Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips
How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips
Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 6, 2021.
An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.
Table of contents
When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.
You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.
The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.
Argumentative writing at college level
At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.
In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.
Examples of argumentative essay prompts
At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.
Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.
- Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
- Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
- Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
- Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
- Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
- Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.
An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.
There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.
The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:
- Make a claim
- Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
- Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
- Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives
The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.
Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:
- Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
- Cite data to support your claim
- Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
- Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.
The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:
- Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
- Highlight the problems with this position
- Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
- Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?
This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.
Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:
- Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
- Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
- Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
- Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.
You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.
Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .
What can proofreading do for your paper?
Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.
See editing example
Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.
Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.
The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.
In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.
Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.
This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.
Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.
A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.
An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.
No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.
Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.
The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.
An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.
An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.
In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Caulfield, J. (2021, December 06). How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips. Scribbr. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/argumentative-essay/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to write a thesis statement | 4 steps & examples, how to write topic sentences | 4 steps, examples & purpose, how to write an expository essay, what is your plagiarism score.
- Give this article Give this article Give this article
130 New Prompts for Argumentative Writing
Questions on everything from mental health and sports to video games and dating. Which ones inspire you to take a stand?
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
By The Learning Network
Note: We have an updated version of this list, with 300 new argumentative writing prompts .
What issues do you care most about? What topics do you find yourself discussing passionately, whether online, at the dinner table, in the classroom or with your friends?
In Unit 5 of our free yearlong writing curriculum and related Student Editorial Contest , we invite students to research and write about the issues that matter to them, whether that’s Shakespeare , health care , standardized testing or being messy .
But with so many possibilities, where does one even begin? Try our student writing prompts.
In 2017, we compiled a list of 401 argumentative writing prompts , all drawn from our daily Student Opinion column . Now, we’re rounding up 130 more we’ve published since then ( available here as a PDF ). Each prompt links to a free Times article as well as additional subquestions that can help you think more deeply about it.
You might use this list to inspire your own writing and to find links to reliable resources about the issues that intrigue you. But even if you’re not participating in our contest, you can use these prompts to practice the kind of low-stakes writing that can help you hone your argumentation skills.
So scroll through the list below with questions on everything from sports and mental health to dating and video games and see which ones inspire you to take a stand.
Please note: Many of these prompts are still open to comment by students 13 and up.
Technology & Social Media
1. Do Memes Make the Internet a Better Place? 2. Does Online Public Shaming Prevent Us From Being Able to Grow and Change? 3. How Young Is Too Young to Use Social Media? 4. Should the Adults in Your Life Be Worried by How Much You Use Your Phone? 5. Is Your Phone Love Hurting Your Relationships? 6. Should Kids Be Social Media Influencers? 7. Does Grammar Still Matter in the Age of Twitter? 8. Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunken Driving? 9. How Do You Think Technology Affects Dating?
10. Are Straight A’s Always a Good Thing? 11. Should Schools Teach You How to Be Happy? 12. How Do You Think American Education Could Be Improved? 13. Should Schools Test Their Students for Nicotine and Drug Use? 14. Can Social Media Be a Tool for Learning and Growth in Schools? 15. Should Facial Recognition Technology Be Used in Schools? 16. Should Your School Day Start Later? 17. How Should Senior Year in High School Be Spent? 18. Should Teachers Be Armed With Guns? 19. Is School a Place for Self-Expression? 20. Should Students Be Punished for Not Having Lunch Money? 21. Is Live-Streaming Classrooms a Good Idea? 22. Should Gifted and Talented Education Be Eliminated? 23. What Are the Most Important Things Students Should Learn in School? 24. Should Schools Be Allowed to Censor Student Newspapers? 25. Do You Feel Your School and Teachers Welcome Both Conservative and Liberal Points of View? 26. Should Teachers and Professors Ban Student Use of Laptops in Class? 27. Should Schools Teach About Climate Change? 28. Should All Schools Offer Music Programs? 29. Does Your School Need More Money? 30. Should All Schools Teach Cursive? 31. What Role Should Textbooks Play in Education? 32. Do Kids Need Recess?
College & Career
33. What Is Your Reaction to the College Admissions Cheating Scandal? 34. Is the College Admissions Process Fair? 35. Should Everyone Go to College? 36. Should College Be Free? 37. Are Lavish Amenities on College Campuses Useful or Frivolous? 38. Should ‘Despised Dissenters’ Be Allowed to Speak on College Campuses? 39. How Should the Problem of Sexual Assault on Campuses Be Addressed? 40. Should Fraternities Be Abolished? 41. Is Student Debt Worth It?
Mental & Physical Health
42. Should Students Get Mental Health Days Off From School? 43. Is Struggle Essential to Happiness? 44. Does Every Country Need a ‘Loneliness Minister’? 45. Should Schools Teach Mindfulness? 46. Should All Children Be Vaccinated? 47. What Do You Think About Vegetarianism? 48. Do We Worry Too Much About Germs? 49. What Advice Should Parents and Counselors Give Teenagers About Sexting? 50. Do You Think Porn Influences the Way Teenagers Think About Sex?
Race & Gender
51. How Should Parents Teach Their Children About Race and Racism? 52. Is America ‘Backsliding’ on Race? 53. Should All Americans Receive Anti-Bias Education? 54. Should All Companies Require Anti-Bias Training for Employees? 55. Should Columbus Day Be Replaced With Indigenous Peoples Day? 56. Is Fear of ‘The Other’ Poisoning Public Life? 57. Should the Boy Scouts Be Coed? 58. What Is Hard About Being a Boy?
59. Can You Separate Art From the Artist? 60. Are There Subjects That Should Be Off-Limits to Artists, or to Certain Artists in Particular? 61. Should Art Come With Trigger Warnings? 62. Should Graffiti Be Protected? 63. Is the Digital Era Improving or Ruining the Experience of Art? 64. Are Museums Still Important in the Digital Age? 65. In the Age of Digital Streaming, Are Movie Theaters Still Relevant? 66. Is Hollywood Becoming More Diverse? 67. What Stereotypical Characters Make You Cringe? 68. Do We Need More Female Superheroes? 69. Do Video Games Deserve the Bad Rap They Often Get? 70. Should Musicians Be Allowed to Copy or Borrow From Other Artists? 71. Is Listening to a Book Just as Good as Reading It? 72. Is There Any Benefit to Reading Books You Hate?
73. Should Girls and Boys Sports Teams Compete in the Same League? 74. Should College Athletes Be Paid? 75. Are Youth Sports Too Competitive? 76. Is It Selfish to Pursue Risky Sports Like Extreme Mountain Climbing? 77. How Should We Punish Sports Cheaters? 78. Should Technology in Sports Be Limited? 79. Should Blowouts Be Allowed in Youth Sports? 80. Is It Offensive for Sports Teams and Their Fans to Use Native American Names, Imagery and Gestures?
81. Is It Wrong to Focus on Animal Welfare When Humans Are Suffering? 82. Should Extinct Animals Be Resurrected? If So, Which Ones? 83. Are Emotional-Support Animals a Scam? 84. Is Animal Testing Ever Justified? 85. Should We Be Concerned With Where We Get Our Pets? 86. Is This Exhibit Animal Cruelty or Art?
Parenting & Childhood
87. Who Should Decide Whether a Teenager Can Get a Tattoo or Piercing? 88. Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past? 89. Should Parents Track Their Teenager’s Location? 90. Is Childhood Today Over-Supervised? 91. How Should Parents Talk to Their Children About Drugs? 92. What Should We Call Your Generation? 93. Do Other People Care Too Much About Your Post-High School Plans? 94. Do Parents Ever Cross a Line by Helping Too Much With Schoolwork? 95. What’s the Best Way to Discipline Children? 96. What Are Your Thoughts on ‘Snowplow Parents’? 97. Should Stay-at-Home Parents Be Paid? 98. When Do You Become an Adult?
Ethics & Morality
99. Why Do Bystanders Sometimes Fail to Help When They See Someone in Danger? 100. Is It Ethical to Create Genetically Edited Humans? 101. Should Reporters Ever Help the People They Are Covering? 102. Is It O.K. to Use Family Connections to Get a Job? 103. Is $1 Billion Too Much Money for Any One Person to Have? 104. Are We Being Bad Citizens If We Don’t Keep Up With the News? 105. Should Prisons Offer Incarcerated People Education Opportunities? 106. Should Law Enforcement Be Able to Use DNA Data From Genealogy Websites for Criminal Investigations? 107. Should We Treat Robots Like People?
Government & Politics
108. Does the United States Owe Reparations to the Descendants of Enslaved People? 109. Do You Think It Is Important for Teenagers to Participate in Political Activism? 110. Should the Voting Age Be Lowered to 16? 111. What Should Lawmakers Do About Guns and Gun Violence? 112. Should Confederate Statues Be Removed or Remain in Place? 113. Does the U.S. Constitution Need an Equal Rights Amendment? 114. Should National Monuments Be Protected by the Government? 115. Should Free Speech Protections Include Self Expression That Discriminates? 116. How Important Is Freedom of the Press? 117. Should Ex-Felons Have the Right to Vote? 118. Should Marijuana Be Legal? 119. Should the United States Abolish Daylight Saving Time? 120. Should We Abolish the Death Penalty? 121. Should the U.S. Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Weapons? 122. Should the U.S. Get Rid of the Electoral College? 123. What Do You Think of President Trump’s Use of Twitter? 124. Should Celebrities Weigh In on Politics? 125. Why Is It Important for People With Different Political Beliefs to Talk to Each Other?
126. Should the Week Be Four Days Instead of Five? 127. Should Public Transit Be Free? 128. How Important Is Knowing a Foreign Language? 129. Is There a ‘Right Way’ to Be a Tourist? 130. Should Your Significant Other Be Your Best Friend?
Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Developing writing prompts.
A writing prompt introduces and focuses the writing topic. The purposes of a writing prompt are to encourage the student’s interest in a topic and encourage them to write about it in a thoughtful and creative way. While an effective prompt introduces and limits the writing topic, it should also provide clear instructions about the writing task.
An effective writing prompt includes two basic components;
- A situation: The situation presents the general topic students are to write about. It is intended to spark the students interest and be consistent with their experience; and
- Directions: The directions, describing the task students must complete, should be stated in a way that encourages students to share their knowledge and experience or inspires their thought and creativity.
When developing a writing prompt, the instructor should consider:
- Essay type : The type of essay can influence the type and content of the prompt. When writing a prompt, first determine which type of essay the students will be writing. Common essay types include: argument, descriptive, expository (also known as evaluative, reflective, or analytic), narrative, opinion, and persuasive.
- Prompt construction: One useful approach to prompt writing is to break it into three parts. The first part introduces the topic to the students; the second part encourages students to think about the topic, possibly with a pre-writing activity in which students brainstorm for ideas; the final part describes the writing task
- Brevity: Writing prompt should be short and focused to avoid confusing students, but the instructor must ensure they provide sufficient information in order for students to clearly understand the assigned writing task.
- Repetition: The parts of the prompt may be repetitive. Using parallel wording helps students remain focused on the specific writing task.
- Bias and sensitivity: Topics should be inclusive of and equitable to all of your students. Prompts should be written in a manner that all students will have knowledge and experience to understand them regardless of cultural and other factors. Prompts should avoid cultural, ethnic, gender, or other stereotyping.
Writing prompt construction:
- Part 1. Introduce the topic or writing situation with a statement or generalization to orient the student to the topic.
- Part 2. Encourage students to brainstorm and to make a personal connection with the topic. The instructor might include specific ideas promote ideas.
- Part 3. Describe the writing task, purpose, and audience. The instructor should provide sufficient information for the students to fully understand their task.
Before writing your prompt, be sure to determine the purpose of the assignment, how the assignment aligns with the learning objectives, and the criteria evaluate the writing, and, finally, which type of prompt will achieve those goals best. Writing prompts can be:
- Descriptive: Asks students to create or describe an image or experience;
- Narrative: Describes a real or fictitious scenario and invites students to tell a story about it;
- Expository: Asks students to provide information about a topic. or
- Persuasive:. Presents an opinion or viewpoint, requiring students to take a stance and defend it.
Descriptive prompts often contain cue terms, such as “describe in detail”, “describe how something looked/felt/smelled/tasted”, to help the reader to experience the same thing. This is in contrast to an expository prompt which would ask the student explain or tell “why”. Example descriptive prompt
Many people have a favorite childhood toy. Sometimes these favorite childhood toys are not even expensive but were giving to you by someone special or as a reward.. Think about your favorite toy. It could be a stuffed animal or doll. It could even be the toy you made out of an everyday object, such as a blanket. Think about this favorite childhood toy, memories created with this toy, what it looked like, how it felt to have it with you. Write an essay that will be posted in your e-portfolio in which you describe your favorite childhood toy. Make sure you provide enough details so your readers can see it and feel what it is like to be there.
Narrative writing recounts a personal or fictional experience or tells a story based on real or imagined events. Narrative writing is often characterized by insight, creativity, drama, suspense, humor, and/or fantasy. Narrative prompts use cue terms such as “tell about…”, “tell what happened”, or “write a story.” Similar to descriptive prompts, narrative prompts should avoid asking the students to explain “why.”
Example Narrative Prompt
Vacations can create some wonderful and not-so-wonderful memories. Sometimes vacations turn out to be funny, strange, scary, or weird. Think about a vacation with your family or friends that either became a favorite memory because it was the best, strangest, funniest, or worst vacation. Think about what you did, what else was happening at the time, where you were, who was involved, and the time of day or year it happened.
Write a story about the best, strangest, funniest, or worst vacation. Make sure you include enough details so the instructor can understand and follow your story.
Expository writing informs, clarifies, explains, defines, and/or instructs. Problem and solution, cause and effect, and how-to essays are subtypes of expository writing. Expository writing is guided by a purpose and with a specific audience in mind, therefore the voice and essay organization must align with the subject and audience. Expository prompts use the cue words: why, how, what, and explain.
Example Expository Prompt
Some animals have evolved to live and thrive under extreme climate conditions or to eat a very specific diet. Think about an animal that has evolved to live under extreme climate conditions or to eat a very specific diet. Think about where this animal lives, what the climate conditions are like, the types of food it eats, and how it gets its food. Think about the possible advantage and disadvantages for the animal of living in this habitat or eating this diet. Write an essay for your e-portfolio that identifies the animal and its unique habitat or diet and explains (with specific details to support your explanation) why it is an advantage for the animal to have evolved this way.
Persuasive writing is intended to convince the reader that a point of view is valid or to take a specific action. Persuasive writing should address the strengths and weakness of both sides of an issue but ultimately support one perspective. Persuasive prompts use the cue words “convince”, “persuade”, and “why,” rather than using terms like “how.”
Example Persuasive Prompt
Some parents are concerned about administering vaccines to their infants and children because they believe vaccines can lead to autism. Your sister who is currently pregnant is considering not vaccinating her child. Think about whether you agree or disagree with her plan to not vaccinate her child. Think about the advantages and disadvantages of vaccinating a child and what the scientific literature says. Write a letter to your pregnant sister in which you state your opinion on the decision to not vaccinate. Include enough specific details to support your opinion and to convince your sister that your position on the issue is correct.
Consult with our CETL Professionals
Consultation services are available to all UConn faculty at all campuses at no charge.
At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response. Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.
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.
A good argumentative essay should follow this structure: 1. Introductory paragraph. The first paragraph of your essay should outline the topic, provide background information necessary to understand your argument, outline the evidence you will present and states your thesis. 2. The thesis statement. This is part of your first paragraph.
Essay type: The type of essay can influence the type and content of the prompt. When writing a prompt, first determine which type of essay the students will be writing. Common essay types include: argument, descriptive, expository (also known as evaluative, reflective, or analytic), narrative, opinion, and persuasive.