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Need to defend your opinion on an issue? Argumentative essays are one of the most popular types of essays you’ll write in school. They combine persuasive arguments with fact-based research, and, when done well, can be powerful tools for making someone agree with your point of view. If you’re struggling to write an argumentative essay or just want to learn more about them, seeing examples can be a big help.
After giving an overview of this type of essay, we provide three argumentative essay examples. After each essay, we explain in-depth how the essay was structured, what worked, and where the essay could be improved. We end with tips for making your own argumentative essay as strong as possible.
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is an essay that uses evidence and facts to support the claim it’s making. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to agree with the argument being made.
A good argumentative essay will use facts and evidence to support the argument, rather than just the author’s thoughts and opinions. For example, say you wanted to write an argumentative essay stating that Charleston, SC is a great destination for families. You couldn’t just say that it’s a great place because you took your family there and enjoyed it. For it to be an argumentative essay, you need to have facts and data to support your argument, such as the number of child-friendly attractions in Charleston, special deals you can get with kids, and surveys of people who visited Charleston as a family and enjoyed it. The first argument is based entirely on feelings, whereas the second is based on evidence that can be proven.
The standard five paragraph format is common, but not required, for argumentative essays. These essays typically follow one of two formats: the Toulmin model or the Rogerian model.
- The Toulmin model is the most common. It begins with an introduction, follows with a thesis/claim, and gives data and evidence to support that claim. This style of essay also includes rebuttals of counterarguments.
- The Rogerian model analyzes two sides of an argument and reaches a conclusion after weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each.
3 Good Argumentative Essay Examples + Analysis
Below are three examples of argumentative essays, written by yours truly in my school days, as well as analysis of what each did well and where it could be improved.
Argumentative Essay Example 1
Proponents of this idea state that it will save local cities and towns money because libraries are expensive to maintain. They also believe it will encourage more people to read because they won’t have to travel to a library to get a book; they can simply click on what they want to read and read it from wherever they are. They could also access more materials because libraries won’t have to buy physical copies of books; they can simply rent out as many digital copies as they need.
However, it would be a serious mistake to replace libraries with tablets. First, digital books and resources are associated with less learning and more problems than print resources. A study done on tablet vs book reading found that people read 20-30% slower on tablets, retain 20% less information, and understand 10% less of what they read compared to people who read the same information in print. Additionally, staring too long at a screen has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including blurred vision, dizziness, dry eyes, headaches, and eye strain, at much higher instances than reading print does. People who use tablets and mobile devices excessively also have a higher incidence of more serious health issues such as fibromyalgia, shoulder and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and muscle strain. I know that whenever I read from my e-reader for too long, my eyes begin to feel tired and my neck hurts. We should not add to these problems by giving people, especially young people, more reasons to look at screens.
Second, it is incredibly narrow-minded to assume that the only service libraries offer is book lending. Libraries have a multitude of benefits, and many are only available if the library has a physical location. Some of these benefits include acting as a quiet study space, giving people a way to converse with their neighbors, holding classes on a variety of topics, providing jobs, answering patron questions, and keeping the community connected. One neighborhood found that, after a local library instituted community events such as play times for toddlers and parents, job fairs for teenagers, and meeting spaces for senior citizens, over a third of residents reported feeling more connected to their community. Similarly, a Pew survey conducted in 2015 found that nearly two-thirds of American adults feel that closing their local library would have a major impact on their community. People see libraries as a way to connect with others and get their questions answered, benefits tablets can’t offer nearly as well or as easily.
While replacing libraries with tablets may seem like a simple solution, it would encourage people to spend even more time looking at digital screens, despite the myriad issues surrounding them. It would also end access to many of the benefits of libraries that people have come to rely on. In many areas, libraries are such an important part of the community network that they could never be replaced by a simple object.
The author begins by giving an overview of the counter-argument, then the thesis appears as the first sentence in the third paragraph. The essay then spends the rest of the paper dismantling the counter argument and showing why readers should believe the other side.
What this essay does well:
- Although it’s a bit unusual to have the thesis appear fairly far into the essay, it works because, once the thesis is stated, the rest of the essay focuses on supporting it since the counter-argument has already been discussed earlier in the paper.
- This essay includes numerous facts and cites studies to support its case. By having specific data to rely on, the author’s argument is stronger and readers will be more inclined to agree with it.
- For every argument the other side makes, the author makes sure to refute it and follow up with why her opinion is the stronger one. In order to make a strong argument, it’s important to dismantle the other side, which this essay does this by making the author's view appear stronger.
- This is a shorter paper, and if it needed to be expanded to meet length requirements, it could include more examples and go more into depth with them, such as by explaining specific cases where people benefited from local libraries.
- Additionally, while the paper uses lots of data, the author also mentions their own experience with using tablets. This should be removed since argumentative essays focus on facts and data to support an argument, not the author’s own opinion or experiences. Replacing that with more data on health issues associated with screen time would strengthen the essay.
- Some of the points made aren't completely accurate , particularly the one about digital books being cheaper. It actually often costs a library more money to rent out numerous digital copies of a book compared to buying a single physical copy. Make sure in your own essay you thoroughly research each of the points and rebuttals you make, otherwise you'll look like you don't know the issue that well.
Argumentative Essay Example 2
There are multiple drugs available to treat malaria, and many of them work well and save lives, but malaria eradication programs that focus too much on them and not enough on prevention haven’t seen long-term success in Sub-Saharan Africa. A major program to combat malaria was WHO’s Global Malaria Eradication Programme. Started in 1955, it had a goal of eliminating malaria in Africa within the next ten years. Based upon previously successful programs in Brazil and the United States, the program focused mainly on vector control. This included widely distributing chloroquine and spraying large amounts of DDT. More than one billion dollars was spent trying to abolish malaria. However, the program suffered from many problems and in 1969, WHO was forced to admit that the program had not succeeded in eradicating malaria. The number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa who contracted malaria as well as the number of malaria deaths had actually increased over 10% during the time the program was active.
One of the major reasons for the failure of the project was that it set uniform strategies and policies. By failing to consider variations between governments, geography, and infrastructure, the program was not nearly as successful as it could have been. Sub-Saharan Africa has neither the money nor the infrastructure to support such an elaborate program, and it couldn’t be run the way it was meant to. Most African countries don't have the resources to send all their people to doctors and get shots, nor can they afford to clear wetlands or other malaria prone areas. The continent’s spending per person for eradicating malaria was just a quarter of what Brazil spent. Sub-Saharan Africa simply can’t rely on a plan that requires more money, infrastructure, and expertise than they have to spare.
Additionally, the widespread use of chloroquine has created drug resistant parasites which are now plaguing Sub-Saharan Africa. Because chloroquine was used widely but inconsistently, mosquitoes developed resistance, and chloroquine is now nearly completely ineffective in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 95% of mosquitoes resistant to it. As a result, newer, more expensive drugs need to be used to prevent and treat malaria, which further drives up the cost of malaria treatment for a region that can ill afford it.
Instead of developing plans to treat malaria after the infection has incurred, programs should focus on preventing infection from occurring in the first place. Not only is this plan cheaper and more effective, reducing the number of people who contract malaria also reduces loss of work/school days which can further bring down the productivity of the region.
One of the cheapest and most effective ways of preventing malaria is to implement insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs). These nets provide a protective barrier around the person or people using them. While untreated bed nets are still helpful, those treated with insecticides are much more useful because they stop mosquitoes from biting people through the nets, and they help reduce mosquito populations in a community, thus helping people who don’t even own bed nets. Bed nets are also very effective because most mosquito bites occur while the person is sleeping, so bed nets would be able to drastically reduce the number of transmissions during the night. In fact, transmission of malaria can be reduced by as much as 90% in areas where the use of ITNs is widespread. Because money is so scarce in Sub-Saharan Africa, the low cost is a great benefit and a major reason why the program is so successful. Bed nets cost roughly 2 USD to make, last several years, and can protect two adults. Studies have shown that, for every 100-1000 more nets are being used, one less child dies of malaria. With an estimated 300 million people in Africa not being protected by mosquito nets, there’s the potential to save three million lives by spending just a few dollars per person.
Reducing the number of people who contract malaria would also reduce poverty levels in Africa significantly, thus improving other aspects of society like education levels and the economy. Vector control is more effective than treatment strategies because it means fewer people are getting sick. When fewer people get sick, the working population is stronger as a whole because people are not put out of work from malaria, nor are they caring for sick relatives. Malaria-afflicted families can typically only harvest 40% of the crops that healthy families can harvest. Additionally, a family with members who have malaria spends roughly a quarter of its income treatment, not including the loss of work they also must deal with due to the illness. It’s estimated that malaria costs Africa 12 billion USD in lost income every year. A strong working population creates a stronger economy, which Sub-Saharan Africa is in desperate need of.
This essay begins with an introduction, which ends with the thesis (that malaria eradication plans in Sub-Saharan Africa should focus on prevention rather than treatment). The first part of the essay lays out why the counter argument (treatment rather than prevention) is not as effective, and the second part of the essay focuses on why prevention of malaria is the better path to take.
- The thesis appears early, is stated clearly, and is supported throughout the rest of the essay. This makes the argument clear for readers to understand and follow throughout the essay.
- There’s lots of solid research in this essay, including specific programs that were conducted and how successful they were, as well as specific data mentioned throughout. This evidence helps strengthen the author’s argument.
- The author makes a case for using expanding bed net use over waiting until malaria occurs and beginning treatment, but not much of a plan is given for how the bed nets would be distributed or how to ensure they’re being used properly. By going more into detail of what she believes should be done, the author would be making a stronger argument.
- The introduction of the essay does a good job of laying out the seriousness of the problem, but the conclusion is short and abrupt. Expanding it into its own paragraph would give the author a final way to convince readers of her side of the argument.
Argumentative Essay Example 3
There are many ways payments could work. They could be in the form of a free-market approach, where athletes are able to earn whatever the market is willing to pay them, it could be a set amount of money per athlete, or student athletes could earn income from endorsements, autographs, and control of their likeness, similar to the way top Olympians earn money.
Proponents of the idea believe that, because college athletes are the ones who are training, participating in games, and bringing in audiences, they should receive some sort of compensation for their work. If there were no college athletes, the NCAA wouldn’t exist, college coaches wouldn’t receive there (sometimes very high) salaries, and brands like Nike couldn’t profit from college sports. In fact, the NCAA brings in roughly $1 billion in revenue a year, but college athletes don’t receive any of that money in the form of a paycheck. Additionally, people who believe college athletes should be paid state that paying college athletes will actually encourage them to remain in college longer and not turn pro as quickly, either by giving them a way to begin earning money in college or requiring them to sign a contract stating they’ll stay at the university for a certain number of years while making an agreed-upon salary.
Supporters of this idea point to Zion Williamson, the Duke basketball superstar, who, during his freshman year, sustained a serious knee injury. Many argued that, even if he enjoyed playing for Duke, it wasn’t worth risking another injury and ending his professional career before it even began for a program that wasn’t paying him. Williamson seems to have agreed with them and declared his eligibility for the NCAA draft later that year. If he was being paid, he may have stayed at Duke longer. In fact, roughly a third of student athletes surveyed stated that receiving a salary while in college would make them “strongly consider” remaining collegiate athletes longer before turning pro.
Paying athletes could also stop the recruitment scandals that have plagued the NCAA. In 2018, the NCAA stripped the University of Louisville's men's basketball team of its 2013 national championship title because it was discovered coaches were using sex workers to entice recruits to join the team. There have been dozens of other recruitment scandals where college athletes and recruits have been bribed with anything from having their grades changed, to getting free cars, to being straight out bribed. By paying college athletes and putting their salaries out in the open, the NCAA could end the illegal and underhanded ways some schools and coaches try to entice athletes to join.
People who argue against the idea of paying college athletes believe the practice could be disastrous for college sports. By paying athletes, they argue, they’d turn college sports into a bidding war, where only the richest schools could afford top athletes, and the majority of schools would be shut out from developing a talented team (though some argue this already happens because the best players often go to the most established college sports programs, who typically pay their coaches millions of dollars per year). It could also ruin the tight camaraderie of many college teams if players become jealous that certain teammates are making more money than they are.
They also argue that paying college athletes actually means only a small fraction would make significant money. Out of the 350 Division I athletic departments, fewer than a dozen earn any money. Nearly all the money the NCAA makes comes from men’s football and basketball, so paying college athletes would make a small group of men--who likely will be signed to pro teams and begin making millions immediately out of college--rich at the expense of other players.
Those against paying college athletes also believe that the athletes are receiving enough benefits already. The top athletes already receive scholarships that are worth tens of thousands per year, they receive free food/housing/textbooks, have access to top medical care if they are injured, receive top coaching, get travel perks and free gear, and can use their time in college as a way to capture the attention of professional recruiters. No other college students receive anywhere near as much from their schools.
People on this side also point out that, while the NCAA brings in a massive amount of money each year, it is still a non-profit organization. How? Because over 95% of those profits are redistributed to its members’ institutions in the form of scholarships, grants, conferences, support for Division II and Division III teams, and educational programs. Taking away a significant part of that revenue would hurt smaller programs that rely on that money to keep running.
While both sides have good points, it’s clear that the negatives of paying college athletes far outweigh the positives. College athletes spend a significant amount of time and energy playing for their school, but they are compensated for it by the scholarships and perks they receive. Adding a salary to that would result in a college athletic system where only a small handful of athletes (those likely to become millionaires in the professional leagues) are paid by a handful of schools who enter bidding wars to recruit them, while the majority of student athletics and college athletic programs suffer or even shut down for lack of money. Continuing to offer the current level of benefits to student athletes makes it possible for as many people to benefit from and enjoy college sports as possible.
This argumentative essay follows the Rogerian model. It discusses each side, first laying out multiple reasons people believe student athletes should be paid, then discussing reasons why the athletes shouldn’t be paid. It ends by stating that college athletes shouldn’t be paid by arguing that paying them would destroy college athletics programs and cause them to have many of the issues professional sports leagues have.
- Both sides of the argument are well developed, with multiple reasons why people agree with each side. It allows readers to get a full view of the argument and its nuances.
- Certain statements on both sides are directly rebuffed in order to show where the strengths and weaknesses of each side lie and give a more complete and sophisticated look at the argument.
- Using the Rogerian model can be tricky because oftentimes you don’t explicitly state your argument until the end of the paper. Here, the thesis doesn’t appear until the first sentence of the final paragraph. That doesn’t give readers a lot of time to be convinced that your argument is the right one, compared to a paper where the thesis is stated in the beginning and then supported throughout the paper. This paper could be strengthened if the final paragraph was expanded to more fully explain why the author supports the view, or if the paper had made it clearer that paying athletes was the weaker argument throughout.
3 Tips for Writing a Good Argumentative Essay
Now that you’ve seen examples of what good argumentative essay samples look like, follow these three tips when crafting your own essay.
#1: Make Your Thesis Crystal Clear
The thesis is the key to your argumentative essay; if it isn’t clear or readers can’t find it easily, your entire essay will be weak as a result. Always make sure that your thesis statement is easy to find. The typical spot for it is the final sentence of the introduction paragraph, but if it doesn’t fit in that spot for your essay, try to at least put it as the first or last sentence of a different paragraph so it stands out more.
Also make sure that your thesis makes clear what side of the argument you’re on. After you’ve written it, it’s a great idea to show your thesis to a couple different people--classmates are great for this. Just by reading your thesis they should be able to understand what point you’ll be trying to make with the rest of your essay.
#2: Show Why the Other Side Is Weak
When writing your essay, you may be tempted to ignore the other side of the argument and just focus on your side, but don’t do this. The best argumentative essays really tear apart the other side to show why readers shouldn’t believe it. Before you begin writing your essay, research what the other side believes, and what their strongest points are. Then, in your essay, be sure to mention each of these and use evidence to explain why they’re incorrect/weak arguments. That’ll make your essay much more effective than if you only focused on your side of the argument.
#3: Use Evidence to Support Your Side
Remember, an essay can’t be an argumentative essay if it doesn’t support its argument with evidence. For every point you make, make sure you have facts to back it up. Some examples are previous studies done on the topic, surveys of large groups of people, data points, etc. There should be lots of numbers in your argumentative essay that support your side of the argument. This will make your essay much stronger compared to only relying on your own opinions to support your argument.
Summary: Argumentative Essay Sample
Argumentative essays are persuasive essays that use facts and evidence to support their side of the argument. Most argumentative essays follow either the Toulmin model or the Rogerian model. By reading good argumentative essay examples, you can learn how to develop your essay and provide enough support to make readers agree with your opinion. When writing your essay, remember to always make your thesis clear, show where the other side is weak, and back up your opinion with data and evidence.
Do you need to write an argumentative essay as well? Check out our guide on the best argumentative essay topics for ideas!
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.
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Suggestions for Developing Argumentative Essays
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1. Select an arguable topic, preferably one which interests, puzzles, or appeals to you.
Make sure your topic is neither too broad--something which warrants a dissertation--nor too limited. Decide what your goals are for the paper. What is your purpose? What opinion, view, or idea do you want to prove? Try to articulate your purpose clearly before you begin writing. If you cannot state your purpose clearly, try to freewrite about your topic.
2. Take a position on your topic, and form a thesis statement.
Your thesis must be arguable; it must assert or deny something about your topic. To be arguable, a thesis must have some probability of being true. It should not, however, be generally accepted as true; it must be a statement with which people may disagree. Keep in mind that a thesis contains both an observation and an opinion:
A good way to test the strength of your thesis is to see if it yields a strong antithesis.
Common thesis pitfalls:
- A thesis expressed as a fragment.
- A thesis which is too broad.
- A thesis worded as a question. (Usually the answer to the question yields the thesis)
- A thesis which includes extraneous information.
- A thesis which begins with I think or in my opinion.
- A thesis which deals with a stale or trite issue.
- A thesis which contains words which lead to faulty generalizations (all, none, always, only, everyone, etc.)
Thesis writing tips:
- A thesis evolves as you work with your topic. Brainstorm, research, talk, and think about your topic before settling on a thesis. If you are having trouble formulating a thesis, begin freewriting about your topic. Your freewrite may suggest a workable thesis.
- During the writing process, consider your thesis a working thesis and be willing to modify and re-focus it as you draft and revise your paper.
- Copy your working thesis on an index card and keep it in front of you as you research and write. Having your thesis in plain view may help focus your writing.
3. Consider your audience.
Plan your paper with a specific audience in mind. Who are your readers? Are they a definable group--disinterested observers, opponents of your point of view, etc.? Perhaps you are writing to your classmates. Ask your professor or GSI who you should consider your target audience. If you are not certain of your audience, direct your argument to a general audience.
4. Present clear and convincing evidence.
Strong essays consist of reasons supported by evidence . Reasons can be thought of as the main points supporting your claim or thesis. Often they are the answers to the question, "Why do you make that claim?" An easy way to think of reasons is to see them as "because phrases." In order to validate your reasons and make your argument successful, support your reasons with ample evidence.
The St. Martin's Guide to Writing (Axelrod & Cooper, 2nd ed., New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988) lists the following forms of evidence:
- textual evidence
For most college papers, you will include evidence you have gathered from various sources and texts. Make sure you document your evidence properly. When using evidence, make sure you (1) introduce it properly, and (2) explain its significance. Do not assume that your evidence will speak for itself--that your readers will glean from your evidence that which you want them to glean. Explain the importance of each piece of evidence-- how it elucidates or supports your point, why it is significant. Build evidence into your text, and use it strategically to prove your points.
In addition to using evidence, thoughtful writers anticipate their readers' counterarguments Counterarguments include objections, alternatives, challenges, or questions to your argument. Imagine readers responding to your argument as it unfolds. How might they react? A savvy writer will anticipate and address counterarguments. A writer can address counterarguments by acknowledging , accommodating , and/or refuting them.
5. Draft your essay.
As is the case with any piece of writing, you should take your argumentative essay through multiple drafts. When writing and revising your drafts, make sure you:
- provide ample evidence , presented logically and fairly
- deal with the opposing point of view
- pay particular attention to the organization of your essay. Make sure its structure suits your topic and audience
- address and correct any fallacies of logic
- include proper transitions to allow your reader to follow your argument
6. Edit your draft.
After you have written a developed draft, take off your writer's hat and put on your reader's hat. Evaluate your essay carefully and critically. Exchange a draft of your essay with classmates to get their feedback. Carefully revise your draft based on your assessment of it and suggestions from your peers. For self-assessment and peer response to your draft, you may want to use a peer editing sheet. A peer editing sheet will guide you and your peers by asking specific questions about your text (i.e., What is the thesis of this essay? Is it arguable? Does the writer include ample evidence? Is the structure suitable for the topic and the audience?).
You may also want to avail yourself of the Writing Drop-In Tutoring or By-Appointment Tutoring at the Student Learning Center .
Luisa Giulianetti Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley ©1996 UC Regents
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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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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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.
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300 Questions and Images to Inspire Argument Writing
Recent Student Opinion and Picture Prompts, categorized by topic, to help students discover the issues that matter to them.
By The Learning Network
Update: This list is available as a PDF .
If you’ve taught argument writing with our resources in the past, you already know we ask a fresh question every day as part of our long-running Student Opinion series . Teenagers around the world are invited to visit and post their thoughts on topics including politics, medical ethics, fashion, sports and entertainment.
We’ve rounded up lists of these prompts in the past, but this year we’re doing something new: Below you can find a categorized collection of all our recent, relevant Student Opinion questions, but alongside them we’re also including related Picture Prompts. These short, image-based forums are accessible to learners of all ages, but still provide engaging jumping-off points to help students make and support claims.
For instance, let’s say your class is interested in meme culture. A Student Opinion question asks, “ Do Memes Make the Internet a Better Place? ” and invites students to read and weigh in on a New York Times article that examines the role of memes in how teenagers process world events. Over 700 students have already submitted their thoughts .
But if you scan the “Technology and Social Media” category below, you’ll see we also have a Picture Prompt that asks a more direct, concrete question: “ What are your favorite memes? ” For many, that may be a fun, comfortable place to start.
So give your students both “voice and choice” by inviting them to find the questions and format that speak to them. All the prompts below are still open for comment. We look forward to seeing which ones inspire the most passionate arguments, and we invite your class to submit the results to our Eighth Annual Editorial Contest .
Argumentative Prompt Topics
Technology & social media, coronavirus, college & career, mental & physical health, race & gender, parenting & childhood, ethics & morality, government & politics, other questions.
1. How Worried Should We Be About Screen Time During the Pandemic? 2. How Do You Feel About Cancel Culture? 3. Do Memes Make the Internet a Better Place? 4. Does Online Public Shaming Prevent Us From Being Able to Grow and Change? 5. How Young Is Too Young to Use Social Media? 6. Where Should We Draw the Line Between Community Health and Safety and Individual Liberty and Privacy? 7. Do You Think Online Conspiracy Theories Can Be Dangerous? 8. What Do You Think of the Decision by Tech Companies to Block President Trump? 9. Should the Adults in Your Life Be Worried by How Much You Use Your Phone? 10. Is Your Phone Love Hurting Your Relationships? 11. Do You Trust Facebook? 12. Do You Think Recreational Drones Are Safe? 13. Should Kids Be Social Media Influencers? 14. Does Grammar Still Matter in the Age of Twitter? 15. Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunken Driving? 16. How Do You Think Technology Affects Dating?
17. Online Video Games : Does more need to be done to make online gaming communities safer? 18. A Computer in Everything : Do “smart” devices worry you? 19. Snail Mail : Do you think handwritten cards and letters still have value in the digital age? 20. Cyberbullying : Should social media companies do more to prevent online harassment? 21. Phone Manners : Are there times when you think using your phone while you’re with other people is rude? 22. Alarm Clocks : Are there any “dumb” devices that you think are better than “smart” devices? 23. Phone Warnings : Should tech devices come with addiction advisories? 24. Phones in Church : Are there some places where phones just don’t belong? 25. Driverless Cars : What do you think about driverless cars? 26. Texting While Walking : Should looking at your phone while crossing the street be illegal? 27. Device Addiction? : As a society, are we too addicted to our devices? 28. ‘A Man Needs His Nuggs’ : What do you think of Carter Wilkerson’s quest, and its results? 29. Soothing Video Games : Can video games intended to calm the mind be fun? Worthwhile? 30. Our Lives on Social Media : How much do you think we can judge our collective happiness by what is posted on social media? 31. ‘Bracelet of Silence’ : Would you wear privacy armor? 32. Baby Yoda : What are your favorite memes? 33. Tesla’s ‘Cybertruck’ : What do you think of this “pickup of the future”? 34. The ‘Bird Box’ Challenge : What do you think of social media challenges like this one?
35. Should Media Literacy Be a Required Course in School? 36. Should Schools Be Able to Discipline Students for What They Say on Social Media? 37. How Should Schools Hold Students Accountable for Hurting Others? 38. Should Schools Provide Free Pads and Tampons? 39. Can Empathy Be Taught? Should Schools Try to Help Us Feel One Another’s Pain? 40. When the Pandemic Ends, Will School Change Forever? 41. Should Schools Change How They Grade Students During the Pandemic? 42. Should Students Be Monitored When Taking Online Tests? 43. Should There Still Be Snow Days? 44. How Should Racial Slurs in Literature Be Handled in the Classroom? 45. Should Teachers Be Allowed to Wear Political Symbols? 46. Should Schools or Employers Be Allowed to Tell People How They Should Wear Their Hair? 47. Are Straight A’s Always a Good Thing? 48. Should Schools Teach You How to Be Happy? 49. How Do You Think American Education Could Be Improved? 50. Should Schools Test Their Students for Nicotine and Drug Use? 51. Can Social Media Be a Tool for Learning and Growth in Schools? 52. Should Facial Recognition Technology Be Used in Schools? 53. Should Your School Day Start Later? 54. Should Yearbooks Include Political News? 55. How Should Senior Year in High School Be Spent? 56. Should Teachers Be Armed With Guns? 57. Is School a Place for Self-Expression? 58. Should Students Be Punished for Not Having Lunch Money? 59. Is Live-Streaming Classrooms a Good Idea? 60. Should Gifted and Talented Education Be Eliminated? 61. What Are the Most Important Things Students Should Learn in School? 62. Should Schools Be Allowed to Censor Student Newspapers? 63. Do You Feel Your School and Teachers Welcome Both Conservative and Liberal Points of View? 64. Should Teachers and Professors Ban Student Use of Laptops in Class? 65. Should Schools Teach About Climate Change? 66. Should All Schools Offer Music Programs? 67. Does Your School Need More Money? 68. Should All Schools Teach Cursive? 69. What Role Should Textbooks Play in Education? 70. Do Kids Need Recess? 71. Should Public Preschool Be a Right for All Children?
72. Graduation in a Pandemic : Is your school doing enough to honor seniors? 73. Most Challenged Books : Are there books that don’t belong in schools or public libraries? 74. Mascot : If you could choose one mascot to represent your school, what would it be? 75. Math : How do you feel about math? 76. Sleep Deprivation : Do you think school should start later for teenagers? 77. Standardized Tests : Is there too much testing at your school? Why or why not? 78. Teacher Walkouts : Do you think teachers should be paid more? Why or why not? 79. Mermaid School : If there could be a special school that would teach you something you really want to learn, what would that school be?
Article-Based Prompts 80. What Weaknesses and Strengths About Our World Are Being Exposed by This Pandemic? 81. As Coronavirus Cases Surge, How Should Leaders Decide What Stays Open and What Closes? 82. How Should We Balance Safety and Urgency in Developing a Covid-19 Vaccine? 83. Do You Want Your Parents and Grandparents to Get the New Coronavirus Vaccine? 84. Do You Think People Have Gotten Too Relaxed About Covid? 85. How Do You Feel About Mask-Slipping?
86. Surge : How should the United States keep the coronavirus pandemic at bay? 87. Masks : What “civic rules” do you think we should all follow now? 88. Paid to Laugh : Would you attend a live TV show taping — if you got money for it? 89. Dolly’s Donation : How do you feel about celebrity philanthropy? 90. Crowds and Covid : How do you feel about crowds during the pandemic? 91. Going Nowhere Fast : Would you take a flight to nowhere?
92. Should Students Be Required to Take the SAT and ACT to Apply to College? 93. Should National Service Be Required for All Young Americans? 94. What Is Your Reaction to the College Admissions Cheating Scandal? 95. Is the College Admissions Process Fair? 96. Should Everyone Go to College? 97. Should College Be Free? 98. Are Lavish Amenities on College Campuses Useful or Frivolous? 99. Should ‘Despised Dissenters’ Be Allowed to Speak on College Campuses? 100. How Should the Problem of Sexual Assault on Campuses Be Addressed? 101. Should Fraternities Be Abolished? 102. Is Student Debt Worth It? 103. Do Other People Care Too Much About Your Post-High School Plans? 104. Should All Young People Learn How to Invest in the Stock Market?
105. Jack-of-All-Trades : Is it better to focus on one thing early in life and get really good at it?
106. Should Students Get Mental Health Days Off From School? 107. Is Struggle Essential to Happiness? 108. Does Every Country Need a ‘Loneliness Minister’? 109. Should Schools Teach Mindfulness? 110. Should All Children Be Vaccinated? 111. What Do You Think About Vegetarianism? 112. Do We Worry Too Much About Germs? 113. What Advice Should Parents and Counselors Give Teenagers About Sexting? 114. Are Emotional-Support Animals a Scam? 115. Do You Believe in Manifesting?
116. Optimism : Is your glass half-empty or half-full? 117. Cursing : Is it ever OK, useful or even healthy to curse? Or is it always inappropriate? 118. Anger Rooms : Do you think places like this are a good idea?
119. What Is Your Reaction to the Days of Protest That Followed the Death of George Floyd? 120. How Should Parents Teach Their Children About Race and Racism? 121. Is America ‘Backsliding’ on Race? 122. Should All Americans Receive Anti-Bias Education? 123. Should All Companies Require Anti-Bias Training for Employees? 124. Should Columbus Day Be Replaced With Indigenous Peoples Day? 125. Is Fear of ‘The Other’ Poisoning Public Life? 126. Justice Ginsburg Fought for Gender Equality. How Close Are We to Achieving That Goal? 127. What Should #MeToo Mean for Teenage Boys? 128. Should There Be More Boy Dolls? 129. Should the Boy Scouts Be Coed? 130. What Is Hard About Being a Boy?
131. Fashion-Show Diversity : What other industries or aspects of life need more diversity? 132. A Town’s New Seal : Why do you think Whitesboro, N.Y., decided to change its seal? 133. Gender Expectations : Do you ever find gender expectations or norms confining? 134. Women’s History Month : What does this holiday mean to you? 135. Boys and Men : What does it mean to “be a man”? 136. Women in Movies : Should some movies dominated by male actors be remade with largely female casts? 137. Unisex Clothing : Should clothing labeling be unisex? 138. Feminism : Do you consider yourself a feminist? 139. Gender and ‘Genderless’ : Do you think that gender is binary?
140. What Are the Greatest Songs of All Time? 141. Should Museums Return Looted Artifacts to Their Countries of Origin? 142. How Do You Feel About Censored Music? 143. What Role Should Celebrities Have During the Coronavirus Crisis? 144. Can You Separate Art From the Artist? 145. Are There Subjects That Should Be Off-Limits to Artists, or to Certain Artists in Particular? 146. Should Art Come With Trigger Warnings? 147. Should Graffiti Be Protected? 148. Is the Digital Era Improving or Ruining the Experience of Art? 149. Are Museums Still Important in the Digital Age? 150. In the Age of Digital Streaming, Are Movie Theaters Still Relevant? 151. Is Hollywood Becoming More Diverse? 152. What Stereotypical Characters Make You Cringe? 153. Do We Need More Female Superheroes? 154. Do Video Games Deserve the Bad Rap They Often Get? 155. Should Musicians Be Allowed to Copy or Borrow From Other Artists? 156. Is Listening to a Book Just as Good as Reading It? 157. Is There Any Benefit to Reading Books You Hate?
158. Hologram Musicians : Which departed artists would you like to see perform live? 159. Movie Theaters : In the age of digital streaming, are movie theaters still relevant? 160. ‘The Image of the Revolution’ : What is it about this photograph that makes it so powerful? 161. Book Covers : What are your favorite book covers? Why? 162. Fashion Trends : What are your favorite fashion trends? What trends do you hate? 163. Fashion Comebacks : What trends from the past would you like to see revived? 164. Murals : Can art be an act of resistance? 165. An 18-Karat Throne : Is this art? 166. A Hug Seen Around the World : Why do you think this image became so popular so quickly? 167. The Role of Public Broadcasting : Do you think programs like “Sesame Street” make the U.S. smarter, stronger and safer? 168. Best Books? : What have you read and loved this year?
169. Should Girls and Boys Sports Teams Compete in the Same League? 170. Should College Athletes Be Paid? 171. Are Youth Sports Too Competitive? 172. Is It Selfish to Pursue Risky Sports Like Extreme Mountain Climbing? 173. How Should We Punish Sports Cheaters? 174. Should Technology in Sports Be Limited? 175. Should Blowouts Be Allowed in Youth Sports? 176. Are Some Youth Sports Too Intense? 177. Does Better Sports Equipment Unfairly Improve Athletic Ability? 178. Is It Offensive for Sports Teams and Their Fans to Use Native American Names, Imagery and Gestures?
179. Brady’s Big Move : How do you feel about Tom Brady leaving the Patriots? 180. Tiger Woods Wins : What are the greatest comebacks in history? 181. Referees : Do sports officials deserve more respect? 182. $430 Million Deal : Is any athlete worth that amount of money? 183. Super Bowl Commercials : Was it smart for advertisers to steer clear of controversy in 2019? 184. Champions : What team in any sport would you like to see win a championship? 185. The Outspoken N.B.A. : Should all sports leagues treat political speech as a right for their players? 186. Gymnastics on Horseback : What is the world’s most difficult sport? 187. Tackle Football : Should children under the age of 12 play tackle football, in your opinion? 188. Breakdancing : Should dance be an Olympic event? 189. Coed Sports : Do you think women and men should compete against each other in sports? 190. Super Bowl Halftime Performer : Whom would you choose to perform at the Super Bowl, and why? 191. Colin Kaepernick’s Protest : What do you think of this protest?
192. Should Parents Track Their Children? 193. Who Should Decide Whether a Teenager Can Get a Tattoo or Piercing? 194. Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past? 195. Is Childhood Today Over-Supervised? 196. How Should Parents Talk to Their Children About Drugs? 197. What Should We Call Your Generation? 198. Do Parents Ever Cross a Line by Helping Too Much With Schoolwork? 199. What’s the Best Way to Discipline Children? 200. What Are Your Thoughts on ‘Snowplow Parents’? 201. Should Stay-at-Home Parents Be Paid? 202. When Do You Become an Adult?
203. Household Chores : Do you think children should help out around the house? 204. Spy Cams : Should parents use smart devices to keep tabs on their children when they’re home alone? 205. Adults With Rainbow Hair : Are there some trends adults just should not try? 206. Parenting Skills : Should parents say “no” more often when their children ask for new things?
207. Should Students Be Monitored When Taking Online Tests? 208. What Makes a Great Leader? 209. Is It OK to Laugh During Dark Times? 210. Is It Immoral to Increase the Price of Goods During a Crisis? 211. Would You Allow an Ex-Prisoner to Live With You? 212. Would You Return a Lost Wallet? (What if It Had Lots of Money in It?) 213. Is It Wrong to Focus on Animal Welfare When Humans Are Suffering? 214. Is Animal Testing Ever Justified? 215. Should We Be Concerned With Where We Get Our Pets? 216. Is This Exhibit Animal Cruelty or Art? 217. Should Extinct Animals Be Resurrected? If So, Which Ones? 218. Why Do Bystanders Sometimes Fail to Help When They See Someone in Danger? 219. Is It Ethical to Create Genetically Edited Humans? 220. Should Reporters Ever Help the People They Are Covering? 221. Is It OK to Use Family Connections to Get a Job? 222. Is $1 Billion Too Much Money for Any One Person to Have? 223. Are We Being Bad Citizens If We Don’t Keep Up With the News? 224. Should Prisons Offer Incarcerated People Education Opportunities? 225. Should Law Enforcement Be Able to Use DNA Data From Genealogy Websites for Criminal Investigations? 226. Should We Treat Robots Like People?
227. World’s Big Sleep Out : What lengths would you go to in support of a worthy cause? 228. Tipping : Do you leave a tip whenever you’re asked to? 229. Cash Reward : Should you accept a cash reward for doing the right thing? 230. Cheating : Would you tell if you caught your classmates cheating? 231. Do Not Resuscitate : Should doctors have tried to revive this man? 232. Hitler and History : Should the bunker where Hitler killed himself be a tourist attraction? 233. Solving Global Problems : As the head of a global foundation, what problem would you solve?
234. Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished? 235. If You Were a Member of Congress, Would You Vote to Impeach President Trump? 236. Who Do You Think Should Be Person of the Year for 2020? 237. Should the United States Decriminalize the Possession of Drugs? 238. What Would You Do First if You Were the New President? 239. Does Everyone Have a Responsibility to Vote? 240. How Should We Remember the Problematic Actions of the Nation’s Founders? 241. Do You Care Who Sits on the Supreme Court? Should We Care? 242. Is the Electoral College a Problem? Does It Need to Be Fixed? 243. Are Presidential Debates Helpful to Voters? Or Should They Be Scrapped? 244. Is Your Generation Doing Its Part to Strengthen Our Democracy? 245. Should We All Be Able to Vote by Mail? 246. What Issues in the 2020 Presidential Race Are Most Important to You? 247. Do You Think the American Dream Is Real? 248. Should Plastic Bags Be Banned Everywhere? 249. Does the United States Owe Reparations to the Descendants of Enslaved People? 250. Do You Think It Is Important for Teenagers to Participate in Political Activism? 251. Should the Voting Age Be Lowered to 16? 252. What Should Lawmakers Do About Guns and Gun Violence? 253. Should Confederate Statues Be Removed or Remain in Place? 254. Does the U.S. Constitution Need an Equal Rights Amendment? 255. Should National Monuments Be Protected by the Government? 256. Should Free Speech Protections Include Self Expression That Discriminates? 257. How Important Is Freedom of the Press? 258. Should Ex-Felons Have the Right to Vote? 259. Should Marijuana Be Legal? 260. Should the United States Abolish Daylight Saving Time? 261. Should the U.S. Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Weapons? 262. Should the U.S. Get Rid of the Electoral College? 263. What Do You Think of President Trump’s Use of Twitter? 264. Should Celebrities Weigh In on Politics? 265. Why Is It Important for People With Different Political Beliefs to Talk to Each Other? 266. Should Athletes Speak Out On Social and Political Issues?
267. Government Buildings : Should they all look like the Lincoln Memorial? 268. Oprah for President : Would you vote for her if you could? 269. Peaceful Protesting : In what ways can you demonstrate peacefully to express your views? 270. Student Climate Strikes : What issues do you think deserve more attention? 271. Pennies : Should the United States get rid of the penny? 272. Mandatory Voting? : Should citizens who are 18 or older be required to vote? 273. Dabbing in Congress : Should this teenager have dabbed in his father’s official swearing-in photo? 274. Baby Bonds : Should the government give money to babies?
275. We Document Life’s Milestones. How Should We Document Death? 276. Does Reality TV Deserve Its Bad Rap? 277. Do Marriage Proposals Still Have a Place in Today’s Society? 278. Should We Rethink Thanksgiving? 279. How Do You Decide What News to Believe, What to Question and What to Dismiss? 280. Should the Week Be Four Days Instead of Five? 281. Should Public Transit Be Free? 282. How Important Is Knowing a Foreign Language? 283. Is There a ‘Right Way’ to Be a Tourist? 284. Should Your Significant Other Be Your Best Friend? 285. What Do You Think of the #WalkUpNotOut Movement?
286. Teenage Drivers : What do you think of Georgia’s decision to issue driver’s licenses without road tests? 287. Snow Days : How do you feel about winter weather? 288. Fortune Tellers : Do you believe in psychics? 289. Big City, Small Town : Which would you rather live in? Why? 290. Game Show Winner : Would you ever want to be a contestant on a game show? 291. Fast-Food Buffet : Is this the feast of your dreams or your nightmares? 292. Public Libraries : Are libraries still relevant and important today? 293. Trans Fats : Should trans fats be banned around the world? 294. Dolls : If you could have your favorite toy company make a doll of someone, who would it be and why? 295. Creepy Clowns : How do you feel about clowns? 296. Tattoos : How do you feel about tattooing in general? 297. Brushing Beagle : What are the best dog breeds, in your opinion? 298. U.F.O.s : Do you believe that U.F.O.s are signs of alien life? 299. Small Talk : Do you have the gift of gab? 300. Lottery Winnings : Would you want to win the lottery? Why or why not?
- 9 Ways to Construct a Compelling Argument
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But especially in the circumstances that we’re deeply convinced of the rightness of our points, putting them across in a compelling way that will change other people’s mind is a challenge. If you feel that your opinion is obviously right, it’s hard work even to understand why other people might disagree. Some people reach this point and don’t bother to try, instead concluding that those who disagree with them must be stupid, misled or just plain immoral. And it’s almost impossible to construct an argument that will persuade someone if you’re starting from the perspective that they’re either dim or evil. In the opposite set of circumstances – when you only weakly believe your perspective to be right – it can also be tricky to construct a good argument. In the absence of conviction, arguments tend to lack coherence or force. In this article, we take a look at how you can put together an argument, whether for an essay, debate speech or social media post, that is forceful, cogent and – if you’re lucky – might just change someone’s mind.
1. Keep it simple
Almost all good essays focus on a single powerful idea, drawing in every point made back to that same idea so that even someone skim-reading will soon pick up the author’s thesis. But when you care passionately about something, it’s easy to let this go. If you can see twenty different reasons why you’re right, it’s tempting to put all of them into your argument, because it feels as if the sheer weight of twenty reasons will be much more persuasive than just focusing on one or two; after all, someone may be able rebut a couple of reasons, but can they rebut all twenty? Yet from the outside, an argument with endless different reasons is much less persuasive than one with focus and precision on a small number of reasons. The debate in the UK about whether or not to stay in the EU was a great example of this. The Remain campaign had dozens of different reasons. Car manufacturing! Overfishing! Cleaner beaches! Key workers for the NHS! Medical research links! Economic opportunities! The difficulty of overcoming trade barriers! The Northern Irish border! Meanwhile, the Leave campaign boiled their argument down to just one: membership of the EU means relinquishing control. Leaving it means taking back control. And despite most expectations and the advice of most experts, the simple, straightforward message won. Voters struggled to remember the many different messages put out by the Remain campaign, as compelling as each of those reasons might have been; but they remembered the message about taking back control.
2. Be fair on your opponent
One of the most commonly used rhetorical fallacies is the Strawman Fallacy. This involves constructing a version of your opponent’s argument that is much weaker than the arguments they might use themselves, in order than you can defeat it more easily. For instance, in the area of crime and punishment, you might be arguing in favour of harsher prison sentences, while your opponent argues in favour of early release where possible. A Strawman would be to say that your opponent is weak on crime, wanting violent criminals to be let out on to the streets without adequate punishment or deterrence, to commit the same crimes again. In reality, your opponent’s idea might exclude violent criminals, and focus on community-based restorative justice that could lead to lower rates of recidivism. To anyone who knows the topic well, if your argument includes a Strawman, then you will immediately have lost credibility by demonstrating that either you don’t really understand the opposing point of view, or that you simply don’t care about rebutting it properly. Neither is persuasive. Instead, you should be fair to your opponent and represent their argument honestly, and your readers will take you seriously as a result
3. Avoid other common fallacies
It’s worth taking the time to read about logical fallacies and making sure that you’re not making them, as argument that rest of fallacious foundations can be more easily demolished. (This may not apply on social media, but it does in formal debating and in writing essays). Some fallacies are straightforward to understand, such as the appeal to popularity (roughly “everyone agrees with me, so I must be right!”), but others are a little trickier. Take “begging the question”, which is often misunderstood. It gets used to mean “raises the question” (e.g. “this politician has defended terrorists, which raises the question – can we trust her?”), but the fallacy it refers to is a bit more complicated. It’s when an argument rests on the assumption that its conclusions are true. For example, someone might argue that fizzy drinks shouldn’t be banned in schools, on the grounds that they’re not bad for students’ health. How can we know that they’re not bad for students’ health? Why, if they were, they would be banned in schools! When put in a condensed form like this example, the flaw in this approach is obvious, but you can imagine how you might fall for it over the course of a whole essay – for instance, paragraphs arguing that teachers would have objected to hyperactive students, parents would have complained, and we can see that none of this has happened because they haven’t yet been banned. With more verbosity, a bad argument can be hidden, so check that you’re not falling prey to it in your own writing.
4. Make your assumptions clear
Every argument rests on assumptions. Some of these assumptions are so obvious that you’re not going to be aware that you’re making them – for instance, you might make an argument about different economic systems that rests on the assumption that reducing global poverty is a good thing. While very few people would disagree with you on that, in general, if your assumption can be proven false, then the entire basis of your argument is undermined. A more controversial example might be an argument that rests on the assumption that everyone can trust the police force – for instance, if you’re arguing for tougher enforcement of minor offences in order to prevent them from mounting into major ones. But in countries where the police are frequently bribed, or where policing has obvious biases, such enforcement could be counterproductive. If you’re aware of such assumptions underpinning your argument, tackle them head on by making them clear and explaining why they are valid; so you could argue that your law enforcement proposal is valid in the particular circumstances that you’re suggesting because the police force there can be relied on, even if it wouldn’t work everywhere.
5. Rest your argument on solid foundations
If you think that you’re right in your argument, you should also be able to assemble a good amount of evidence that you’re right. That means putting the effort in and finding something that genuinely backs up what you’re saying; don’t fall back on dubious statistics or fake news . Doing the research to ensure that your evidence is solid can be time-consuming, but it’s worthwhile, as then you’ve removed another basis on which your argument could be challenged. What happens if you can’t find any evidence for your argument? The first thing to consider is whether you might be wrong! If you find lots of evidence against your position, and minimal evidence for it, it would be logical to change your mind. But if you’re struggling to find evidence either way, it may simply be that the area is under-researched. Prove what you can, including your assumptions, and work from there.
6. Use evidence your readers will believe
So far we’ve focused on how to construct an argument that is solid and hard to challenge; from this point onward, we focus on what it takes to make an argument persuasive. One thing you can do is to choose your evidence with your audience in mind. For instance, if you’re writing about current affairs, a left-wing audience will find an article from the Guardian to be more persuasive (as they’re more likely to trust its reporting), while a right-wing audience might be more swayed by the Telegraph. This principle doesn’t just hold in terms of politics. It can also be useful in terms of sides in an academic debate, for instance. You can similarly bear in mind the demographics of your likely audience – it may be that an older audience is more skeptical of footnotes that consist solely of web addresses. And it isn’t just about statistics and references. The focus of your evidence as a whole can take your probable audience into account; for example, if you were arguing that a particular drug should be banned on health grounds and your main audience was teenagers, you might want to focus more on the immediate health risks, rather than ones that might only appear years or decades later.
7. Avoid platitudes and generalisations, and be specific
A platitude is a phrase used to the point of meaninglessness – and it may not have had that much meaning to begin with. If you find yourself writing something like “because family life is all-important” to support one of your claims, you’ve slipped into using platitudes. Platitudes are likely to annoy your readers without helping to persuade them. Because they’re meaningless and uncontroversial statements, using them doesn’t tell your reader anything new. If you say that working hours need to be restricted because family ought to come first, you haven’t really given your reader any new information. Instead, bring the importance of family to life for your reader, and then explain just how long hours are interrupting it. Similarly, being specific can demonstrate the grasp you have on your subject, and can bring it to life for your reader. Imagine that you were arguing in favour of nationalising the railways, and one of your points was that the service now was of low quality. Saying “many commuter trains are frequently delayed” is much less impactful than if you have the full facts to hand, e.g. “in Letchworth Garden City, one key commuter hub, half of all peak-time trains to London were delayed by ten minutes or more.”
8. Understand the opposing point of view
As we noted in the introduction, you can’t construct a compelling argument unless you understand why someone might think you were wrong, and you can come up with reasons other than them being mistaken or stupid. After all, we almost all target them same end goals, whether that’s wanting to increase our understanding of the world in academia, or increase people’s opportunities to flourish and seek happiness in politics. Yet we come to divergent conclusions. In his book The Righteous Mind , Jonathan Haidt explores the different perspectives of people who are politically right or left-wing. He summarises the different ideals people might value, namely justice, equality, authority, sanctity and loyalty, and concludes that while most people see that these things have some value, different political persuasions value them to different degrees. For instance, someone who opposes equal marriage might argue that they don’t oppose equality – but they do feel that on balance, sanctity is more important. An argument that focuses solely on equality won’t sway them, but an argument that addresses sanctity might.
9. Make it easy for your opponent to change their mind
It’s tricky to think of the last time you changed your mind about something really important. Perhaps to preserve our pride, we frequently forget that we ever believed something different. This survey of British voters’ attitudes to the Iraq war demonstrates the point beautifully. 54% of people supporting invading Iraq in 2003; but twelve years on, with the war a demonstrable failure, only 37% were still willing to admit that they had supported it at the time. The effect in the USA was even more dramatic. It would be tempting for anyone who genuinely did oppose the war at the time to be quite smug towards anyone who changed their mind, especially those who won’t admit it. But if changing your mind comes with additional consequences (e.g. the implication that you were daft ever to have believed something, even if you’ve since come to a different conclusion), then the incentive to do so is reduced. Your argument needs to avoid vilifying people who have only recently come around to your point of view; instead, to be truly persuasive, you should welcome them.
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