In an argumentative essay, you want to convince someone to agree with your idea or opinion, using research-based evidence.
Writing an argumentative essay is a skill that anyone in school needs to know, though it can be useful outside of the classroom, as well. With today's Common Core standards, learning to write an essay that intelligently proves your point is an essential part of your education.
You will need to select solid argumentative essay topics that you can work with, create an argumentative essay outline and write, revise, and polish before you turn the argumentative essay in. It’s worth checking out an argumentative essay sample or two, just so you have a good idea of how the whole thing works. You can learn a lot from what other people have already done.
Choosing Argumentative Essay Ideas
As you look at argumentative essay examples, you’ll notice that there is a specific argumentative essay structure that is followed. It’s easiest to work with this structure if you choose easy argumentative essay topics.
Good argumentative essay topics are interesting and relatively easy to defend. They should fit into your argumentative essay outline fairly easily and will be something you can write on without doing ridiculous amounts of research. You don’t necessarily need to know everything about the topic, but having some base knowledge will help you as you do your research and write the essay.
Ideally, you’ll select interesting argumentative essay topics to work with, which will keep your writing fresh and on point. It’s difficult to write on a topic you don’t enjoy, so selecting one that you can really get into will show in your work.
How to Write an Argumentative Essay
It’s helpful to look at a good argumentative essay example to get some ideas before you begin. This section will show you how to write an argumentative essay that will wow your teachers.
Before you even get started on the actual essay, take some time to create an argumentative essay outline. This will help you follow proper argumentative essay structure and can be useful for ensuring that your work stays on track and makes sense. An outline is an essential part of any essay writing process.
If you find it difficult to create your own outline, an argumentative essay template may come in handy for structuring the essay. A template will include everything you need to get started, including the format, so you just need to fill in the blanks with your own information.
How to Start an Argumentative Essay
The argumentative essay introduction is where you present your topic and your thesis. It should include a hook in the first few sentences. A hook will grab the reader's attention and keep them reading.
Once you've laid the basis of the argumentative essay topic out for the reader, give them a bit of background information to clarify things.
What is the issue you're addressing? Why should anyone care? Where is the issue prevalent? What is your opinion on the topic and why do you feel that way? The answer to this final question will be your thesis, or what you will try to convince the reader of throughout your essay.
Your topic should be something you know is debatable and this can be mentioned in the intro. The first paragraph, according to good argumentative essay format, should include your main point or thesis statement.
As you state your thesis, make sure it is concise and use confident language to write it out. You should summarize your rational, ethical and emotional supporting arguments here. Keep in mind that the opening paragraph should only be a few sentences long in most cases, so keep it concise.
Develop Your Argument
By this point in the argumentative essay example, it's obvious what the point of the essay is, but you have not yet convinced the reader. You need to develop your argument. Each body paragraph should contain a topic sentence introducing a claim, which should support your thesis statement. You may have as few as one claim, but it's a good idea to aim for at least three or four supporting arguments.
Argumentative essay prompts are handy for helping you think more deeply about your chosen topic and will allow you to work on creating
Just stating something doesn't make it fact, so you also need to present evidence in favour of your opinion. Your own personal experience does not stand as a reputable source, so look for scientific studies and government resources to help back up your claims. Statistics and specific data can also be helpful as you argue your main point.
Look at the Opposing Viewpoint
In order to truly convince readers of your point of view, the argumentative essay must also look at the opposing views. What do those on the other side of the issue have to say? Acknowledge these views and refute them with facts, quotes, statistics or logic. The more evidence you have, the better your essay will be.
It's not enough to simply disagree with another point of view or opinion. If you really want to get people to see things your way, you need to convince them with evidence and facts. This requires some research and possibly a little creative thinking. If you’ve chosen a good topic, however, it will be obvious what the opposite view is.
Most argumentative essay prompts will have you cover opposing views in the second or third body paragraph, but it can be used as the intro to the body, as well, with your point at the end. Include every source in your reference section so the reader can double check the evidence for themselves.
Create a Conclusion
Finally, every argumentative essay example finishes with a conclusion. Yours will do the same. Restate your main points and cover the basics of the supporting evidence once more. This is essentially a summary of your entire argument. How has the argument evolved throughout the paper? Give the reader a brief look back over everything.
Before you sign off on your essay, restate your topic and stress the importance of your opinion. Keep this part to one or two paragraphs at the most, since it is simply a recap of the previous points.
If you have done your job and written a convincing argumentative essay, your reader will now either be completely on your side or thinking seriously about their views on your topic. This is the end goal, to shake up those beliefs and help others see your point of view. Doing this in a calm, professional manner will work far better than being too passionate. Use lots of examples and reputable sources to give solid evidence for your side of things and you’ll see good results.
Polish and Revise
Once your essay has been written, it's time to polish it. Go back over the whole essay and look for any spelling or grammatical errors. You should also keep an eye out for pieces that can be better written or tightened up to make better sense.
Now, it's up to the reader to make up their mind. If you've done a good job, they will see things your way and your essay will be a success.
Using a template for your argumentative essay can also help you work through the essay faster and ensures you'll meet common core standards and improve your essay writing skills. Choose a great topic, use prompts and a template and you’ll have a winning argumentative essay by the end.
Instructors tend to spend the most time on this, as it requires the most student research. In this unit, students should learn to evaluate and use evidence effectively, structure an argument, and understand shared assumptions.
Argument Topics: Often, students choose broad topics, such as "death penalty" or "abortion"--topics which can't be adequately addressed in a short paper. One way to avoid this is to have students choose from a list. Here's a list of more than sixty tried-and-true topics, broken into the following categories: education, free speech, crime and punishment, war and history, local, role of the government, and discrimination and civil rights.
Argument Paper Assignment: It can be useful to give students a concise sheet delineating the guidelines for the paper. Many iterations are acceptable; here are a few samples from past GTAs: sample one; sample two; sample three; sample four.
Process Memo: On the day students turn in their first draft, some GTAs have them write "Process Memos"--basically a note letting you know what they think is working in the paper. You can simply have students answer the following on a separate sheet of paper: 1. What's working well in your essay? 2. What's not working as well? 3. What are your questions for me? This can serve as a starting point for conferences. Alternatively, some GTAs create more extensive Process Memos. Here's an example.
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Lessons and Lectures
Structuring an Argument: Coming into Writing 121, many students will have no idea how to organize an argument paper. Though it's good to give them some flexibility, general guidelines always help. You might want to start with a general explanation of how an argument is built. Draw this on the board and have students suggest examples of a claim, main reasons, supporting facts, and counterarguments. After that, you may want to give students a more detailed handout about structuring an argument. Here's one that uses a classical Greek rhetorical outline. Here's a more basic handout.
Going Greek: Many GTAs introduce the concept of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos early on to create common ground in understanding argument. Others introduce it earlier, in the analysis section. Here are some brief lecture notes for Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. You may find it useful to go a little deeper into Aristotelian Argument as well.
Assessing the Reliability of Sources: Many students regard research as a "treasure hunt;" that is, they look for any information that supports what they want to say. One challenge of teaching argument is helping them understand that some may be more reliable than others. Here are some questions to ask when assessing the validity of primary and secondary sources. After going over this with students, you may want to have them rank a few sources themselves. Inevitably, everyone disagrees, which can lead to an interesting discussion about what makes a source "reliable."
Basics of Arguing a Position: Some brief, but useful lecture notes. Overarching and conceptual.
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Activities and Handouts
Shared Assumptions: Sometimes, it's a surprise to students that others don't share their assumptions about gender, race, politics, etc. This introductory dialogue humorously illustrates this idea. It works well when followed up with a group activity that introduces students to the idea of shared assumptions--what can they assume in a paper versus what needs to be proven. Each student should each have his or her own handout, but the whole group must agree before going on to the next question, which ideally both frustrates and enlightens students (and ourselves).
Entering the Conversation: Sometimes it can be difficult for students to realize that in writing an academic argument, they're participating in a larger, ongoing conversation. This "Entering the Conversation" worksheet is designed to help accustom students to the idea that they're about to be part of a community of discourse.
People v. Caufield Debate Activity: Adapted from an old Constitutional Rights Foundation Mock Trial case, the Caufield debate activity gives students two "witnesses" and a "fact situation" and asks them to argue for different interpretations. This can be used as the basis for a writing activity, a group activity, or an in-class debate. Students tend to latch onto it pretty quickly. Here's an instructor cheat sheet, which is helpful when you need to jump-start discussion. Also, to simplify things, you can just cut the questions at the end and have students debate Caufield's guilt or innocence.
Argument Vocabulary:Here's a handout to give students some "buzzwords" for their argument papers. It may be useful to go over these with them in class, or as an activity, to have them pick five they've never heard before and use them in sentences.
Logical Fallacies: Sometimes it's easier for students to recognize faulty reasoning in other people's work than in their own. This Reuters article about the legalization of marijuana is rife with bad reasoning from both sides. It also works as a discussion-starter for talking about claims and reasons. After teaching logical fallacies, here are some tests, quizzes, and handouts to use (pulled from another website).
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Using Sample Essays: The following are argument papers written by students from previous years. Note that these vary drastically in quality; they are not all examples of A or B papers. However, they can be very useful for students to look at, and especially to analyze as a class, encouraging students to brainstorm ways these papers can be strengthened.
Sample Essays: Names have been changed, and all students have agreed for their essays to be used:
Should people claiming "Conscientious Objector" status be exempt from serving in the military during wartime?
Should SUVs be made illegal?
Should it be legal for two people of the same sex to marry each other?
Is the death penalty an effective deterrent to murder?
Should prostitution be legalized throughout the U.S?
Is pornography harmful to society?
Another essay about whether pornography is harmful to society
Should high school athletes be given drug tests?
Should the SAT's be a factor in college admissions?
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Resources for Students: Though most students come into the course with a lot of experience using the internet, many have never used it for serious research. Generally, it's a good idea to require students to use at least two or three sources in their argument papers that aren't from the web. It may also be useful to give students a few starting points for web research. Here are some websites students have found helpful in the past:
Constitutional Rights Foundation: a great page for links to various resources, including magazine indexes, polls, encyclopedias, search engines.
OSU's Electronic Resources: ERIC and Lexis-Nexis are especially useful
OSU Research Links: same thing, but arranged by subject
American Civil Liberties Union: links and info, a liberal angle
The American Center for Law and Justice: links and info, a conservative and (sometimes) religious angle
USConstitution.net: information about researching constitutional issues
Public Agenda Online
National Center for Policy Analysis
Ohio University Society and Policy: research links, especially regarding ESL, immigration, and affirmative action
Issues 2002: Crime: popular crime-related issues
Time Magazine Online Archives: you can read the start of the article, and if it looks good, students can get it in the OSU library
Public Opinion Poll Question Database
Resources for You: Many universities' composition classes focus on persuasive writing, and web resources aren't too difficult to find. Here are a few that have been especially useful to GTAs in the past.
Purdue Online Writing Guide for Persuasive/Argumentative Writing
Basic Principles of Persuasive Writing
Nuts and Bolt of College Writing: Arguments
Essays and Arguments: A Handbook on Writing Argumentative and Interpretative Essays
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Alternative Argument Assignments: Some GTAs have students use the same topic for the argument paper as for the analysis paper, but have them develop it in a different way. Here's one that incorporates an exploratory paper and presentation. Others use a different approach altogether; this one uses a non-objective, "columnist-style," first-person approach.
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