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10 Great Essay Writing Tips
Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.
Prepare to Answer the Question
Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.
Plan Your Essay
Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.
Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable
You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.
View It as a Conversation
Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.
Provide the Context in the Introduction
If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.
Explain What Needs to be Explained
Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.
Answer All the Questions
After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.
Stay Focused as You Write
Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.
Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread
When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.
Avoid Filling the Page with Words
A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.
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How to Write an Argumentative Essay Outline
An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that uses logical evidence and empirical data to convince readers of a particular position on a topic. Because of its reliance on structure and planning, the first step in writing one is often drafting a solid argumentative essay outline.
Of course, drafting an argumentative essay outline can be just as daunting as actually writing one. Choosing topics is one thing, but organizing your thesis , research, reasoning, and conclusion is a whole other endeavor—and that’s all before beginning the first draft!
So in this quick guide, we explain how to make an effective argumentative essay outline, covering all three major formats: Classical (Aristotelian), Rogerian, and Toulmin. We’ll also include argumentative essay outline examples and templates to help you understand what works.
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How is an argumentative essay structured?
An argumentative essay uses facts, data, and logical reasoning to substantiate a specific stance on any given topic. They are typically structured to “build an argument,” with a clear thesis statement , unambiguous conclusion, and as much evidential support as needed.
While all seven types of essays follow the same introduction-body-conclusion structure, argumentative essays tend to be more complex to fit all the necessary components of a convincing argument. For example, you may want to dissect opposing points of view to strengthen your own argument, but where would you put that section? Before your argument? After? Intermingled throughout the essay with each new piece of evidence?
There’s no one right way to structure an argumentative essay; it depends on your topic, opposing viewpoints, and the readers, among other things. In fact, to accommodate different types of argumentative essay styles, three methods have emerged as the go-to formats: Classical (Aristotelian), Rogerian, and Toulmin, explained below.
No matter the format or topic, a strong argumentative essay outline makes it easier to organize your thoughts and present your case in the best possible way. So before you get down to the actual essay writing , take a little time to prepare what you want to say in an outline.
How to create an argumentative essay outline
Knowing how to write an outline is just half the battle. Because an argumentative essay outline requires extra structure and organization, it often requires more extensive planning than the standard essay outline . After all, the goal is to present the best argument for your topic, so you need to make sure each section is in the optimal place.
As mentioned, there are three main options for how to structure an argumentative essay. Before we dive into the details, let’s look at an overview of each so you can decide which one best fits your essay.
When to use it: straightforward and direct arguments
The most forthright approach, the Classical or Aristotelian format is closest to traditional essay structures. It follows a simple layout: explain your argument, explain your opposition’s argument, and then present your evidence, all the while relying on credibility ( ethos ), emotion ( pathos ), and reasoning ( logos ) to influence the reader.
When to use it: both sides make valid arguments; your readers are sympathetic to the opposing position
The Rogerian format gives ample respect to opposing stances, making it a great “middle-ground” approach for representing both sides. This method is ideal if your thesis is a compromise between conflicting positions or an attempt to unify them.
Likewise, this format is best if you’re writing for readers who are already biased toward an opposing position, such as if you’re arguing against societal norms.
When to use it: complicated arguments with multiple facets; rebuttals and counterarguments
The Toulmin method is a deep analysis of a single argument. Given its methodical and detailed nature, it works best for breaking down a complicated thesis into digestible portions.
The Toulmin method is rather nitpicky in a very systematic way. That makes it an ideal format if your essay is a rebuttal or counterargument to another essay—you’re able to dissect and disprove your opposition point by point while offering a more reasonable alternative.
Classical argumentative essay outline template
Aristotle had a gift for explaining things clearly and logically, and the Aristotelian argumentative essay structure leans into that. Also known as Classical or Classic, the Aristotelian format is the most straightforward: the writer presents their argument first and then refutes the opposing argument.
Let’s look at the details in this argumentative essay outline example for the Classical or Aristotelian format.
A. Open with a hook, something to keep the reader interested enough to read until the conclusion (known as exordium ) B. Give any background information or context necessary to understand the topic (known as narratio ) C. Provide a thesis statement explaining your stance and why you feel that way (known as proposito and partitio )
II. First reason
A. Start with the least controversial reason to support your argument, explaining your point clearly as an overview 1. First evidential support of your reason (known as confirmatio )
2. Second evidential support of your reason, then third, and so on
B. Summarize your first reason again and tie it together with evidential support
III. Second reason, etc.
A. Continue to list your reasons in the same format as the first. List your reasons from least to most controversial
IV. First opposing point of view
A. Explain the reasoning of the opposing side. Point out their defenses and evidence—what would they say if they were writing the essay? 1. Point out weaknesses and inconsistencies in their argument
2. Refute their points with evidential support (known as refutatio )
3. Reinforce your position as the more reasonable position
V. Second opposing point of view, etc.
A. Continue to present and refute opposing points of view in the same format as the first
A. Reiterate your position and thesis statement, drawing on your strongest evidential support and rebuttals of opposing points (known as peroratio ) B. Wrap everything up with a thought-provoking ending or call to action (a suggestion you want the reader to take)
Rogerian argumentative essay outline template
Of all formats, Rogerian gives the most attention to opposing arguments. Its goal is to create a middle ground between two arguments, pointing out the validity of each and finding a way to unify them as one. If positions on a particular topic are too polarized or unable to coexist, this format won’t work.
Let’s take a closer look at the Rogerian argumentative essay outline example below and notice the concessions for opposing points of view.
A. State the problem that needs to be solved and any context necessary for understanding it B. Explain the ideal solutions from your position as well as the ideal solutions from opposing positions (and point out any overlap) C. Make your thesis statement
II. Summarize the opposing position
A. Summarize the opposition’s point of view respectfully; consider their defense and reasoning 1. Present evidential support for the opposing position
2. Comment on or refute their support
B. Follow the same format for additional opposing points of view
III. Validate the opposing position
A. Show that you understand and/or sympathize with the opposing position 1. Explain the context and reasoning behind your opposition’s perspective
2. Elaborate on the evidence and data from opposing positions
B. Affirm the areas in which you agree with the opposition
IV. Present your position
A. Summarize your first reason for holding your position 1. Present your first piece of evidential support
2. Present your second piece of evidential support, and so on
B. Summarize your second reason for holding your position, and so on
V. Bring both sides together (compromise)
A. Consider which aspects from each argument are most reasonable B. Propose a compromise that combines the best elements from each position
A. Reaffirm your respect for the opposing point of view B. Reiterate the areas in which the opposition can benefit from your argument and vice versa C. Summarize the earlier compromise and, if possible, end on a positive note
Toulmin argumentative essay outline template
Stephen Toulmin’s original purpose was to analyze the nature of arguments, but the application of his teachings has evolved into an argumentative essay format, especially for challenging existing arguments. It focuses on the six elements that make up a good argument: claim (thesis), grounds (data and reasons), warrants, backings, qualifiers, and rebuttals.
The argumentative essay outline example below shows the recommended order in which to put these elements:
A. Open with a hook, if you can, to garner interest B. Explain the topic and its necessary context C. Make your thesis statement
II. Present the grounds (hard evidence) to validate your thesis
A. Present your first evidential support of data or logical reasons B. Present your second evidential support of data or logical reasons, and so on
III. Explain your first warrant (justification for your thesis)
A. Explain how the warrant relates back to your thesis B. Provide backing to support your warrant (could be more evidence or data or just logical reasoning) C. List any qualifiers that undermine or limit your warrant—the idea is to acknowledge any weaknesses in your own argument
IV. Explain your second warrant, and so on
A. Continue to explain your individual warrants as above
V. Discuss opposition
A. Explain the first opposing point of view 1. Discuss the opposition fairly and transparently
2. Explain your rebuttal to defend your thesis
B. Explain the second opposing point of view, and so on
A. Connect all your warrants and data together B. Reiterate the opposing position and your rebuttals C. Draw a conclusion to make your final claim and reaffirm your thesis
Argumentative essay FAQs
What is an argumentative essay?
An argumentative essay is a short, nonfiction piece of writing that uses logical evidence and empirical data to convince the reader of a certain point of view.
Argumentative essays typically include an explanation of the writer’s position (thesis), evidence supporting that thesis, opposing points of view, and rebuttals against that opposition. The order in which these sections are presented, however, depends on the format.
What are some common ways to organize an argumentative essay outline?
The most straightforward approach to an argumentative essay outline is to first present your position, including the evidence and reasoning to back it up, and then address the opposing points of view. However, the more complex the topic, the more layers must be added to the outline.
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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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- 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 December 6, 2021.
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, 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.
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 .
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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.
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.
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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- Argument from Authority
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- Basic Rhetorical Modes
- Begging the Question
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- Cause and Effect Rhetorical Mode
- Central Idea
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- Compound Complex Sentences
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- Main Idea and Supporting Detail
- Statistical Evidence
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- Object Subject Verb
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- Author Authority
- Direct Quote
- First Paragraph
- Historical Context
- Intended Audience
- Primary Source
- Second Paragraph
- Secondary Source
- Source Material
- Third Paragraph
- Character Analysis
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American author Rita Mae Brown wrote a brochure called "Language Exerts Hidden Power, Like a Moon on the Tides" (2014). One interpretation of the title could be that language choices affect persuasiveness and credibility when communicating.
Similarly, effective argumentative essays use specific linguistic methods to defend a position on an issue.
Argumentative Essay Definition
What works better when trying to convince someone of something — using demands or reason? An argumentative essay relies on evidence and logic to prove that a viewpoint is valid or invalid or to convince an audience to take action. Statistics aren't always available to support beliefs (and that's where logic is helpful). Still, they need to be corroborated to be viewed as credible.
Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence
The two types of evidence used to support a thesis (claim) in an argumentative essay are qualitative and quantitative:
- Qualitative evidence is data that describes a group or theme. It answers "why" or "how" questions. Examples of qualitative data include photographs, diary entries, audio/video recordings, documents (ex: public records, calendars, articles), and case studies.
- Quantitative evidence counts or measures the amount of something. It asks "how many," "how often," or "how much." Some examples of quantitative evidence are height, temperature, amounts of time, distance, and length.
It is natural to be confident about opinions. While researching topics, be aware of bias. Don't "cherry-pick" evidence to make an opinion look more substantial than it is, or it will be quickly discredited by someone knowledgeable on the subject.
Types of Logic and Common Logical Fallacies
When taking an exam and required to write an argumentative essay, there may not be any sources available to defend a position. Using logic to formulate an argument helps guarantee it will be understandable and reliable.
Logic uses pathways to determine "good" and "bad" reasoning by examining parts of a declarative sentence to decide whether it's true or false. A logical argument is consistent (doesn't contradict itself), sound (supports its conclusion by using valid points), and complete (provable within itself).
A declarative is a sentence that makes a statement about something.
Rhetorical fallacies (also called logical fallacies) are reasoning mistakes people often make. Watch out for these logical fallacies:
- Straw-man Argument : Twists an argument into an overly simplified version of itself. An example of a straw man fallacy is saying evolution isn't real because humans evolved from monkeys, and monkeys still exist.
- Bandwagon Fallacy: Connects validity with popularity. Just because three out of four people prefer a particular soap brand doesn't mean it cleans the best.
- Faulty Causality Fallacy: Implies that because two things share a connection, one caused the other to happen. False logic would conclude that because someone wore a new shirt when they got into a car accident, the new shirt caused the accident.
- Argument From Authority Fallacy: This can happen when someone in a position of power makes claims about subjects outside their area of expertise. For example, if a veterinarian specializing in livestock wants to perform surgery on someone's pet boa constrictor, they should probably get a second opinion .
The terms "argumentative" and "persuasive" are often used interchangeably, but they are technically two different types of essays. Both argumentative and persuasive essays use evidence and logic to defend a position.
However, a persuasive essay also uses emotion to appeal to the audience. For example, if the topic were gun control, an argumentative essay would examine the issue and present facts to prove its claim. A persuasive essay would present facts and include how safe (or unsafe) guns make people feel.
Argumentative Essay Topics
Argumentative essays can be written about any polarized subject, meaning an issue that contains opposing ideas. Typical argumentative essay topic ideas fall into many categories, including current events, politics, history, and culture. Here are a few topic ideas:
- Should we look at old media through the eyes of the time or era it was created?
- Is it unethical to eat meat?
- Should the United States have used atomic bombs on Japan?
- Should parents limit screen time?
- Should the United States accept more refugees from the southern border?
Argumentative Essay Format
An effective argumentative essay is made up of five key components:
- A claim statement that can be proven or disproven. (What are the opinions that surround this issue?)
- Reasons that support the claim because they are supported by evidence. (What led someone to think this way?)
- Verifiable evidence that backs the position. (What proves the claim is valid?)
- Acknowledgement of the opposing viewpoint or counterclaim. (What does the opposite side think?)
- Rebuttals that explain how the counterclaim is incorrect. (How is their logic faulty?)
Qualifying the other side means parts of the opposing argument can't be dismissed entirely. In this case, list concessions that recognize their validity but focus on the areas they are incorrect. Words like "but" and "except" are commonly used in connection with concessions.
An argumentative essay will look like a typical essay and include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Follow the standard and begin the introduction with a hook, such as a shocking statistic or anecdote, to engage the reader.
The conclusion will usually reiterate the thesis, summarize the essay in response to the evidence provided, and possibly ask the audience to act on the issue's behalf. However, there are a couple of variations to experiment with.
When something is reiterated, it is repeated to emphasize it or make it more clear.
The Aristotelian Method is classic and straightforward. It uses a clear pathway of logic and reason to state its case. To use this form in an argumentative essay, the first thing to do is introduce the argument. Secondly, spell out its reasons. Next, explain and refute the opposing viewpoint, then provide proof. Finally, form a conclusion.
The Toulmin Method helps disprove an argument or discuss a complex issue. Start by stating the claim clearly and concisely. Next, use evidence to ground the reasons. After that, express the warrant, or assumption, that connects the claim to the reasons. Back the claim with a specific example.
The Rogerian Method is used when both sides have valid points, or the audience could support either side. Begin with an explanation of the issue. Next, discuss how the other side thinks, including their valid points. Then, assert the claim and proof. Summarize the argument by compromising to bring both sides together—end by offering an equalized conclusion.
While disproving the other side, avoid insults and a superior tone. All these will accomplish is making the argument look weak. In addition, avoid using absolutes such as "always" or "never" because they are rarely the case, so credibility will be lost.
Argumentative Essay Outline
A strong thesis statement is the cornerstone of an effective argumentative essay. If you want your position taken seriously, you need to provide a rational argument. One way to organize thoughts into a coherent claim is to brainstorm. Questions to ask include:
- How does this affect me and others?
- Why is this important?
- Are there any solutions to this issue?
- What will happen if nothing (or something) is done about this?
Similar to how a math problem can be checked by solving it in reverse, the validity of reasoning can be checked by anticipating how the other side will disagree. Arguments while alone in the shower — it's your time to shine! Go through reasons one by one and challenge them to answer "because" in a credible way.
Once everything is figured out, use the outline to play around with the argumentative essay structure. It's much less frustrating to spend some time on the organizational flow of an essay before writing than to realize halfway through constructing the essay that something should have been put in a different spot, and it saves time while proofreading, so win-win. Formulate the outline to look like this:
B. Introduce Topic and Relate it to the Hook
II. Body Paragraphs (number of paragraphs included and organized to suit your needs)
A. Summarize Main Points
B. Restate Thesis
C. Final Thought Based on Evidence Presented/Call to Action
Argumentative Essay Example
The included sample argumentative essay is an abbreviated example of an asserted claim formatted into the Aristotelian Method:
A new mid-range sofa costs between $1000 and $3000. 1 Most likely, a person protects their investment by applying a stain guard, but having a pet cat can pose its own threat. It's frustrating when a cat decides to start scratching on the furniture, and some people decide the best way to avoid it is to have their cats declawed. However, declawing cats is painful for them and can eventually lead to health and behavioral issues.
The reader knows what to expect from the article because the thesis claim clearly explains its stance.
While declawing cats used to seem like an easy solution for problem scratching behavior, veterinarians have become more outspoken about its negative aspects for the past decade or so. To declaw a cat, they remove a portion of the cat's bone, which is comparable to removing the tips of a person's fingers. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, it results in lasting nerve pain that can increase over time, cause infection, or interfere with their ability to walk .2 Rather than performing life-altering elective surgery on a pet, other options are available. Trimming the cat's nails and teaching it to use a scratching post will usually protect belongings from a cat's natural scratching behavior.
The body paragraph includes a claim , evidence , and reason.
A valid argument can be made that some cats are stubborn and refuse to use a scratching post . However, it's a pet owner's responsibility to take the time to try to figure out what is causing a cat to act out destructively. The cat could have an undiagnosed health issue, or it could just take a bit of extra work to persuade the cat to choose the scratching post over the arm of the expensive couch. A point to consider is the possibility that the declawed cat will not want to use its litterbox because scratching the litter causes discomfort, so the pet owner could be creating an even bigger behavioral problem down the road. 3
The body paragraph anticipates the opposing side's counterclaim . The author offers a rebuttal using evidence .
Indeed, a cat can't claw furniture if it doesn't have claws. However, there are multiple ways to steer a cat's inborn desire to scratch in a suitable direction. Making sure the cat has ways to keep itself occupied to prevent boredom and using a pheromonal diffuser to lower its stress level could deter the cat from scratching things it shouldn't. The alternative is to commit to caring for a cat with long-term nerve pain and potentially worse behavioral difficulties.
The conclusion offers solutions and restates the thesis claim as a consequence.
What words were used in the sample argumentative essay to avoid using certainties that could weaken the author's credibility? Are there any logical fallacies?
Argumentative Essay - Key takeaways
Unlike a persuasive essay that uses emotion to sway its audience, an argumentative essay uses logic and reason to state its case.
Evidence used to support your opinion in an argumentative essay can be grouped as qualitative or quantitative.
A logical argument is consistent and uses valid points.
Effective argumentative essays contain five key components: a claim, reasons, evidence, a counterclaim, and a rebuttal.
Ask yourself questions and challenge your beliefs to construct a compelling argument.
1 Benedetti, Ginevra. "How Much Should I Spend on a Sofa? Price Up the Perfect Sofa to Last You a Lifetime." H omesandgardens. 2021.
2 American Association of Feline Practitioners. "2017 Declawing Statement ." C atvets. 2017.
Frequently Asked Questions about Argumentative Essay
--> what is an argumentative essay.
An argumentative essay relies on evidence and logic to prove that a viewpoint is valid or invalid or to convince an audience to take action.
--> What are the five parts of an argumentative essay?
The five parts of an argumentative essay are its claim, reasons, evidence, counterclaim, and rebuttal.
--> What is an example of an argumentative essay?
An example of an argumentative essay is "The Pleasure Principle" by Phillip Larkin
--> What are some topic ideas for an argumentative essay?
An argumentative essay can be written about any polarized subject, such as:
- Should we look at old media through the eyes of when it was created?
--> How do you format an argumentative essay?
An argumentative essay can be structured into three formats:
Final Argumentative Essay Quiz
According to Aristotle, which of the following is NOT a way to present an argument
Which other type of argument would be most closely related to logos?
Which of the following is not a necessary component of a good argument?
There is only one possible answer or solution
How many steps are there in the basic structure of an argument?
How is the Rogerian method of argument different from the others?
The Rogerian method of argument does not try to convince the audience of their stance, and instead looks for common ground.
What is the foundation of the argument when writing an essay?
Of the following, which is not a recommended strategy for removing bias from an argument?
Only talk about unimportant things
What is required to find support for an argument?
Research on the subject
Which step to the basic argument structure is missing?
Which method of argument is best used to show the facts of an argument?
In a Toulmin-style argument, what is necessary to support the claim?
Grounds (or evidence)
Which component of an Artistotelian argument appeals to the emotions of the audience?
What is the definition of an argument?
An argument is a reason for either supporting or challenging a topic under discussion.
What is missing if an argument is based solely on someone's opinion?
What is the goal of the Rogerian method of argument?
To find common ground, or consensus on the subject
What is an emotional argument?
An emotional argument is a means by which an audience might be persuaded of a particular argument by appealing to commonly held emotions.
How could you avoid an emotional argument?
Avoid emotional arguments by focusing on evidence and concrete details of the argument.
Which is an example of a negative emotion?
Which of the following is most closely related to emotional arguments?
True or false, it is possible to use a combination of ethos, logos and pathos in one single argument.
Which of the following is NOT a cognitive faculty?
What does an emotional argument add to an argumentative essay?
It makes the topic feel more personal to the audience
Why might you want to avoid emotional arguments?
Avoid emotional appeals in instances where the audience might have extremely opposing views and/ or emotional exhaustion
What are the two things to do/ consider before crafting your emotional argument?
- Identify your intended audience
- Understand commonly held emotions on the topic
Which emotional appeal technique uses words and phrases that appeal to the five senses of your audience?
Vivid details and imagery
What should you do if you cannot identify an opportunity for an emotional argument in your essay?
Which prewriting exercise involves mapping out your argument, either with word trees or word association?
Which philosopher outlined the three methods of persuasion?
Finish the sentence: Emotional arguments are an effective tool for writing ________ essays.
Which of the following focuses most on the reader?
What is an Argumentative Essay?
An Argumentative essay relies on evidence and logic to prove that a viewpoint is valid or invalid or to convince an audience to take action.
How are an argumentative and persuasive essay different?
An argumentative and persuasive essay are different because, in addition to using logic and evidence, a persuasive essay uses emotion to sway its audience.
What are the five parts of an argumentative essay?
All of the above
True or False: You should always use words like "all" or "everyone" to show the audience you have a strong argument.
False: Using certainties in your argument is an opportunity for the other side to discredit your reasoning.
What should you do if the other side has valid points?
If there are valid points to the opposing view, acknowledge (qualify) them using concessions.
What are the three argumentative essay formats?
True or False: If most people agree with something, it's a valid argument.
False: Relying on popularity to prove validity is a logical fallacy known as the Bandwagon Fallacy.
True or False: You should allow evidence to disprove the other side rather than sarcasm or insults.
True: Using an unprofessional tone when disproving a different viewpoint damages your credibility.
What is it called when someone twists your argument into a simplified version of itself?
A Strawman Fallacy twists an argument into a simplified version of itself.
How does asking yourself questions and questioning your beliefs help?
Asking yourself questions and questioning your beliefs helps you write a compelling claim.
What is an ethical argument?
An argument based on ethics that evaluates whether an idea is morally right or wrong
What are ethics?
Moral principles that guide a person's behavior and beliefs
What are ethical principles?
Rules which govern behavior and decision-making
What are two types of ethical arguments?
Ethical arguments based on principles and ethical arguments based on consequences
Which of the following is NOT an ethical argument based on principles?
Physician-assisted suicide is right because it leads to the following positive consequences: individuals have more control over end-of-life decisions and physicians can provide care better aligned with the patient’s quality of life.
Which of the following is an argument based on principles?
Physician-assisted suicide is wrong because it violates Kant’s moral theory about human life.
Which of the following is NOT used to make ethical arguments from principles?
What is the correct reason an ethical argument based on consequences would be effective for a diverse audience?
An ethical argument based on consequences will not alienate audience members who have different moral beliefs.
An ethical argument based on principles would be most effective to which type of audience?
An ethical argument based on principles will be most effective to audience members who share similar moral beliefs.
Which of the following statements is NOT written as an ethical argument?
Public health officials should study the effects of gun control regulations to gain data on how these regulations impact public health.
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