Advanced Composition Essay Topics
The only way to get better at anything is to do it—over and over again. In addition to practicing your English conversational skills, you should also practice your writing skills on a regular basis.
The good news is that writing in English doesn’t need to be a painful experience. By choosing topics that you’re passionate about or focusing on prompts that will put different grammar lessons into practice, you can ensure that writing is an engaging and enjoyable experience.
Here are twenty-two potential essay topics to get you started, but don’t be afraid to branch out and come up with your own topics, as well.
- Describe your favorite place in as much detail as possible.
- What do you do outside of school and work? Describe any hobbies you have, sports you participate in, or other activities you regularly enjoy.
- If you could invite five people to a dinner party, who would they be? What is each guest like?
- Describe your favorite fictional character in as much detail as possible.
- If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Describe it and explain why you’d choose it.
- Give directions for getting from one point to another. Explain what landmarks someone might see along the way.
- Explain how to entertain guests who unexpectedly arrive at your home.
Verb tense practice
- What’s one thing you could never live without and why?
- Describe your ideal town or city, why you would want to live there, and what you would do there.
- Write about a time in the past when you had to make a difficult decision, and explain what you did.
- Talk about five specific goals you want to accomplish this year, and explain how you are going to accomplish them.
- Imagine you’re babysitting a child who breaks the kitchen table. Explain to the child how they could have avoided doing this if they had behaved differently.
Practical vocabulary practice
- Write a review of a new restaurant (either fictional or real) in your area.
- Describe the best party or large-scale event you’ve ever attended.
- If you could get one gift for everyone in your family, regardless of the cost, what would you get them and why?
- Choose a form of transportation (such as cars, trains, boats, planes, or subways) and explain how it has changed people’s lives.
- Write a pitch for a new blockbuster movie. Explain what will happen in the movie and why it will draw crowds to the theater.
Persuasive writing practice
- Do you think our society is too dependent on technology like smartphones? Why or why not?
- Imagine that a big new department store is being built in your hometown. Do you support this development or not?
- Do you think it’s better for students to have a long summer break or be in a year-round school system with more breaks throughout the year? Explain your position.
- Should employers set aside time during the day for their employees to exercise? What might be some of the advantages or disadvantages of this?
- What is your favorite book or movie, and why should people read or watch it?
What are some great ESL essay topics you've encountered? Let us know in the comments.
Example of An Advanced Composition Syllabus
This is an example of a syllabus handed out to California State University students enrolled in Professor Mary Mackey’s Advanced Composition course English 120A. English 120A is a requirement for all English majors at California State University, Sacramento. Students majoring in other subjects frequently enroll in this course.
ENGLISH 120A: ADVANCED COMPOSITION
Professor Mary Mackey, Ph.D.
Non-multitasking requirement: Please turn off your cell phone, close your laptop, and take the earpiece out of your ear.
TEXTS: THE NORTON SAMPLER, Thomas Cooley
WRITING WITH A PURPOSE, Joseph Trimmer (WP)
DATES TO REMEMBER:
FIRST ESSAY DUE FEBRUARY 19th
SECOND ESSAY DUE MARCH 11th
THIRD ESSAY DUE APRIL 8th
OUTLINE FOR RESEARCH PAPER DUE APRIL 17th
ROUGH DRAFT OF RESEARCH PAPER DUE EITHER APR. 22 OR APR. 24
RESEARCH PAPER DUE APRIL 29th
MANDATORY CONFERENCES ON MAY 13th AND 15th
You are required to do all reading assignments.
You must write three essays, one essay exam, one outline for a research paper, and one ten page research paper.
Late papers will be penalized one letter grade for each week overdue. After two weeks you will receive an F for the assignment.
Since much of this class is conducted as a writing workshop, regular attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than two sessions without a valid excuse will not receive a passing grade. Please speak to me in person (or write me a note) if you know you are going to be absent. Notifying me by email is not acceptable except in emergencies.
IN ORDER TO RECEIVE A FINAL GRADE YOU MUST COME TO PROFESSOR MACKEY’S OFFICE FOR A CONFERENCE ON EITHER MAY 13th OR 15th. (We will schedule these in class on May 8th.)
FORMAT: See page 377 in WP. In general, double-space your essays, use normal margins, use a 12 point font, and proofread carefully. Make all citations in MLA Style. Despite the suggestions in Chapter 5 of WP, do not mix fonts or put in graphics. If you must include a chart, put it in an Appendix. This is a course in composition, not web design. Put your last name in the upper left-hand corner of every page. Number all pages, and collate and staple your essays together before you come to class. You do not need a title page, and you may double-side your copies if you wish.
On the day an essay is due, you should bring enough paper copies to class so that each of us can have one. (This usually means 25 copies.) EXCEPTION: You only need to make two copies of your ten page research paper–one for you and one for me.
Why do these copies have to be paper copies, not electronic ones? They have to be paper copies because during the discussion period, your fellow students and I will be writing notes to you in the margins of your paper and suggesting line-by-line corrections. In other words, you will be receiving immediate, personal, face-to-face feedback. This course may well give you more feedback on your writing than you have ever had while also giving you multiple occasions to offer constructive feedback to others.
Your papers should be beautifully written, logical, grammatically correct, perceptive, convincing, well-documented (where appropriate), entertaining and neatly presented. You need not make title pages nor need you enclose your essays in plastic folders. Ordinary staples will be sufficient. If you have problems with punctuation, please review the “Handbook of Grammar and Usage” in Writing With a Purpose, pages 473-597.
PLEASE NOTE THE RESEARCH PAPER REQUIREMENT: Near the end of this course you will be asked to write a ten page research paper. You should be aware that you will be required to tell me what you plan to write about, discuss your sources, and show me (and the rest of your classmates) your notes, outline, and rough draft. You will also be discussing your rough draft with me in a one-on-one conference. Please select your research topic as early as possible. Clear it with me and begin your research no later than MARCH 13TH .
PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism of any kind will not be tolerated. You are responsible for knowing what constitutes plagiarism. To refresh your memory, please see WP 361-362. Cutting and pasting from Internet sources is particularly unwise and particularly easy to trace.
TU JAN 29 INTRODUCTION TO AND OVERVIEW OF THE COURSE
Please take a moment to look at the English Department “Writing Standards” handout.
READING ASSIGNMENT: WP: Part One: The Writing
Process (1-102). Note: In this and all future
assignments, you may skim or skip the Readings. You
should take a quick look at the Writing Assignments, but
you are not expected to do them. You are not required
to use all the planning techniques Trimmer suggests.
Simply pick those that work best for you. You may enjoy
reading the sections on design and graphics, but you will
find very few of these techniques suitable for the essays
you will be writing in this class.
TH JAN 31 PERSUASION:Lecture on Persuasion
FIRST ESSAY ASSIGNED. DUE FEBRUARY 19TH
TOPIC: Take a stand supporting something you don’t
believe in (like raising the drinking age to thirty, or
requiring all students to serve in the armed forces
for two years as soon as they graduate from high
school.) Write a five page essay which makes a sincere
attempt to persuade your readers to agree with the
position you have adopted. Five Pages, due FEB. 19th in
Note: Do not worry if you change sides after doing
your research. You are simply required to start with a
topic contrary to your real opinion. Also, you do not
have to argue for something you find morally repugnant
(although you may do so if you wish).
BRING ROUGH DRAFTS TO YOUR CONFERENCE ON FEB 12th or 14th
READING ASSIGNMENT: WP: Argument (155-184).
Take a closer look at the Readings in this
section to see how the arguments are developed.
BRING YOUR NORTON SAMPLER TO CLASS NEXT TIME.
TU FEB 5 PERSUASION
Analysis of essays in The Norton Sampler
Look at emotional and logical appeal in:
“Island of Plenty” (logical) p. 328
“Reasonable Search and Seizure”
(logical) p. 327
“The Price of Power: Living in the Nuclear Age”
(emotional appeal) p. 334
“Guys vs Men” Dave Barry 246
“Modest Proposal” 74
READING ASSIGNMENT: Guidelines for Evaluating Sources
TH FEB 7 EVIDENCE
Peer reviewed journals
Conference times assigned
TU FEB 12 INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES WITH PROFESSOR MACKEY
(Bring your rough drafts)
TH FEB 14 INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES WITH PROFESSOR MACKEY
(Bring your rough drafts)
TU FEB 19 FIRST ESSAY DUE
DISCUSSION OF FIRST ESSAY
TH FEB 21 DISCUSSION OF FIRST ESSAY
TU FEB 26 DISCUSSION OF FIRST ESSAY
TH FEB 28 DISCUSSION OF FIRST ESSAY
TU MAR 4 THE ESSAY EXAM: LECTURE AND PREPARATION FOR
IN-CLASS EXAMINATION ON THURSDAY
LECTURE ON POINT OF VIEW AND GUIDELINES FOR
WRITING ABOUT POINT OF VIEW IN LITERARY WORKS
The exam question will focus on one of the short stories you
have been given. You may choose your favorite story and
bring a copy of it to class on Thursday. You may also bring
any notes you have taken.
TH MAR 6 ESSAY EXAM
Students were given the following essay question:
Essay Question: How would the short story you selected be
changed if the point of view from which it was written were
changed? Do you think the story would have been more
effective had it been told from a different point of view?
(Reply as fully as possible to the question. Do not forget
to spend a few moments outlining your response; and do not
forget to support your assertions with vivid, concrete
SECOND ESSAY ASSIGNED. DUE MARCH 11th. (Topic announced only after students finish taking the in-class essay exam)
SECOND ESSAY: The good news is that the essay exam you have just taken will not be graded. Take your exam essay home and revise, rewrite, and polish it. The result will be graded.
TU MAR 11 SECOND ESSAY DUE
TH MAR 13 DISCUSSION OF SECOND ESSAY
BY NOW YOU SHOULD HAVE SELECTED A TOPIC FOR
YOUR RESEARCH PAPER, CLEARED IT WITH ME, AND STARTED YOUR
TU MAR 18 DISCUSSION OF SECOND ESSAY
TH MAR 20 Special session on internet research and understanding
data bases. Meet in Library, ROOM 2023 (second floor).
READING ASSIGNMENT: Finding Sources, WP 324-341.
Bring your Norton Sampler to class next time.
TU MAR 25 THE PERSONAL ESSAY
Third Essay Assignment: Write a five page narrative essay in which
you describe the most dangerous thing you have ever done
(voluntarily or involuntarily). DUE APRIL 8th.
If you already have a draft of this essay, bring it to the
next class session. Be prepared to write in class next time.
TH MAR 27 THE PERSONAL ESSAY
READING ASSIGNMENT: WP: Tone and Style (289-316),
and Strategy One: Narration and Description (130-134).
In-class writing exercise
TU APR 8 THIRD ESSAY DUE
READING ASSIGNMENT: WP: Planning the Research Paper
(318-349) and Writing the Research Paper (350-394).
Please pay special attention to the section on Plagiarism
(361-362) and review the section on how to cite sources in
MLA Style (362-377).
Assignment: Create a one page outline of your research
paper. Anyone reading it should be able to understand the
thesis of the paper and the sequence in which you propose to
present your arguments.
OUTLINE DUE APR. 17th. ROUGH DRAFTS
DUE APR. 22nd OR APR. 24th. RESEARCH PAPERS DUE APR. 29TH.
TH APR 10 DISCUSSION OF THIRD ESSAY
TU APR 15 DISCUSSION OF THIRD ESSAY
TH APR 17 OUTLINES FOR RESEARCH PAPERS DUE
Discussion of outlines for research papers
TU APR 22 INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES WITH PROFESSOR MACKEY
ROUGH DRAFTS DUE (Bring them with you)
TH APR 24INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES WITH PROFESSOR MACKEY
ROUGH DRAFTS DUE (Bring them with you)
TU APR 29 RESEARCH PAPERS DUE
DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH PAPERS
TH MAY 1 DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH PAPERS
TU MAY 6 DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH PAPERS
TH MAY 8 DISCUSSION OF RESEARCH PAPERS
FINAL CONFERENCE TIMES ASSIGNED
TU MAY 13 FINAL INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES WITH PROFESSOR MACKEY (REQUIRED)
TH MAY 15 FINAL INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES WITH PROFESSOR MACKEY (REQUIRED)
PLEASE NOTE: We may deviate from this syllabus from time to time
should circumstances require us to do so. There is no final examination in this course.
[Click on the course titles to view the following sample syllabi: INTRODUCTION TO COMPOSITION, WOMEN’S VISIONARY FICTION, WOMEN’S VISIONARY FILM, WOMEN’S VISIONARY POETRY.]