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10 Great Essay Writing Tips

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

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.

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting 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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Argumentative Essay

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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:

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:

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:

Argumentative Essay. Thumbs up thumbs down. StudySmarter.

Argumentative Essay Format

An effective argumentative essay is made up of five key components:

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. Man passionately arguing his case. StudySmarter.

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:

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:

I. Introduction

B. Introduce Topic and Relate it to the Hook

II. Body Paragraphs (number of paragraphs included and organized to suit your needs)

A. Claim/Counterclaim/Rebuttal

B. Evidence

C. Reason/Concession

III. Conclusion

A. Summarize Main Points

B. Restate Thesis

C. Final Thought Based on Evidence Presented/Call to Action

Argumentative Essay, Blackboard saying

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:

--> 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

Show answer

Show question

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?

Thesis statement

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?

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?

Prewriting exercises

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?

Evaluating consequences

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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English 102: Argument and Research with Professor Williamson

In a Nutshell...

The thesis statement, structure of the argumentative essay, counter arguments, distinguishing between reasons and conclusions, guides and info. on the argumentative essay.

The argumentative essay is a specific type of writing in which a student chooses a topic (often a controversial topic), researches it extensively, and then uses the evidence gathered in their research process to establish their opinion or position on the topic in an essay designed to persuade others to share that opinion. The argumentative essay is typically composed of:

1.  A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.  Your thesis should be specific, accurate, and arguable.  A thesis statement that is not debatable (or that cannot be seen from at least two different and opposing perspectives) would make for a pretty pointless arugmentative essay. 

2.  Information that places your topic within a social and factual context .  You should provide background information geared toward your specific audience so that they can clearly understand your arguments and the importance of the issue you're exploring.  

3.  Your arguments , organized into body paragraphs that include evidential support .  These are the resons you offer to support and explain the position you take in your thesis statement.  Be sure to include clear and logical transistions between these paragraphs.

4.  Your opponents' arguments, or counter arguments  and your response to them.   These are the objections that your opponents would raise against your arguments, and have to be addressed in order for your paper to be truly persuasive.  Responding to your opponents arguments and pointing out why they are invalid is as important as presenting your own!

5.  A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

The thesis statement of an argumentative essay acts as a brief, explicit guide for your reader.  It is a one or two sentence summary of the point that you're trying to make in your paper and acts as the focus around which you will organize your entire essay, so it's important to get that statement nailed early on.  

Remember that the best thesis statement:

Diagram Explained:

"In the sentence: Widely ridiculed as escape reading, r omance novels are important as a   proving ground for many never-before-published writers and, more significantly, as a  showcase for strong heroines."

The point the author will argue against is:   "Widely ridiculed as escape reading,

The point the author will argue for: "r omance novels are important as a

The evidence the author will offer in support of his/her argument is: " proving ground for many never-before-published writers and, more significantly, as a   

More evidence the author will offer in support of his/her argument: " showcase for strong heroines."


INTRO: 1. general statement (the hook) 2. elaboration or scope (can include a definition)

BODY:  Argument 1 (for or against): topic sentence plus support.  Argument 2 (for or against): topic sentence plus support.   Argument 3 (for or against): topic sentence plus support.

CONCLUSION (summary of position & ideas; link to action): 1. restate thesis statement and opinion 2. summarize ideas 3. closing comments; final thoughts.

Because the whole purpose of your argumentative essay is to persuade others to share your opinion, you should pay close attention to counter arguments.  It's not enough to simply say that your opponents are wrong.  You have to understand the opposing arguments so that you can find and point out the flaws in those arguments.  

Making the logical connections between evidence (or reasons) and conclusions clear is very important. Listed below are some phrases that will help your reader differentiate between evidential statements and the conclusions that you draw from them.

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How To Write a Compelling Argumentative Essay: Expert Tips & Guide

list of tips from the article for what to do and what not to do in an argumentative essay

Despite what you’ll see from certain chronically online people, a good argument doesn’t come from figurative yelling and making up facts. An argumentative essay is a great tool for teaching you how to present effective, meaningful arguments while still using your own voice and writing style (without ever even touching that caps lock key ). Developing a good argument and presenting it in writing isn’t easy, but a little thought, preparation, and helpful tips can have you debating with the best of them.

Plot Your Argument With an Essay Outline

It doesn’t matter how many essays you’ve written or how sure you are of your writing. You should always start with an outline . It could be as basic or as in-depth as you want, but an outline helps you get the blueprint of your entire essay onto paper while helping you flesh out your inklings into ideas.

In its simplest form, an argumentative essay will include :

Remember that this is just an outline. Think of it as a pre-draft. You can diverge from your outline as you get into the actual essay writing, but it gives you a place to start.

Understand the Length of Your Argumentative Essay

The good and bad news about argumentative essays: There isn’t a set length. You’ll mostly have to rely on what your instructor or the essay guidelines state. That can range from a fairly basic five-paragraph essay to a multi-page dissertation.

In most circumstances, your argumentative essay will clock in at about three to five pages, which is about 1,000 to 1,500 words. If you’re ever in doubt, check the syllabus or ask your instructor directly.

Begin Your Essay With Context

Many people have trouble beginning their argumentative essays. You might be ready and raring to dive deep into your argument, but getting immediately into your argument can be confusing. Use your introduction and first body paragraph to really set the table and provide context behind the argument.

Watch Out for Logical Fallacies

It is really easy for any arguer to fall into the logical fallacy trap. A logical fallacy is an error in logic that can be easily disproved with reasoning. This usually manifests as you drawing conclusions from nowhere, which makes for a thin essay and a completely undermined argument.

Logical fallacies come in many forms, from straw men to red herrings . It’s a good idea to recognize these logical fallacies to avoid them in your writing and spot them in other arguments.

Use Authoritative Sources and Good Evidence

One good way to avoid fallacies is to use authoritative sources the right way. You might know your way around your topic of choice, but instructors (and readers) need evidence from other sources to back up your arguments. Using evidence from other sources can also add a little extra spice to your argument. How do you find “good” sources?

Always double-check any information you find with information from a separate source. If you need extra help finding credible sources , talk to your instructor. Most instructors will at least give you a nudge in the right direction.

Find an Argument That You’re Invested In

It can be really hard to argue something that you don’t really care about or believe in. You could do all the studying and research you want, but if you’re not invested in your argument or can’t stand by it, your writing will reflect that.

If you can’t change the overarching argumentative essay topic , try to come at your argument from a different angle.

Consider Any Potential Counterarguments and Rebuttals

An inherent thing with any argument: There’s always going to be at least one opposing view. While some people worry that even bringing up a potential counterargument or rebuttal will detract from their points, acknowledging any counterarguments will strengthen your own argument, make you more persuasive, and help you understand your own views.

You don’t have to go into immense detail with the counterargument, unless that helps with your own research. Using although and however statements is a great way to respectfully acknowledge the opposing view while setting up your own argument.

Although some people believe that tacos are merely a novelty food, centuries of culinary tradition suggest that the taco is one of the most important foods in global culture.

Don’t Worry About Changing Someone’s Mind

This might seem counterintuitive, but don’t worry about changing someone’s mind. People can be stubborn about their thoughts and convictions. No matter how incredible your essay is, stuffed with an unreal amount of hard evidence, a reader may not budge an inch on their opposing viewpoint, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you should write an indifferent, bland, non-persuasive essay, but it does mean that you should understand the aim of your argumentative essay.

As with any piece of writing, the argumentative essay is a transfer of information. Even if someone doesn’t change their mind, what nugget of information do you want them to take away? You won’t change someone’s mind about cats, but maybe you can teach them about the history of cats in parallel to humans and agriculture. That’s just a cool fact to learn.

Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

Argumentative Essays

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Parts of an Argument

Arguments are among the most compelling documents we encounter as we read. Developing a strong argument requires you to take a position on an issue, introduce the issue to your readers in a way that leads then to view your position as reasonable, and develop reasons and provide evidence for your position. In this guide and those associated with it, you'll learn about the writing and research processes that help writers develop effective, well-grounded arguments.

A Clearly Stated Position

By definition, an argument requires the existence of a debatable issue. In other words, for an argument to even take place there must be at least two sides. When two or more arguable positions exist, each constitutes part of the context.

The audience-those to whom your position will be argued-constitute another part of the context. And since it will contain both supporters and detractors, it is essential that your position be clearly stated. It is the foundation upon which each brick of your evidence will be stacked and must be strong enough to bear its own weight as well as the onslaught of opposing arguments.

Types of Positions

Position statements fall into categories and those categories suggest how a claim should be argued. Your position, knowledge and authority on the subject will help you decide which category best suits the argument's purpose.

Before selecting one, however, consider your audience. Which side are they likely to be on or will they be split down the middle? How informed are they? Where lays the largest difference of opinion? Is the issue emotionally charged? If so, how will the audience react?

The answers you come up with will help determine what type of position will be most effective and what to include in the introduction, the type of evidence to be presented and how the presentation should be organized.

Claims of Fact

Claims of fact present verifiable forms of evidence as the supporting foundation for an inferred position statement. In other words, a claim that that which can not be proven by actual facts is, in fact, true or real based on facts that are somewhat pertinent to the issue. For example, the position statement that "grades measure neither intelligence nor achievement," backed with factual evidence like test scores, duplicable research findings and personal testimony.

Claims of fact notwithstanding, the statement can't actually be proven. Intelligence and achievement measurements are, at best, subjective terms that challenge hard definitions. No amount of factual evidence is going to change that.

Nailing down the terms of the position with objective, concrete definitions will strengthen the statement but be advised that an inferred position is poor foundation on which to build an argument.

Claims of Cause and Effect

Claims of cause and effect are propositions based on the concept that one thing influences or causes another. For example, "rap music makes its audience members prone to violence." To prove such a claim your argument must define the terms of both the cause and the effect.

It must define rap, the kinds of rap that lead to violence and the ways in which it does so. It must also define the forms of violence that pertain to rap and conclusively attribute the effect to the cause. Specific incidents of violence must be cited and tied directly back to specific occurrences in which it can be proven that rap played a significant role.

Claims of Value

Claims of value inherently involve a judgment based on comparing and contrasting one position with another and assigning each a value of good or bad, better or worse. For example, "Danielle Steele is the best romance novelist of the last quarter century."

To build an argument on such a claim the criteria by which the judgment will be made as well as the manner in which the person, thing, situation or circumstance being assessed must be established. Elements similar to claims of fact, such as sales figures, publication statistics and awards will come into play.

For Danielle Steele to be judged the best romance novelist of the last quarter century, it has to be proven that she meets the established criteria for a good romance novelist and that she does it better than all other romance novelists from the same time period.

Claims of Policy or Solutions

Claims of policy or solutions propose and promote policies and solutions based on changing an existing policy that is either inadequate for dealing with a bad situation or conducive to its perpetuation. For example, "Football causes too many injuries and ought to be banned."

Arguing such a claim may require arguing a combination of claims and several steps might be involved: A factual claim establishing that a situation exists, a value claim proving the situation is bad, and a cause and effect claim pinning the blame on a policy that, if changed, will improve the situation may all play a role in the overall argument.

Be advised that proposing a solution carries the inherent suggestion that more than one solution may apply. An argument successfully advocating your position must establish the criteria by which all solutions will be measured and prove that yours meets that criteria better than any other.

Identify Your Position

A clearly stated position demands parameters, or boundaries, narrow enough to avoid any tangential digression that might detract from the argument's power. In other words, to be effective, the author must identify a narrow enough position that proving or drawing a conclusion from the argument that follows won't become bogged down in the side-bar arguments a broader statement might stimulate.

The key to identifying a clear position is in the old adage of not biting off more than you can chew. In a courtroom it's called opening the door to testimony previously excluded. A broad position statement invites disaster by opening doors to counter-arguments that you are unprepared for and have no intention of addressing. It muddies the argument.

Following are some examples of position statements that are too broad to be effectively argued.

"True historical analysis lies in everyday experience, not in dates and politics."

This statement is so broad it would take a book, and possibly several, to argue the point. You'd need a wide variety of everyday examples from the lives of those who lived during a significant number of major and minor historical events just to come close to a plausible proof, let alone a conclusive one. The statement bites off more than one can chew.

"Quantitative, college letter-grading systems effectively create a false sense of achievement by equating 'making the grade' with true learning. Having reached adulthood, college students are no longer in need of such incentives and ought to be evaluated more qualitatively, through written evaluations at the end of each semester."

There are two arguments to be made here: (1) as an incentive, letter grades obscure whether true learning occurs, and (2) written evaluations are more valuable and useful than letter grades. Again, the statement constitutes more than a mouthful. Each position could be a paper in itself.

"All grading is problematic because all grades are subjective. Grading objectively, therefore, is impossible."

This is a vague statement based upon an implied assumption that, to be fair, all assessment forms must be objective. To prove this, all forms of assessment would have to be compared and contrasted and their use across all campus curriculums examined. In-class essays, mid-term papers, lab projects, field work, class discussions, multiple-choice and true-false tests would have to be included. Another mouthful too big to chew: A better option would be to select one form of assessment and build an argument constrained within a single curriculum.

Draft Your Position Statement

For all practical purposes, it's useful to view a position statement as a "work-in-progress," a statement that evolves or emerges as your research progresses. It's not necessary that you begin with an ironclad position. A vague idea will do.

As you learn more about your selected-or assigned-issue, you may find your stance changing. Keep an open mind in this regard: It will help you clarify and focus your final position on a narrow and arguable point. Following are some useful tips that will help you in the process.

Don't bore yourself. Choose a topic around which there are issues that interest you and don't worry about defining your position. A good topic is one that arouses passion in others as well as yourself. Consult your course notes and make a list of ideas that appear to have the most potential by answering a few simple questions:

Do some broad preliminary research on your selected topic. Ask your instructor, as well as others in your field of study, for information and guidance. To grasp the complexities and nuances of the issues at hand, select a group of books and articles that approach your topic from different angles and study up on them.

Note your reactions and opinions as they occur and develop or mature. In particular, you will want to note when previously held opinions change as a result of knowledge and insight gained from recent readings or discussion. Hone in on those opinions about which your feel the strongest or interest you the most.

Begin drafting a preliminary statement. Keep in mind that your position must be arguable. When shaping it consider the following questions:

Finally, the best advice is to be constantly aware of the arguments you wish not to address and continually refine your preliminary statement so as to exclude having to argue them. In other words, as you move toward completing your research, close and bolt all the doors you don't want the opposition stumbling through.

The Introduction

Getting off to a good start can make or break you, which is why your introduction is so important. It must be both respectful of the audience-not all of whom are going to be on your side-and compelling enough for them to withhold judgment while hearing you out.

Think about throwing a dinner party: Your guests are the audience. You plan a menu and set the table. Before you serve the entrée you serve an appetizer and introduce those who are meeting for the first time. Your introduction should put your guests on common ground-at ease with each other-before the main course, your argument, is served. When dinner is over, your argument made, your guests stay on for coffee and dessert, your conclusion.

Provide Context for the Argument

The introduction establishes an argument's context: it informs the audience of the issue at hand, the prevailing arguments from opposing sides and the position held by the author. It sets the tone for the argument and establishes the disciplinary constraints and boundaries that your particular academic audience will expect.

There are many ways to provide context for an audience but the main thing is to get everyone on an equal footing, a starting point where everyone has equal knowledge of the issue.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is by proposing a common definition of the issue. Another is to begin with a literature review of past work, showing where and how your position has emerged from previous work and how it enters into or contributes to that conversation.

Propose a Common Definition

One way to create a context for your readers and establish common ground is to begin with a definition of the topic that everyone can share and then introduce an issue based on the common definition. For example:

Approximately 10% of U.S. Citizens over the age of 65 are affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD). Furthermore, potentially 50% of individuals over the age of 85 may be at risk (Greene, et al. 461). [A statement of the pervasiveness of the problem] AD is a disease which results in progressive deterioration of mental and eventually physical functions. This progressive decline has been scaled according to the Global Deterioration Scale. The scale ranges from 1 to 7 with "1" designating normal, "4" representing moderate AD, such as inability to perform complex tasks, and a "7" corresponding to severe AD, characterized by loss in the following areas: verbal ability, psychomotor skills such as walking or sitting up, continence of bowel and bladder, and ability to smile and feed oneself (Bennett 95; Greene, et al. 464). [A definition of the disease]
With a continuing growth of the elderly population, this disease presents an extremely difficult problem for the future. How do we treat these individuals with medical costs increasing every year? How will we allocate funds for those whose families cannot afford to pay? The questions are relentless, but I have decided to explore the realm of treatment [an examination of the issues the definition logically brings up] . . .
I feel active euthanasia should be an available choice, via a highly scrutinized selection system, to allow AD patients, as well as family members, to end their suffering, to eliminate the "playing God" factor by hastening the inevitable, and finally, to end an existence which faces a severely reduced quality of life. [A statement of the author's position on one of the issues: her focus in the paper]

Provide a Literature Review

Offering a brief summary of previously published work demonstrates how well versed you are in both your academic discipline and the issue at hand. It also demonstrates how your work adds to, challenges, or offers a different perspective on questions important to others in the same field.

Here are some conventional formulas with which to introduce other authors previously published work.

Although X [insert other scholar's names] argues Y [insert their position] , about Z [insert topic or issue] , they have failed to consider [insert your position] .
X [insert other scholar's names] has already demonstrated Y [insert their position] , however, if we take their work one step further, the next logical issue is Z. [insert your position and the grounds upon which it is justified] .
Although X [insert other scholar's names] argues Y [insert their position] , about Z [insert topic or issue] , the position does not hold up when examined from the perspective of [insert your position] .

Although they appear quite brief, they can vary considerably in length, depending on your argument and the amount of research involved.

Long Example of Reviewing Previously Published Work

As scholars continue to explore how we can best characterize the discursive space of computer discussion technologies currently in use in many classrooms, one thing has become clear: the ways in which power relationships constructed within other contexts (e.g., the classroom, society) play themselves out in this new textual realm is murky at best. [Statement of the issue at hand] The initial excitement about the potential for computer discussion spaces to constitute discourse communities unfettered by the authority of the teacher (e.g., Butler and Kinneavy; Cooper and Selfe) has increasingly become tempered by attempts to characterize the nature of this discursive space. For some, computerized discussion groups create more egalitarian contexts in which marginalized voices can be given equal space (e.g., Selfe; Flores), while for others computerized discussion spaces serve only as reproductions of the ideological, discursive spaces present within society (e.g., Selfe and Selfe; Johnson-Eilola; Hawisher and Selfe). [Establishing common ground that the issue of power is a viable one by direct reference to previously published work] The disparity between these positions is central for feminists concerned with both resisting the patriarchal nature of academic discourse and providing a space for women students to speak and have their experiences validated. The question for feminist teachers becomes, as Pamela Takayoshi puts it, whether computerized communication is "a tool for empowering [women students] and dismantling the 'master's house,' in this case traditional classroom discourse patterns" or whether such modes of communication are "merely new tools that get the same results in a different way" (21). [Restatement of the issue in more specific terms, a focus that again emerges from previously published accounts]
Feminist analyses of computerized discussion spaces, however, are similarly caught up in the conflicting positions of equalization of all voices versus the replication of oppressive ideological positions discussed above. For example, as Janet Carey Eldred and Gail Hawisher point out, much speculation in composition about the nature of computerized discussions, including feminist speculations, relies on the presumption of the "equalization phenomenon," which they summarize as follows: "Because CMC (Computer-Mediated Communication) reduces social context cues, it eliminates social differences and thus results in a forum for more egalitarian participation" (347). From this equalization phenomenon come claims that computerized discussion technologies occlude issues of status and hierarchy usually associated with the visible cue of gender (e.g., Dubrovsky et al.). Yet, as Eldred and Carey note throughout their article, "Researching Electronic Networks," the assumption of reduced social context cues is by no means a proven "fact"; in fact, Eldred and Carey point to studies such as Matheson's which found that "something as subtle as a name dropped, an issue raised, or an image chosen could convey a gender impression" (Eldred and Hawisher 350). Takayoshi's analysis of harassment through e-mail and networked discussions further illustrates how traditional gender hierarchies can resurface in supposedly "egalitarian" spaces. [A summary of the literature on the more focused issue which demonstrates that no one has yet resolved this issue satisfactorily]
What emerges from this admittedly incomplete literature review are directly conflicting views about how power is negotiated in networked discussion groups, particularly regarding the effect of that power on female students and the creation of a space wherein they might resist the more patriarchal discourses found in classroom discourse and academic forms of writing. [Restatement of the unresolved issue] What I'd like to suggest here is that these conflicting views emerge in part from the ways in which the argument has been conducted. In this essay, I hope to open up other possibilities for analysis by suggesting that one of the reasons questions about power, ideological reproduction, and equalization are so difficult to resolve is that our current analyses tend to look at the surface features of the issue without examining the discursive grounds on which these issues of power are constituted. [The writer positions herself as someone who is both "adding to the conversation" and challenging previous work.] Although focusing on the material effects of networked discussions on women's ability to find a speaking space is important work that needs to be done, I want to shift our analytical lens here to an equally important question: the way the textual space of networked discussion groups positions students and the types of voices it allows them to construct. [Poses a different issue that can then be answered in the writer's argument]

Short Example of Reviewing Previously Published Work

As scholars such as Susan McLeod, Anne Herrington and Charles Moran begin to re-think the way writing-across-the-curriculum programs have situated themselves within composition theory, an intriguing disparity has presented itself between writing-to-learn and learning-to-write. As McLeod points out, these two approaches to WAC, which she designates the "cognitive" and the "rhetorical," respectively, exist in most programs simultaneously despite their radically different epistemological assumptions. [Establishes common ground by defining the issue according to previously published work with which the audience is familiar] What I suggest in this paper, however, is that despite the two approaches' seeming epistemological differences, they work toward a similar goal: the accommodation or inscription of (student) subjects into the various disciplinary strands of academic discourse. [Statement of position which addresses the issue formulated in the research]

Establish Credible Authority

Establishing credibility and authority is just as important to you as a student as it is to credentialed experts with years of experience. The only thing different between you and an expert is the length of your résumé. What's not is the importance of convincing your audience that you know what you're talking about.

Demonstrate your Knowledge

Cite relevant sources when generalizing about an issue. This will demonstrate that you are familiar with what others, particularly recognized experts, have already contributed to the conversation. It also demonstrates that you've done your homework, you've read some current literature and that your position is reasonably thoughtful and not based on pure speculation. For example:

Over the past ten years, anthropologists have consistently debated the role the researcher should play when interacting with other cultures (Geertz; Heath; Moss) .

You may also connect your argument to a highly regarded authority by demonstrating that you are taking that person's position or contribution to current thinking one step further.

When James Berlin [the chief authority on social rhetorics] created his taxonomy of composition in Rhetoric and Reality, he defined a key historical moment in the way composition studies imagined the function of writing in culture. By focusing on the effect writing has on reality, Berlin's work helped the field recognize how assumptions about discourse marginalized certain groups of students and reinforced ideological beliefs that helped maintain an inequitable status quo.
Such a "social" perspective on writing and language inarguably had a significant effect on the face of composition studies, making it difficult to discuss writing as anything other than social and the teaching of writing as anything other than political. Yet the similarity in how social rhetorics depict epistemology suggests that the term social can be used to describe a diverse group of theories that share this view of reality.
Although such synonymous usage may be an apt label epistemologically, its use as a blanket term frequently obscures the difference within social rhetorics on issues other than epistemic ones. That difference, I argue here, is focused around questions of identity.

Share your Personal Experience

Consider that the closer you are to an issue the more credible is your authority to speak. Personal experience, from work or travel, for instance, provides your audience with an insider's point of view. A well-told personal story in the introduction demonstrates how the author's interest in an issue emerged and quite often provides an extraordinarily compelling reason to hear an argument out. Here are a couple of examples:

Example One:

As an aide in a nursing home for four years, I was constantly amazed at how little attention the children of elderly patients paid to their aging parents. Over and over again, it became obvious that the home was simply a place to "drop off the folks" so that their concern could be limited to paying the bills. As one woman told me when I called to inform her that her mother really needed a visit soon, "I pay you to take care of her. If I had time on my hands, she wouldn't be there." When did caring become simply a matter of writing a check? What are our obligations to the elderly in this society and how might we better care for them?

Example Two:

With a continuing growth of the elderly population, patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) present an extremely difficult problem for the future. How do we treat these individuals with medical costs increasing every year? How will we allocate funds for those whose families cannot afford to pay? The questions are relentless, but I have decided to explore the realm of treatment. . . . After observing the lifestyles of these individuals, I feel I have greater insight to the trauma they face versus an individual who has not witnessed their everyday activities. Based on my direct experience with late-stage AD patients and their families , I feel active euthanasia should be an available choice, via a highly scrutinized selection system, to allow AD patients, as well as family members, to end their suffering, to eliminate the "playing God" factor by hastening the inevitable, and to end an existence which faces a severely reduced quality of life.

Speak Convincingly

Write like an authority: Ignore the fact that your audience might know more than you. You may not be an expert, but you are, by no means, ignorant. After plenty of research you've come to know a lot about the issue yourself. Use that knowledge to inform and convince your audience that you know what you're talking about.

Avoid deferential language such as "in my opinion" or "at least I think we should." Try not to be wishy-washy. Don't hedge your bets by arguing "perhaps we should" or "such-and-such might be the way to go." Don't be arrogant, but don't give the audience any reason to think you might not know what you're talking about.

This past year Michael Maren wrote an article for Newsweek, "The Faces of Famine." This article was not what a viewer would have expected to read: the continuation of starving people in Africa because of an apparent lack in economic means. Although most Americans are moved by the pictures of "skeletal" children and hold the belief that the problem stems from a lack in food resources due to drought and severe conditions, according to Maren the general public in the U.S. is misinformed and unaware of the politics involved with this severe famine.
The evidence Maren has compiled informs his audience that providing money donations for relief funds is destructive, not helpful, for those affected. In his essay Maren talks specifically about the situation in Sudan. The root of the famine is from a 15-year-old civil war between the Khartoum Government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
Maren has contributed both his personal experiences, living in Africa as an aid worker and journalist for 20 years, and his political knowledge about starvation being used as a weapon for a civil war, as evidence for his argument. His goals are to inform his audience what really is happening in Africa and to begin to assist in saving lives rather than adding fuel to the fire.

One way to establish credibility and authority is to follow both spoken and unspoken rules of research conduct in both your introduction and throughout the argument. Here is a list of guidelines to keep in mind:

Compel the Audience to Listen

Your argument must be compelling. What can you say that will convince you audience to hear you out? An important question: It's easy to assume that the answer is obvious and that your audience will "get it" yet, quite often, that's not the case. Don't leave this to chance. Put yourself in the audience's place and think about what they will be asking:

Good answers to such questions will help you draw the audience into the body of your argument. Be creative, but don't lose sight of the facts.

Invoke a Truism

Find something everyone in the discipline agrees with and propose it as the reason for your argument. In the example, the writer connects an argument about identity politics to a concern regarding students and how they learn. In this way, a theoretical issue-something many educators find uninteresting-is connected to something about which all educators are interested: their students.

In posing identity constitution as a central question for social rhetoric, I do not…seek to simply point out a theoretical difference in composition studies. Instead, I locate such questions about the discursive construction of identity primarily within a concern for students as writers and citizens. By examining the different assumptions social rhetoric makes about how discourse affects the student writer's construction of identity, I hope to highlight more explicitly the role pedagogy plays in "teaching" students not only how to construct public voices from which to speak of identity politics but also how to construct their identities.

Provide an Eye-Catching Statistic or Quote

Drawn from research, these may be used to highlight the importance of an issue or-if a quote is personal in nature-to appeal to the audience's emotions. In either case, be sure the statistic or quote directly relates to the issue at hand. For example:

In his U.S. News & World Report article, Hey, We're No. 19! , John Leo addresses the results of a recent survey which found that American students, compared to students from 20 other countries, placed well below average on standardized math and science tests. Leo surmises that these results can be blamed on two things: unqualified teachers and "social attitudes that work against achievement" fostered by teachers' colleges.
Leo may or may not have a legitimate point in his essay; it is difficult to tell through all the sarcasm and unsubstantiated opinion. The article is ineffective for two main reasons: the complete lack of evidence and the condescending attitude Leo exhibits toward the very people he aims to convince.

Identify a Common Concern

In this way, you remind an audience that they already care about an issue. In the example, the writer addresses an American audience on the prayer in public schools issue by identifying it with free speech rights: the protection of which everyone is concerned. This provides a compelling reason for the audience to revisit ideas about prayer in schools while keeping the topic within the legal realm. For example:

What would happen if you were fired for criticizing your boss in a bar after work hours? If you were told you could not put a bumper sticker on your car endorsing the Republican candidate because it would offend your Democratic neighbor? Most Americans, in either of these instances, would be justifiably upset at how their right to free speech was being impinged. Yet, mention that students should be allowed to pray in school and, all of a sudden, the issue becomes murky. We are confronted with another legal issue: separation of church and state. Which of these "rights" should win in this battle? In this essay, I argue that neither is more important than the other, yet if we look closely at the issue of prayer in schools, we will see that there is a way to allow prayer, and thus free speech , without violating the separation of church and state.

Tell an Anecdote

Invoke a reader's sympathy with a short narrative of an experience-either your own or one drawn from research-which highlights the personal effect of the issue about which you will be arguing. For example:

Celebrating his acceptance into his fraternity of choice, Benjamin Wynne did something many college students have done at one time or another: he went out and got completely, unabashedly drunk. Wynne, accompanied by other members of Louisiana State University's chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, started off his night of revelry at a party off campus. The group then moved to a local bar before ending up back at the frat house. Though this type of partying may sound typical to many college students, its result was anything but typical: Benjamin Wynne died that night of alcohol poisoning, having consumed the equivalent of 24 drinks (Cohen 54).
His death in early September of last year should serve as a wake-up call to every individual on a college campus in this country, as well as parents of students. Excessive drinking is a widespread, serious problem on many college campuses nationwide, not only for the students who actually do the drinking, but for non-drinking students as well. Students, faculty, administrators, and other individuals on college campuses must admit to themselves that this behavior is not acceptable. We must admit that it is a problem before another student's life is tragically cut short.

Ask Questions

Although this strategy is often overused, asking a few key questions is a good way to introduce your argument. Be cautious, however, of posing any that will not be answered: doing so sets up false expectations. For example:

How many times have you looked at a city street and seen it draped with power lines going in every direction? How many times have you seen housing developments intersected by huge power lines which radiate dangerous levels of high voltage? How many times have you driven the open country only to find miles and miles of steel towers connected by strands of power lines?
If you're like me, you notice these things. To me, they happen to be aesthetically unpleasant. What we don't see is where or how the power within those lines is generated. Chances are it is not good. Over 85% of our current energy source is derived from fossil fuels (RE fact sheet 1). What if our power source wasn't harmful to the earth? What if it was coming from the sun and wind, and didn't harm the people in the neighborhoods who used it?

Promise Something New

Demonstrate how your argument adds to, reframes, redefines, or offers a new solution to an issue with which your audience is already involved. In this example, the writer summarizes current positions in published literature in order to reframe the issue. For example:

In the past twenty years, literacy has become a hot topic among educators and the public alike. For teachers, the issues seem to revolve around the literacy skills students need in order to graduate from high school. The debate ranges from a strong emphasis on critical reading skills (Smith, Jones) to technical literacy skills (Palmquist, Barnes) to writing skills (LeCourt, Thomas). As most teachers know, however, these skills are not separate: writing, for example, can't be taught apart from reading; technical literacy includes both writing and reading.
How, then, should a teacher decide which skills to emphasize in a given high-school curriculum? In this paper, I will argue that the first step to deciding on necessary literacy skills lies in closely examining what students will need to succeed after high school, in college and in the job market. In short, any decision about literacy skills must begin with research into the public sphere. Educators cannot make such decisions in a vacuum, as most theorists (like those cited above) are now doing.

Use an Epigram

A simple block-quote at the beginning of a paper can highlight the importance of an issue or the differences of opinion that surround the debate. Not generally referred to in the argument itself, an epigram serves to set up the context for the argument being introduced. For example:

I agree that students should be able to write well when they leave the University. But I think we don't give them enough credit for how well they can write when they come here. All we need to do is push them a bit more. . . . The University is talking about keeping a writing portfolio for every student: who has the time for that. . . . All this nonsense about WAC is just baloney, just baloney. --Professor of Electrical Engineering
Perhaps I ought not to start my paper with so clear a statement of the disagreement our panel hopes to address. But in some ways, the practical challenge offered by Professor X helps to define a workable theoretical perspective. As other practitioners have discussed, a top-down model of WAC can do nothing in the face of such hostility. At best, proponents of WAC must ignore the faculty who hold such positions. But a model of WAC that focuses largely on students might just side-step this faculty member long enough to convince other faculty and students that WAC has real merits.

Establish Common Ground

What does everyone already know about the issue? One of the best ways to attract the interest of an audience is to locate them on common ground, showing how the issue at hand has been or remains something about which they are already familiar and concerned. There are several ways to do this.

Present a New Angle

Use published material to identify that your issue has already been addressed at length either by experts in the field, or in the broader society. Then demonstrate that your position, one about which your audience already knows quite a bit, is a brand-new take. For example:

Picture in your mind the four women who are closest to you. It may be your sister, your mother, your niece, your aunt, your best friend, your wife, or even yourself. According to at least six of my sources, including the research handbook, Rape and Sexual Assault III edited by Ann Burgess, one of the people pictured in your mind is or will become a sexual assault victim. The research handbook specifically states that one in four female college students will be sexually assaulted during her college career (Burgess, 1991).

Make an Emotional Appeal

Connect your audience emotionally to the issue at hand. Appeal to their sense of compassion: Deliberately pull at the heartstrings. Start at a general enough point where the audience easily recognizes the common ground upon which you and they both stand. Emotionally invested, they will hear you out. For example:

As the video showed a man with violent tremors trying his hardest to speak with some fluency, I thought, "Can't we do any more for people like him?" The man I was watching had Parkinson's, a disease afflicting 1 in 5,000 people (Bennett, lecture). Due to the degeneration of that part of the brain that produces dopamine, a chemical that helps control motor coordination, patients afflicted with Parkinson's disease often suffer muscle rigidity, involuntary tremors and a shuffling gait.
I cannot imagine the frustration a person with Parkinson's disease must feel when tremors prevent them from holding a cup of tea. I cannot imagine the frustration they must feel when walking no longer comes with ease. I cannot imagine the frustration they must feel as they consciously know they are physically deteriorating. And I cannot imagine the frustration family members of Parkinson's patients must feel as they watch their loved one deteriorate and know that there is nothing they can do to help.
In answer to my own question, though, there is more we could be doing to help people with Parkinson's disease. Current research on fetal tissue transplantation shows great promise and could be a great benefit to many people. [The paper goes on to argue in favor of fetal tissue transplantation despite the controversy surrounding such a procedure.]

Present a Solution

Demonstrate that your argument addresses a problem in which everyone in the audience shares or has a legitimate interest. Pull the audience in by explaining its significance to the field of study or connecting it to a larger social issue.

Common ground begins by building the larger picture, one that all audience members recognize, and then whittling it down to a smaller, more focused issue and the one to which your argument provides a solution. Your logic should generally be presented following the pattern of an inverted pyramid. This demonstrates how one problem emerges from another, as in the illustration below.

Inverted Pyramid

Clarify or Define a Problem

This is a strategy often found in the social sciences (psychology, sociology, etc.), business and the professional world, though it is not constrained to those disciplines. As part of the context of an issue, a specific problem provides a patch of common ground on which everyone in the audience can stand while you argue the case for a specific solution.

Argue from a Societal Perspective

One way of presenting a problem is to appeal to your audience as citizens rather than professionals in a given field. Begin with a social problem that might benefit from a disciplinary solution and work towards the disciplinary end. Establishing common knowledge about a societal concern, or problem, usually ties back to a disciplinary issue fairly quickly, however, be advised, that academic audiences expect arguments aimed more directly at their professional concerns rather than their social ones.

As the recent battles over affirmative action, school busing, reactions to separatist movements such as the Million Man March, and the backlash against government control by groups such as the Montana Freemen illustrate, our society is becoming more and more divided on how cultural difference can be maintained while still functioning with a national consciousness. [Statement of a social problem]
In the field of composition, these social tensions translate into issues of identity politics: [An immediate transition to what this social issue means in the disciplinary terms of the field of composition, a sub-field of English studies] how can instruction in academic discourse serve to educate a critical citizenry and yet not infringe upon ethnic, gendered, and sexual identities? How might we prevent the power of academic discourse to rewrite subjectivity without also abandoning the common ground such a discourse provides? [Poses discipline-specific questions related to social issue that define the problem to be answered in the text]

Argue for a New Perspective

Although many arguments focus on a specific problem and its corresponding solution, that's not always the case. Some arguments redefine an issue, arguing for new ways of looking at an old problem.

These types of arguments require a different introduction strategy, typically beginning with a statement of the problem and a brief review of the inadequacies in the solutions offered to date. It's a great approach to presenting a position statement that an existing problem needs to be looked at from a different perspective.

As our readings in class have demonstrated, what constitutes literacy and how it should be defined is a question which encourages lively and active debate. [A brief statement of problem which needs no justification since it was already discussed in the context of the class the paper is being written for] Some scholars (e.g., Hirsch, D'Souza) argue that what it means to be truly "literate" is a mastery of a certain body of knowledge that can provide a common knowledge base for all citizens. Others (e.g., the Bell report) focus on "skills" instead of knowledge, arguing that what students need are basic critical reading and writing skills that then can be applied to whatever context they find themselves in as a adults. More radical educators (e.g., Freire, Giroux) argue that true literacy lies in the ability to be critical about culture: to "read," for example, the media for its insidious cultural messages and act differently upon them. [A brief summary of solutions already offered in the discipline] From this brief summary, it is obvious that what is at stake in this debate is no less than what we think students need to learn to be successful economically and responsible members of a democratic citizenry. [A restatement of the problem in different terms] Yet, ironically enough, although the debate is focused on "what students need to know," rarely is a student's opinion solicited. In this paper, I will examine the literacy debate from my perspective as a college student. When we look at this debate from my perspective, we see that the questions posed about what it means to be literate have little to do with students' concerns and what we think we need to know. [A statement of a new perspective and the challenge it offers to current solutions]

Argue for a New Solution

Rather than arguing for a new perspective, a critique of old solutions can be enough to introduce the argument for a new one. These types of introductions typically recognize the existing problem, briefly review the inadequacy of past solutions and end with a position statement identifying a new solution and a call for its implementation.

As the media coverage of the issue and a variety of polls have demonstrated in the past 10 years, very few members of the national public would dispute the claim that politics has been controlled by too few people for far too long. For example, in a 1994 Guppy Poll, 97% of citizens polled responded that the government was clearly in "grid-lock," although 92% of those polled attributed the grid lock to "career" politicians such as Strom Thurmond and Ted Kennedy (Goldfish Collective, 1994). [A brief statement of a problem immediately recognizable by most citizens] Yet, although the public clearly sees "government by the few" as a serious problem, there is little to no consensus on a solution. [A transition to the argument for inadequacy of solutions]
Various solutions have been posed for this problem, ranging from mandatory term limits to the expansion of the two-party system to "free" television spots for all candidates. [Summary of inadequate solutions] In this paper, however, I will demonstrate that none of these proposed solutions will adequately solve the problem as long as funding for campaigns remains so inequitable. [Overview of argumentative strategy: critiquing other solutions] Instead, I will argue that the "best" solution lies in an option which has received little, if any, attention by the mainstream press: socialized campaigning wherein all campaigns are funded solely by the government and each candidate receives an equal amount of campaign funding. [Statement of thesis: goal of showing inadequacy of other solutions]

The Argument/Presentation of Evidence

The bulk of an argument is given over to supplying and presenting the evidence that supports a particular claim or position, refuting opposing arguments and making appeals to the logical, ethical and emotional sensibilities of the audience.

Acceptable Academic Evidence

Acceptable academic evidence depends a great deal on to whom it is going to be presented, the field in which they work, and the focus and goals of the position being argued. To be convincing it must be founded on fact, well reasoned, logical, and stand up against opposing arguments. Included will be a mix of facts, research findings, quotes, experience and the work of other people.

Logical and textual evidence is generally considered to be more authoritative-stronger and more convincing-than anecdotal evidence or emotional appeals. For it to be academically acceptable, the evidence must meet certain criteria:

Acceptable Field-Specific Academic Evidence

Acceptable "field-specific" academic evidence is a bit more complicated. Many disciplines are subdivided into niche fields, each of which may have differing criteria for defining acceptable evidence. For instance, textual evidence will be expected in the Speech Department's Rhetorical History and Theory classes, while the Mass Communications class will expect observational and qualitative research methods.

The best way to judge what constitutes acceptable evidence is by checking the reading assignments in your own class syllabus. Consider what types of evidence your professors use most often when discussing a certain issue or problem. Look at the bibliographies in your textbooks or in articles from other well-known books and journals. You will find many different kinds of evidentiary sources. Here is a list of the most common.

Refuting Opposing Positions

Refuting opposing positions is an important part of building an argument. Not only is it important, it is expected. Addressing the arguments of those who disagree is a way of identifying the opposition and exposing the primary weakness(s) in their argument. Doing so helps establish the contextual parameters, or boundaries, in which your argument will be contained. It's best to start with a summary.

Summarizing the opposing positions demonstrates that you are being fair to the other side. It also allows you to set the table for the claims you are going to be laying out. Here are a few general guidelines for composing a summary:

For example:

George Will's editorial in Newsweek states that the reason "Johnny Can't Write" is the misguided nature of English teachers who focus more on issues of multiculturalism, political correctness, new theories of reading such as deconstruction, and so on, than on the hard and fast rules for paragraph development, grammar, and sentence structure. [Summary: A concise yet fair summary of Will's main argument.] Although Will interviews students and uses sample course descriptions to back up his opinion, he misses the main point: all the "fashionable" theories and approaches he decries have actually been proven to teach writing more effectively than the traditional methods he favors. [Refutation: The beginning of a refutation that will go on to show why Will's judgment is wrong.]

Using a Counter-Example

Using a counter-example, or an instance that flies in the face of the opposition's claim, is one way of refuting an opposing argument. If it can be shown that their research is inadequate, it can be shown that their position is faulty, or at least inconclusive. Casting a shadow of doubt over the opposing argument provides strong evidence that your argument has merit. Be sure to use real instances of how your opponent's position doesn't account for the counter-example.

As Henry Johnson, a vice-president of student services at the University of Michigan explained, "To discuss sexual assault is to send a message to your potential student cohort that it is an unsafe campus, and therefore institutions tend to play that down" (Warshaw, 1994). When deciding which university to attend, prospective students do compare statistics regarding the ratio of males to females, student to faculty and-yes-the incidence of crime. Therefore it is no surprise that more than 60 colleges rejected requests to conduct surveys concerning sexual assault at their schools even though anonymity was guaranteed (Warshaw, 1994). [The writer sets up the opponents' view that information about sexual assault on campus damages universities' reputations.]
Universities fear negative publicity, but at Bates College, a rally of 300 angry college students outside the president's house demanding to know why the college hadn't informed them of a recent series of sexual assaults on campus, did get publicized. This resulted in further negative publicity because it came out that the university, in order to cover-up the occurrence of sexual assaults, punished the assailants without providing fair trials (Gose, 1998). [The counter-example shows that even more negative publicity results from trying to hide sexual assault information.]

Outlining an Opposing Position

Outlining an opposing position, as with a summary, not only refutes or rebuts an argument; it's also a way in which to introduce your position. Explicitly addressing those who disagree provides an opportunity for demonstrating why the opposition is wrong, why a new position is better, where an argument falls short and, quite often, the need for further discussion.

Although there is obviously a strong case for introducing multicultural topics in the English classroom, not all would agree with the argument I've put forth here. One of the most vocal critics of my position is George Will. For example, Will's editorial in Newsweek states that the reason "Johnny Can't Write" is the misguided nature of English teachers who focus more on issues of multiculturalism, political correctness, and new theories of reading such as deconstruction than on the hard and fast rules of paragraph development, grammar, and sentence structure. [Summary: A concise yet fair summary of Will's main argument.]
Yet, as I have shown here, multicultural methods clearly do not interfere with teaching writing. [Refutation #1: Disproves Will's position by referring to research already cited.] Further, Will demonstrates a certain bit of nostalgia in this piece for "older ways" that, although persuasive, has no research, with the exception of Will's childhood memories, to back it up. [Refutation #2: Exposes a flaw in Will's argument.] Although most of us think the way we were taught must be the right way, such is not necessarily the case. We should neither confuse nostalgia with research nor memory with the best curriculum. [Opposing argument: Memory and research are not the same; thus, Will's point is wrong.]

Appealing to the Audience

Appealing to the audience is another important part of building an argument. In an academic argument, logical appeals are the most common, however, depending on your topic, ethical and emotional appeals may be used as well.

Logical Appeals

Logical appeals are a rational presentation of relationships constructed such that an audience will find them hard to refute. In most cases it ties together individual pieces of evidence, uniting the argument in a manner strong enough to persuade the audience to a consensus of opinion. In other cases, logical appeals bolster an argument where the weight of evidence is less dependable, as in the following:

When we appeal to the logical sensibilities of an audience, we often rely on long-established relationships between events and facts. If we can show that one event leads to another, for instance, we are establishing a logical relationship (e.g., cause/effect, deductive reasoning, etc.). Because these relationships are deeply grounded in our thinking and language, they are relatively easy to use. Nonetheless, it will help to review the range of logical appeals available for writing arguments.

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect demonstrates how a given problem leads to effects which are detrimental or how the causes of a problem need to be addressed. In either case, the writer sets up a logical relationship based in causality as a key part of the argument, using other forms of proof to support their analysis of causes or effects.

In a paper arguing for a 35 hour work week for manual laborers, the writer supports her thesis by illustrating the logical effects of the current, 40 hour week on society: (1) more physical ailments, leading to higher health costs; (2) less time spent with family, leading to the further breakdown in the American family; (3) fewer job positions being open, leading to higher unemployment than necessary; (4) diminished quality of life, leading to psychological problems such as anger and depression. For each of the four effects, she must then prove through other forms of evidence that a plausible cause of these problems is the 40-hour work week to make her argument.

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast demonstrates how a given argument may be similar to or different from something that they already hold to be true. By logical extension, the similarity between the two gives your argument more persuasive power. Pointing to the differences between something held as fact and something you are arguing can convince the audience of its worthiness and allow you to focus only on the differences.

In a paper arguing that homosexuality should be protected as a civil right and arguing that discrimination based on sexual orientation should be outlawed, the writer demonstrates the similarities between sexual orientation and other "classes of people" protected by civil rights legislation (e.g., women, minorities, religious groups). The writer, then, logically appeals to the audience's belief that discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, or religion is wrong and asks that they accept the argument extending the same benefit to homosexuals.

Syllogistic Reasoning

Syllogistic reasoning demonstrates deductive logic and begins from the premise that a fact or opinion is inarguably true. Through a series of steps the writer demonstrates that the position being argued follows logically from that premise; an extension of what is already inarguably true. In another use of this appeal, the writer presents a series of facts from other sources and then draws a logical conclusion based on these facts, showing how each group of facts leads to a premise which the audience can accept as fact, and finally, how these premises, when put together, lead to a certain conclusion.

In a paper arguing for the agreement reached at the World Environmental conference banning the destruction of rain forests and other large forests, the writer attempts to show why the ban is a logical response to global warming. In his paper, the writer presents scientific authorities' descriptions of global warming and its main cause: a lack of oxygen in the atmosphere. He then presents other scientific evidence about how oxygen is produced on earth, through plant life. By syllogistic reasoning, the writer can then draw the conclusion that if global warming is caused by a lack of oxygen [premise #1] , and trees produce the most oxygen on earth as the largest form of plant life [premise #2] , then one way to slow global warming is to protect forests [conclusion] .


Classification demonstrates how previous research, the people contributing to a discussion, or the concepts and ideas important to an issue can help shape how an audience thinks about or perceives an issue. It groups people, research and opinions in ways that makes logical sense to your audience and sets up the means by which you can argue either for or against that which a group stands.

In a paper arguing for a certain interpretation of family values, the writer begins by looking at all the groups who profess to be in favor of such values (e.g., the religious right, President Clinton, feminists) and how they define such values differently. Grouping the other people who talk about the issue in this way then allows the writer to ally himself with certain groups and argue against others.

Definition demonstrates how to set the terms or parameters of an argument. Defining issues in terms that support your position frames the argument so that, through syllogistic reasoning, an audience can be lead logically to the conclusion you intend. To argue by definition, then, is to convince the audience that the definitions are reasonable, supportable and logical and, since your argument is based on them, your conclusions are as well.

In an editorial arguing for dismissing a given professor, the writer begins by defining what makes a "good" teacher: knowledge of topic, interest in student learning, a teaching style that holds students' attention, an ability to explain clearly difficult concepts, availability for conferences with students, and fair evaluation methods. Once a good teacher is defined in this way, the author can then demonstrate how Professor X has none of these qualities, proving his judgment with evidence at each point from student evaluations, interviews, etc. Logically, then, if Professor X does not fit the definition of a good teacher, the readers will reach the conclusion that he is a bad one and should be dismissed.

Ethical Appeals

Ethical appeals make use of what an audience values and believes to be good or true. Presented formulaically, it might look something like this:

Values held by audience + connection to your argument = an argument your audience values.

Ethical appeals are acceptable in most forms of academic argument; however, they are not a substitute for evidence or proof. Use them sparingly. Whatever you do, don't assume your ethical positions are shared by your audience as this may differ radically from one to another.

Typically, such appeals appear in the introduction or conclusion to demonstrate how the argument connects to a belief the audience already holds regardless of whether they have ever thought about your position in the same way before.

Arguing from an Ethical Basis

When arguing from an ethical basis, begin by subtly reminding readers of what it is that they are supposed to believe in and then show how your argument is a logical extension of that belief. For example:

Although most people wouldn't call themselves "feminists," it is difficult to find anyone in the 1990s society who doesn't believe women should receive equal pay for equal work. Equal pay, after all, is only fair and makes sense given our belief in justice and equal treatment for all citizens. [First two sentences remind audience what they believe.] However, the fact remains that no matter how commonsensical equal pay seems it is not yet a reality. Addressing the causes of unequal pay, then, is something that goes to the heart of American society, an individual's right to receive fair treatment in the workplace. [Second two sentences illustrate how this ethical belief is being violated, and thus, by logical extension, should be addressed.]

Discipline-Specific Arguments

In discipline-specific arguments, it is best to use an ethic or value shared within that community. For example:

As teachers, we constantly profess the belief that students should be in charge of their own learning. Arguably, a student-centered curriculum is one of the unquestioned values of educational studies. [First two sentences invoke a value within the field of education.] Although seemingly a radical idea, foregoing the teaching of grammar out of workbooks is simply an extension of this value. By working with grammatical mistakes in the context of a student's writing, we are merely gearing the curriculum to a student's needs and helping him/her "take charge" of their own writing. [The last two sentences show how what the author is arguing-teaching grammar in the context of student writing-is a logical extension of this value.]

Arguments for a General Audience

In arguments geared to a more general audience, cultural values may be more appropriate. For Example:

One of America's greatest commodities has been the field of science and medicine. During the four-year governmental ban on fetal tissue research, doctors went to other countries to perform transplants, thus exporting our ideas and innovations in this area to other countries (Donovan, 225). Why shouldn't we continue to be at the forefront of this research? Our technology, especially in medicine, is some of the best in the world, and this research could provide benefits for thousands of people. We need research to continue and to consistently show what exactly needs to be done in this procedure. [Highlights: First sentence invokes an American value-the strength of our medical technology-while the next sentence examines the ethics of exporting such technology without using it on the home front, something most Americans would protest. This sets the stage for the writer to argue for more research into this area.]

Emotional Appeals

Emotional appeals are generally frowned upon in academic circles for the simple reason that they tend to get in the way of logic and reason, the prerequisites of an academic argument. However, under the right circumstances, they can be quite effective. Drawing on our most basic instincts and feelings an emotional appeal can illustrate a truth or depict the reality of a fact in an emotive way far more compelling than a logical or ethical appeal. For example:

Studies show that women earn 80 cents to every dollar earned by a man. What these statistics don't illustrate well is the effect this lesser earning potential has on women's lives. Take Irma as an example. Irma works as a nurse in a major hospital, yet takes home only $250 a week. On this money, she must support her four children whose father abandoned them when the youngest was six months old. With rent at $700 a week, she has only $300 left over for food, clothing, and her own needs. As she describes it, "it's heartbreaking to have to tell my daughter that she has to wear hand-me-downs one more year to begin school or to tell my son that he can't join the baseball league because we can't afford the fee for the uniform. It's even worse when I watch them eat pasta day after day without complaint because our budget doesn't allow for much meat." It's even more frustrating, she explains, when she realizes not all nurses doing the same job are earning the same pay. "Last month, I heard one of the male nurses got a raise because he was supporting a family of four. What makes them think women aren't in the same situation?"

Be cautious using emotional appeals. They have no place in an academic argument if their purpose-as often seen in advertising and politics-is to deceive or distort. When appropriate, use them to introduce an argument that proceeds logically and is supported with acceptable forms of evidence (e.g., statistics, research studies) or, to follow, as a graphic or human illustration of what the evidence suggests.

The Conclusion

There are no hard and fast rules for constructing an argument's conclusion or that mandate what it should contain. Nevertheless, your conclusion should close out the presentation of your evidence in a clear, logical and thoughtful manner and leave the audience with some credible semblance that you have followed through on or fulfilled the promise of your introduction.

If the argument is open-ended, the conclusion should remind the audience of the specifics of the issue being argued, the position you have taken and give them something new to consider. If it is close-ended, it should justify your position. The conclusion is the place to pound home the central points of your argument and persuade the audience that, "given the evidence," your case is indisputable.

Depending on what message you most want to leave your audience with, you may want to conclude using one or more of the following strategies:

Summarizing Key Points

Logical synthesis, evaluating the solution, call to action, emotional and ethical appeals, reflecting your introduction.

Reflecting back on your introduction will provide a sense of closure, particularly if you began by asking questions, or proposing a solution to a problem. Having provided the answers or explained the solution in the body of your argument, your concluding remarks provide an opportunity to restate the original questions or problem and show how your argument answered or resolved them. It is also an opportunity to show how your position adds to or changes the context of the issue at hand. For example:

Picture yourself stepping out into a backyard with just enough sturdy turf to be comfortable in a sea of drought-loving flowers such as cosmos, dianthus, columbine, and zinnias. The honeysuckle bushes and juniper hedges are alive with the buzzing of bees and the twittering of birds. At night as you lie down to sleep, you can once again hear crickets through the open window. All this and your mower and hoses have not been out of the shed for weeks!

Summarizing the Key Points of an argument is always a good idea and, in some disciplines, it's considered a standard conclusion. But more often, it is used in conjunction with other concluding remarks and strategies. Be careful not to overdo it: Unless you are presenting a complex argument, or relying on a variety of potentially confusing sub-arguments, a lengthy summary is unnecessary and, in fact, overkill. Be brief. For example:

The current sexual assault reporting rates among students is low because the victim often does not know what resources and options are available. In addition, ignorance, misconceptions and students' false sense of security undermine the sexual assault prevention efforts. The alarming result is that assailants are often unaware that they are assailants and victims unaware that they are victims.
The best way to fight this ignorance is education and, since that is the goal of a university, what better place to begin. Education about sexual assault may be difficult at first but eventually everyone, including the institution, will benefit. It will not only teach students how to succeed in the classroom and office, but how to succeed in life as well.

A logical synthesis of points made summarizes the individual steps taken to arrive at an argument's conclusion and is practically a requirement of an inductively organized presentation. In the body of an argument, each piece of evidence is laid out and examined individually. Synthesizing the logic behind each step pulls all those pieces together and demonstrates how each relates to another. Briefly reminding your audience of all these connections may be the best way to conclude, particularly if your argument is somewhat complicated or difficult to follow. For example:

Some find it easy to adopt a "they're getting what they deserve" attitude toward student binge-drinkers when they suffer the negative effects of their behavior. As long as they are adults making their own choices, and they are the only ones affected, why not let them do as they please? This attitude should not be tolerated for two reasons. First, many of these students are breaking the law by drinking before the age of 21. We cannot ignore this and allow these crimes to go unpunished. Second, they are not the only ones affected. The repercussions of binge-drinkers on non-drinkers living in dorms and Greek houses-the secondhand binge affects-should not be so lightly dismissed.
Wechsler writes, "It is no longer possible to view bingeing as solely the bingers' problem: non-bingeing students are paying too steep a price." On high-binge campuses, for example, that price includes student's sleep or study interrupted (68%), caring for a drunken student (54%), unwanted sexual advances (26%) and personal property damage (15%) (Wechsler 23-60). It is the non-drinking student we must keep especially in mind when we consider whether college binge-drinking is a problem worthy of our attention, or one we can afford to keep on ignoring. Writes Hingson, "Emphasis should be placed on protecting the rights of those [non-drinkers] negatively affected by binge drinkers" (54). All students have the right to be safe and happy at their university, and we cannot continue to allow binge drinkers to infringe upon that right.

Evaluating the Solution to a problem presented in the introduction is also an excellent way to conclude your argument. Since most of an argument focused on solving a problem presents the reasons why a particular solution is best, an evaluation of potential problems and how they might be addressed will leave your audience more convinced of the solution's validity and your objectivity. It provides an opportunity to examine, for the audience's benefit, the strengths and weaknesses of your position one last time before the end of the argument. For example:

A one-credit course would prove that the CSU did take effective steps to help and protect their students and therefore the university would not be found liable for the crime. "Colleges are the last chance that we have to educate young men and women about human relations, living together, competition, and fair play," stated Susan Ervin-Tripp, a psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley (Warshaw, 1994). This may also be the last chance that society has to give students the tools to prevent unnecessary sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and lifetimes full of severe emotional stress resulting from sexual assault crimes. [After arguing about the financial and legal liabilities the University might face if they don't institute a required course on preventing sexual assault, the writer moves back to a humane appeal about the long-term personal effects of sexual assault. This emotional appeal builds nicely on the rational appeal to this audience.] Colorado State University can use this chance to offer students a course that will teach them how to protect themselves, aid prevention, and report sexual assault crimes. CSU has a chance to make a huge difference in these students' lives, not only in the classroom but in life. As the U.S. Department of Justice stated so eloquently, "Experiences on campuses will be carried forth to everyday life and will influence future actions. Therefore, every effort to inform students may mean one less victim or one less crime committed" (US Dept. of Justice). Isn't this one student, who was given the tools to avoid a lifetime of shame, doubt, disgust, and depression, enough reward for only a half semester of education?

A call to action work best in deductive arguments that propose solutions to problems (e.g. social problems) or that point out what further research is needed. It takes an argument one step further by addressing what the point of convincing an audience was in the first place. If your goal was advocating some sort of change, and your argument is convincing, your conclusion provides an opportunity to suggest what actions an audience sold on your position can take to actualize that change. For example:

As with any new endeavor, we like to know what we are getting into. We like to know what the advantages and disadvantages are. Exploring every option is something people have been doing for centuries and will continue to do for many more. Fossil fuel studies have shown the world that we have dug much farther into the earth's resources than was probably necessary and that industry has gone too far in tapping the earth of oil and coal. Many scientists believe global climate change has been brought about by pollution resulting from the burning of these fossil fuels.
Maybe we will do something about this problem in the future or, maybe the time to act is right now. Maybe tomorrow is too late for saving the rain-forests. The people who are destroying these trees need an alternative energy source and need to learn more about emerging technologies that will save them from using up all their remaining resources. The sooner we educate ourselves and apply that knowledge toward a sustainable future, the sooner we will be able to offer help to regions of the world which are in dire need.
The sun has tremendous potential for clean, safe and renewable energy and should be exploited in all areas of the world. The future starts right here, right now, with you. It is essential that the simple, yet effective, steps outlined earlier are taken. Write your congressman today. The Solar Forum '97 is taking place this month in Washington. Decisions made there will ultimately affect us all for years to come. Subscribe to a "green" energy program in your area. In Fort Collins it would be the wind program, sponsored by Fort Collins Light and Power. The number to call is 970-221-6704. There are still open slots to fill. Take a look at Home Power Magazine and see how easy it is for renewable energy to fit into your lifestyle. You'll be glad you did. I know I am.

Emotional and ethical appeals prompt your audience to care about an issue on more than an intellectual level. As with introductions, conclusions are an excellent place to do this because it reminds your audience that your position is not merely an academic one, but one that has consequences for real people. Concluding on emotional and ethical grounds provides an opportunity to strengthen the appeal of you position. For example:

The safety of our society is directly influenced by the correct handling of our household hazardous waste. Everyone uses dangerous chemicals every day and the dangers are astounding when they aren't disposed of in a proper and professional manner. In an age of many chemicals, we must be careful not to put each other, our pets, and our environment in harm's way: We do not need sanitation workers losing their lives or are pets poisoned. In a country with a population the size of the United States, it is necessary that every homeowner ensure a healthy environment for everyone-plants and animals included-by taking precautions when disposing of hazardous waste. It is the job of every responsible citizen to ensure that others are not put at risk when disposing of chemicals.

Using evidence, much of which comes from published sources, is an essential part of constructing an argument and proper documentation of those sources is an essential part of convincing your audience that you are credible. All facts and figures, paraphrases, opinions, and quotes from other sources must be cited using specific citation formats such as footnotes, in-text notes, end-notes and bibliographies.

Citation Information

Donna LeCourt, Kate Kiefer, and Peter Connor. (1994-2023). Parts of an Argument. The WAC Clearinghouse. Colorado State University. Available at

Copyright Information

Copyright © 1994-2023 Colorado State University and/or this site's authors, developers, and contributors . Some material displayed on this site is used with permission.


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write an a+ argumentative essay.


You'll no doubt have to write a number of argumentative essays in both high school and college, but what, exactly, is an argumentative essay and how do you write the best one possible? Let's take a look.

A great argumentative essay always combines the same basic elements: approaching an argument from a rational perspective, researching sources, supporting your claims using facts rather than opinion, and articulating your reasoning into the most cogent and reasoned points. Argumentative essays are great building blocks for all sorts of research and rhetoric, so your teachers will expect you to master the technique before long.

But if this sounds daunting, never fear! We'll show how an argumentative essay differs from other kinds of papers, how to research and write them, how to pick an argumentative essay topic, and where to find example essays. So let's get started.

What Is an Argumentative Essay? How Is it Different from Other Kinds of Essays?

There are two basic requirements for any and all essays: to state a claim (a thesis statement) and to support that claim with evidence.

Though every essay is founded on these two ideas, there are several different types of essays, differentiated by the style of the writing, how the writer presents the thesis, and the types of evidence used to support the thesis statement.

Essays can be roughly divided into four different types:

#1: Argumentative #2: Persuasive #3: Expository #4: Analytical

So let's look at each type and what the differences are between them before we focus the rest of our time to argumentative essays.

Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essays are what this article is all about, so let's talk about them first.

An argumentative essay attempts to convince a reader to agree with a particular argument (the writer's thesis statement). The writer takes a firm stand one way or another on a topic and then uses hard evidence to support that stance.

An argumentative essay seeks to prove to the reader that one argument —the writer's argument— is the factually and logically correct one. This means that an argumentative essay must use only evidence-based support to back up a claim , rather than emotional or philosophical reasoning (which is often allowed in other types of essays). Thus, an argumentative essay has a burden of substantiated proof and sources , whereas some other types of essays (namely persuasive essays) do not.

You can write an argumentative essay on any topic, so long as there's room for argument. Generally, you can use the same topics for both a persuasive essay or an argumentative one, so long as you support the argumentative essay with hard evidence.

Example topics of an argumentative essay:

The next three types of essays are not argumentative essays, but you may have written them in school. We're going to cover them so you know what not to do for your argumentative essay.

Persuasive Essay

Persuasive essays are similar to argumentative essays, so it can be easy to get them confused. But knowing what makes an argumentative essay different than a persuasive essay can often mean the difference between an excellent grade and an average one.

Persuasive essays seek to persuade a reader to agree with the point of view of the writer, whether that point of view is based on factual evidence or not. The writer has much more flexibility in the evidence they can use, with the ability to use moral, cultural, or opinion-based reasoning as well as factual reasoning to persuade the reader to agree the writer's side of a given issue.

Instead of being forced to use "pure" reason as one would in an argumentative essay, the writer of a persuasive essay can manipulate or appeal to the reader's emotions. So long as the writer attempts to steer the readers into agreeing with the thesis statement, the writer doesn't necessarily need hard evidence in favor of the argument.

Often, you can use the same topics for both a persuasive essay or an argumentative one—the difference is all in the approach and the evidence you present.

Example topics of a persuasive essay:

Expository Essay

An expository essay is typically a short essay in which the writer explains an idea, issue, or theme , or discusses the history of a person, place, or idea.

This is typically a fact-forward essay with little argument or opinion one way or the other.

Example topics of an expository essay:

Analytical Essay

An analytical essay seeks to delve into the deeper meaning of a text or work of art, or unpack a complicated idea . These kinds of essays closely interpret a source and look into its meaning by analyzing it at both a macro and micro level.

This type of analysis can be augmented by historical context or other expert or widely-regarded opinions on the subject, but is mainly supported directly through the original source (the piece or art or text being analyzed) .

Example topics of an analytical essay:

There are many different types of essay and, over time, you'll be able to master them all.

A Typical Argumentative Essay Assignment

The average argumentative essay is between three to five pages, and will require at least three or four separate sources with which to back your claims . As for the essay topic , you'll most often be asked to write an argumentative essay in an English class on a "general" topic of your choice, ranging the gamut from science, to history, to literature.

But while the topics of an argumentative essay can span several different fields, the structure of an argumentative essay is always the same: you must support a claim—a claim that can reasonably have multiple sides—using multiple sources and using a standard essay format (which we'll talk about later on).

This is why many argumentative essay topics begin with the word "should," as in:

These topics all have at least two sides of the argument: Yes or no. And you must support the side you choose with evidence as to why your side is the correct one.

But there are also plenty of other ways to frame an argumentative essay as well:

Though these are worded differently than the first three, you're still essentially forced to pick between two sides of an issue: yes or no, for or against, benefit or detriment. Though your argument might not fall entirely into one side of the divide or another—for instance, you could claim that social media has positively impacted some aspects of modern life while being a detriment to others—your essay should still support one side of the argument above all. Your final stance would be that overall , social media is beneficial or overall , social media is harmful.

If your argument is one that is mostly text-based or backed by a single source (e.g., "How does Salinger show that Holden Caulfield is an unreliable narrator?" or "Does Gatsby personify the American Dream?"), then it's an analytical essay, rather than an argumentative essay. An argumentative essay will always be focused on more general topics so that you can use multiple sources to back up your claims.

Good Argumentative Essay Topics

So you know the basic idea behind an argumentative essay, but what topic should you write about?

Again, almost always, you'll be asked to write an argumentative essay on a free topic of your choice, or you'll be asked to select between a few given topics . If you're given complete free reign of topics, then it'll be up to you to find an essay topic that no only appeals to you, but that you can turn into an A+ argumentative essay.

What makes a "good" argumentative essay topic depends on both the subject matter and your personal interest —it can be hard to give your best effort on something that bores you to tears! But it can also be near impossible to write an argumentative essay on a topic that has no room for debate.

As we said earlier, a good argumentative essay topic will be one that has the potential to reasonably go in at least two directions—for or against, yes or no, and why . For example, it's pretty hard to write an argumentative essay on whether or not people should be allowed to murder one another—not a whole lot of debate there for most people!—but writing an essay for or against the death penalty has a lot more wiggle room for evidence and argument.

A good topic is also one that can be substantiated through hard evidence and relevant sources . So be sure to pick a topic that other people have studied (or at least studied elements of) so that you can use their data in your argument. For example, if you're arguing that it should be mandatory for all middle school children to play a sport, you might have to apply smaller scientific data points to the larger picture you're trying to justify. There are probably several studies you could cite on the benefits of physical activity and the positive effect structure and teamwork has on young minds, but there's probably no study you could use where a group of scientists put all middle-schoolers in one jurisdiction into a mandatory sports program (since that's probably never happened). So long as your evidence is relevant to your point and you can extrapolate from it to form a larger whole, you can use it as a part of your resource material.

And if you need ideas on where to get started, or just want to see sample argumentative essay topics, then check out these links for hundreds of potential argumentative essay topics.

101 Persuasive (or Argumentative) Essay and Speech Topics

301 Prompts for Argumentative Writing

Top 50 Ideas for Argumentative/Persuasive Essay Writing

[Note: some of these say "persuasive essay topics," but just remember that the same topic can often be used for both a persuasive essay and an argumentative essay; the difference is in your writing style and the evidence you use to support your claims.]

KO! Find that one argumentative essay topic you can absolutely conquer.

Argumentative Essay Format

Argumentative Essays are composed of four main elements:

If you're familiar with essay writing in general, then you're also probably familiar with the five paragraph essay structure . This structure is a simple tool to show how one outlines an essay and breaks it down into its component parts, although it can be expanded into as many paragraphs as you want beyond the core five.

The standard argumentative essay is often 3-5 pages, which will usually mean a lot more than five paragraphs, but your overall structure will look the same as a much shorter essay.

An argumentative essay at its simplest structure will look like:

Paragraph 1: Intro

Paragraph 2: Support

Paragraph 3: Support

Paragraph 4: Counterargument

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

Now let's unpack each of these paragraph types to see how they work (with examples!), what goes into them, and why.

Paragraph 1—Set Up and Claim

Your first task is to introduce the reader to the topic at hand so they'll be prepared for your claim. Give a little background information, set the scene, and give the reader some stakes so that they care about the issue you're going to discuss.

Next, you absolutely must have a position on an argument and make that position clear to the readers. It's not an argumentative essay unless you're arguing for a specific claim, and this claim will be your thesis statement.

Your thesis CANNOT be a mere statement of fact (e.g., "Washington DC is the capital of the United States"). Your thesis must instead be an opinion which can be backed up with evidence and has the potential to be argued against (e.g., "New York should be the capital of the United States").

Paragraphs 2 and 3—Your Evidence

These are your body paragraphs in which you give the reasons why your argument is the best one and back up this reasoning with concrete evidence .

The argument supporting the thesis of an argumentative essay should be one that can be supported by facts and evidence, rather than personal opinion or cultural or religious mores.

For example, if you're arguing that New York should be the new capital of the US, you would have to back up that fact by discussing the factual contrasts between New York and DC in terms of location, population, revenue, and laws. You would then have to talk about the precedents for what makes for a good capital city and why New York fits the bill more than DC does.

Your argument can't simply be that a lot of people think New York is the best city ever and that you agree.

In addition to using concrete evidence, you always want to keep the tone of your essay passionate, but impersonal . Even though you're writing your argument from a single opinion, don't use first person language—"I think," "I feel," "I believe,"—to present your claims. Doing so is repetitive, since by writing the essay you're already telling the audience what you feel, and using first person language weakens your writing voice.

For example,

"I think that Washington DC is no longer suited to be the capital city of the United States."

"Washington DC is no longer suited to be the capital city of the United States."

The second statement sounds far stronger and more analytical.

Paragraph 4—Argument for the Other Side and Refutation

Even without a counter argument, you can make a pretty persuasive claim, but a counterargument will round out your essay into one that is much more persuasive and substantial.

By anticipating an argument against your claim and taking the initiative to counter it, you're allowing yourself to get ahead of the game. This way, you show that you've given great thought to all sides of the issue before choosing your position, and you demonstrate in multiple ways how yours is the more reasoned and supported side.

Paragraph 5—Conclusion

This paragraph is where you re-state your argument and summarize why it's the best claim.

Briefly touch on your supporting evidence and voila! A finished argumentative essay.

Your essay should have just as awesome a skeleton as this plesiosaur does. (In other words: a ridiculously awesome skeleton)

Argumentative Essay Example: 5-Paragraph Style

It always helps to have an example to learn from. I've written a full 5-paragraph argumentative essay here. Look at how I state my thesis in paragraph 1, give supporting evidence in paragraphs 2 and 3, address a counterargument in paragraph 4, and conclude in paragraph 5.

Topic: Is it possible to maintain conflicting loyalties?

Paragraph 1

It is almost impossible to go through life without encountering a situation where your loyalties to different people or causes come into conflict with each other. Maybe you have a loving relationship with your sister, but she disagrees with your decision to join the army, or you find yourself torn between your cultural beliefs and your scientific ones. These conflicting loyalties can often be maintained for a time, but as examples from both history and psychological theory illustrate, sooner or later, people have to make a choice between competing loyalties, as no one can maintain a conflicting loyalty or belief system forever.

The first two sentences set the scene and give some hypothetical examples and stakes for the reader to care about.

The third sentence finishes off the intro with the thesis statement, making very clear how the author stands on the issue ("people have to make a choice between competing loyalties, as no one can maintain a conflicting loyalty or belief system forever." )

Paragraphs 2 and 3

Psychological theory states that human beings are not equipped to maintain conflicting loyalties indefinitely and that attempting to do so leads to a state called "cognitive dissonance." Cognitive dissonance theory is the psychological idea that people undergo tremendous mental stress or anxiety when holding contradictory beliefs, values, or loyalties (Festinger, 1957). Even if human beings initially hold a conflicting loyalty, they will do their best to find a mental equilibrium by making a choice between those loyalties—stay stalwart to a belief system or change their beliefs. One of the earliest formal examples of cognitive dissonance theory comes from Leon Festinger's When Prophesy Fails . Members of an apocalyptic cult are told that the end of the world will occur on a specific date and that they alone will be spared the Earth's destruction. When that day comes and goes with no apocalypse, the cult members face a cognitive dissonance between what they see and what they've been led to believe (Festinger, 1956). Some choose to believe that the cult's beliefs are still correct, but that the Earth was simply spared from destruction by mercy, while others choose to believe that they were lied to and that the cult was fraudulent all along. Both beliefs cannot be correct at the same time, and so the cult members are forced to make their choice.

But even when conflicting loyalties can lead to potentially physical, rather than just mental, consequences, people will always make a choice to fall on one side or other of a dividing line. Take, for instance, Nicolaus Copernicus, a man born and raised in Catholic Poland (and educated in Catholic Italy). Though the Catholic church dictated specific scientific teachings, Copernicus' loyalty to his own observations and scientific evidence won out over his loyalty to his country's government and belief system. When he published his heliocentric model of the solar system--in opposition to the geocentric model that had been widely accepted for hundreds of years (Hannam, 2011)-- Copernicus was making a choice between his loyalties. In an attempt t o maintain his fealty both to the established system and to what he believed, h e sat on his findings for a number of years (Fantoli, 1994). But, ultimately, Copernicus made the choice to side with his beliefs and observations above all and published his work for the world to see (even though, in doing so, he risked both his reputation and personal freedoms).

These two paragraphs provide the reasons why the author supports the main argument and uses substantiated sources to back those reasons.

The paragraph on cognitive dissonance theory gives both broad supporting evidence and more narrow, detailed supporting evidence to show why the thesis statement is correct not just anecdotally but also scientifically and psychologically. First, we see why people in general have a difficult time accepting conflicting loyalties and desires and then how this applies to individuals through the example of the cult members from the Dr. Festinger's research.

The next paragraph continues to use more detailed examples from history to provide further evidence of why the thesis that people cannot indefinitely maintain conflicting loyalties is true.

Paragraph 4

Some will claim that it is possible to maintain conflicting beliefs or loyalties permanently, but this is often more a matter of people deluding themselves and still making a choice for one side or the other, rather than truly maintaining loyalty to both sides equally. For example, Lancelot du Lac typifies a person who claims to maintain a balanced loyalty between to two parties, but his attempt to do so fails (as all attempts to permanently maintain conflicting loyalties must). Lancelot tells himself and others that he is equally devoted to both King Arthur and his court and to being Queen Guinevere's knight (Malory, 2008). But he can neither be in two places at once to protect both the king and queen, nor can he help but let his romantic feelings for the queen to interfere with his duties to the king and the kingdom. Ultimately, he and Queen Guinevere give into their feelings for one another and Lancelot—though he denies it—chooses his loyalty to her over his loyalty to Arthur. This decision plunges the kingdom into a civil war, ages Lancelot prematurely, and ultimately leads to Camelot's ruin (Raabe, 1987). Though Lancelot claimed to have been loyal to both the king and the queen, this loyalty was ultimately in conflict, and he could not maintain it.

Here we have the acknowledgement of a potential counter-argument and the evidence as to why it isn't true.

The argument is that some people (or literary characters) have asserted that they give equal weight to their conflicting loyalties. The refutation is that, though some may claim to be able to maintain conflicting loyalties, they're either lying to others or deceiving themselves. The paragraph shows why this is true by providing an example of this in action.

Paragraph 5

Whether it be through literature or history, time and time again, people demonstrate the challenges of trying to manage conflicting loyalties and the inevitable consequences of doing so. Though belief systems are malleable and will often change over time, it is not possible to maintain two mutually exclusive loyalties or beliefs at once. In the end, people always make a choice, and loyalty for one party or one side of an issue will always trump loyalty to the other.

The concluding paragraph summarizes the essay, touches on the evidence presented, and re-states the thesis statement.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay: 8 Steps

Writing the best argumentative essay is all about the preparation, so let's talk steps:

#1: Preliminary Research

If you have the option to pick your own argumentative essay topic (which you most likely will), then choose one or two topics you find the most intriguing or that you have a vested interest in and do some preliminary research on both sides of the debate.

Do an open internet search just to see what the general chatter is on the topic and what the research trends are.

Did your preliminary reading influence you to pick a side or change your side? Without diving into all the scholarly articles at length, do you believe there's enough evidence to support your claim? Have there been scientific studies? Experiments? Does a noted scholar in the field agree with you? If not, you may need to pick another topic or side of the argument to support.

#2: Pick Your Side and Form Your Thesis

Now's the time to pick the side of the argument you feel you can support the best and summarize your main point into your thesis statement.

Your thesis will be the basis of your entire essay, so make sure you know which side you're on, that you've stated it clearly, and that you stick by your argument throughout the entire essay .

#3: Heavy-Duty Research Time

You've taken a gander at what the internet at large has to say on your argument, but now's the time to actually read those sources and take notes.

Check scholarly journals online at Google Scholar , the Directory of Open Access Journals , or JStor . You can also search individual university or school libraries and websites to see what kinds of academic articles you can access for free. Keep track of your important quotes and page numbers and put them somewhere that's easy to find later.

And don't forget to check your school or local libraries as well!

#4: Outline

Follow the five-paragraph outline structure from the previous section.

Fill in your topic, your reasons, and your supporting evidence into each of the categories.

Before you begin to flesh out the essay, take a look at what you've got. Is your thesis statement in the first paragraph? Is it clear? Is your argument logical? Does your supporting evidence support your reasoning?

By outlining your essay, you streamline your process and take care of any logic gaps before you dive headfirst into the writing. This will save you a lot of grief later on if you need to change your sources or your structure, so don't get too trigger-happy and skip this step.

Now that you've laid out exactly what you'll need for your essay and where, it's time to fill in all the gaps by writing it out.

Take it one step at a time and expand your ideas into complete sentences and substantiated claims. It may feel daunting to turn an outline into a complete draft, but just remember that you've already laid out all the groundwork; now you're just filling in the gaps.

If you have the time before deadline, give yourself a day or two (or even just an hour!) away from your essay . Looking it over with fresh eyes will allow you to see errors, both minor and major, that you likely would have missed had you tried to edit when it was still raw.

Take a first pass over the entire essay and try your best to ignore any minor spelling or grammar mistakes—you're just looking at the big picture right now. Does it make sense as a whole? Did the essay succeed in making an argument and backing that argument up logically? (Do you feel persuaded?)

If not, go back and make notes so that you can fix it for your final draft.

Once you've made your revisions to the overall structure, mark all your small errors and grammar problems so you can fix them in the next draft.

#7: Final Draft

Use the notes you made on the rough draft and go in and hack and smooth away until you're satisfied with the final result.

A checklist for your final draft:

#8: Celebrate!

Once you've brought that final draft to a perfect polish and turned in your assignment, you're done! Go you!

Be prepared and ♪ you'll never go hungry again ♪, *cough*, or struggle with your argumentative essay-writing again. (Walt Disney Studios)

Good Examples of Argumentative Essays Online

Theory is all well and good, but examples are key. Just to get you started on what a fully-fleshed out argumentative essay looks like, let's see some examples in action.

Check out these two argumentative essay examples on the use of landmines and freons (and note the excellent use of concrete sources to back up their arguments!).

The Use of Landmines

A Shattered Sky

The Take-Aways: Keys to Writing an Argumentative Essay

At first, writing an argumentative essay may seem like a monstrous hurdle to overcome, but with the proper preparation and understanding, you'll be able to knock yours out of the park.

Remember the differences between a persuasive essay and an argumentative one, make sure your thesis is clear, and double-check that your supporting evidence is both relevant to your point and well-sourced . Pick your topic, do your research, make your outline, and fill in the gaps. Before you know it, you'll have yourself an A+ argumentative essay there, my friend.

What's Next?

Now you know the ins and outs of an argumentative essay, but how comfortable are you writing in other styles? Learn more about the four writing styles and when it makes sense to use each .

Understand how to make an argument, but still having trouble organizing your thoughts? Check out our guide to three popular essay formats and choose which one is right for you.

Ready to make your case, but not sure what to write about? We've created a list of 50 potential argumentative essay topics to spark your imagination.

Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!

Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

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Courtney scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She is passionate about bringing education and the tools to succeed to students from all backgrounds and walks of life, as she believes open education is one of the great societal equalizers. She has years of tutoring experience and writes creative works in her free time.

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Writing Logical Arguments Worksheets

Related ela standard: w.6.1.a.

The goal of any argument is to present it in such a way that the points presented influence the audience to see it the writer’s way. The best way to present a persuasive argument is to build your thoughts in a logical and easy to follow manner. One of the most fundamental methods for presenting an argument comes from the work of Aristotle and still holds true today. The model tells us that we should present two premises each backed up by facts this would be followed up by a conclusion that reviews the points that were presented. These worksheets will help students learn to compose their own logical arguments in written form.

Logical Arguments Worksheets To Print:

A Persuasive Paragraph – You will need a topic that you have thought a lot about.

Propaganda – We look at the different types of selling points and forms.

Make it Sell! – Adjectives really can change everything.

The Slogan – You'll need one for one of seven of your favorite topics.

Be Persuasive! – Make your argument solid as a rock.

Vote For Me! – How do you convince someone who knows nothing about you that you deserve their vote?

Why Can't You See It My Way? – You will need to compose one really solid sentence and transform it into a paragraph.

Sales as Argument – The more people that know that a product is available, the more likely the product is to sell, and become popular.

What is Propaganda? – Read the sentences. Identify which propaganda technique is being used.

Making an Argument – Writers sometimes try to convince or persuade others to believe a certain thing or to take some particular action.

Writing Slogans – A slogan is a short, striking or memorable phrase used in advertising.

Marketing It – Write five sentences. Use one of the propaganda techniques in each sentence.

Running For Office: Selling Yourself – M Imagine you are running for office. What position would you like to hold?

Writing Slogans – Think of something that you think would make the world a better place.

Using Arguments for Sales – Pretend you are a marketing professional. Write sentences to sell a product.

The Art of Persuasion – Writers sometimes try to convince or persuade others to believe a certain thing or to take some particular action.

More Propaganda – Practice your persuasive writing skills by using one of the techniques of propaganda.

Make it Irresistible! – Think of a favorite product that you use, or imagine a product you would like to invent.

A Slogan Is an Argument – Create a commercial. Select one of the topics.

Introducing an Argument – Read the following pointers, and then try writing a persuasive paragraph of your own.

The Slogan – Design ads to catch people's attention, and to make them think certain things about the candidate and his or her opponent.

Making an Argument in Writing – Read the following pointers. Fill out the organizer.

Convincing Customers – Advertising has a lot to do with the popularity of products.

Use the Techniques of Propaganda – It means to put out information, sometimes of a biased nature, in order to promote or publicize a particular cause or point of view.

Make It – List reasons and facts to support your argument.

Writing Lingo – Select one of the topics below. Write a slogan to convince people to do whatever it is that you chose.

Using Propaganda in an Argument – Choose something that you want to convince your readers to do; believe a certain thing, vote a certain way, or buy a certain product, etc.

Making a Case for Votes! – The words, pictures and music are carefully chosen. A slogan may also be used to help people remember the candidate's name.

Slogans for Change – Think of something that you think would improve your school.

Using Arguments for Sales – Companies trying to sell their products also use propaganda techniques.

How to Write a Logical Argument?

Many times during your academic life, you are presented with the challenge of writing a logical argument. These types of activities and essays help you enhance your knowledge on different topics. They also make you ready to become more logical in your approach. Logical arguments should be written very carefully, especially if you are writing it on a higher level. This is because many people will look up to it. You will have to write it in a way that convinces your readers about the topic. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you write a logical argument:

Make Sure the Topic Is Logical

The first step towards writing a logical argument is to double-check that you are right in your approach. You should see if there are any loopholes in the topic. Otherwise, you won't be able to logically express your argument regarding the topic. Evidence is very necessary. It will only be available for credible topics. Don't try to force yourself into writing a logical argument for something that is not verifiable.

Mention Facts

Facts are something that cannot be denied. Every good argumentative essay contains facts. This is because nothing else can back your argument like facts. They provide evidence and support to your argument. To make sure that your argument is taken seriously, you should enlist all the relevant facts. Facts could be anything from stats and numbers to a logical hypothesis.

Start with the Strongest Evidence

To make your argument more persuasive, a great trick would be to begin with your strongest evidence. This evidence could be anything relevant that you gathered from your research. A strong beginning will have a powerful yet lasting impact on your readers.

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Developing Evidence-Based Arguments from Texts

Developing Evidence-Based Arguments from Texts

About this Strategy Guide

This guide provides teachers with strategies for helping students understand the differences between persuasive writing and evidence-based argumentation. Students become familiar with the basic components of an argument and then develop their understanding by analyzing evidence-based arguments about texts. Students then generate evidence-based arguments of texts using a variety of resources. Links to related resources and additional classroom strategies are also provided.

Research Basis

Strategy in practice, related resources.

Hillocks (2010) contends that argument is “at the heart of critical thinking and academic discourse, the kind of writing students need to know for success in college” (p. 25). He points out that “many teachers begin to teach some version of argument with the writing of a thesis statement, [but] in reality, good argument begins with looking at the data that are likely to become the evidence in an argument and that give rise to a thesis statement or major claim” (p. 26).  Students need an understanding of the components of argument and the process through which careful examination of textual evidence becomes the beginnings of a claim about text.

More Ideas to Try

Students prepare an already published scholarly article for presentation, with an emphasis on identification of the author's thesis and argument structure.

While drafting a literary analysis essay (or another type of argument) of their own, students work in pairs to investigate advice for writing conclusions and to analyze conclusions of sample essays. They then draft two conclusions for their essay, select one, and reflect on what they have learned through the process.

The Essay Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to organize and outline their ideas for an informational, definitional, or descriptive essay.

Explore Resources by Grade

How to Write An Argumentative Essay (With Examples)

Feb 14, 2023

to write an argumentative essay one must have logical and verifiable supporting ideas

Are you looking for ways how to write an argumentative essay? Check out these helpful examples!

Argumentative essays can be tricky to write, but with a little practice, they can become relatively easy. In order to write an argumentative essay, it is important to always have a strong argument as your topic.

An argumentative essay has an objective approach to its statements, the argument should greatly rely on evidence and logic. However, there is a slight bit of wiggle room within your essay. For example, your thesis statement may include an opinion or a controversial idea, and while you should still support it with facts, it is possible to add your opinion to the essay without going against the objective of the essay.

If you want to create a high-quality argumentative essay, is here for you! This AI-assistant writing software can easily help you with writing any kind of academic paper, including your argumentative essay.

Tips on how to make an Argumentative Essay

Creating an argumentative essay can be quite daunting, especially if you are not used to writing this kind of essay. However, there are some simple guidelines you can follow to ensure that your essay will be both coherent and convincing:

Make sure to choose a topic with strong talking points. This makes it easier to form strong coherent arguments that will dictate the direction you want to take with your essay.

Use the correct tone when creating your argumentative essay. People mistake assertiveness in argumentative essays to mean being aggressive and argumentative, which will not win you any points with your readers. Convincing arguments should be presented calmly and clearly in the introduction section of your essay, with supporting information being presented throughout the body of your essay.

Make sure to use factual statements when presenting your arguments. This is important if you are writing an academic essay as this ensures that your arguments are well-researched and thought out. Fact-based research is always more reliable than opinions.

Keep your arguments logical and concise. This will make it easy for your readers to follow your train of thought and helps to keep them engaged throughout the essay.

Make sure that you indicate all the relevant talking points in a clear and concise manner in your conclusion section.

Always make sure to proofread your work thoroughly throughout your writing process because typos and grammatical errors will greatly affect the quality and credibility of your work.

With these tips in mind, you are on your way to creating a high-quality argumentative essay that is easy to understand and will be compelling to your readers. 

How to create an Outline for your Argumentative Essay

As we already know, creating an argumentative essay involves a strong topic in order to create a strong argument. Creating an outline for it is a lot easier than most people think, especially for beginners. Here are some simple steps to create an argumentative essay:

1. Research your topic - As mentioned above, you will need to carry out in-depth research to find suitable evidence to back up your argument. If you know what you are going to write about before carrying out your research, then you will be able to structure it more easily. 

2. Introduction - In this part of your essay, you will want to introduce the reader to the topic that you will be discussing. The introductory paragraph works like a hook to entice your readers about your interesting topic. Make sure to create an introduction that is easy to understand so that your readers will be interested in reading. A good way to do this is by providing them with a brief background about the topic so that they understand it better.

3. Hypothesis or Premise - This is where you present your main arguments about your topic. You could provide questions to answer or evidence to support your claims. It will serve as the basis for the argument in your essay. Keep in mind that you will need to support all of your points with evidence from your research.

4. Body - Like any good argumentative essay, your body should contain all of the supporting evidence that you will use to support your argument. Each body paragraph should be dedicated to a different point that you would like to make. Body paragraphs cover different pieces of evidence that you provide to support your claims throughout the essay.

5. Conclusion - This is where you create a summary of all your talking points. This could also serve as a brief refresher of what you have discussed in the body of the essay. The conclusion is one of the most important parts of your essay because this is where you rebut the opposing arguments and remind your reader of the key points that you have discussed in the paper.

Types of Argumentative Essay

1. Rogerian Argumentative Essay - This type of essay is great for controversial topics because its creator, Carl Rogers intended this essay type to be as tame and respectful as possible.

The Rogerian style is centred around maintaining a balance between the two sides of the argument rather than siding with one opinion over the other. After both sides have been considered, a great way to end this essay is with a proper resolution of all the arguments presented. Usually, this results in finding a way to bring the two sides together rather than permanently sidelining one opinion over another.

This approach promotes both intellectual honesty and responsible thinking, which is a great way to approach an argumentative essay!

2. Classic Argumentative Essay - This type of argumentative essay entices the reader to a certain point of view.

This style is developed by Aristotle and it requires the reader to look at both sides of the argument while ultimately deciding which one is the most concise and factual. An essay like this requires a presentation of claims and counterarguments as well as an overall claim about the topic being argued over.

3. Toulmin Argumentative Essay - Arguments are broken down into multiple elements in order to prove a point. The main elements to follow with the Toulmin argumentative essay are the claim, grounds, warrant, qualifier, rebuttal, and backing.

The claim is the thesis that is being argued for, while the grounds are the arguments that back up the claim.

The warrant is the argument from which the claim can be proven; this can be based on historical data, social or cultural research, or scientific research.

The qualifier is the explanation that explains the basis on which the claim was made and the justification provided to justify the claim.

The rebuttal is the part where you respond to the claims that have been presented against your claim. This can be used to acknowledge an opposing viewpoint by proving your reasoning and logic are stronger or more logical than theirs.

And the backing is the part of your essay where you convince your reader to take a side in the argument.

The Toulmin argument is best used when there could be several possible solutions to a certain argument. This style is also very useful for debates and discussions because it allows both sides of an argument to be laid out for consideration.

Argumentative Essay Examples

Now that we've explained the different types of argumentative essays as well as useful tips you can use throughout your writing process, here are some excerpt examples of the different types of argumentative essays:

1. Is School Conductive to Learning? (Classical Argumentative Essay)

"If students get As on a test then they know the material, right? How many of those students would still know the information if you asked them about a week later? How about a month later? Most students will not remember most of the information for very long after the test. Why is that? They learned it, didn't they? Well, that depends on how you define "learning". "Learning" is gaining knowledge and experience which stays in the long-term memory and is of value to the recipient. So we have to ask, is our education system really teaching children?

The way education is set up in this country is simple. There is usually only one teacher in a classroom teaching from 12 to 30 students at a time. Information is written on a blackboard in the front of the room while the children take notes and listen. There may be some variation depending on the school and teacher. Then the students are tested on the material. After the test, the class moves on to new information. The material is usually not looked at again until a final test at the end of the semester, for which students study very hard a few days before. If they pass the test it is assumed that they "learned" the information, regardless of if they forget it later. Our education system is not only not enhancing learning but may actually be inhibiting it.

The education system in the United States today treats the minds of children like bowls to be filled with information. What it does not realize is that if you fill a bowl too quickly most of the liquid will bounce back out. It is the same with the mind of a child. When they are given too much information in such a small amount of time very little of it is actually retained. This is because of the vast amount of information students are given in very small amounts of time. Children study a single topic for two weeks to a month and then they are tested on it. After the test, they study something different for the next two weeks to a month. This causes the previous information to be forgotten and replaced by new information. This means that children end up with only very general knowledge of the topics studied.

A few children do learn this quickly, but not very many. Children learn at greatly varying paces, however, schools assume that all children learn at the same speed. This causes many children to be very frustrated and give up trying to learn. Many children who learn at a slower pace fall behind beyond any hope of catching up. Often the children who learn more quickly get bored and give up completely. Many of these children begin associating learning with boredom or frustration and actually start to dislike and even fight against learning.

Our system of schooling is not set up the way it should be. It was created to enhance learning, to teach children what they needed to know. It has strayed from that purpose. Our school system not only does not teach, but it turns students away from learning. Our children deserve better than this. They deserve to be shown how much fun and how beneficial learning can be. Learning can be what gives our lives value, but we are cheating our children of that. The school system needs to be seriously looked at and changed. The future of our world could be shaped by how well our children are prepared for it. They will be better prepared for it if they are shown how important and how rewarding knowledge and confidence can be. If our children are given these building blocks then they will become stronger adults and they will enhance the structure of the human world."

2. Helmets: Life or Liberty? (Rogerian Argumentative Essay)

"Snowboarding and snow skiing are two of the most enjoyed recreational sports in the world today. They give a unique sense of freedom and satisfaction that is unlike any other sport that can offer. Rob Reichenfeld remarked after his first lesson, “When you’re onto a good thing you stick with it, and like millions around the world I had discovered something undefinably special” (2). The freedom to carve down an entire mountain as fast or as slowly as desired, to drop off a twenty-foot cliff into five feet of fluff, to weave a line through a patch of technical trees, or to float down a steep face with bottomless powder is just a few reasons so many people are determined to make it to the mountains every year in search of a supreme rush. Snow sports provide an outlet for people to express themselves in unconventional ways by taking risks they normally would not take.

Snow sports are becoming more popular than ever before. They are prevalent in movies such as Extreme Days, Out Cold, several James Bond films, and Aspen Extreme, just to name a few. Now we see the X Games on television and snow sports in the Olympics. And the commercial market has taken full advantage of the extreme side of these sports as well. Mountain Dew has created an entire marketing scheme based solely on extreme sports, with snowboarding being a large part. Not only are snow sports becoming exceeding popular in the media, but more and more newcomers are also picking up a board or a set of skis every day of the winter season.

Along with all of this new popularity and thousands of new partakers in these sports, head injuries are becoming an increasing element of the equation. Although the percentage of head injuries due to snow sports is fairly low, about 0.3—6.5 skiers or snowboarders per thousand a day (“Heads you win?…”), a lot of people are affected when you consider how many thousands of people might be skiing or snowboarding in the entire U.S. on any given day. These numbers have raised a question of some magnitude: should ski resorts intrude on their guests’ individual liberties by implementing helmet rules?

Helmets do have several distinct drawbacks, despite their many benefits. Though opinions are starting to change, helmets are sometimes viewed as uncool or “nerdy”. These ideas are similar to those people used to have about motorcycle helmets, car seat belts, bicycle helmets, and skating elbow- and kneepads. Initially, it seems, any form of safety equipment gets a bad rap, especially from a young crowd that has no real concern for bodily harm.

The benefits of wearing head protection while resort skiing or snowboarding greatly outweigh the disadvantages, so such protective headgear should be required by all ski resorts. With the improvements being made in the comfort, stylishness, and effectiveness of helmets in the industry, there are no excuses left for skiers or boarders not to be wearing them. These types of resort rules could save countless lives as well as possibly save innumerable tax dollars that are spent on the medical costs of people who receive brain damage as a result of snow sport-induced head trauma. Such rules would also serve to lower lift ticket prices, as less money would be spent by resorts to defending against lawsuits brought on by head trauma victims. It would be to the benefit of everyone in the snow sports community if such regulations were to be put into place. I hope that they will indeed be applied in the near future, further insuring many more years of safe and exhilarating snow sporting."  

3. The Power of Black Panther (Toulmin)

  "Despite it just hitting theatres, Black Panther is already labelled as a ‘cultural movement’. Many Marvel fans eagerly waited to see the movie while discussions exploded on social media about Marvel’s new black superhero. However, not all of the discussions have stayed peaceful. With the emergence of this hero comes the emergence of the timeless debate of race, more specifically race in the media and how it is presented. There are some who say that having a black hero should not be this big of a deal and they deny the need for heroes of colour. Morals are colourless; we’ve learned from and enjoyed the millions of white heroes, so why is this black hero so special?

The issue here runs far deeper than this and goes beyond comic book characters. The real issue is the overall representation of minority groups in America. There needs to be a better representation of minorities in media to help the majority understand them and to help minorities feel a part of society. These are important factors in peace and unity within our nation. II. For the longest time, white men have dominated all American media industries, especially cishet men. Cishet refers to a person who is both cisgender and heterosexual. Over the years, women and minorities have fought to get where they are Background and issue questionClaimDefinitionDunne 2in the media today. They are now performing more and more roles outside of their stereotypes.

We need a more understanding majority and minorities who feel like they are an equal part of society, in order to come together and work for a better nation. Having fair media representation for minorities is a vital key to doing so. With the current hate destroying our country, we need to educate ourselves and each other. What better way to change a nation obsessed with its media, than with the media?" 

Creating argumentative essays is quite a complex process and there are multiple styles and ways to approach it. The goal of the process is to convince the audience of your point of view based on evidence or facts rather than personal opinions.

If you want to create high-quality argumentative essays, we recommend using to speed up your writing process and help you craft more compelling arguments! You can sign up at for free here !

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