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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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Elements of Argumentative Essay: The Complete Guide
by Antony W
October 24, 2022
It’s important to learn and understand the different elements of an argumentative essay to navigate the writing process for the project.
Understanding these elements will enable you to structure your essay well, so you can write the most significant details from start to finish.
A comprehensive argumentative essay must feature the following elements:
- Thesis statement: A thesis statement gives a summary of the main claim of the subject. Instead of being a fact or random opinion, the statement should be arguable in nature with a matter of probability.
- Audience: The audience is the people to whom you present your argument.
- Exigence: Exigence allows you to create an environment in which you make a claim and offer strong evidence to support your position.
- Support: Your premise should include reasons to support your claim.
- Reasoning: You have to use reasons to give answers to hypothetical challenges, which should act as a way to convince your audience that your claims are valid.
- Counterclaims and Rebuttals: You anticipate objections to your argument and must therefore recognize counterclaims and refute them with rebuttals.
If you’re struggling with incorporating these elements in your argument or you can’t get yourself to write the essay fast, hire an argumentative essay writer from Help for Assessment for writing assistance.
6 Elements of an Argumentative Essay Explained
Below is a detailed explanation of all the six elements of an argumentative essay:
1. Thesis Statement
A thesis in an argument highlights the main claim of a subject. It should be a sentence long, although some essays can have a maximum of two sentences.
In argumentative writing, a statement of declaration cannot be a fact or random opinion. Instead, it must be arguable in nature with a matter of probability. Moreover, the statement should bring out point clearly, even if the subject is on a complex or controversial issue.
The thesis statement should be clear, concise, and specific. Or your audience is likely to miss the primary objective of the essay.
Your argument’s thesis must touch on a major warrant before you begin working on the body paragraphs .
By touching on the main premise, you grab the attention of the opposing reader and demonstrate the reasonability of your argument.
The audience is your reader or a group of people you need to convince that your position on an issue is more viable.
You must use a tentative approach with a strong conviction to get your human readers or listeners to agree with you. In some cases, though, you may have to present your argument in a passionate way.
Whichever approach you use, ensure you detail your arguments so that you audience can pay attention to the message you wish to communicate.
Your audience is a mix of readers from different backgrounds and varying opinions. A part of your audience will agree with your position on an issue, some will debate your argument. Therefore, you must use significant evidence in a manner that moves the audience to agree with you.
Exigence is a rising circumstance that pushes for the need for a real argument. By creating a forum in time, exigence enables you to make claims to which you can provide sufficient evidence for support.
Although exigence is mostly only possible in real-time debates that happen in classrooms, your teacher may ask you to present it in the written form. In such a case, you may create your own exigence and use it throughout the writing.
Support is one of the elements of an argumentative essay that requires you to consider a few important questions.
- What is your premise?
- Is your evidence good enough to convince your readers or listeners of the reasonability of your side of the argument?
Your premise must have a “because” statement to support your claim. If you intend to make longer arguments, ensure you introduce sufficient supporting statement.
To support your claim and get your audience to agree with your position on an underlying issue:
- Provide as much data or evidence as possible provided they’re relevant to the subject.
- If possible, don’t hesitate to include some or rhetorical appeals, statistics, anecdotal support, and historical data.
Regardless of the information you provide, the premise should give your audience enough reasons to consider your argument’s thesis statement. In other words, the evidence you provide must be valid and logical enough to prove the validity of your claim.
Consider including a concession in your argumentative essay even as you provide credible evidence and reliable data to support your stance on an issue.
If you think about it, your opponent’s argument will have some truth in it, so it makes sense to concede with these. However, exercise caution so that you don’t agree with points that serve to weaken your argument.
Reasoning responds to the “but why?” question in an argument. Written to serve as a response to a hypothetical challenge, reasoning proves to your target reader that your claim is valid.
To be clear, reason tries to support a claim whether it’s part of the introduction or the body of the essay.
In the terms of structure , your argumentative essay must have a single thesis statement. However, the essay may have sub-claims proved by different reasons as long as they tie back to the thesis statement.
6. Counterclaims and Rebuttals
In argumentative essay writing, you must anticipate probable objections and other arguments that challenge the position you hold. These objections are what we refer to as counterclaims .
With this respect, some readers might find the whole or parts of your argument illogical. Interestingly, these objections can help you to analyze your ideas, making it possible for you to review the strength and credibility of the evidence you provide.
We hope this guide has helped you to understand the different elements of an argumentative essay as well as the reasons why they’re important in writing.
Ideally, these elements will enable you to structure your essay well, so you can present your arguments in a way that easily convinces your audience of the validity of your claims and position.
About the author
Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.