8 Effective Strategies to Write Argumentative Essays
In a bustling university town, there lived a student named Alex. Popular for creativity and wit, one challenge seemed insurmountable for Alex– the dreaded argumentative essay!
One gloomy afternoon, as the rain tapped against the window pane, Alex sat at his cluttered desk, staring at a blank document on the computer screen. The assignment loomed large: a 350-600-word argumentative essay on a topic of their choice . With a sigh, he decided to seek help of mentor, Professor Mitchell, who was known for his passion for writing.
Entering Professor Mitchell’s office was like stepping into a treasure of knowledge. Bookshelves lined every wall, faint aroma of old manuscripts in the air and sticky notes over the wall. Alex took a deep breath and knocked on his door.
“Ah, Alex,” Professor Mitchell greeted with a warm smile. “What brings you here today?”
Alex confessed his struggles with the argumentative essay. After hearing his concerns, Professor Mitchell said, “Ah, the argumentative essay! Don’t worry, Let’s take a look at it together.” As he guided Alex to the corner shelf, Alex asked,
Table of Contents
“What is an Argumentative Essay?”
The professor replied, “An argumentative essay is a type of academic writing that presents a clear argument or a firm position on a contentious issue. Unlike other forms of essays, such as descriptive or narrative essays, these essays require you to take a stance, present evidence, and convince your audience of the validity of your viewpoint with supporting evidence. A well-crafted argumentative essay relies on concrete facts and supporting evidence rather than merely expressing the author’s personal opinions . Furthermore, these essays demand comprehensive research on the chosen topic and typically follows a structured format consisting of three primary sections: an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.”
He continued, “Argumentative essays are written in a wide range of subject areas, reflecting their applicability across disciplines. They are written in different subject areas like literature and philosophy, history, science and technology, political science, psychology, economics and so on.
“When is an Argumentative Essay Written?”
The professor answered, “Argumentative essays are often assigned in academic settings, but they can also be written for various other purposes, such as editorials, opinion pieces, or blog posts. Some situations to write argumentative essays include:
1. Academic assignments
In school or college, teachers may assign argumentative essays as part of coursework. It help students to develop critical thinking and persuasive writing skills .
2. Debates and discussions
Argumentative essays can serve as the basis for debates or discussions in academic or competitive settings. Moreover, they provide a structured way to present and defend your viewpoint.
3. Opinion pieces
Newspapers, magazines, and online publications often feature opinion pieces that present an argument on a current issue or topic to influence public opinion.
4. Policy proposals
In government and policy-related fields, argumentative essays are used to propose and defend specific policy changes or solutions to societal problems.
5. Persuasive speeches
Before delivering a persuasive speech, it’s common to prepare an argumentative essay as a foundation for your presentation.
Regardless of the context, an argumentative essay should present a clear thesis statement , provide evidence and reasoning to support your position, address counterarguments, and conclude with a compelling summary of your main points. The goal is to persuade readers or listeners to accept your viewpoint or at least consider it seriously.”
Handing over a book, the professor continued, “Take a look on the elements or structure of an argumentative essay.”
Elements of an Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay comprises five essential components:
Claim in argumentative writing is the central argument or viewpoint that the writer aims to establish and defend throughout the essay. A claim must assert your position on an issue and must be arguable. It can guide the entire argument.
Evidence must consist of factual information, data, examples, or expert opinions that support the claim. Also, it lends credibility by strengthening the writer’s position.
Presenting a counterclaim demonstrates fairness and awareness of alternative perspectives.
After presenting the counterclaim, the writer refutes it by offering counterarguments or providing evidence that weakens the opposing viewpoint. It shows that the writer has considered multiple perspectives and is prepared to defend their position.
The format of an argumentative essay typically follows the structure to ensure clarity and effectiveness in presenting an argument.
How to Write An Argumentative Essay
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an argumentative essay:
- Begin with a compelling sentence or question to grab the reader’s attention.
- Provide context for the issue, including relevant facts, statistics, or historical background.
- Provide a concise thesis statement to present your position on the topic.
2. Body Paragraphs (usually three or more)
- Start each paragraph with a clear and focused topic sentence that relates to your thesis statement.
- Furthermore, provide evidence and explain the facts, statistics, examples, expert opinions, and quotations from credible sources that supports your thesis.
- Use transition sentences to smoothly move from one point to the next.
3. Counterargument and Rebuttal
- Acknowledge opposing viewpoints or potential objections to your argument.
- Also, address these counterarguments with evidence and explain why they do not weaken your position.
- Restate your thesis statement and summarize the key points you’ve made in the body of the essay.
- Leave the reader with a final thought, call to action, or broader implication related to the topic.
5. Citations and References
- Properly cite all the sources you use in your essay using a consistent citation style.
- Also, include a bibliography or works cited at the end of your essay.
6. Formatting and Style
- Follow any specific formatting guidelines provided by your instructor or institution.
- Use a professional and academic tone in your writing and edit your essay to avoid content, spelling and grammar mistakes .
Remember that the specific requirements for formatting an argumentative essay may vary depending on your instructor’s guidelines or the citation style you’re using (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). Always check the assignment instructions or style guide for any additional requirements or variations in formatting.
Prof. Mitchell continued, “An argumentative essay can adopt various approaches when dealing with opposing perspectives. It may offer a balanced presentation of both sides, providing equal weight to each, or it may advocate more strongly for one side while still acknowledging the existence of opposing views.” As Alex listened carefully to the Professor’s thoughts, his eyes fell on a page with examples of argumentative essay.
Example of an Argumentative Essay
Alex picked the book and read the example. It helped him to understand the concept. Furthermore, he could now connect better to the elements and steps of the essay which Prof. Mitchell had mentioned earlier. Aren’t you keen to know how an argumentative essay should be like? Here is an example of a well-crafted argumentative essay , which was read by Alex. After Alex finished reading the example, the professor turned the page and continued, “Check this page to know the importance of writing an argumentative essay in developing skills of an individual.”
Importance of an Argumentative Essay
After understanding the benefits, Alex was convinced by the ability of the argumentative essays in advocating one’s beliefs and favor the author’s position. Alex asked,
“How are argumentative essays different from the other types?”
Prof. Mitchell answered, “Argumentative essays differ from other types of essays primarily in their purpose, structure, and approach in presenting information. Unlike expository essays, argumentative essays persuade the reader to adopt a particular point of view or take a specific action on a controversial issue. Furthermore, they differ from descriptive essays by not focusing vividly on describing a topic. Also, they are less engaging through storytelling as compared to the narrative essays.
Alex said, “Given the direct and persuasive nature of argumentative essays, can you suggest some strategies to write an effective argumentative essay?
Turning the pages of the book, Prof. Mitchell replied, “Sure! You can check this infographic to get some tips for writing an argumentative essay.”
Effective Strategies to Write an Argumentative Essay
As days turned into weeks, Alex diligently worked on his essay. He researched, gathered evidence, and refined his thesis. It was a long and challenging journey, filled with countless drafts and revisions.
Finally, the day arrived when Alex submitted their essay. As he clicked the “Submit” button, a sense of accomplishment washed over him. He realized that the argumentative essay, while challenging, had improved his critical thinking and transformed him into a more confident writer. Furthermore, Alex received feedback from his professor, a mix of praise and constructive criticism. It was a humbling experience, a reminder that every journey has its obstacles and opportunities for growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
An argumentative essay can be written as follows- 1. Choose a Topic 2. Research and Collect Evidences 3. Develop a Clear Thesis Statement 4. Outline Your Essay- Introduction, Body Paragraphs and Conclusion 5. Revise and Edit 6. Format and Cite Sources 7. Final Review
One must choose a clear, concise and specific statement as a claim. It must be debatable and establish your position. Avoid using ambiguous or unclear while making a claim. To strengthen your claim, address potential counterarguments or opposing viewpoints. Additionally, use persuasive language and rhetoric to make your claim more compelling
Starting an argument essay effectively is crucial to engage your readers and establish the context for your argument. Here’s how you can start an argument essay are: 1. Begin With an Engaging Hook 2. Provide Background Information 3. Present Your Thesis Statement 4. Briefly Outline Your Main 5. Establish Your Credibility
The key features of an argumentative essay are: 1. Clear and Specific Thesis Statement 2. Credible Evidence 3. Counterarguments 4. Structured Body Paragraph 5. Logical Flow 6. Use of Persuasive Techniques 7. Formal Language
An argumentative essay typically consists of the following main parts or sections: 1. Introduction 2. Body Paragraphs 3. Counterargument and Rebuttal 4. Conclusion 5. References (if applicable)
The main purpose of an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to accept or agree with a particular viewpoint or position on a controversial or debatable topic. In other words, the primary goal of an argumentative essay is to convince the audience that the author's argument or thesis statement is valid, logical, and well-supported by evidence and reasoning.
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Building strong body paragraphs
A strong body paragraph explains , proves , and/or supports your argument/claim/thesis statement. It may be useful to think of your paper as a tree : the trunk represents the whole paper, which is designed to prove your main argument, while the branches signify individual body paragraphs that develop your supporting claims or arguments. These components must work together to effectively develop your primary idea or overall claim. Ultimately, each body paragraph should be unified , coherent , and fully-developed .
An effective body paragraph will usually accomplish the following:
1. Express a Claim/Point/Argument
Identify the main idea of your paragraph and its relevance to your thesis or argument. Elaborate on the topic if it requires further clarification, context, or specificity.
2. Provide Evidence in Context
Choose your evidence source and summarize the context. Incorporate appropriate evidence to support your claim. The evidence may consist of quotations, examples, statistics, facts, etc.
3. Analyze Evidence and Link to Larger Argument
Explain what the evidence means and how it connects to the argument in your paragraph or thesis statement. Focus on synthesis (connecting themes and traits that you observe in your evidence) and analysis (interpreting the evidence and its significance). This kind of work establishes credibility by showing that you understand the evidence and its importance in your argument.
Sample paragraph (separated by claim, evidence, and analysis)
- Claim: While there is little doubt that extracurricular opportunities at UW are a positive and critical component of students' overall development, providing students with time management skills is equally important.
- Evidence: One only needs to look at past alumni to see the validity of this claim. As famous alum Harry Wright states: "I sometimes overdid it with extracurricular activities when I was at U of W, missing out on valuable academic opportunities. Fortunately, I buckled down in my senior year and managed a "C" average, and things have worked out fine since" (Page 227).
- Analysis: In this example, Harry Wright is arguing that the detrimental effects of excessive extracurricular involvement can be rectified in the senior year of university. Even though Harry Wright is certainly correct when he implies that it is never too late for students to try to raise their GPA, it is probably better for students to attempt to balance academic and other activities early in their university career. Also, Wright assumes that all students can achieve what they want with a "C" average, but many students need higher GPAs in order to apply for professional school, graduate school, and entry-level jobs. Although extracurricular activities are often a positive and critical component of student life at UW, administrators should consider providing a time management education and awareness course for all incoming students. After all, not every UW graduate will be as lucky as Harry Wright. If UW students are going to succeed in business and higher education, they need to first understand the importance of time management.
Tip: students are often taught the "hamburger" method of constructing body paragraphs (where claim, evidence, and analysis are layered on top of each other in a formulaic way). However, as you develop your writing style further, you should be aware that more nuanced writing will often navigate back and forth between evidence and analysis. See academic journals in your discipline for different strategies.
Back to Writing Centre resources
- ACADEMIC ADVICE
How to Write an Argumentative Essay
- November 27, 2022
Table of Contents
What is an argumentative essay, introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs, outline and research, wrapping up.
We’ve all dreaded writing an intimidating essay at some point or other. Argumentative essays are extra intimidating as you’ll have to do justice to the topic and make a strong argument in its favor.
Read on if you want to master writing clear and concise argumentative essays and have common questions answered, such as:
- How to write an argumentative essay
- What are the types of arguments
- How to write a thesis statement for an argumentative essay and others
An argumentative essay is designed to convince the reader why your stance is correct by expanding on the topic and offering fact-based evidence against counter-claims. It requires thorough research of the topic, a clear thesis statement, and follow sound reasoning.
An exceptionally written argumentative essay will:
- Engage the reader with a compelling and exciting topic.
- Give a fair explanation of all points of view.
- Address the potential counter-claims.
- Make the reader ponder and convince them to adopt and consider a new perspective.
Structure of an Argumentative Essay
When writing an argumentative essay, you’ll want to present your stance in the best way possible, which is where a structure is essential. A strong structure consists of:
- A clear and defined thesis statement
- Organic transitions between paragraphs
- Evidential support (factual, logical, or statistical)
Because argumentative essays usually follow a five-paragraph structure, your structure should be as follows:
- First paragraph: introduction and thesis statement.
- Second to the fourth paragraph: body paragraphs , each one detailing your claims.
- Fifth paragraph: conclusion.
However, depending on the complexity of the topic, argumentative essays can be longer than five paragraphs. So, keep in mind to follow the assignment specifications when outlining your essay.
You’ll want to grab the reader’s attention and retain it until the last sentence, which is why the introduction paragraph should be entertaining while still following academic writing rules. For example, you can open up an interesting statistic not well-known in the field.
Your introduction paragraph should serve to outline the topic and the evidence you will present, provide background information, and your statement thesis.
The thesis statement should be the last sentence of the introduction paragraph, and while it’s only a sentence long, it’s the most important part of your essay. A well-constructed thesis will summarize what your argumentative essay is about and what the reader can expect. You can write a thesis statement by following these three steps:
- Turning the topic into a question and then answering it: ask a big question in the title or the first few sentences and then answer it in your thesis statement.
- Stating an argument and then refuting it: introduce an idea you don’t align with and then explain why you disagree with it.
- Briefly outlining your points: introduce your main point and explain how you’ll back it with evidence.
In the body paragraphs, you should include evidential support to your statement thesis. When writing them, keep the following in mind:
- Explain how the evidence supports the thesis statement,
- Present differing points of view on the topic and why these points don’t support the thesis,
- Connect logically to the thesis statement,
- Try to limit a paragraph to one point.
Lastly, in the conclusion paragraph, you restate the thesis statement, but in the light of the evidence you provided. You can use the conclusion to showcase why the topic is important and what future research should focus on. Note that you should refrain from introducing new information in this section.
Types of Arguments
An argumentative essay can use one of the three arguments to approach a topic. Following an approach or combining them can help you structure your essay more easily and be more evident in your claims.
The classical or Aristotelian argument is a classic for a reason, as it is the most common strategy for making a straightforward argument. It relies on five parts:
- Introduction: it introduces the topic and how you’re going to prove your stance.
- Thesis: it explains your point of view.
- Refutation: it includes counter-arguments and refutes them.
- Confirmation: it presents your evidence.
- Conclusion: it summarizes your argument powerfully with evidential support.
The Toulmin argument approach is better used for complex topics or when refuting an opposing point of view. This method is founded on logic and deep analysis, and it relies on six areas:
- Claim: stating the argument clearly.
- Reasons: presenting the evidence.
- Warrant: connecting the argument with evidence.
- Backing: providing additional evidence.
- Qualifier: explaining the limits of the argument.
- Rebuttal: finding opposing views and refuting them.
The Rogerian argument is best used in essays where you have to show the validity of both sides of an argument. When using this approach, you should take a wider-scope view of the topic. While it is more structure-free than the other approaches, you can still follow a structure by:
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- introducing the argument,
- explaining and validating the opposite point of view,
- explaining your point of view and why you hold that stance,
- finding the middle ground between the opposing points of view, and
- concluding the argument and recognizing where there’s still work to be done.
Steps in the Writing Process
Although the writing process is unique to each person, following some steps can help you be more productive.
If your argument or point of view isn’t provided as an assignment, you can try brainstorming to come up with the perfect topic for your project. When looking for topics or arguments, you should:
- be coherent and relevant to the course,
- pick an important topic, and
- pick a topic with potential for further research.
Outlining and researching are crucial, as they set the foundation for an excellent argumentative essay.
When outlining, you should decide whether to follow the five-paragraph outline or the longer essay outline, depending on the complexity of your topic.
On the other hand, when researching, you’ll have to follow a few steps:
- Picking a point of view and argument,
- researching who else supports your argument,
- exploring the potential counter-arguments, and
- organizing your evidence.
You should also keep in mind to check the validity of your evidence.
After outlining your essay and gathering all the material you need, you can start writing. It’s important to write a rough draft with all your ideas and opinions. You should also remember that in this step, it is more important to write and fill in the gaps than to have a perfect version immediately.
Following the rough draft is the revision part, in which you polish it and transform it into the perfect version. When revising, you should ensure your language is clear, optimize word choice, and strengthen any weak argument. This step will help you retain your essay’s credibility and intellectual integrity.
Naturally, when writing, we can all make grammatical and technical mistakes, which is why you should always proofread your essay before submitting it. While you can proofread it yourself, you can also use online resources such as Grammarly to ease the proofreading process. A handy trick is to proofread your essay after taking a break, as it will help you find tiny mistakes you might otherwise have overlooked.
Writing can be a challenging process, especially when you have to prove your point clearly and concisely. However, by sticking to a bulletproof structure and utilizing our tips for writing a stellar argumentative essay, we’re sure you can take on any topic without any difficulty.
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How to write an argumentative essay
The argumentative essay is a staple in university courses, and writing this style of essay is a key skill for students across multiple disciplines. Here’s what you need to know to write an effective and compelling argumentative essay.
What is an argumentative essay?
An argumentative essay takes a stance on an issue and presents an argument to defend that stance with the intent of persuading the reader to agree. It generally requires extensive research into a topic so that you have a deep grasp of its subtleties and nuances, are able to take a position on the issue, and can make a detailed and logical case for one side or the other.
It’s not enough to merely have an opinion on an issue—you have to present points to justify your opinion, often using data and other supporting evidence.
When you are assigned an argumentative essay, you will typically be asked to take a position, usually in response to a question, and mount an argument for it. The question can be two-sided or open-ended, as in the examples provided below.
Examples of argumentative essay prompts:
Should completing a certain number of volunteer hours be a requirement to graduate from high school? Support your argument with evidence.
What is the most significant impact that social media has had on this generation of young people?
Once again, it’s important to remember that you’re not just conveying facts or information in an argumentative essay. In the course of researching your topic, you should develop a stance on the issue. Your essay will then express that stance and attempt to persuade the reader of its legitimacy and correctness through discussion, assessment, and evaluation.
The main types of argumentative essays
Although you are advancing a particular viewpoint, your argumentative essay must flow from a position of objectivity. Your argument should evolve thoughtfully and rationally from evidence and logic rather than emotion.
There are two main models that provide a good starting point for crafting your essay: the Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.
The Toulmin Model
This model is commonly used in academic essays. It mounts an argument through the following four steps:
- Make a claim.
- Present the evidence, or grounds, for the claim.
- Explain how the grounds support the claim.
- Address potential objections to the claim, demonstrating that you’ve given thought to the opposing side and identified its limitations and deficiencies.
As an example of how to put the Toulmin model into practice, here’s how you might structure an argument about the impact of devoting public funding to building low-income housing.
- Make your claim that low-income housing effectively solves several social issues that drain a city’s resources, providing a significant return on investment.
- Cite data that shows how an increase in low-income housing is related to a reduction in crime rates, homelessness, etc.
- Explain how this data proves the beneficial impact of funding low-income housing.
- Preemptively counter objections to your claim and use data to demonstrate whether these objections are valid or not.
The Rogerian Model
This model is also frequently used within academia, and it also builds an argument using four steps, although in a slightly different fashion:
- Acknowledge the merits of the opposing position and what might compel people to agree with it.
- Draw attention to the problems with this position.
- Lay out your own position and identify how it resolves those problems.
- Proffer some middle ground between the two viewpoints and make the case that proponents of the opposing position might benefit from adopting at least some elements of your view.
The persuasiveness of this model owes to the fact that it offers a balanced view of the issue and attempts to find a compromise. For this reason, it works especially well for topics that are polarizing and where it’s important to demonstrate that you’re arguing in good faith.
To illustrate, here’s how you could argue that smartphones should be permitted in classrooms.
- Concede that smartphones can be a distraction for students.
- Argue that what teachers view as disruptions are actually opportunities for learning.
- Offer the view that smartphones, and students’ interest in them, can be harnessed as teaching tools.
- Suggest teaching activities that involve smartphones as a potential resource for teachers who are not convinced of their value.
It’s not essential to adhere strictly to one model or the other—you can borrow elements from both models to structure your essay. However, no matter which model of argumentation you choose, your essay will need to have an outline that effectively presents and develops your position.
How to outline and write an argumentative essay
A clear and straightforward structure works best for argumentative essays since you want to make it easy for your reader to understand your position and follow your arguments. The traditional essay outline comprises an introductory paragraph that announces your thesis statement, body paragraphs that unfold your argument point by point, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes your thesis and supporting points.
This paragraph provides an overview of your topic and any background information that your readers will need in order to understand the context and your position. It generally concludes with an explicit statement of your position on the topic, which is known as your thesis statement.
Over the last decade, smartphones have transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, socially, culturally, and personally. They are now incorporated into almost every facet of daily life, and this includes making their way into classrooms. There are many educators who view smartphones with suspicion and see them as a threat to the sanctity of the classroom. Although there are reasons to regard smartphones with caution, there are ways to use them responsibly to teach and educate the next generation of young minds. Indeed, the value they hold as teaching tools is nearly unlimited: as a way to teach digital literacy, to reach students through a medium that is familiar and fun for them, and to provide a nimble and adaptable learning environment.
Most argumentative essays have at least three body paragraphs that lay out the supporting points in favor of your argument. Each paragraph should open with a topic sentence that presents a separate point that is then fleshed out and backed up by research, facts, figures, data, and other evidence. Remember that your aim in writing an argumentative essay is to convince or persuade your reader, and your body paragraphs are where you present your most compelling pieces of information in order to do just that.
The body of your essay is also where you should address any opposing arguments and make your case against them, either disproving them or stating the reasons why you disagree. Responding to potential rebuttals strengthens your argument and builds your credibility with your readers.
A frequent objection that teachers have to smartphones in the classroom is that students use them to socialize when they should be learning. This view overlooks the fact that students are using smartphones to connect with each other and this is a valuable skill that should be encouraged, not discouraged, in the classroom. A 2014 study demonstrated the benefits of providing students with individual smartphones. Sanctioned smartphone use in the classroom proved to be of particular importance in improving educational outcomes for low-income and at-risk students. What’s more, learning apps have been developed specifically to take advantage of the potential of smartphones to reach learners of various levels and backgrounds, and many offer the ability to customize the method and delivery of lessons to individual learner preferences. This shows that the untapped potential of smartphones is huge, and many teachers would do well to consider incorporating them into their classrooms.
Your concluding paragraph wraps up your essay by restating your thesis and recapping the arguments you presented in your body paragraphs. No new information should be introduced in your conclusion, however, you may consider shifting the lens of your argument to make a comment on how this issue affects the world at large or you personally, always keeping in mind that objectivity and relevance are your guiding principles.
Smartphones have a growing place in the world of education, and despite the presence of legitimate concerns about their use, their value as teaching tools has been clearly established. With more and more of our lives going digital and with the growing emphasis on offering distance learning as an option, educators with an eye to the future won't wait to embrace smartphones and find ways to use them to their fullest effect. As much time and space as we could devote to weighing the pros and cons of smartphones, the fact is that they are not going to disappear from our lives, and our best bet is to develop their, and our students', potential.
Frequently Asked Questions about argumentative essays
Your argumentative essay starts with an introductory paragraph. This paragraph provides an overview of your topic and any background information that your readers will need in order to understand the context and your position.
Like any traditional essay, the argumentative essay consists of three parts:
There are do's and don'ts in argumentative writing. This article summarizes some of them well - you should, for example, avoid coming to an argument based on feelings, without any evidence. Everything you say needs to be backed up by evidence, unless you are the renowned expert in the field.
Yes, you can start your argumentative essay with a question or with a thesis statement. Or you can do both - ask a question and then immediately answer it with a statement.
There are contrasting views on that. In some situations it can make sense to end your argumentative essay with a question - for example, when you want to create room for further discussions or want the reader to leave thinking about the question.
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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
What is an argumentative essay?
The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Please note : Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.
Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.
The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important ( exigence ) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis ( warrant ).
However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph essay
A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.
Longer argumentative essays
Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.