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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
What is an argumentative essay?
The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Please note : Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.
Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.
The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important ( exigence ) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis ( warrant ).
However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph essay
A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.
Longer argumentative essays
Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.
What this handout is about
This handout will define what an argument is and explain why you need one in most of your academic essays.
Arguments are everywhere
You may be surprised to hear that the word “argument” does not have to be written anywhere in your assignment for it to be an important part of your task. In fact, making an argument—expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with evidence—is often the aim of academic writing. Your instructors may assume that you know this and thus may not explain the importance of arguments in class.
Most material you learn in college is or has been debated by someone, somewhere, at some time. Even when the material you read or hear is presented as a simple fact, it may actually be one person’s interpretation of a set of information. Instructors may call on you to examine that interpretation and defend it, refute it, or offer some new view of your own. In writing assignments, you will almost always need to do more than just summarize information that you have gathered or regurgitate facts that have been discussed in class. You will need to develop a point of view on or interpretation of that material and provide evidence for your position.
Consider an example. For nearly 2000 years, educated people in many Western cultures believed that bloodletting—deliberately causing a sick person to lose blood—was the most effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. The claim that bloodletting is beneficial to human health was not widely questioned until the 1800s, and some physicians continued to recommend bloodletting as late as the 1920s. Medical practices have now changed because some people began to doubt the effectiveness of bloodletting; these people argued against it and provided convincing evidence. Human knowledge grows out of such differences of opinion, and scholars like your instructors spend their lives engaged in debate over what claims may be counted as accurate in their fields. In their courses, they want you to engage in similar kinds of critical thinking and debate.
Argumentation is not just what your instructors do. We all use argumentation on a daily basis, and you probably already have some skill at crafting an argument. The more you improve your skills in this area, the better you will be at thinking critically, reasoning, making choices, and weighing evidence.
Making a claim
What is an argument? In academic writing, an argument is usually a main idea, often called a “claim” or “thesis statement,” backed up with evidence that supports the idea. In the majority of college papers, you will need to make some sort of claim and use evidence to support it, and your ability to do this well will separate your papers from those of students who see assignments as mere accumulations of fact and detail. In other words, gone are the happy days of being given a “topic” about which you can write anything. It is time to stake out a position and prove why it is a good position for a thinking person to hold. See our handout on thesis statements .
Claims can be as simple as “Protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged,” with evidence such as, “In this experiment, protons and electrons acted in such and such a way.” Claims can also be as complex as “Genre is the most important element to the contract of expectations between filmmaker and audience,” using reasoning and evidence such as, “defying genre expectations can create a complete apocalypse of story form and content, leaving us stranded in a sort of genre-less abyss.” In either case, the rest of your paper will detail the reasoning and evidence that have led you to believe that your position is best.
When beginning to write a paper, ask yourself, “What is my point?” For example, the point of this handout is to help you become a better writer, and we are arguing that an important step in the process of writing effective arguments is understanding the concept of argumentation. If your papers do not have a main point, they cannot be arguing for anything. Asking yourself what your point is can help you avoid a mere “information dump.” Consider this: your instructors probably know a lot more than you do about your subject matter. Why, then, would you want to provide them with material they already know? Instructors are usually looking for two things:
- Proof that you understand the material
- A demonstration of your ability to use or apply the material in ways that go beyond what you have read or heard.
This second part can be done in many ways: you can critique the material, apply it to something else, or even just explain it in a different way. In order to succeed at this second step, though, you must have a particular point to argue.
Arguments in academic writing are usually complex and take time to develop. Your argument will need to be more than a simple or obvious statement such as “Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect.” Such a statement might capture your initial impressions of Wright as you have studied him in class; however, you need to look deeper and express specifically what caused that “greatness.” Your instructor will probably expect something more complicated, such as “Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture combines elements of European modernism, Asian aesthetic form, and locally found materials to create a unique new style,” or “There are many strong similarities between Wright’s building designs and those of his mother, which suggests that he may have borrowed some of her ideas.” To develop your argument, you would then define your terms and prove your claim with evidence from Wright’s drawings and buildings and those of the other architects you mentioned.
Do not stop with having a point. You have to back up your point with evidence. The strength of your evidence, and your use of it, can make or break your argument. See our handout on evidence . You already have the natural inclination for this type of thinking, if not in an academic setting. Think about how you talked your parents into letting you borrow the family car. Did you present them with lots of instances of your past trustworthiness? Did you make them feel guilty because your friends’ parents all let them drive? Did you whine until they just wanted you to shut up? Did you look up statistics on teen driving and use them to show how you didn’t fit the dangerous-driver profile? These are all types of argumentation, and they exist in academia in similar forms.
Every field has slightly different requirements for acceptable evidence, so familiarize yourself with some arguments from within that field instead of just applying whatever evidence you like best. Pay attention to your textbooks and your instructor’s lectures. What types of argument and evidence are they using? The type of evidence that sways an English instructor may not work to convince a sociology instructor. Find out what counts as proof that something is true in that field. Is it statistics, a logical development of points, something from the object being discussed (art work, text, culture, or atom), the way something works, or some combination of more than one of these things?
Be consistent with your evidence. Unlike negotiating for the use of your parents’ car, a college paper is not the place for an all-out blitz of every type of argument. You can often use more than one type of evidence within a paper, but make sure that within each section you are providing the reader with evidence appropriate to each claim. So, if you start a paragraph or section with a statement like “Putting the student seating area closer to the basketball court will raise player performance,” do not follow with your evidence on how much more money the university could raise by letting more students go to games for free. Information about how fan support raises player morale, which then results in better play, would be a better follow-up. Your next section could offer clear reasons why undergraduates have as much or more right to attend an undergraduate event as wealthy alumni—but this information would not go in the same section as the fan support stuff. You cannot convince a confused person, so keep things tidy and ordered.
One way to strengthen your argument and show that you have a deep understanding of the issue you are discussing is to anticipate and address counterarguments or objections. By considering what someone who disagrees with your position might have to say about your argument, you show that you have thought things through, and you dispose of some of the reasons your audience might have for not accepting your argument. Recall our discussion of student seating in the Dean Dome. To make the most effective argument possible, you should consider not only what students would say about seating but also what alumni who have paid a lot to get good seats might say.
You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself how someone who disagrees with you might respond to each of the points you’ve made or your position as a whole. If you can’t immediately imagine another position, here are some strategies to try:
- Do some research. It may seem to you that no one could possibly disagree with the position you are arguing, but someone probably has. For example, some people argue that a hotdog is a sandwich. If you are making an argument concerning, for example, the characteristics of an exceptional sandwich, you might want to see what some of these people have to say.
- Talk with a friend or with your teacher. Another person may be able to imagine counterarguments that haven’t occurred to you.
- Consider your conclusion or claim and the premises of your argument and imagine someone who denies each of them. For example, if you argued, “Cats make the best pets. This is because they are clean and independent,” you might imagine someone saying, “Cats do not make the best pets. They are dirty and needy.”
Once you have thought up some counterarguments, consider how you will respond to them—will you concede that your opponent has a point but explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing arguments.
When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have considered the many sides of the issue. If you simply attack or caricature your opponent (also referred to as presenting a “straw man”), you suggest that your argument is only capable of defeating an extremely weak adversary, which may undermine your argument rather than enhance it.
It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies.
Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly.
Audience is a very important consideration in argument. Take a look at our handout on audience . A lifetime of dealing with your family members has helped you figure out which arguments work best to persuade each of them. Maybe whining works with one parent, but the other will only accept cold, hard statistics. Your kid brother may listen only to the sound of money in his palm. It’s usually wise to think of your audience in an academic setting as someone who is perfectly smart but who doesn’t necessarily agree with you. You are not just expressing your opinion in an argument (“It’s true because I said so”), and in most cases your audience will know something about the subject at hand—so you will need sturdy proof. At the same time, do not think of your audience as capable of reading your mind. You have to come out and state both your claim and your evidence clearly. Do not assume that because the instructor knows the material, he or she understands what part of it you are using, what you think about it, and why you have taken the position you’ve chosen.
Critical reading is a big part of understanding argument. Although some of the material you read will be very persuasive, do not fall under the spell of the printed word as authority. Very few of your instructors think of the texts they assign as the last word on the subject. Remember that the author of every text has an agenda, something that he or she wants you to believe. This is OK—everything is written from someone’s perspective—but it’s a good thing to be aware of. For more information on objectivity and bias and on reading sources carefully, read our handouts on evaluating print sources and reading to write .
Take notes either in the margins of your source (if you are using a photocopy or your own book) or on a separate sheet as you read. Put away that highlighter! Simply highlighting a text is good for memorizing the main ideas in that text—it does not encourage critical reading. Part of your goal as a reader should be to put the author’s ideas in your own words. Then you can stop thinking of these ideas as facts and start thinking of them as arguments.
When you read, ask yourself questions like “What is the author trying to prove?” and “What is the author assuming I will agree with?” Do you agree with the author? Does the author adequately defend her argument? What kind of proof does she use? Is there something she leaves out that you would put in? Does putting it in hurt her argument? As you get used to reading critically, you will start to see the sometimes hidden agendas of other writers, and you can use this skill to improve your own ability to craft effective arguments.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ede, Lisa. 2004. Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising , 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Gage, John T. 2005. The Shape of Reason: Argumentative Writing in College , 4th ed. New York: Longman.
Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruszkiewicz. 2016. Everything’s an Argument , 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.
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Composition Writing Studio
From the University of Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/685/05/):
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.
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 s/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.
- Argument Essays: Getting Started
- Developing Paragraphs
- Finding Academic Journals
- Logical Fallacies
- Research Writing
- Argument : UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center's online handout in argument.
- Types of Argument
- Writing Arguments: An Overview : Comprehensive guide from Colorado State University's Writing Studio
- Sample Argument Essays
- Prompts for Argument Essays : 301 ideas from the New York Times
- Argument : Main page for several argument sources from Oregon State University
- Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion
Rhetorical Appeals (Logos, Pathos, Ethos)
- Examples of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos : Numerous examples of each appeal from YourDictionary
- The Rhetorical Situation : Purdue OWL's discussion of Aristotle's three appeals and use of telos and kairos
- Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Advertising : YouTube video
- Ethos, Pathos, Logos: YouTube video
- Toulmin Method : An extensive online guide from Colorado State University on using the Toulmin method of argumentation
- Toulmin Method of Analyzing Arguments : PowerPoint that defines and offers examples for Toulmin method
- Definition of the Toulmin Method : Adaptation of a chapter on Toulmin's approach to argument
- Toulmin Argument (Aims of Argument) : YouTube video
- Rogerian Argument : Information on definition and format of argument
- Rogerian Argument Example : YouTube Video
- Rogerian Argument : YouTube Video
- Counter Argument : Overview provided by Harvard College
- Writing Counter Argument Paragraphs : YouTube video
- Rhetorical Fallacies
How to Write a Standout Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that uses factual evidence and logical support to convince the reader of a certain way of thinking. Although many types of essays aim at persuading the reader to believe a specific point of view, argumentative essays rely heavily on hard evidence, drawing on other studies and sources to prove their argument is best.
Don’t let the name fool you: Argumentative essays don’t have to be aggressive or combative. Rather, it gets its name from the style of arguing, whereby the writer presents sufficient research to both support their own claim and invalidate opposing perspectives. When you’re writing an argumentative essay, remember that the goal is to show that your thesis is the only logical conclusion.
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Argumentative essays are only as good as their argument, and structuring good arguments requires a little more than just being stubborn (even if it helps!). Below, we run through the most useful techniques for writing the perfect argumentative essay. But don’t take our word for it—our evidence speaks for itself!
What is an argumentative essay?
Like persuasive essays and other types of essays , the point of argumentative essays is to convince the reader of a particular point of view. What makes an essay argumentative is the method of convincing: An argumentative essay uses fact-based evidence and unquestionable logic to prove that its thesis is true.
Persuasive essays do this, too, but tend to be more emotional and less formal . Argumentative essays focus more on concrete empirical data, whereas persuasive essays appeal more to the reader’s emotions. In other words, argumentative essays favor quantitative support, while persuasive essays favor qualitative support.
Likewise, it’s easy to confuse argumentative essays with expository essays , which rely heavily on fact-based evidence and copious research. The main difference is bias : Argumentative essays presume one point of view is correct, whereas expository essays usually present all sides of the argument and leave it to the reader to make up their own mind.
Another distinction of argumentative essays is that the thesis is not obvious . It usually has strong enough opposition to necessitate an explanation of why it’s wrong. For example, “the sky is blue on a sunny day” would be an awful thesis for an argumentative essay. Not only would it be redundant, but also far too simplistic: Your evidence may be “look outside,” and that’d be the end of it!
The idea is that an argumentative essay leaves no doubt that its thesis is accurate, usually by disproving or invalidating opposing theories. That’s why argumentative essays don’t just talk about the writer’s own thesis but discuss other contradicting points of view as well. It’s hard to name one perspective as “true” if you’re ignoring all the others.
Basic argumentative essay structure
Because your entire argumentative essay depends on how well you present your case, your essay structure is crucial. To make matters worse, the structure of argumentative essays is a little more involved than those of other essay types because you also have to address other points of view. This alone leads to even more considerations, like whose argument to address first, and at what point to introduce key evidence.
Let’s start with the most basic argumentative essay structure: the simple five-paragraph format that suits most short essays.
- Your first paragraph is your introduction , which clearly presents your thesis, sets up the rest of the essay, and maybe even adds a little intrigue.
- Your second, third, and fourth paragraphs are your body, where you present your arguments and evidence, as well as refute opposing arguments. Each paragraph should focus on either showcasing one piece of supporting evidence or disproving one contradictory opinion.
- Your fifth and final paragraph is your conclusion , where you revisit your thesis in the context of all preceding evidence and succinctly wrap up everything.
This simple structure serves you well in a pinch, especially for timed essays that are part of a test. However, advanced essays require more detailed structures, especially if they have a length requirement of over five paragraphs.
Advanced argumentative essay structure
Some essays need to support more complicated arguments and more definitive rebuttals than normal. In these cases, the three major formats below should serve your argumentative essay for a variety of needs.
When to use it: making straightforward arguments
The Aristotelian or classic argument is a default structure for a clear argument, more like an extension of the simple five-paragraph structure above. It draws on credibility ( ethos ), emotion ( pathos ), and reasoning ( logos ) to prove its points, all of which can be adapted for virtually any argument. In form, it follows a direct and logical path:
1 Introduce the problem.
2 Explain your perspective.
3 Explain your opponent’s perspective. Refute their points one-by-one as you go.
4 Present your evidence.
5 Conclude your argument.
When to use it: presenting complex issues with no clear truths or when your thesis is a rebuttal or counterargument.
The Toulmin method was developed to analyze arguments themselves, so it makes sense to use it for essays. Because it’s steeped in logic and deep analysis, this approach best suits complicated issues that need unraveling, but also works well for refuting an opposing point of view piece by piece.
In form, it includes six main areas, but you’re free to organize them in whatever order works best for your essay. Keep in mind that your claim can itself be a rebuttal of another argument, so your entire essay could be disproving another thesis rather than presenting your own.
1 Claim: your thesis or argument, stated clearly
2 Reasons: your evidence, including data or generally accepted facts
3 Warrant: the connection between your claim and reasons (requiring you to state assumptions explicitly so there’s no confusion)
4 Backing: additional evidence to support your claim
5 Qualifier: the limits to your own claim, including concessions
6 Rebuttal: addressing opposing viewpoints and criticisms of your claim
When to use it: showing both sides of an argument as valid or when presenting to a mixed audience.
The Rogerian method is simply a middle-ground approach, where you acknowledge the validity of both your thesis and the opposition’s viewpoint. It’s the least confrontational and most respectful, which helps in convincing readers who are naturally biased against your main claim. In form, it follows a five-step structure:
2 Explain your opponent’s perspective first. Validate their points when correct.
3 Explain your perspective.
4 Bring both sides together. Present a middle ground where both viewpoints coexist.
5 Conclude your (balanced) argument.
How to write a good thesis
The thesis, or argument, is the cornerstone of any good essay. If your thesis is weak or full of holes, not even a perfect essay structure can save you.
The thesis itself should be the one takeaway you want your readers to leave with. What are you trying to convince them of, or what do you want them to remember after reading? Knowing this informs all other aspects of writing your essay, including the best structure and format, not to mention which evidence to collect.
For starters, choose a topic you feel strongly about (if it’s not already assigned). It helps if your argument is specific; having a broad or general argument means more facets to examine, which can make for a wordy essay.
It also helps to consider your audience. You don’t always have to tell readers what they want to hear, but their biases should influence how you write your essay, including your wording and how much credit to give the opposition.
Above all, choose a thesis with sufficient evidence. Argumentative essays thrive on factual proof from credible sources, and you don’t want to waste time searching for data that doesn’t exist. If you can’t find enough facts to back up your thesis, maybe you shouldn’t argue that point in the first place.
How to write an argumentative essay: the writing process
Argumentative essays follow the same recommended writing process as other kinds of writing, albeit with more emphasis on researching and preparing. Here’s a brief overview of how to adapt the process for argumentative essays:
1 Brainstorming: If your argument is not provided in the assignment, take some time to think up a good thesis based on our guidelines above.
2 Preparing: This phase is for collecting all the evidence going into your essay, as well as writing an outline . Because proof is key to argumentative essays, set aside ample time for research until you have all the support you need. It’s also a good time to outline your essay, answering questions like when and how to discuss opposing viewpoints.
3 Drafting: Write a rough draft of your essay. It helps to include any data and direct quotes as early as possible, especially with argumentative essays that often cite outside sources.
4 Revising: Polish your rough draft, optimize word choice, and restructure your arguments if necessary. Make sure your language is clear and appropriate for the reader, and double-check that you effectively made all your points and rebuttals.
5 Proofreading : Go through your draft and focus exclusively on fixing mistakes. If you’re not confident in your grammar skills or diction, use Grammarly .
Although optional, it always helps to have a fresh set of eyes on your essays before finalizing it. See if your argument is strong enough to convince your friends!
Argumentative essay writing tips
Our tips for writing better essays apply just as well to argumentative essays as any others, so that’s the best place to start if you’re looking for additional guidance. For tips specific to argumentative essays, try these:
Support your argument with concrete facts
Although similar to persuasive essays, argumentative essays are in some ways the exact opposite. While persuasive essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, argumentative essays appeal to the reader’s reason. That’s why hard facts work best.
Do plenty of research until you have enough data to support each of your main points. Feel free to cite other sources or studies to improve your credibility as well. Try to withhold your personal opinions and feelings as much as possible—let your evidence speak for you.
Be proactive about language
In an argumentative essay, tone and style are more important than you may think, especially if you’re criticizing another person’s perspective. Be respectful when choosing your words and phrasing. Using an aggressive tone reflects worse on the writer than the target, even if rebutting a despicable point of view.
Use aids for style and grammar
Even the smallest typo can derail the most carefully planned argument. The problem is, it’s hard to formulate the best possible argument if you’re distracted by spelling and grammar.
Grammarly finds all of your writing mistakes for you so you can stay focused on what’s important. It even checks your tone and clarity to make sure your true argument always shines through and comes across as intended. See how Grammarly can help your next writing project by downloading it now.
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Essay writing tips: a strong argument
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
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Almost every essay on any subject – from weekly assignment writing, to writing an undergraduate or masters dissertation, or even a thesis – has one thing in common: it will revolve around an argument. Whether you are driving home a specific theory, considering an issue from all angles or debating a double-sided problem, an argument should emerge to give structure and direction to your essay format.
Defining an essay argument
An argument is a statement that you make to persuade your readers to agree with your opinion. This will usually be in the form of a paragraph, or several paragraphs, depending on the length of your essay and the importance of the point you are making.
In an essay, you will back up each argument (or point within an argument) by supporting it with evidence. Your evidence can be taken from printed primary and secondary sources (manuscripts, journals, books), web pages, transcriptions of interviews or film clips, the results of experiments, or questionnaires and other survey work. If you can only find one piece of evidence then that is all you can use. If there is so much material that you could fill a book, choose the strongest piece.
Critical reading aids your argument
Developing the ability to carry out critical reading is key to being able to argue effectively in your essay writing . You need to read all material with a critical eye. When an academic has made a claim in a book or paper, always question it. Train your brain to automatically think: “Prove it to me!” every time.
Do you know what your essay argument will be? After you have completed critical reading for your essay, decide which line you will take. If you find it hard, sit down with a friend and try to explain your viewpoint to them, which can help you clarify your thoughts.
A clear argument gives your essay structure
As we explain in this post about essay structure , the structure of your essay is an essential component in conveying your ideas well, and therefore in writing a great essay. Use the format of your essay to punctuate and clarify your argument.
1. Use a concise introduction to your academic essay to set out key points in your argument and very clearly show what the shape of the essay will look like. 2. Where appropriate, use separate sections for each new topic (not forgetting headings or chapters to define the sections – particularly relevant for dissertation writing). 3. Start each new idea or opinion with a new paragraph, especially important if you are considering different sides of an issue. 4. Allow your structure to clarify the flow of your argument – set out the most important or pertinent points first, followed by further details, and reserving more unusual ideas or final thoughts for later on. 5. Any academic essay needs a strong conclusion to remind your reader what your argument has been and show clearly how you have used the different threads of your essay argument to reach an inevitable final conclusion.
Whilst you may feel that acknowledging views opposing yours will weaken your argument, the opposite is in fact true. Your essay will look stronger if you can show you have come to the conclusions you have chosen despite considering objections to your opinion. If you can write about objections and explain why these are wrong – again, giving evidence – then it shows that your argument is robust, and will also give the reader greater faith in your essay writing, as they will feel your essay or dissertation is giving them an unbiased, rounded view.
Don’t make any assumptions about your reader, or popular opinion. Sentences that begin, "It is accepted that…", "We all know that…", "No one would argue that…" may antagonise someone marking your essay. Substantiate every claim you make no matter how obvious or “true” you think it is, by using sources as evidence.
Essay exams: how to answer ‘To what extent…’
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What Is an Argumentative Essay? Simple Examples To Guide You
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Knowing how to form a good argument is at the core of expressing your ideas and opinions, but actually arguing your opinion is hard. Contrary to what perpetually online people believe, arguing doesn’t come down to who is the loudest or most wordy. An argumentative essay is a great way to learn how to create and develop meaningful arguments, but where do you even start?
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is a type of research paper that requires you to:
- Investigate a given topic or theme
- Establish a debatable position involving the given topic
- Collect evidence to support your given position
- Evaluate and refute counterarguments or opposing views
That might sound like a lot of other essays that technically require you to come up with an argument, like expository essays , critical essays , and persuasive essays . Unlike those essays, argumentative essays require much more extensive research , which can include published sources alongside more empirical research (surveying a student body, interviewing experts, or even conducting experiments).
Argumentative essays also take specific sides on debatable topics. Where a typical essay thesis might involve something closer to “I disagree with the themes of this novel, and here is a close reading to explain why,” an argumentative essay takes a stance on a debatable issue (“I think dogs should have the right to vote”). The former draws more on emotion, while the latter is more about hard numbers, data, and quantitative research.
General Structure and Format of an Argumentative Essay
While you do have a little wiggle room, the structure and format of the argumentative essay is fairly rigid. You’re basically stating your argument and then presenting all your evidence to prove that argument. There’s definitely room for personal thought and interpretation, but you mostly want to focus on your argument and evidence.
Your argumentative essay will usually look like:
- An introduction paragraph that states your argument
- Three body paragraphs that introduce evidence to support that argument
- One or two paragraphs that look at conflicting points of view on the topic
- A conclusion that readdresses the thesis and looks toward potential future questions or more research to be done
Depending on the page or word requirements of your essay, you may write more body paragraphs. On the other hand, shorter essays may require you to shorten or completely do away with any analysis of refuting viewpoints.
Argumentative Essay Example
While you might have a general idea of how to write an argumentative essay , it can still be helpful to look at an example at work. Sadly, you’ll have to write your own essay because we simply don’t know your stance on things (What if you don’t think dogs should vote?). On the bright side, we can give you a fairly good example of what an argumentative essay might look like to help you get started.
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Argumentative Essay Introduction Example
Argumentative essays are definitely more research intensive than other essays, but don’t think that means it has to be dry and stuffy. Remember that you still need to use good writing throughout, which also means making an introduction that will hook the reader.
Since Adam and Eve first partook of that forbidden fruit, humans have spent immense resources to develop the perfect accoutrement for all seasons and occasions. While trends continue to evolve with various cultural and economic shifts, pants (also known as slacks) remain the most steadfast form of clothing, holding greater utility and value than all other forms of bottoms.
Argumentative Essay Body Paragraph Example
The body paragraph of an argumentative essay should always present a point that further evaluates your argument along with evidence to support that point. You can (and should!) still present your own thoughts and use your writing voice, but if the paragraph doesn’t directly address the argument you’re trying to make, rethink why that paragraph exists.
Pants are more sustainable than other bottoms, in terms of both manufacturing and daily usage. Ostensibly, the best clothes are the clothes a person chooses to wear frequently, without thought or second guess. In the annual Pants Symposium of 2022, Dr. Jeremy Trousers of Slack University notably said, “Pants have a psychology behind them. Pants can be worn at any time of year and are thus more likely to be worn than to stay stuck in a pile in the closet or at the bottom of a landfill.”
Along with evidence directly supporting your argument, your body paragraphs can also present evidence that refutes counter arguments or conflicting points of view.
Many people state that pants are naturally built for discomfort. However, this argument is specious at best. A survey of the student campus found that pants were not more or less comfortable than any other item of clothing. This suggests that pants are not as uncomfortable as often stated by the larger population, while also bringing to light the naturally subjective concept of “discomfort.”
Argumentative Essay Conclusion Example
While conclusions can feel extraneous, they’re an opportunity to consider questions related to your argument that are worth further research in some other form or future paper. It’s basically acknowledging that any good argument comes with an ongoing conversation.
Pants are the best bottom covering and one of the best forms of clothing among all basic metrics. Questions about labor practices and materials used in manufacturing are worth addressing, but these apply to larger clothing industry standards. Further consideration of the clothing industry’s impact on ecology and human labor is worthy and may prove to only support pants supremacy.
Definition of argumentative essay.
An argumentative essay is a type of essay that presents arguments about both sides of an issue. It could be that both sides are presented equally balanced, or it could be that one side is presented more forcefully than the other. It all depends on the writer, and what side he supports the most. The general structure of an argumentative essay follows this format:
Models for Argumentative Essays
There are two major models besides this structure given above, which is called a classical model. Two other models are the Toulmin and Rogerian models.
Five Types of Argument Claims in Essay Writing
Three major types of argument and how to apply them, classical argument, toulmin argument.
This model developed by Stephen Toulmin is based on the claim followed by grounds, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal . Its structure comprises, an introduction having the main claim, a body with facts and evidence, while its rebuttal comprises counter-arguments and a conclusion.
Four steps to outline and argumentative essay, examples of argumentative essay in literature, example #1: put a little science in your life by brian greene.
“When we consider the ubiquity of cellphones, iPods, personal computers and the Internet, it’s easy to see how science (and the technology to which it leads) is woven into the fabric of our day-to-day activities . When we benefit from CT scanners, M.R.I. devices, pacemakers and arterial stents, we can immediately appreciate how science affects the quality of our lives. When we assess the state of the world, and identify looming challenges like climate change, global pandemics, security threats and diminishing resources, we don’t hesitate in turning to science to gauge the problems and find solutions. And when we look at the wealth of opportunities hovering on the horizon—stem cells, genomic sequencing, personalized medicine, longevity research, nanoscience, brain-machine interface, quantum computers, space technology—we realize how crucial it is to cultivate a general public that can engage with scientific issues; there’s simply no other way that as a society we will be prepared to make informed decisions on a range of issues that will shape the future.”
These two paragraphs present an argument about two scientific fields — digital products and biotechnology. It has also given full supporting details with names.
Example #2: Boys Here, Girls There: Sure, If Equality’s the Goal by Karen Stabiner
“The first objections last week came from the National Organization for Women and the New York Civil Liberties Union, both of which opposed the opening of TYWLS in the fall of 1996. The two groups continue to insist—as though it were 1896 and they were arguing Plessy v. Ferguson—that separate can never be equal. I appreciate NOW ’s wariness of the Bush administration’s endorsement of single-sex public schools, since I am of the generation that still considers the label “feminist” to be a compliment—and many feminists still fear that any public acknowledgment of differences between the sexes will hinder their fight for equality.”
Example #3: The Flight from Conversation by Sherry Turkle
“We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “ alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.”
Function of Argumentative Essay
Synonyms of argumentative essay, related posts:, post navigation.
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