Argumentative essay topics as a whole generally have only one common attribute: they are or can be made to be controversial. Topics can be related to politics, religion, science, philosophy, or any other broad area of study, and they can be written in a variety of different forms. Argumentative essay topics are specifically intended to address a controversial topic in a nuanced, calculated manner with the intention of shifting the reader's opinion toward the writer's view of the issue. Sometimes, the topic of an argumentative essay may not seem controversial at first. A skilled writer with an opinion on such a topic can, however, frame the topic in such a way that complications and problems become evident and worthy of argument.
The simplest argumentative essay topics are those about which only two or three strong but different opinions exist. The death penalty is a common topic, for instance, because the basic schools of thought on the issue are "the death penalty is permissible" and "the death penalty is not permissible." While the issue itself is much more complex and there are more nuanced positions that one could take, the basic arguments tend to either be in support of or in opposition to the death penalty. As such, one's primary objective is to pick a particular argument in support of the issue and to develop it into a cohesive and detailed argument.
Sometimes, however, argumentative essay topics are not so straightforward and people tend not to have polarized opinions on the issues. In such cases, the writer has another job that can be substantially more difficult than simply arguing for a particular stance on a clearly polarized issue. A fashion writer making a broad claim about the value of fashion, for instance, needs to provide background information that makes readers who aren't necessarily concerned with the issue care about it; only then will a reader be interested in or receptive to arguments about the value of fashion.
Generally speaking, argumentative essay topics can be voiced as questions. Setting up argumentative essay topics as questions compels the reader to answer the question, thereby engaging personally with the issue, so setting up the issue as a question often is a good strategy. Questions such as "should something be a certain way," "is something better or worse than something else," "how should something be accomplished," and "under what circumstances is it okay for someone to act in a certain way" all ask the reader to come up with an answer and can make for well-framed argumentative essay topics.