AP® English Language
How to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language.
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- Last Updated On: March 1, 2022
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Introduction: How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language
Wondering how to get a 6 on the argumentative essay in AP® English Language?
To score an 5 on the AP® English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard scoring guidelines outline that students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, uses appropriate and convincing evidence, and showcases a wide range of the elements of writing. Essays that score a 6 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.
An essay that does all of that is an incredibly well-constructed essay. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To do this, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are being asked, to not waffle, to spend time and care with your thesis and outline, and to support every claim you make.
We know the best way to write an AP® English FRQ that does everything right is to understand what you are going to see on the AP® English Language test. Read on to prepare yourself for exam day and earn that 6!
What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions
The AP® English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP® English FRQs because it is the most similar to the essays you’re already used to writing. It’s exciting to have free reign and make your own argument, unrestrained from rhetorical analysis devices or documents. But, like most AP® writing, it also can be a little overwhelming.
There’s nothing to read and analyze to provide evidence or help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP® writing argument FRQ, consider the rhetorical situation. Be strategic about forming your thesis, craft a strong, chronological argument, and utilize good, supportive evidence to earn a better overall essay response.
Determine the question.
The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do ? This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how tricky it can be to figure out. Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.
Here’s an example from the 2019 AP® English Language argumentative essay.
Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment.” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2019, AP® English Language test takers were asked to select a concept, place, role, etc. that they believed was “overrated,” and explain why.
If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. Focus on the last few sentences, as that’s where you’ll usually find it.
Knowing the question you are answering is the most important part of AP® writing. You will not be able to answer the question effectively if you aren’t certain what the question is. Pick out a specific sentence or two to determine the question, and thereby ensure that you aren’t just writing an essay that responds to the general sense of the argument essay prompts
Pick an opinion and stick to it.
The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.
But remember — the AP® argumentative essay exam format is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2019 question seem so daunting, because claiming anything to be “overrated” is such a broad topic. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP® test.
But, always remember, there is no right or wrong answer for this AP® English FRQ. And whatever argument you choose will not come back later in the exam or in your final grade in the class. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in what you are writing. Only that you should remember that both sides are arguable, pick one, and stick to it. Don’t waffle.
Below we break down two sample student answers from this same 2019 prompt.
In this AP® Lang argument essay example, the student jumps from describing places, to people, to outfits. The prompts asked for only one example and the student gives three. By doing this, it shows they were not only unable to grasp what the prompt was asking, but that they couldn’t stick to their opinion. Instead of deeply strengthening one choice, the student gives vague, half-reasons for too many choices. When writing your FRQs, choose just one concept and stick to it.
The following example demonstrates a strong student response:
This student picks one clear concept, capitalism, and clearly outlines their support for it. They write with clear language that opens the door for the deeper analysis coming later in the essay.
Like this student, choose just one clear argument to delve into when writing your FRQ.
Craft a thesis statement.
The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. Students often find it one of the more difficult writing skills to master, but we’re here to help. Just remember that it should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence. So, for the 2019 argument FRQ :
Good thesis: While capitalism undeniably has its upsides, it has many downsides that are rarely recognized. When considering the downsides, capitalism is clearly overrated as it commodifies humanity and uplifts a minority at the expense of the majority.
This thesis breaks down a) that the author clearly states his claim that capitalism is overrated, b) that the author will support that claim with examples on how it commodifies humanity and how it hurts the majority in favor of the minority.
Good thesis: While the Electoral College was created in the name of equality for smaller states, it is ultimately overrated because it undercuts the popular vote, it is an archaic practice that is unsuitable for the modern era.
This thesis claims the Electoral College is overrated by claiming it doesn’t do what it was created to do in the first place- support equality. It also introduces two supporting examples for the rest of the essay- it undercuts the popular vote and it doesn’t work in the modern era.
Not a good thesis: Kicking a ball in a net and scoring, is not as important as saving lives. Soccer to me would be considered overrated.
This thesis doesn’t give clear direction for the rest of the essay. The author claims soccer is overrated, but doesn’t tell us why. The example that “it’s not as important as saving lives” is unrelated and also not touched on again later in the essay. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.
Not a good thesis: The term “overrated” has been used in conversation to diminish the value of roles. In unusual circumstances the term “overrated” should be applied to the idea of freedom in regards to social change, but overall it should not be applied in regards to global devastation and cruel treatment.
This thesis does not directly answer the question. Is the author arguing that freedom is overrated? They also claim that the term overrated doesn’t apply to global devastation and cruel treatment. This second claim is both unrelated to the first and doesn’t work to answer the initial prompt.
Looking at these four examples, can you see the difference between a strong and weak thesis?
After you’ve determined your thesis, use it as a jumping point to sketch a quick outline. Then, follow your outline, bringing in your own concrete examples and evidence. Doing so will improve your AP® writing.
Return to the Table of Contents
Craft a chronological argument.
A good argument builds as you move through the essay. It does not simply repeat the same points. Instead, the different points of the argument build off one another and work together to advance the author’s point.
Let’s look at the 2018 AP® English argument FRQ for an example.
In this case, students are being asked to argue a position on the value of choosing the unknown.
All students are likely to have their own definitions of what “choosing the unknown” might mean. You first want to consider what this phrase means to you, and how it applies to the real world. Could it mean breaking out of your comfort zone in daily routines, or could it mean going to theater school to follow your dreams? There’s no wrong answers, but try to pin down one. Consider Lindbergh’s quote the prompt gives you, and how shock, disappointment, and enrichment play into choosing the unknown.
Once you’ve nailed down your definition, you can begin to form your arguments. A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:
- Choosing the unknown is necessary for the development of the human race.
- Scientific advancements cannot be made without testing the boundaries of the unknown.
- Cultural and artistic growth can only occur through exploring the unknown.
First, a student must define what choosing the unknown means, and what makes it difficult. Next the student argues for the value of choosing the unknown, in that the human race could never develop without it. Finally, the student will argue for the invaluable scientific and cultural/artistic advances made throughout history by breaking known boundaries.
When you sketch your outline, quickly ask yourself if the outline would make just as much sense if you rearranged it. If the answer is no, start writing your essay. If the answer is yes, try to structure your argument so that your points build off one another.
Support your claims.
All arguments need evidence. This is the proof you need to support your thesis. And in the case of the AP® English argument FRQ, the evidence all comes from you. What exactly that evidence is will vary from question to question and from student to student. But make sure that every point you make is supported by evidence.
Here’s some good news — you already know quite a bit about effective evidence from what you have learned in AP® English about rhetorical devices. Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade. What have you learned in class about effective ways to persuade? What rhetorical devices can you utilize? Try to pick the best devices to support your argument that you can.
Here are some examples of supportive and non-supportive evidence that students could use to support their claims.
The 2017 AP® English language argument FRQ asked students to argue a position if the most essential skill is artifice. The example student answers given below are from here .
Supportive evidence: “Throughout history, rulers have utilized countless different methods of achieving power, however none have been so successful as mastering the art of lying.
In his advice to future rulers, Niccolo Machiavelli encouraged them to lie and maintain the illusion of sympathy to the common struggles in order to retain power. He asserts that it is imperative for a ruler to appear caring and sympathetic even if he has no objective but power.
Machiavelli argues that to be sincere and honest is akin to being vulnerable. A ruler must be skilled in the art of deception if he is not to fall prey to usurpers. Thus, it is essential that he appear humble and morally upright to his constituents as he is to appear idealistic, despite his nature being identical to his citizens.”
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in politics. The student claims that mastering lying is essential to achieving political power. The student uses Machiavelli’s leadership and beliefs as specific examples to support this, by analyzing and connecting each point back to his/her claim.
Non-supportive evidence: “Another example would be actors on red carpets or at interviews they sound generous and relatable, but in reality they could be selfish people who don’t care about anyone. To the public they act charming, honest, and sincere. They do this so they can get famous and rich. They do this so they will never get ignored.”
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in the culture of entertainment and celebrities. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims about how actors lie, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claims. The student provides a lot of very vague generalizations, but no clear evidence or examples of specific celebrities and how they used artifice to succeed.
There is so much variance in prompts and students’ prior knowledge; it’s impossible to provide a checklist of what makes evidence supportive. But a good trick to decide if you’ve supported your claims well enough is to talk to yourself. No really, it’s a good idea.
Picture yourself discussing your essay with someone. Imagine that this person disagrees with everything that you say. Every time you make a claim, like that it’s important to be polite in an email, your imaginary person shakes their head and tells you no. How would you try to convince them? What examples would you use? Make sure that for each opinion you put forward; you have provided an answer to someone who would disagree with you.
The evidence is an important part of your essay. If your outline and your argument are a framework, your evidence is the brick and mortar. A house without brick and mortar won’t fall, but it won’t be a very nice house to inhabit. Tie every claim you make to a piece of evidence to ensure the best essay possible.
Wrapping Things Up: Scoring a 6 on the Argument FRQ for AP® English Language
The AP® English argument FRQ varies quite a bit. But it is ultimately about how well you can put forth an argument. So, don’t be afraid to spend some time crafting that argument. We’ve covered a lot in this article- here are the main points to remember:
- Determine the question. Figure out what the prompt is asking you to do.
- Pick an opinion and stick to it. Choose one side of the argument and one clear claim to support all the way through.
- Craft a thesis statement. Your thesis should be clear, concise, and introduce the content of your essay.
- Craft a chronological argument. Make an argument that builds on its prior points.
- Support your claims. Support yourself with concrete, specific evidence and examples.
But most of all, have fun. This essay is the one you should be looking forward to, where you have the freest rein. Enjoy it and earn yourself a 6.
Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP® writing argument FRQ with ease now?
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8 thoughts on “how to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language”.
Thank you for explaining this so eloquently. Excellent post, I will keep this handy and refer to it often from now on. It’s so educative. Great post!
Sure, glad it helped.
I’m an AP® Language teacher and the title of your article caught my eye because the essays aren’t scored on a 0-9 scale anymore. The max score for an essay now is a 6. Essays are now scored in 3 categories: Thesis: 0 or 1 point Evidence and commentary: 0-4 points Sophistication: 0 or 1 point I just wanted to let you know! I saw this was last updated in 2020 and just thought it should reflect the current AP® exam.
Thank you for the heads up! This is an older blog post that must have had something else updated to it this year. We’ve gone ahead and revised the post.
Hi, my AP® Language teacher emphasized on a counterargument at the end of the supporting paragraphs. Could you elaborate on it? Also, how exactly do we get the sophistication point?
Hi Stephanie, thanks for reaching out! Making a solid counter-argument is definitely one way to make sure that you earn the Sophistication point. We recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for 2021 for more tips! The College Board’s Free-Response Question and Scoring Information Archive also provides authentic examples of student writing — many of which successfully make counterarguments and rebuttals to earn the Sophistication point.
Hi can I get a 6?
Hi Roy, we certainly believe that earning a 6 on your FRQs is possible with practice and dedication! I’d recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for tips and tricks, and you can also browse our AP® English Language and Composition Resource Page and Free Response practice questions for targeted practice.
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How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay + Example
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What is the ap lang synthesis essay, how will ap scores affect my college chances.
AP English Language and Composition, commonly known as AP Lang, is one of the most engaging and popular AP classes offered at most high schools, with over 535,000 students taking the class . AP Lang tests your ability to analyze written pieces, synthesize information, write rhetorical essays, and create cohesive and concrete arguments. However, the class is rather challenging as only 62% of students were able to score a three or higher on the exam.
The AP Lang exam has two sections. The first consists of 45 multiple choice questions which need to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for around 45% of your total score. These questions ask students to analyze written pieces and answer questions related to each respective passage. All possible answer choices can be found within the text, and no prior knowledge of literature is needed to understand the passages.
The second section contains three free-response questions to be finished in under two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score and includes the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.
- The synthesis essay requires you to read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three sources.
- The rhetorical analysis essay requires you to describe how a piece of writing evokes specific meanings and symbolism.
- The argumentative essay requires you to pick a perspective of a debate and create an argument based on the evidence provided.
In this post, we will take a look at the AP Lang synthesis essay and discuss tips and tricks to master this part of the exam. We will also provide an example of a well-written essay for review.
The AP Lang synthesis essay is the first of three essays included in the Free Response section of the AP Lang exam. The exam presents 6-7 sources that are organized around a specific topic, with two of those sources purely visual, including a single quantitative source (like a graph or pie chart). The remaining 4-5 sources are text-based, containing around 500 words each. It’s recommended that students spend an hour on this essay—15 minute reading period, 40 minutes writing, and 5 minutes of spare time to check over work.
Each synthesis essay has a topic that all the sources will relate to. A prompt will explaining the topic and provide some background, although the topics are usually broad so you will probably know something related to the issue. It will also present a claim that students will respond to in an essay format using information from at least three of the provided sources. You will need to take a stance, either agreeing or disagreeing with the position provided in the claim.
According to the CollegeBoard, they are looking for essays that “combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position.” This means that you must state your claim on the topic and highlight relationships between several sources that support your specific position on the topic. Additionally, you’ll need to cite clear evidence from your sources to prove your point.
The synthesis essay counts for six points on the AP Lang exam. Students can receive 0-1 points for writing a thesis statement, 0-4 based on the incorporation of evidence and commentary, and 0-1 points based on the sophistication of thought and demonstration of complex understanding.
While this essay seems extremely overwhelming, considering there are a total of three free-response essays to complete, with proper time management and practiced skills, this essay is manageable and straightforward. In order to enhance the time management aspect of the test to the best of your ability, it is essential to divide the essay up into five key steps.
Step 1: Analyze the Prompt
As soon as the clock starts, carefully read and analyze what the prompt asks from you. It might be helpful to markup the text to identify the most critical details. You should only spend around 2 minutes reading the prompt so you have enough time to read all the sources and figure out your argument. Don’t feel like you need to immediately pick your stance on the claim right after reading the prompt. You should read the sources before you commit to your argument.
Step 2: Read the Sources Carefully
Although you are only required to use 3 of the 6-7 sources provides, make sure you read ALL of the sources. This will allow you to better understand the topic and make the most educated decision of which sources to use in your essay. Since there are a lot of sources to get through, you will need to read quickly and carefully.
Annotating will be your best friend during the reading period. Highlight and mark important concepts or lines from each passage that would be helpful in your essay. Your argument will probably begin forming in your head as you go through the passages, so you will save yourself a lot of time later on if you take a few seconds to write down notes in the margins. After you’ve finished reading a source, reflect on whether the source defends, challenges, or qualifies your argument.
You will have around 13 minutes to read through all the sources, but it’s very possible you will finish earlier if you are a fast reader. Take the leftover time to start developing your thesis and organizing your thoughts into an outline so you have more time to write.
Step 3: Write a Strong Thesis Statement
In order to write a good thesis statement, all you have to do is decide your stance on the claim provided in the prompt and give an overview of your evidence. You essentially have three choices on how to frame your thesis statement: You can defend, challenge or qualify a claim that’s been provided by the prompt.
- If you are defending the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is correct .
- If you are challenging the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is incorrect .
- If you choose to qualify the claim, your job will be to agree to a part of the claim and disagree with another part of the claim.
A strong thesis statement will clearly state your stance without summarizing the issue or regurgitating the claim. The CollegeBoard is looking for a thesis statement that “states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue provided in the prompt.”
Step 4: Create a Minimal Essay Outline
Developing an outline might seem like a waste of time when you are up against the clock, but believe us, taking 5-10 minutes to outline your essay will be much more useful in the long run than jumping right into the essay.
Your outline should include your thesis statement and three main pieces of evidence that will constitute each body paragraph. Under each piece of evidence should be 2-3 details from the sources that you will use to back up your claim and some commentary on how that evidence proves your thesis.
Step 5: Write your Essay
Use the remaining 30-35 minutes to write your essay. This should be relatively easy if you took the time to mark up the sources and have a detailed outline. Remember to add special consideration and emphasis to the commentary sections of the supporting arguments outlined in your thesis. These sentences are critical to the overall flow of the essay and where you will be explaining how the evidence supports or undermines the claim in the prompt.
Also, when referencing your sources, write the in-text citations as follows: “Source 1,” “Source 2,” “Source 3,” etc. Make sure to pay attention to which source is which in order to not incorrectly cite your sources. In-text citations will impact your score on the essay and are an integral part of the process.
After you finish writing, read through your essay for any grammatical errors or mistakes before you move onto the next essay.
Here are six must-have tips and tricks to get a good score on the synthesis essay:
- Cite at least four sources , even though the minimum requirement is three. Remember not to plagiarize and cite everything you use in your arguments.
- Make sure to develop a solid and clear thesis . Develop a stable stance for the claim and stick with it throughout the entire paper.
- Don’t summarize the sources. The summary of the sources does not count as an argument.
- You don’t necessarily have to agree with the sources in order to cite them. Using a source to support a counterargument is still a good use of a source.
- Cite the sources that you understand entirely . If you don’t, it could come back to bite you in the end.
- Use small quotes , do not quote entire paragraphs. Make sure the quote does not disrupt the flow or grammar of the sentence you write.
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Here is an example prompt and essay from 2019 that received 5 of the 6 total points available:
In response to our society’s increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.
Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition 2019 Exam (Question 1), including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.
Source A (photo)
Source B (Layton)
Source C (Seltenrich)
Source D (Brown)
Source E (Rule)
Source F (Molla)
In your response you should do the following:
- Respond to the prompt with a thesis presents a defensible position.
- Select and use evidence from at least 3 of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
- Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
- Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.
 The situation has been known for years, and still very little is being done: alternative power is the only way to reliably power the changing world. The draw of power coming from industry and private life is overwhelming current sources of non-renewable power, and with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, it is merely a matter of time before coal and gas fuel plants are no longer in operation. So one viable alternative is wind power. But as with all things, there are pros and cons. The main factors for power companies to consider when building wind farms are environmental boon, aesthetic, and economic factors.
 The environmental benefits of using wind power are well-known and proven. Wind power is, as qualified by Source B, undeniably clean and renewable. From their production requiring very little in the way of dangerous materials to their lack of fuel, besides that which occurs naturally, wind power is by far one of the least environmentally impactful sources of power available. In addition, wind power by way of gearbox and advanced blade materials, has the highest percentage of energy retention. According to Source F, wind power retains 1,164% of the energy put into the system – meaning that it increases the energy converted from fuel (wind) to electricity 10 times! No other method of electricity production is even half that efficient. The efficiency and clean nature of wind power are important to consider, especially because they contribute back to power companies economically.
 Economically, wind power is both a boon and a bone to electric companies and other users. For consumers, wind power is very cheap, leading to lower bills than from any other source. Consumers also get an indirect reimbursement by way of taxes (Source D). In one Texan town, McCamey, tax revenue increased 30% from a wind farm being erected in the town. This helps to finance improvements to the town. But, there is no doubt that wind power is also hurting the power companies. Although, as renewable power goes, wind is incredibly cheap, it is still significantly more expensive than fossil fuels. So, while it is helping to cut down on emissions, it costs electric companies more than traditional fossil fuel plants. While the general economic trend is positive, there are some setbacks which must be overcome before wind power can take over as truly more effective than fossil fuels.
 Aesthetics may be the greatest setback for power companies. Although there may be significant economic and environmental benefit to wind power, people will always fight to preserve pure, unspoiled land. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve the visual aesthetics of the turbines. White paint is the most common choice because it “[is] associated with cleanliness.” (Source E). But, this can make it stand out like a sore thumb, and make the gargantuan machines seem more out of place. The site can also not be altered because it affects generating capacity. Sound is almost worse of a concern because it interrupts personal productivity by interrupting people’s sleep patterns. One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support.
 As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and the consequences. But, by balancing economics, efficiency, and aesthetics, power companies can create a solution which balances human impact with environmental preservation.
More examples can be found here at College Board.
While AP Scores help to boost your weighted GPA, or give you the option to get college credit, AP Scores don’t have a strong effect on your admissions chances . However, colleges can still see your self-reported scores, so you might not want to automatically send scores to colleges if they are lower than a 3. That being said, admissions officers care far more about your grade in an AP class than your score on the exam.
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- How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips
How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips
Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.
Table of contents
When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.
You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.
The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.
Argumentative writing at college level
At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.
In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.
Examples of argumentative essay prompts
At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.
Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.
- Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
- Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
- Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
- Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
- Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
- Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.
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An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.
There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.
The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:
- Make a claim
- Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
- Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
- Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives
The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.
Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:
- Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
- Cite data to support your claim
- Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
- Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.
The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:
- Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
- Highlight the problems with this position
- Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
- Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?
This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.
Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:
- Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
- Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
- Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
- Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.
You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.
Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .
Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.
Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.
The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.
In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.
Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.
This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.
Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.
A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.
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An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.
No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.
Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.
The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.
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An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.
An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.
In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.
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Definition of argumentative essay.
An argumentative essay is a type of essay that presents arguments about both sides of an issue. It could be that both sides are presented equally balanced, or it could be that one side is presented more forcefully than the other. It all depends on the writer, and what side he supports the most. The general structure of an argumentative essay follows this format:
- Introduction : Attention Grabber/ hook , Background Information , Thesis Statement
- Body : Three body paragraphs (three major arguments)
- Counterargument : An argument to refute earlier arguments and give weight to the actual position
- Conclusion : Rephrasing the thesis statement , major points, call to attention, or concluding remarks .
Models for Argumentative Essays
There are two major models besides this structure given above, which is called a classical model. Two other models are the Toulmin and Rogerian models.
Toulmin model is comprised of an introduction with a claim or thesis, followed by the presentation of data to support the claim. Warrants are then listed for the reasons to support the claim with backing and rebuttals. However, the Rogerian model asks to weigh two options, lists the strengths and weaknesses of both options, and gives a recommendation after an analysis.
Five Types of Argument Claims in Essay Writing
There are five major types of argument claims as given below.
- A claim of definition
- A claim about values
- A claim about the reason
- A claim about comparison
- A claim about policy or position
A writer makes a claim about these issues and answers the relevant questions about it with relevant data and evidence to support the claim.
Three Major Types of Argument and How to Apply Them
This model of applying argument is also called the Aristotelian model developed by Aristotle. This type of essay introduces the claim, with the opinion of the writer about the claim, its both perspectives, supported by evidence, and provides a conclusion about the better perspective . This essay includes an introduction, a body having the argument and support, a counter-argument with support, and a conclusion.
This model developed by Stephen Toulmin is based on the claim followed by grounds, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal . Its structure comprises, an introduction having the main claim, a body with facts and evidence, while its rebuttal comprises counter-arguments and a conclusion.
The third model by Carl Rogers has different perspectives having proof to support and a conclusion based on all the available perspectives. Its structure comprises an introduction with a thesis, the opposite point of view and claim, a middle-ground for both or more perspectives, and a conclusion.
Four Steps to Outline and Argumentative Essay
There are four major steps to outlining an argumentative essay.
- Introduction with background, claim, and thesis.
- Body with facts, definition, claim, cause and effect, or policy.
- The opposing point of view with pieces of evidence.
Examples of Argumentative Essay in Literature
Example #1: put a little science in your life by brian greene.
“When we consider the ubiquity of cellphones, iPods, personal computers and the Internet, it’s easy to see how science (and the technology to which it leads) is woven into the fabric of our day-to-day activities . When we benefit from CT scanners, M.R.I. devices, pacemakers and arterial stents, we can immediately appreciate how science affects the quality of our lives. When we assess the state of the world, and identify looming challenges like climate change, global pandemics, security threats and diminishing resources, we don’t hesitate in turning to science to gauge the problems and find solutions. And when we look at the wealth of opportunities hovering on the horizon—stem cells, genomic sequencing, personalized medicine, longevity research, nanoscience, brain-machine interface, quantum computers, space technology—we realize how crucial it is to cultivate a general public that can engage with scientific issues; there’s simply no other way that as a society we will be prepared to make informed decisions on a range of issues that will shape the future.”
These two paragraphs present an argument about two scientific fields — digital products and biotechnology. It has also given full supporting details with names.
Example #2: Boys Here, Girls There: Sure, If Equality’s the Goal by Karen Stabiner
“The first objections last week came from the National Organization for Women and the New York Civil Liberties Union, both of which opposed the opening of TYWLS in the fall of 1996. The two groups continue to insist—as though it were 1896 and they were arguing Plessy v. Ferguson—that separate can never be equal. I appreciate NOW ’s wariness of the Bush administration’s endorsement of single-sex public schools, since I am of the generation that still considers the label “feminist” to be a compliment—and many feminists still fear that any public acknowledgment of differences between the sexes will hinder their fight for equality .”
This paragraph by Karen Stabiner presents an objection to the argument of separation between public schools. It has been fully supported with evidence of the court case.
Example #3: The Flight from Conversation by Sherry Turkle
“We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “ alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.”
This is an argument by Sherry Turkle, who beautifully presented it in the first person plural dialogues . However, it is clear that this is part of a greater argument instead of the essay.
Function of Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay presents both sides of an issue. However, it presents one side more positively or meticulously than the other one, so that readers could be swayed to the one the author intends. The major function of this type of essay is to present a case before the readers in a convincing manner, showing them the complete picture.
Synonyms of Argumentative Essay
Argumentative Essay synonyms are as follows: persuasive essays, research essays, analytical essays, or even some personal essays.
- Elements of an Essay
- Narrative Essay
- Definition Essay
- Descriptive Essay
- Types of Essay
- Analytical Essay
- Cause and Effect Essay
- Critical Essay
- Expository Essay
- Persuasive Essay
- Process Essay
- Explicatory Essay
- An Essay on Man: Epistle I
- Comparison and Contrast Essay