How to Write an Argumentative Essay
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is a style of academic writing where an author presents both sides of an argument or issue. The main purpose of an argumentative essay is to inform rather than convince – that’s why this type of paper should not be confused with a persuasive essay.
The following skills are evaluated when grading an argumentative essay:
- Research skills
- Writing skills
- Analytical skills
This type of paper is assigned to train a student’s ability to debate. It can therefore greatly influence the public speaking skills of a person later on in their life. When writing an argumentative essay, it is important to focus on facts and information rather than personal ideas or preferences. The author may present arguments equally, or support one in favour of others. Regardless, the thesis must include all of the primary points (and counterpoints) that will appear in the essay. It is almost like a political debate with oneself.
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Elements of an Argumentative Essay
- Position: It’s essential to determine which side of the argument you are taking. For example, you may be arguing that tobacco products or cannabis should be made illegal. Make a point to express why you took your initial position. For example, you may provide exact reasons to show how tobacco products may be damaging people’s health.
- Evidence: This is where you should provide factual substantiation for your reasons from outside resources. It is very important to give citations and references for where you gathered your evidence. If there is no proof, the evidence may not be taken into account. For example, you could cite health studies or scientific papers related to the effects of tobacco products on peoples’ health to prove your statement.
- Counterarguments: This is where you need to present the other side of the issue. Provide the opposing argument from your point of view. After stating these counterarguments, you should state why they are false, weak, or ineffective by presenting further evidence.
3 Ways to Approach Argumentative Writing
There are three main ways to approach an argumentative essay. These techniques will help you create a proper structure.
- Classical Approach
This is the most common approach and consists of the following:
- An introduction where you introduce the central message of your paper (the thesis statement). Example: Tobacco products can induce various health problems, including cancers, heart attacks, and obesity.
- Background of the subject where you introduce early studies about children who have grown up in adoptive environments. Here you can also talk about the long-term effects of smoking.
- Main arguments — Talk about the main points of your position. For example, you could write about the feeling of addiction that makes it difficult to give up smoking.
- Refutation — Here is where your counterarguments come into place. Introduce the opposite side you will need to refute as being invalid. Example: Some people think that smoking does not affect health and that genetic predisposition is more impactful in causing problems for one’s health. However, there is major evidence which shows that smoking can cause bigger long-term damage to lungs than a genetic predisposition to cancer.
- Conclusion — Present all of the main arguments and provide solutions or studies that need to be conducted in the future.
- Rogerian Approach
This approach works best if the topic of your argumentative essay is highly polemical or is a potential seed for different discussions. For instance, such issues as causes of global warming, gender identification problems, and philosophical problems work best if the Rogerian approach is applied. There is no specific structure that needs to be followed in the Rogerian approach. It’s more about how you present the information: be sympathetic to both sides of the argument. It’s important to concede that the opposing side may also be valid. So, the more wide-scoped view of a subject you take, the better. You don’t have to solve the issue, it’s more important to explore the compromise between the two sides to arrive at a solution to a pressing problem.
This strategy can be quite useful in polemical arguments. It aims to find common ground within an argument and eliminate unnecessary arguments. For example, if your topic revolves around the question of whether drugs should be legal, then you would need to explore the biggest issues on both sides of the argument. Here you can talk about the pros and cons.
Steps for Writing Your Argumentative Essay
Step 1: Look for Argumentative Essay Topics
Just like with all other essay types, here are a ton of topics to choose from. The main criteria should be the following:
- coherency and relativity to your studied subject;
- inherent values;
- potential for further research.
However, it is important to remember that it must be presented in a debate format. In other words, explain why option A is better than option B, or vice versa. Even in the Rogerian approach, you need to be able to pick a side, but do it very carefully.
Here are some good argumentative essay topics to get you started:
- Apple vs. Microsoft: Which software brand is more useful for students?
- Do violent video games have a negative psychological impact on children?
- From a financial perspective, should one invest in cryptocurrencies?
- From an economic standpoint, are electric cars better overall?
- Has society become too reliant on technology?
Good Argumentative Essay Topics for High School
As students begin writing this type of content in school, it is essential to give them easy essay topics for them to get a grasp of the task. Here are some examples:
- What is the most important second language to learn as a student in the US?
- Should the minimum driving age be lowered?
- Are standardized tests a fair reflection of a student’s skills?
- Are athletes overpaid?
- Should high school students be free to choose their classes?
Topics for College
As we transition to the university level, the complexity of the question asked should also grow. With that being said, here are some challenging topics for college students:
- Is there enough evidence to prove that news sources have biased agendas?
- Would the legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug be economically justifiable?
- Can we constitute Russia as a superpower alongside the USA and China?
- What was the most influential technological advancement in the history of humanity?
- Should we sacrifice some public services for lower taxes?
Step 2: Conducting Research
Conducting research includes several steps:
- Choosing the side you will represent.
- Picking an argument that can appeal to your audience.
- Researching who else supports this argument.
- Researching the objections your reader might raise.
- Organizing your evidence.
In addition, you should check criteria for the validity of your information:
- Credibility of sources
- Objectivity or bias
Step 3: Writing an Argumentative Essay Outline
Now that we understand what this type of writing is all about, we can start putting the pieces of the argumentative essay outline together. So, let’s take a look at how to start an argumentative essay.
Usually written in the five-paragraph structure, the argumentative essay format consists of an introduction, 2-3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Logically, each of those three sections will have a unique structure, so understanding them on an individual level will help ensure a smooth writing process. We will be using “the Internet” as the most significant technological advancement in society as an example.
- Hook Statement: As with most other types of assignments, an argumentative essay introduction should attempt to captivate readers’ interest from the very beginning. Сreate a sentence that stands out from the rest of the text. Consider using a rhetorical question, a meaningful quote, or an intriguing idea. The goal is to get your audience reaching for a bag of popcorn right after reading the hook.
- Background Information: After gathering the audience’s attention, the next step is to present any necessary context to narrow the focus of the discussion. This information should not yet reveal any of the main arguments from the body. Also, it should ideally transition the train of thought towards the thesis statement.
- Thesis Statement: The last sentence of the introduction should present the focal point/central argument of your entire paper. Remember – your primary objective is to defend your idea, so the thesis must directly state what your idea is and why it is correct.
- Body Paragraphs
- Topic Sentence: Start with a sentence that transitions the focus from the previous paragraph to the current one. It should also introduce the main sub-argument for its particular section.
- Restate the Thesis: The first sentence of any conclusion should always be a restatement of your central message (thesis statement). Using assertive language, restate your thesis in an “I have 100% proven this point” kind of way. When information is presented to an audience with confidence, they become more inclined to position themselves with that side of the argument.
- Brief Summarization of Sub-Arguments: Most likely, the audience has already forgotten some of the information you presented. For this reason, go back through and review your main points, giving your argument closure.