Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
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.
Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 3 key tips for how to write an argumentative essay.
If there’s one writing skill you need to have in your toolkit for standardized tests, AP exams, and college-level writing, it’s the ability to make a persuasive argument. Effectively arguing for a position on a topic or issue isn’t just for the debate team— it’s for anyone who wants to ace the essay portion of an exam or make As in college courses.
To give you everything you need to know about how to write an argumentative essay , we’re going to answer the following questions for you:
- What is an argumentative essay?
- How should an argumentative essay be structured?
- How do I write a strong argument?
- What’s an example of a strong argumentative essay?
- What are the top takeaways for writing argumentative papers?
By the end of this article, you’ll be prepped and ready to write a great argumentative essay yourself!
Now, let’s break this down.
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is a type of writing that presents the writer’s position or stance on a specific topic and uses evidence to support that position. The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince your reader that your position is logical, ethical, and, ultimately, right . In argumentative essays, writers accomplish this by writing:
- A clear, persuasive thesis statement in the introduction paragraph
- Body paragraphs that use evidence and explanations to support the thesis statement
- A paragraph addressing opposing positions on the topic—when appropriate
- A conclusion that gives the audience something meaningful to think about.
Introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion: these are the main sections of an argumentative essay. Those probably sound familiar. Where does arguing come into all of this, though? It’s not like you’re having a shouting match with your little brother across the dinner table. You’re just writing words down on a page!
...or are you? Even though writing papers can feel like a lonely process, one of the most important things you can do to be successful in argumentative writing is to think about your argument as participating in a larger conversation . For one thing, you’re going to be responding to the ideas of others as you write your argument. And when you’re done writing, someone—a teacher, a professor, or exam scorer—is going to be reading and evaluating your argument.
If you want to make a strong argument on any topic, you have to get informed about what’s already been said on that topic . That includes researching the different views and positions, figuring out what evidence has been produced, and learning the history of the topic. That means—you guessed it!—argumentative essays almost always require you to incorporate outside sources into your writing.
What Makes Argumentative Essays Unique?
Argumentative essays are different from other types of essays for one main reason: in an argumentative essay, you decide what the argument will be . Some types of essays, like summaries or syntheses, don’t want you to show your stance on the topic—they want you to remain unbiased and neutral.
In argumentative essays, you’re presenting your point of view as the writer and, sometimes, choosing the topic you’ll be arguing about. You just want to make sure that that point of view comes across as informed, well-reasoned, and persuasive.
Another thing about argumentative essays: they’re often longer than other types of essays. Why, you ask? Because it takes time to develop an effective argument. If your argument is going to be persuasive to readers, you have to address multiple points that support your argument, acknowledge counterpoints, and provide enough evidence and explanations to convince your reader that your points are valid.
Our 3 Best Tips for Picking a Great Argumentative Topic
The first step to writing an argumentative essay deciding what to write about! Choosing a topic for your argumentative essay might seem daunting, though. It can feel like you could make an argument about anything under the sun. For example, you could write an argumentative essay about how cats are way cooler than dogs, right?
It’s not quite that simple . Here are some strategies for choosing a topic that serves as a solid foundation for a strong argument.
Choose a Topic That Can Be Supported With Evidence
First, you want to make sure the topic you choose allows you to make a claim that can be supported by evidence that’s considered credible and appropriate for the subject matter ...and, unfortunately, your personal opinions or that Buzzfeed quiz you took last week don’t quite make the cut.
Some topics—like whether cats or dogs are cooler—can generate heated arguments, but at the end of the day, any argument you make on that topic is just going to be a matter of opinion. You have to pick a topic that allows you to take a position that can be supported by actual, researched evidence.
(Quick note: you could write an argumentative paper over the general idea that dogs are better than cats—or visa versa!—if you’re a) more specific and b) choose an idea that has some scientific research behind it. For example, a strong argumentative topic could be proving that dogs make better assistance animals than cats do.)
You also don’t want to make an argument about a topic that’s already a proven fact, like that drinking water is good for you. While some people might dislike the taste of water, there is an overwhelming body of evidence that proves—beyond the shadow of a doubt—that drinking water is a key part of good health.
To avoid choosing a topic that’s either unprovable or already proven, try brainstorming some issues that have recently been discussed in the news, that you’ve seen people debating on social media, or that affect your local community. If you explore those outlets for potential topics, you’ll likely stumble upon something that piques your audience’s interest as well.
Choose a Topic That You Find Interesting
Topics that have local, national, or global relevance often also resonate with us on a personal level. Consider choosing a topic that holds a connection between something you know or care about and something that is relevant to the rest of society. These don’t have to be super serious issues, but they should be topics that are timely and significant.
For example, if you are a huge football fan, a great argumentative topic for you might be arguing whether football leagues need to do more to prevent concussions . Is this as “important” an issue as climate change? No, but it’s still a timely topic that affects many people. And not only is this a great argumentative topic: you also get to write about one of your passions! Ultimately, if you’re working with a topic you enjoy, you’ll have more to say—and probably write a better essay .
Choose a Topic That Doesn’t Get You Too Heated
Another word of caution on choosing a topic for an argumentative paper: while it can be effective to choose a topic that matters to you personally, you also want to make sure you’re choosing a topic that you can keep your cool over. You’ve got to be able to stay unemotional, interpret the evidence persuasively, and, when appropriate, discuss opposing points of view without getting too salty.
In some situations, choosing a topic for your argumentative paper won’t be an issue at all: the test or exam will choose it for you . In that case, you’ve got to do the best you can with what you’re given.
In the next sections, we’re going to break down how to write any argumentative essay —regardless of whether you get to choose your own topic or have one assigned to you! Our expert tips and tricks will make sure that you’re knocking your paper out of the park.
The Thesis: The Argumentative Essay’s Backbone
You’ve chosen a topic or, more likely, read the exam question telling you to defend, challenge, or qualify a claim on an assigned topic. What do you do now?
You establish your position on the topic by writing a killer thesis statement ! The thesis statement, sometimes just called “the thesis,” is the backbone of your argument, the north star that keeps you oriented as you develop your main points, the—well, you get the idea.
In more concrete terms, a thesis statement conveys your point of view on your topic, usually in one sentence toward the end of your introduction paragraph . It’s very important that you state your point of view in your thesis statement in an argumentative way—in other words, it should state a point of view that is debatable.
And since your thesis statement is going to present your argument on the topic, it’s the thing that you’ll spend the rest of your argumentative paper defending. That’s where persuasion comes in. Your thesis statement tells your reader what your argument is, then the rest of your essay shows and explains why your argument is logical.
Why does an argumentative essay need a thesis, though? Well, the thesis statement—the sentence with your main claim—is actually the entire point of an argumentative essay. If you don’t clearly state an arguable claim at the beginning of your paper, then it’s not an argumentative essay. No thesis statement = no argumentative essay. Got it?
Other types of essays that you’re familiar with might simply use a thesis statement to forecast what the rest of the essay is going to discuss or to communicate what the topic is. That’s not the case here. If your thesis statement doesn’t make a claim or establish your position, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
Example Thesis Statements
Here are a couple of examples of thesis statements that aren’t argumentative and thesis statements that are argumentative
The sky is blue.
The thesis statement above conveys a fact, not a claim, so it’s not argumentative.
To keep the sky blue, governments must pass clean air legislation and regulate emissions.
The second example states a position on a topic. What’s the topic in that second sentence? The best way to keep the sky blue. And what position is being conveyed? That the best way to keep the sky blue is by passing clean air legislation and regulating emissions.
Some people would probably respond to that thesis statement with gusto: “No! Governments should not pass clean air legislation and regulate emissions! That infringes on my right to pollute the earth!” And there you have it: a thesis statement that presents a clear, debatable position on a topic.
Here’s one more set of thesis statement examples, just to throw in a little variety:
Spirituality and otherworldliness characterize A$AP Rocky’s portrayals of urban life and the American Dream in his rap songs and music videos.
The statement above is another example that isn’t argumentative, but you could write a really interesting analytical essay with that thesis statement. Long live A$AP! Now here’s another one that is argumentative:
To give students an understanding of the role of the American Dream in contemporary life, teachers should incorporate pop culture, like the music of A$AP Rocky, into their lessons and curriculum.
The argument in this one? Teachers should incorporate more relevant pop culture texts into their curriculum.
This thesis statement also gives a specific reason for making the argument above: To give students an understanding of the role of the American Dream in contemporary life. If you can let your reader know why you’re making your argument in your thesis statement, it will help them understand your argument better.
An actual image of you killing your argumentative essay prompts after reading this article!
Breaking Down the Sections of An Argumentative Essay
Now that you know how to pick a topic for an argumentative essay and how to make a strong claim on your topic in a thesis statement, you’re ready to think about writing the other sections of an argumentative essay. These are the parts that will flesh out your argument and support the claim you made in your thesis statement.
Like other types of essays, argumentative essays typically have three main sections: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Within those sections, there are some key elements that a reader—and especially an exam scorer or professor—is always going to expect you to include.
Let’s look at a quick outline of those three sections with their essential pieces here:
- Introduction paragraph with a thesis statement (which we just talked about)
- Support Point #1 with evidence
- Explain/interpret the evidence with your own, original commentary (AKA, the fun part!)
- Support Point #2 with evidence
- Explain/interpret the evidence with your own, original commentary
- Support Point #3 with evidence
- New paragraph addressing opposing viewpoints (more on this later!)
- Concluding paragraph
Now, there are some key concepts in those sections that you’ve got to understand if you’re going to master how to write an argumentative essay. To make the most of the body section, you have to know how to support your claim (your thesis statement), what evidence and explanations are and when you should use them, and how and when to address opposing viewpoints. To finish strong, you’ve got to have a strategy for writing a stellar conclusion.
This probably feels like a big deal! The body and conclusion make up most of the essay, right? Let’s get down to it, then.
How to Write a Strong Argument
Once you have your topic and thesis, you’re ready for the hard part: actually writing your argument. If you make strategic choices—like the ones we’re about to talk about—writing a strong argumentative essay won’t feel so difficult.
There are three main areas where you want to focus your energy as you develop a strategy for how to write an argumentative essay: supporting your claim—your thesis statement—in your essay, addressing other viewpoints on your topic, and writing a solid conclusion. If you put thought and effort into these three things, you’re much more likely to write an argumentative essay that’s engaging, persuasive, and memorable...aka A+ material.
Focus Area 1: Supporting Your Claim With Evidence and Explanations
So you’ve chosen your topic, decided what your position will be, and written a thesis statement. But like we see in comment threads across the Internet, if you make a claim and don’t back it up with evidence, what do people say? “Where’s your proof?” “Show me the facts!” “Do you have any evidence to support that claim?”
Of course you’ve done your research like we talked about. Supporting your claim in your thesis statement is where that research comes in handy.
You can’t just use your research to state the facts, though. Remember your reader? They’re going to expect you to do some of the dirty work of interpreting the evidence for them. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between evidence and explanations, and how and when to use both in your argumentative essay.
What Evidence Is and When You Should Use It
Evidence can be material from any authoritative and credible outside source that supports your position on your topic. In some cases, evidence can come in the form of photos, video footage, or audio recordings. In other cases, you might be pulling reasons, facts, or statistics from news media articles, public policy, or scholarly books or journals.
There are some clues you can look for that indicate whether or not a source is credible , such as whether:
- The website where you found the source ends in .edu, .gov, or .org
- The source was published by a university press
- The source was published in a peer-reviewed journal
- The authors did extensive research to support the claims they make in the source
This is just a short list of some of the clues that a source is likely a credible one, but just because a source was published by a prestigious press or the authors all have PhDs doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best piece of evidence for you to use to support your argument.
In addition to evaluating the source’s credibility, you’ve got to consider what types of evidence might come across as most persuasive in the context of the argument you’re making and who your readers are. In other words, stepping back and getting a bird’s eye view of the entire context of your argumentative paper is key to choosing evidence that will strengthen your argument.
On some exams, like the AP exams , you may be given pretty strict parameters for what evidence to use and how to use it. You might be given six short readings that all address the same topic, have 15 minutes to read them, then be required to pull material from a minimum of three of the short readings to support your claim in an argumentative essay.
When the sources are handed to you like that, be sure to take notes that will help you pick out evidence as you read. Highlight, underline, put checkmarks in the margins of your exam . . . do whatever you need to do to begin identifying the material that you find most helpful or relevant. Those highlights and check marks might just turn into your quotes, paraphrases, or summaries of evidence in your completed exam essay.
What Explanations Are and When You Should Use Them
Now you know that taking a strategic mindset toward evidence and explanations is critical to grasping how to write an argumentative essay. Unfortunately, evidence doesn’t speak for itself. While it may be obvious to you, the researcher and writer, how the pieces of evidence you’ve included are relevant to your audience, it might not be as obvious to your reader.
That’s where explanations—or analysis, or interpretations—come in. You never want to just stick some quotes from an article into your paragraph and call it a day. You do want to interpret the evidence you’ve included to show your reader how that evidence supports your claim.
Now, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be saying, “This piece of evidence supports my argument because...”. Instead, you want to comment on the evidence in a way that helps your reader see how it supports the position you stated in your thesis. We’ll talk more about how to do this when we show you an example of a strong body paragraph from an argumentative essay here in a bit.
Understanding how to incorporate evidence and explanations to your advantage is really important. Here’s why: when you’re writing an argumentative essay, particularly on standardized tests or the AP exam, the exam scorers can’t penalize you for the position you take. Instead, their evaluation is going to focus on the way you incorporated evidence and explained it in your essay.
Focus Area 2: How—and When—to Address Other Viewpoints
Why would we be making arguments at all if there weren’t multiple views out there on a given topic? As you do research and consider the background surrounding your topic, you’ll probably come across arguments that stand in direct opposition to your position.
Oftentimes, teachers will ask you to “address the opposition” in your argumentative essay. What does that mean, though, to “ address the opposition ?”
Opposing viewpoints function kind of like an elephant in the room. Your audience knows they’re there. In fact, your audience might even buy into an opposing viewpoint and be waiting for you to show them why your viewpoint is better. If you don’t, it means that you’ll have a hard time convincing your audience to buy your argument.
Addressing the opposition is a balancing act: you don’t want to undermine your own argument, but you don’t want to dismiss the validity of opposing viewpoints out-of-hand or ignore them altogether, which can also undermine your argument.
This isn’t the only acceptable approach, but it’s common practice to wait to address the opposition until close to the end of an argumentative essay. But why?
Well, waiting to present an opposing viewpoint until after you’ve thoroughly supported your own argument is strategic. You aren’t going to go into great detail discussing the opposing viewpoint: you’re going to explain what that viewpoint is fairly, but you’re also going to point out what’s wrong with it.
It can also be effective to read the opposition through the lens of your own argument and the evidence you’ve used to support it. If the evidence you’ve already included supports your argument, it probably doesn’t support the opposing viewpoint. Without being too obvious, it might be worth pointing this out when you address the opposition.
Focus Area #3: Writing the Conclusion
It’s common to conclude an argumentative essay by reiterating the thesis statement in some way, either by reminding the reader what the overarching argument was in the first place or by reviewing the main points and evidence that you covered.
You don’t just want to restate your thesis statement and review your main points and call it a day, though. So much has happened since you stated your thesis in the introduction! And why waste a whole paragraph—the very last thing your audience is going to read—on just repeating yourself?
Here’s an approach to the conclusion that can give your audience a fresh perspective on your argument: reinterpret your thesis statement for them in light of all the evidence and explanations you’ve provided. Think about how your readers might read your thesis statement in a new light now that they’ve heard your whole argument out.
That’s what you want to leave your audience with as you conclude your argumentative paper: a brief explanation of why all that arguing mattered in the first place. If you can give your audience something to continue pondering after they’ve read your argument, that’s even better.
One thing you want to avoid in your conclusion, though: presenting new supporting points or new evidence. That can just be confusing for your reader. Stick to telling your reader why the argument you’ve already made matters, and your argument will stick with your reader.
A Strong Argumentative Essay: Examples
For some aspiring argumentative essay writers, showing is better than telling. To show rather than tell you what makes a strong argumentative essay, we’ve provided three examples of possible body paragraphs for an argumentative essay below.
Think of these example paragraphs as taking on the form of the “Argumentative Point #1 → Evidence —> Explanation —> Repeat” process we talked through earlier. It’s always nice to be able to compare examples, so we’ve included three paragraphs from an argumentative paper ranging from poor (or needs a lot of improvement, if you’re feeling generous), to better, to best.
All of the example paragraphs are for an essay with this thesis statement:
Thesis Statement: In order to most effectively protect user data and combat the spread of disinformation, the U.S. government should implement more stringent regulations of Facebook and other social media outlets.
As you read the examples, think about what makes them different, and what makes the “best” paragraph more effective than the “better” and “poor” paragraphs. Here we go:
A Poor Argument
Example Body Paragraph: Data mining has affected a lot of people in recent years. Facebook has 2.23 billion users from around the world, and though it would take a huge amount of time and effort to make sure a company as big as Facebook was complying with privacy regulations in countries across the globe, adopting a common framework for privacy regulation in more countries would be the first step. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg himself supports adopting a global framework for privacy and data protection, which would protect more users than before.
What’s Wrong With This Example?
First, let’s look at the thesis statement. Ask yourself: does this make a claim that some people might agree with, but others might disagree with?
The answer is yes. Some people probably think that Facebook should be regulated, while others might believe that’s too much government intervention. Also, there are definitely good, reliable sources out there that will help this writer prove their argument. So this paper is off to a strong start!
Unfortunately, this writer doesn’t do a great job proving their thesis in their body paragraph. First, the topic sentence—aka the first sentence of the paragraph—doesn’t make a point that directly supports the position stated in the thesis. We’re trying to argue that government regulation will help protect user data and combat the spread of misinformation, remember? The topic sentence should make a point that gets right at that, instead of throwing out a random fact about data mining.
Second, because the topic sentence isn’t focused on making a clear point, the rest of the paragraph doesn’t have much relevant information, and it fails to provide credible evidence that supports the claim made in the thesis statement. For example, it would be a great idea to include exactly what Mark Zuckerberg said ! So while there’s definitely some relevant information in this paragraph, it needs to be presented with more evidence.
A Better Argument
This paragraph is a bit better than the first one, but it still needs some work. The topic sentence is a bit too long, and it doesn’t make a point that clearly supports the position laid out in the thesis statement. The reader already knows that mining user data is a big issue, so the topic sentence would be a great place to make a point about why more stringent government regulations would most effectively protect user data.
There’s also a problem with how the evidence is incorporated in this example. While there is some relevant, persuasive evidence included in this paragraph, there’s no explanation of why or how it is relevant . Remember, you can’t assume that your evidence speaks for itself: you have to interpret its relevance for your reader. That means including at least a sentence that tells your reader why the evidence you’ve chosen proves your argument.
A Best—But Not Perfect!—Argument
Example Body Paragraph: Though Facebook claims to be implementing company policies that will protect user data and stop the spread of misinformation , its attempts have been unsuccessful compared to those made by the federal government. When PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a Federal Trade Commission-mandated assessment of Facebook’s partnerships with Microsoft and the makers of the Blackberry handset in 2013, the team found limited evidence that Facebook had monitored or even checked that its partners had complied with Facebook’s existing data use policies. In fact, Facebook’s own auditors confirmed the PricewaterhouseCoopers findings, despite the fact that Facebook claimed that the company was making greater attempts to safeguard users’ personal information. In contrast, bills written by Congress have been more successful in changing Facebook’s practices than Facebook’s own company policies have. According to The Washington Post, The Honest Ads Act of 2017 “created public demand for transparency and changed how social media companies disclose online political advertising.” These policy efforts, though thus far unsuccessful in passing legislation, have nevertheless pushed social media companies to change some of their practices by sparking public outrage and negative media attention.
Why This Example Is The Best
This paragraph isn’t perfect, but it is the most effective at doing some of the things that you want to do when you write an argumentative essay.
First, the topic sentences get to the point . . . and it’s a point that supports and explains the claim made in the thesis statement! It gives a clear reason why our claim in favor of more stringent government regulations is a good claim : because Facebook has failed to self-regulate its practices.
This paragraph also provides strong evidence and specific examples that support the point made in the topic sentence. The evidence presented shows specific instances in which Facebook has failed to self-regulate, and other examples where the federal government has successfully influenced regulation of Facebook’s practices for the better.
Perhaps most importantly, though, this writer explains why the evidence is important. The bold sentence in the example is where the writer links the evidence back to their opinion. In this case, they explain that the pressure from Federal Trade Commission and Congress—and the threat of regulation—have helped change Facebook for the better.
Why point out that this isn’t a perfect paragraph, though? Because you won’t be writing perfect paragraphs when you’re taking timed exams either. But get this: you don’t have to write perfect paragraphs to make a good score on AP exams or even on an essay you write for class. Like in this example paragraph, you just have to effectively develop your position by appropriately and convincingly relying on evidence from good sources.
Top 3 Takeaways For Writing Argumentative Essays
This is all great information, right? If (when) you have to write an argumentative essay, you’ll be ready. But when in doubt, remember these three things about how to write an argumentative essay, and you’ll emerge victorious:
Takeaway #1: Read Closely and Carefully
This tip applies to every aspect of writing an argumentative essay. From making sure you’re addressing your prompt, to really digging into your sources, to proofreading your final paper...you’ll need to actively and pay attention! This is especially true if you’re writing on the clock, like during an AP exam.
Takeaway #2: Make Your Argument the Focus of the Essay
Define your position clearly in your thesis statement and stick to that position! The thesis is the backbone of your paper, and every paragraph should help prove your thesis in one way or another. But sometimes you get to the end of your essay and realize that you’ve gotten off topic, or that your thesis doesn’t quite fit. Don’t worry—if that happens, you can always rewrite your thesis to fit your paper!
Takeaway #3: Use Sources to Develop Your Argument—and Explain Them
Nothing is as powerful as good, strong evidence. First, make sure you’re finding credible sources that support your argument. Then you can paraphrase, briefly summarize, or quote from your sources as you incorporate them into your paragraphs. But remember the most important part: you have to explain why you’ve chosen that evidence and why it proves your thesis.
Once you’re comfortable with how to write an argumentative essay, it’s time to learn some more advanced tips and tricks for putting together a killer argument.
Keep in mind that argumentative essays are just one type of essay you might encounter. That’s why we’ve put together more specific guides on how to tackle IB essays , SAT essays , and ACT essays .
But what about admissions essays? We’ve got you covered. Not only do we have comprehensive guides to the Coalition App and Common App essays, we also have tons of individual college application guides, too . You can search through all of our college-specific posts by clicking here.
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.
Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.
Student and Parent Forum
Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.
Ask a Question Below
Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!
Improve With Our Famous Guides
- For All Students
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points
How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:
Score 800 on SAT Math
Score 800 on SAT Reading
Score 800 on SAT Writing
Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:
Score 600 on SAT Math
Score 600 on SAT Reading
Score 600 on SAT Writing
Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?
15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points
How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:
36 on ACT English
36 on ACT Math
36 on ACT Reading
36 on ACT Science
Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:
24 on ACT English
24 on ACT Math
24 on ACT Reading
24 on ACT Science
What ACT target score should you be aiming for?
ACT Vocabulary You Must Know
ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score
How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League
How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA
How to Write an Amazing College Essay
What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?
Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide
Should you retake your SAT or ACT?
When should you take the SAT or ACT?
Get the latest articles and test prep tips!
Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?
Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:
GRE Online Prep Blog
GMAT Online Prep Blog
TOEFL Online Prep Blog
Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
- A Research Guide
- Writing Guide
- Essay Writing
How to Write an Argumentative Essay
What is an argumentative essay.
The purpose of an argumentative essay is to firmly declare a specific position on a particular issue or cause and to provide multiple reasons, backed up by supporting evidence and facts, for why the reader should change their way of thinking or adopt the author’s point of view. We will briefly explain you how to write an argumentative essay step by step.
Now that you have a basic grasp of an argumentative essay definition, it is time to learn how to write an argument paper.
In order to be effective, the argument must meet certain criteria so that it influences the reader. As such, a persuasive topic, a thorough assessment, qualified supporting evidence and convincing language are necessary.
RESEARCHING POTENTIAL TOPICS TO WRITE ABOUT
There is no shortage of worthy topics to argue. Consider the daily news headlines, or even a conversation overheard in a local deli – every day someone somewhere attempts to persuade another person to change their way of thinking and share their point of view.
When exploring potential topics, ask yourself:
- Why did this happen?
- Is this important?
- How should we react?
The best topics for any argument driven paper have, at minimum, two strongly opposing viewpoints.
Having a keen interest in the chosen topic, while important, shouldn’t replace the ability to create a strong argument. Being able to firmly believe in something is one thing, but explaining why that belief is logical and reasonable, without becoming overly emotional, and then backing it up with tangible evidence is an entirely different beast.
When exploring potential subject matter, it may be wise to draft a list of potential points that could be used as evidence in favor of or against the chosen issue.
CONSIDER EACH SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT AND DETERMINE YOUR POSITION
After you’ve picked a topic that you feel passionate about, call upon your list of points for each side of the topic and determine which side you most closely relate to. One of the most crucial elements of an argument essay is to ponder and present both sides of the issue and undertake a thorough assessment of each.
Regardless of which position you take, it is important to consider educated arguments for the opposite positions so that you are able to clearly persuade them to see the validity of your argument.
COMPILE SUPPORTING MATERIAL AND EVIDENCE
Since written arguments, unlike in-person conversations, lack emotion and the ability to read body language, it is necessary to provide sound proof to support a particular claim by relying on the facts and available evidence. When assessing each side of the argument, consider the five most common questions addressed in argument claims:
- FACT: Is the statement factual?
- DEFINITION: What does the claim really mean?
- CAUSE: How valuable is it?
- VALUE: What is the cause of issue? What happens?
- PROPOSITION: What should be done about it?
WRITE THE ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY
Now that you’ve established a strong outline, you can begin to create your argumentative essay structure. Much like all other types of essays, argumentative essay format should consist of three main parts: The introductory paragraph, the body, and the closing statement. The length of each paragraph will vary depending on the overall length of the assignment, however, five to seven sentences (unless there are a lot of in-depth facts and figures) is a rational starting point.
Keep reading for more information about writing a research paper .
Argumentative Essay Introduction
Similar to every other type of essay, the very first paragraph of an argumentative research paper should contain an opening statement (or a short explanation of the topic), key pieces of background information, and a solid thesis statement. In this specific instance, the thesis statement will proclaim where you stand on the matter being argued.
HOW TO DRAFT YOUR THESIS STATEMENT
In order to write a sound thesis, it is first necessary to consider the topic as a question. This can be done by referring back to the list of questions created when assessing both sides of the argument.
For example, if the author were to take a pro stance for the topic of government subsidized daycares, the questions asked might look like this:
- Does unaffordable daycare cause serious problems for the average family? FACT
- What is ‘licensed childcare’? DEFINITION
- What are the effects of unaffordable or unreliable childcare? CAUSE & EFFECT
- How important is it for families to have access to childcare? VALUE
- What more can be done to make licensed daycare affordable and accessible for all families? PROPOSITION
More often than not, the question asked also doubles as the title of the argument paper, however, it may also be the concluding line of the introduction. The answer to this questions is what makes up the thesis. Have a look at the argumentative essay introduction example:
Example: The government has an obligation to ensure that all families have access to affordable and reliable childcare. This can be done by offering working parents with income-based subsidies.
It may be constructive to refute possible objections early on. This can be done by using an introductory phrase at the beginning of the thesis statement to indicate that you are refuting opposing views.
Example: While some may argue that licensed childcare is a luxury reserved for the working class and that subsidized childcare would only further tax an already overburdened social service system, studies have indicated that inefficient access to affordable childcare hinders a person’s ability to work and causes even more strain on the social service system.
A good argumentative essay clearly presents both sides of the argument. The body and supporting paragraphs should contain fact-based evidence to not only support your position, but also to refute all other positions. Each side of the argument should be explained with a fair amount of detail and the strongest points of the position that you are siding against should be stated for contrast.
Once the opposing side has been explained, clearly state your viewpoint and offer concrete evidence to strengthen your argument as being the most valid.
PROVIDE SUPPORTING EVIDENCE
Call upon the strongest available evidence and use this to back up your claims one at a time. Choose a variety of evidence, such as anecdotal stories, research studies or statistics. Following the structure of an argumentative essay, the body could be anywhere from a few paragraphs to several hundred pages in length.
Remember to re-state why your position is the most logical.
Argumentative Essay Outline
Argumentative essay structure is relatively direct. A well thought out and properly executed research paper will:
- Engage the reader, educate them about a particular issue and entice them to want to learn more.
- Tactfully explain both viewpoints of the argument.
- Persuade the reader to view your viewpoint as the most valid.
- Diplomatically refute any possible objections that the reader might have.
- Encourage the reader to adopt a new way of thinking.
If you need any help with writing an argumentative essay, don’t hesitate! Our Reliable Academic Essay Writing Service is available round the clock.
ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY STEP-BY-STEP
The roadmap below can be used to create a solid outline for an argument essay.
- Use the title to deliver your viewpoint. Consider using a question as the title.
- Consider your readers – what key parts of the topic would be most attention-grabbing or persuasive for them?
- Ensure that your thesis statement is direct and answers the question asked. A good thesis statement will promote your position and should be the final sentence of the introductory paragraph.
- Typically, the body of an argumentative essay will contain no less than three reasons why the author’s position is the most valid. These reasons are known as ‘topic sentences’.
- Each topic sentence should be backed up by facts, statistics, sound arguments or other supporting data.
- Consider the possible objections that a reader may have and refute them with fact-based evidence.
- Why should the reader change their stance and share your point of view?
- Consider using anticipated objections when making your closing remarks.
Read also: Trustworthy essay review service by expert reviewers.
Argumentative Essay Conclusion
The final paragraph, or the closing statement, should effectively restate the initial topic and appeal to the character of the reader. This can be done by:
- Reviewing the introductory argument and revising it so that it substantiates what will occur should the reader adopt your viewpoint.
- Persuading the reader to feel differently by providing real-life examples supporting your argument.
In closing, create a single sentence statement that reiterates your opening argument and supports your viewpoint as being the most valid.
Argumentative Essay Examples and Guidelines
- Stay away from overly emotional language and resist the urge to belittle the opposing views.
- Understand the differences that exist between a logical conclusion and an emotional viewpoint.
- Don’t embellish the fact, make up supporting evidence or use unreliable sources for research or evidence.
- Clearly and properly cite all of your sources, use footnotes if needed.
- Take the time to make an outline and stick with it.
- Be prepared to deliver an educated rebuttal to support your position. This means having the foresight to know that most likely arguments for all possible objectives.
- Read sample argumentative essays to gain stronger insight into what works and what doesn’t.
Sign Up for your FREE account
Diana from A Research Guide Don't know how to start your paper? Worry no more! Get professional writing assistance from our partner. Click to learn more
Module 9: Academic Argument
The argumentative essay, learning objectives.
- Examine types of argumentative essays
You may have heard it said that all writing is an argument of some kind. Even if you’re writing an informative essay, you still have the job of trying to convince your audience that the information is important. However, there are times you’ll be asked to write an essay that is specifically an argumentative piece.
An argumentative essay is one that makes a clear assertion or argument about some topic or issue. When you’re writing an argumentative essay, it’s important to remember that an academic argument is quite different from a regular, emotional argument. Note that sometimes students forget the academic aspect of an argumentative essay and write essays that are much too emotional for an academic audience. It’s important for you to choose a topic you feel passionately about (if you’re allowed to pick your topic), but you have to be sure you aren’t too emotionally attached to a topic. In an academic argument, you’ll have a lot more constraints you have to consider, and you’ll focus much more on logic and reasoning than emotions.
Figure 1 . When writing an argumentative essay, students must be able to separate emotion based arguments from logic based arguments in order to appeal to an academic audience.
Argumentative essays are quite common in academic writing and are often an important part of writing in all disciplines. You may be asked to take a stand on a social issue in your introduction to writing course, but you could also be asked to take a stand on an issue related to health care in your nursing courses or make a case for solving a local environmental problem in your biology class. And, since argument is such a common essay assignment, it’s important to be aware of some basic elements of a good argumentative essay.
When your professor asks you to write an argumentative essay, you’ll often be given something specific to write about. For example, you may be asked to take a stand on an issue you have been discussing in class. Perhaps, in your education class, you would be asked to write about standardized testing in public schools. Or, in your literature class, you might be asked to argue the effects of protest literature on public policy in the United States.
However, there are times when you’ll be given a choice of topics. You might even be asked to write an argumentative essay on any topic related to your field of study or a topic you feel that is important personally.
Whatever the case, having some knowledge of some basic argumentative techniques or strategies will be helpful as you write. Below are some common types of arguments.
- You write about how something has caused something else. For example, you might explore the increase of industrial pollution and the resulting decline of large mammals in the world’s ocean.
- You can write an argumentative evaluation of something as “good” or “bad,” but you also need to establish the criteria for “good” or “bad.” For example, you might evaluate a children’s book for your Introduction to Educational Theory class, but you would need to establish clear criteria for your evaluation for your audience.
- With this type of writing, you need to propose a solution to a problem. First, you must establish a clear problem and then propose a specific solution to that problem. For example, you might argue for a removal of parking fines on students who use the parking deck on campus.
- For this type of argument, you make your case by telling a story with a clear point related to your argument. For example, you might write a narrative about your negative experiences with standardized testing in order to make a case for reform.
- In a rebuttal argument, you build your case around refuting an idea or ideas that have come before. In other words, your starting point is to challenge the ideas of the past. For this type of writing assignment, you have to explain what you are refuting first, and then you can expand on your new ideas or perspectives.
- In this type of argument, you use a definition as the starting point for making your case. For example, in a definition argument, you might argue that NCAA basketball players should be defined as professional players and, therefore, should be paid.
- You can read more about an argumentative essay on the consequences of fast fashion . Read it and look at the comments to recognize strategies and techniques the author uses to convey her ideas.
- In this example, you’ll see a sample argumentative paper from a psychology class submitted in APA format. Key parts of the argumentative structure have been noted for you in the sample.
Link to Learning
For more examples of types of argumentative essays, visit the Argumentative Purposes section of the Excelsior OWL .
Improve this page Learn More
- Argumentative Essay. Provided by : Excelsior OWL. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/rhetorical-styles/argumentative-essay/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
- Image of a man with a heart and a brain. Authored by : Mohamed Hassan. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/illustrations/decision-brain-heart-mind-4083469/ . License : Other . License Terms : https://pixabay.com/service/terms/#license
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view.
sentences; writer's opinions and suggestions for change are logical and well thought out. Introductory paragraph contains some.
How To Outline an Argumentative Essay in 4 Steps ; 1. Introductory paragraph ; 2. The thesis statement ; 3. Body paragraphs ; 4. Conclusion
What elements should a good argumentative essay have? · A clear thesis statement in the introduction. · Logical reasoning and points which support the thesis
evaluative criteria to be considered in evaluating argumentative essays. For this purpose, a group of English as a. Second Language (ESL) lecturers (n=88)
Academic writing constitutes a crucial aspect of writing for EFL university students in. Indonesia. In an article entitled Learning to Write:
A great argumentative essay always combines the same basic elements: approaching an argument from a rational perspective, researching sources
Argumentative essays are different from other types of essays for one main reason: in an argumentative essay, you decide what the argument will
In order to be effective, the argument must meet certain criteria so that it influences the reader. As such, a persuasive topic, a thorough assessment
An argumentative essay is one that makes a clear assertion or argument about some topic or issue. When you're writing an argumentative essay, it's important to