersexuals What, if anything, should be done medically and socially?

Literacy Are Americans “literate”?

Models Should there be a minimum weight limit?

Muslim Americans What is life for them like in the U.S. after September 11, 2001?

Organ sale Should we legalize the sale of human organs?

Privacy What medical information should be confidential? Who, if anybody, should have access to medical records?

Sex offenders Once they leave prison, are laws about where they may live and be employed unfair?

Spanking Should it be outlawed?

Sports parents What are the effects on children whose parents push them in sports?

Statutory rape Recently, a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. Are statutory rape laws patronizing to girls and discriminatory to boys?

Title IX Has it helped women’s sports? Has it harmed men’s sports?

Tough love Does parental “tough love” really work?

Toys Do certain children’s toys create social or emotional problems?

Wages There’s a minimum wage, but should there also be a maximum wage/salary a person can earn?

Wage gap Women still earn only 75 cents for every $1 a man earns. Explain why.

Workaholics Do Americans work too hard? Does working more actually reduce productivity? Is a 40-hour work week too much? Should there be a mandatory cap on the number of hours a person can work? Should there be changes in employment laws to give Americans more relaxation time?

Working mothers What differences, if any, are there in children who are raised by stay-at-home moms and working moms? Does society today still discriminate against working mothers who wish to have flexible work schedules?

World

Middle East Why so many conflicts? Are there solutions?

Overpopulation What would happen globally if the demand for natural resources becomes greater than the supply?

 

A word cloud created from all the questions compiled below.

We’ve posted a fresh Student Opinion question nearly every weekday for almost four years now. Here are the 182 we asked during the 2012-13 school year.

Each question is based on content from that week’s New York Times, and all are still open to comment by anyone 13-25 years old. Each linked Times article is also accessible without a digital subscription.

Teachers tell us they use these questions to help students practice writing persuasively; as inspiration for lessons; as jumping-off points for class discussions and debates; or just to encourage student engagement with current events and with young people from around the world.

This year, because of the emphasis on argument in the Common Core standards, we’ve divided the questions into two categories — those that easily lend themselves to classroom debate and persuasive writing, and those that are more suitable for creative, personal or reflective writing.

Tell us below how you use our Student Opinion feature in your classroom.


Questions for Debate and Persuasive Writing

  1. Is Cheating Getting Worse?
  2. If Football Is So Dangerous to Players, Should We Be Watching It?
  3. Should the Private Lives of Famous People Be Off Limits?
  4. Do Great Leaders Have to Be Outgoing?
  5. Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?
  6. Should Middle School Students Be Drug Tested?
  7. Should the Government Limit the Size of Sugary Drinks?
  8. Should Schools Put Tracking Devices in Students’ I.D. Cards?
  9. Do You Think a Healthier School Lunch Program Is a Lost Cause?
  10. Should Athletes Who Dope Have to Forfeit Their Titles and Medals?
  11. How Much Pressure Do Boys Face to Have the Perfect Body?
  12. How, and by Whom, Should Children Be Taught Appropriate Behavior?
  13. What Current Musicians Do You Think Will Stand the Test of Time?
  14. How Concerned Are You About Climate Change?
  15. Are Digital Photographs Too Plentiful to Be Meaningful?
  16. Do You Think a Longer School Calendar Is a Good Idea?
  17. Is It Wrong for a Newspaper to Publish a Front-Page Photo of a Man About to Die?
  18. Should Engineers Pay Less for College Than English Majors?
  19. When Should You Compromise?
  20. Should You Care About the Health and Safety of Those Making Your Clothing?
  21. How Should We Prevent Future Mass Shootings?
  22. Does Reality TV Promote Dangerous Stereotypes?
  23. Did a Newspaper Act Irresponsibly by Publishing the Addresses of Gun Owners?
  24. Is Dating a Thing of the Past?
  25. Would You Feel Safer With Armed Guards Patrolling Your School?
  26. Should Women Be Allowed to Fight on the Front Lines Alongside Men?
  27. Have Curse Words Become So Common They Have Lost Their Shock Value?
  28. Is School Designed More for Girls Than Boys?
  29. What Makes a Good Commercial?
  30. Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent in Real Life?
  31. Should All Children Be Able to Go to Preschool?
  32. Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?
  33. Should Reading and Math Be Taught in Gym Class Too?
  34. Where Should Colleges and Sports Teams Draw the Line in Selling Naming Rights?
  35. How Should Children Be Taught About Puberty and Sex?
  36. Would You Rather Work From Home or in an Office?
  37. Is It O.K. for Men and Boys to Comment on Women and Girls on the Street?
  38. Should Students Be Allowed to Skip Senior Year of High School?
  39. How Many Text Messages Are Too Many?
  40. Does Buying and Accumulating More and More Stuff Make Us Happier?
  41. Do ‘Shame and Blame’ Work to Change Teenage Behavior?
  42. Do You Think Life Exists — or Has Ever Existed — Somewhere Besides Earth?
  43. Should Computer Games Be Used for Classroom Instruction?
  44. What Should We Do to Fight Sexual Violence Against Young Women?
  45. Do You Think Child Stars Have It Rough?
  46. How Important Do You Think It Is to Marry Someone With the Same Religion?
  47. How Would You Feel About a Computer Grading Your Essays?
  48. Should There Be Stricter Rules About How Coaches Treat Their Players?
  49. Should Colleges Fund Wellness Programs Instead of Sports?
  50. Why Aren’t There More Girls in Leadership Roles?
  51. Do Bystanders Have a Responsibility to Intervene When There is Trouble?
  52. When Should You Be Able to Buy Cigarettes, Drink Alcohol, Vote, Drive and Fight in Wars?
  53. How Big a Deal Is It That an N.B.A. Player Came Out as Gay?
  54. How Do You Feel About Rihanna and Chris Brown Getting Back Together?
  55. Is Prom Worth It?
  56. Should Birth Control Pills Be Available to Teenage Girls Without a Prescription?
  57. Do People Complain Too Much?
  58. Would You Want a Pair of Google’s Computer Glasses?
  59. Should What You Say on Facebook Be Grounds for Getting Fired?
  60. Should Children Be Allowed to Wear Whatever They Want?
  61. Should Marijuana Be Legal?
  62. What Role Will Robots Play in Our Future?
  63. Is Drinking and Driving Still a Problem for Teenagers?
  64. Why Did a Cheerios Ad Attract So Many Angry Comments Online?
  65. Would You Want a Bike Share Program for Your Community?
  66. What Do You Think of Grouping Students by Ability in Schools?
  67. Questions for Creative, Personal or Reflective Writing

  68. How Would the Presidential Campaigns Change if the Voting Age Were 13?
  69. What Are You Looking Forward To, or Dreading, This School Year?
  70. How Competitive Are You?
  71. What Music Inspires You?
  72. When Have You Ever Succeeded When You Thought You Might Fail?
  73. What ‘Back-to-the-Land’ Skills Do You Have, or Wish You Had?
  74. Would You Ever Go Through Hazing to Be Part of a Group?
  75. Is Trying Too Hard to Be Happy Making You Sad?
  76. What Are Your Sleep Habits?
  77. What Experiences Have You Had With Gender Bias in School?
  78. How Did You Start Doing Something You Love?
  79. To What Company Would You Write a Letter of Complaint or Admiration?
  80. Watching the First Presidential Debate: What Is Your Reaction?
  81. What Words or Phrases Do You Think Are Overused?
  82. Are You Less Religious Than Your Parents?
  83. Do You Perform Better When You’re Competing or When You’re Collaborating?
  84. The Second Presidential Debate: Your Predictions and Reactions
  85. Do You Ever ‘Mix It Up’ and Socialize With Different People at School?
  86. What Are the Most Memorable Meals You’ve Ever Had?
  87. What Magazines Do You Read, and How Do You Read Them?
  88. Have You Ever Changed a Family Member’s Mind?
  89. What Are Your Reactions to the Final Presidential Debate and Predictions for Nov. 6?
  90. What Are the Best Souvenirs You’ve Ever Collected While Traveling?
  91. Do You Like Scary Movies and Books?
  92. What Are Your Experiences With Severe Weather?
  93. Has Anyone Ever Said That You Look Like Someone Famous?
  94. How Do You Help?
  95. Are You Distracted by Technology?
  96. When Have You Spoken Out About Something You Felt Had to Change?
  97. Who Do You Hope Wins the Election?
  98. What Is Your Reaction to the Results of the Election?
  99. Is Your Bedroom a Nightmare?
  100. Who Are the ‘Characters’ That Make Your Town Interesting?
  101. How Would Your Life Be Different If You Had Better Listening Skills?
  102. How Often Do You Cry?
  103. With Your Home in Danger, What Would You Try to Save?
  104. How Careful Are You Online?
  105. Have You Ever Been Scammed?
  106. Do You Sometimes ‘Hide’ Behind Irony?
  107. What Would You Invent to Make the World a Better Place?
  108. How Well Do You Get Along With Your Siblings?
  109. How Much Can People Change?
  110. What’s Your Karaoke Song?
  111. How Do You Make Parenting Difficult for Your Parents?
  112. Have You Ever Been in Love?
  113. When Have You Seen Yourself and Your Life Reflected in a Book or Other Media?
  114. What Are Your Tips for Enjoying the Holiday Season?
  115. How Stressed Are You?
  116. The Newtown School Shootings: A Place to Post Your Thoughts
  117. What Will You Remember Most From 2012?
  118. How Will You Spend the Holiday Break?
  119. What Are Your Hopes for 2013?
  120. When Has a Teacher Inspired You?
  121. What Will People Wear at Costume Parties Celebrating the 2000s?
  122. How Often Do You Leave Your ‘Comfort Zone’?
  123. Do Adults Who Are ‘Only Trying to Help’ Sometimes Make Things Worse?
  124. What Were the Best Movies You Saw in 2012?
  125. Does Facebook Ever Make You Feel Bad?
  126. What Have Your Parents Taught You About Money?
  127. If You Could Go Anywhere, Where Would You Want to Travel?
  128. Would You Want to Grow Up in the Public Eye?
  129. What Do You Do When You Encounter Obstacles to Success?
  130. Was There a Toy You Wanted as a Child But Never Got?
  131. How Do You Fight the Winter Blues?
  132. Who Will Win Super Bowl XLVII? Will You Be Watching?
  133. What Tech Tools Play the Biggest Role in Your Life?
  134. How Well Do You Know Your Pet?
  135. Does Being a Fan Help Define Who You Are?
  136. What’s the Most Memorable Thing You Ever Got in the Mail?
  137. What Food Would You Like to Judge in a Taste-Off?
  138. Does Your Life Leave You Enough Time to Relax?
  139. What Are Your Predictions for and Reactions to the State of the Union Address?
  140. Read Any Good Books Lately?
  141. Have You Ever Found Something Valuable?
  142. What Investment Are You Willing to Make to Get Your Dream Job?
  143. What Would You Wait in Line For?
  144. What Are Your Favorite Viral Videos?
  145. How Good is Your Grammar?
  146. What’s the Most Impressive Sports Moment You’ve Seen?
  147. Have You Ever Taken Something You Weren’t Supposed To?
  148. What Was Your Most Precious Childhood Possession?
  149. How Much Do You Know About Your Family’s History?
  150. Do You Ever Feel Guilty About What, or How Much, You Throw Away?
  151. What Makes You Happy?
  152. What Would Your Fantasy Spring Break Be Like?
  153. What Are Your Sources for Information About Colleges and Universities?
  154. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in Nature?
  155. How Does Your School Deal With Students Who Misbehave?
  156. Do You Ever Seek Advice on the Internet?
  157. What Would Your Ideal Summer Camp Be Like?
  158. Do You Spend Too Much Time Preparing for Standardized Tests?
  159. Where Do You Want to Go to College?
  160. What Have Been Your Reactions This Week to News About the Boston Marathon Bombings?
  161. Would You Ever Consider Getting a Tattoo?
  162. What Six People, Living or Dead, Would You Invite to Dinner?
  163. What Would You Teach the World in an Online Video?
  164. What Were Your Favorite Picture Books When You Were Little?
  165. Have You Ever Felt Embarrassed by Things You Used to Like?
  166. How Do You React When Provoked?
  167. What Kind of ‘Little Free Library’ Would You Create for Your Community?
  168. Do You Have Helicopter Parents?
  169. When Has a Sports Team Most Disappointed You?
  170. How Important Is Driving to You?
  171. What Would Your Dream Home Be Like?
  172. Do You Wish You Could Return to Moments From Your Past?
  173. How Much Slang Do You Use? What Are Your Favorite (Printable) Words?
  174. Do You Plan on Saving Any of Your Belongings for the Future?
  175. What Old Television Shows Would You Bring Back?
  176. How Careful Are You in the Sun?
  177. Do You Enjoy Reading Tabloid Gossip?
  178. What Are Your Favorite Names?
  179. What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
  180. What Are You Listening To?
  181. How Do You React to Strangers Having Private Conversations in Public?
  182. What Are the Most Important Innovations of the Last 50 Years?
  183. Have You Ever Stumbled Upon a Cool Public Performance?

Not Enough? Here are 163 Student Opinion questions from 2012, as well as 150 from 2011, 55 and another 40 from 2010.

Please note: From June 14 to Aug. 16, we’ll ask only one Student Opinion question: What Interested You Most in The Times This Week? Posting an answer any week will automatically enter anyone 13 to 19 years old in our Summer Reading Contest. On Aug. 19, our usual daily school-year questions will resume.

Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.

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