How to Write an Argumentative Essay Step by Step
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
Argument essays seek to state a position on an issue and give several reasons, supported by evidence, for agreeing with that position.
Finding Ideas to Write About
Argument essay topics can be found everywhere. Check the headlines of a newspaper, or just listen in on a conversation at Starbucks. Chances are, you will hear someone trying to persuade another person to believe in their claim about:
- Is it true?
- What caused this?
- How important is it?
- What should we do about it?
5 Types of Argument Claims
1. Fact: Is it true or not?
2. Definition: What does it really mean?
3. Value: How important is it?
4. Cause and Effect: What is the cause? What are the effects?
5. Policy: What should we do about it?
How to Write a Thesis Statement
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement is one sentence in your introductory paragraph that concisely summarizes your main point(s) and claim(s), and should present your stance on the topic. It's worth spending some time crafting a strong thesis statement since it lets the reader know what the essay will be about and determine whether they want to read it.
Three Ways to Write a Thesis Statement (With Examples)
1. Question/Answer Format: The easiest way to write a thesis statement is to turn the topic or prompt into a question, and answering that question. For example:
- Does divorce cause serious problems for the children? (Fact)
- What is "domestic violence?" (Definition)
- What are the causes of divorce? (Cause)
- How important is it for couples to avoid divorce? (Value)
- What can you do to make your marriage divorce-proof? (Proposal)
Answer: Your question often can be the title of your paper, or it can be the first line of the introduction. Your answer to this question is your thesis.
Example: The most important way to make your marriage divorce-proof is to make sure you have carefully prepared for that commitment.
In this example, you answered the question, "What can you do to make your marriage divorce-proof?" You also let the reader know that the focus of the article will be on being "carefully prepared for that commitment."
2. Refute Objections: Another way to craft a thesis statement is to state one side of the argument and present a refuting statement.
Example: While some people think there is no way to divorce-proof your marriage, studies have shown that there are fewer divorces when people carefully prepare for that commitment.
In this example, you state one side of the argument—"there is no way to divorce-proof your marriage"—and refute it by saying "there are fewer divorces when people carefully prepare for that commitment." What makes this statement stronger (and more appealing) is the reference to studies that will back up your argument.
3. Roadmap: An additional way to make a strong thesis is to do a "Roadmap" which tells in just a few words the three or more main points you will cover.
Example: While some people think there is no way to divorce-proof your marriage, studies have shown that there are fewer divorces when people carefully prepare for that commitment by taking the time to get to know the other person before becoming engaged; by spending time with one another's family and friends; by talking about hot-button issues like finances; and by getting extensive premarital counseling.
This is an example of a really strong thesis statement in which you state a claim, your stance on the claim, and the main points that will back up your stance. Although it is a little long-winded, it thoroughly outlines what the essay will discuss. Not only is this helpful for the reader, but it will help you when crafting your essay by keeping you focused on these specific points.
How to Start an Argumentative Essay
Your introductory paragraph should be crafted around your thesis statement, providing background information needed to understand your argument and presenting pieces of evidence that back up that argument.
Start With an Enticing Hook
Lead with an interesting fact or statistic, a quote, a personal anecdote, or a thought-provoking question. Your first sentence should draw the reader in and get them interested about the topic you're writing about.
Provide Some Background and Context
What's the situation? What are the events that lead you to your argument? Why should people care? Give enough background on the topic so that the reader can understand your argument—nothing more, nothing less.
State Your Thesis
The background should transition smoothly into your main argument.
Introduce Your Evidence
The keyword is "introduce." State the main points that back up your argument and end it there. Leave the actual argument and analysis for the body paragraphs.
Essay Introduction Ideas
- Tell a true story.
- Present a hypothetical situation that illustrates the problem.
- Ask a thought-provoking question.
- State a startling fact or statistic (cite a reputable source).
- Simply explain the problem.
- Compare and contrast.
Use Logos, Pathos, and Ethos
The most persuasive essays are ones that have sound logic (logos), appeal to the readers' emotions (pathos), and speak to their character or morals (ethos).
Outlining Your Paper
Argument essays are fairly straightforward in their organization. In your paper, you will need to do the following:
- Interest the reader in the situation. Make them want to learn more about it.
- Explain the controversy or problem clearly.
- Explain the different sides of the debate.
- Tell them your side.
- Convince them that your side is the best one to take.
- Refute any objections they may be thinking about as they read.
- Urge the reader to adopt your point of view.
Explain the subject, the controversy, and end with your thesis. Here are some tips:
- Use the title to present your point of view. The title is often your thesis statement or the question you are trying to answer.
- Be concise. You're only introducing your argument, not debating it.
- Think about your audience—what aspects of this issue would most interest or convince them?
- Appeal to the reader's emotions. Readers are more easily persuaded if they can empathize with your point of view.
- Present undeniable facts from highly regarded sources. This builds a lot of trust and generally indicates a solid argument.
- Make sure you have a clear thesis that answers the question. The thesis should state your position and is usually the last sentence of your introduction.
The body usually consists of three or more paragraphs, each presenting a separate piece of evidence that supports your thesis. Those reasons are the topic sentences for each paragraph of your body. You should explain why your audience should agree with you. Make your argument even stronger by stating opposing points of view and refuting those points.
1. Reasons and support
- Usually, you will have three or more reasons why the reader should accept your position. These will be your topic sentences.
- Support each of these reasons with logic, examples, statistics, authorities, or anecdotes.
- To make your reasons seem plausible, connect them back to your position by using “if…then” reasoning.
2. Anticipate opposing positions and arguments.
- What objections will your readers have? Answer them with argument or evidence.
- What other positions do people take on this subject? What is your reason for rejecting these positions?
The conclusion in many ways mirrors the introduction. It summarizes your thesis statement and main arguments and tries to convince the reader that your argument is the best. It ties the whole piece together. Avoid presenting new facts or arguments.
Here are some conclusion ideas:
- Think "big picture." If you are arguing for policy changes, what are the implications of adopting (or not adopting) your ideas? How will they affect the reader (or the relevant group of people)?
- Present hypotheticals. Show what will happen if the reader adopts your ideas. Use real-life examples of how your ideas will work.
- Include a call to action. Inspire the reader to agree with your argument. Tell them what they need to think, do, feel, or believe.
- Appeal to the reader's emotions, morals, character, or logic.
3 Types of Arguments
1. Classical (Aristotelian)
You can choose one of these or combine them to create your own argument paper.
1. Classical Argument Strategy
This is the most popular argument strategy and is the one outlined in this article. In this strategy, you present the problem, state your solution, and try to convince the reader that your solution is the best solution. Your audience may be uninformed, or they may not have a strong opinion. Your job is to make them care about the topic and agree with your position.
Here is the basic outline of a classical argument paper:
- Introduction: Get readers interest and attention, state the problem, and explain why they should care.
- Background: Provide some context and key facts surrounding the problem.
- Thesis: State your position or claim and outline your main arguments.
- Argument: Discuss the reasons for your position and present evidence to support it (largest section of paper—the main body).
- Refutation: Convince the reader why opposing arguments are not true or valid.
- Conclusion: Summarize your main points, discuss their implications, and state why your position is the best position.
2. Rogerian Argument Strategy
Rogerian argument strategy attempts to persuade by finding points of agreement. It is an appropriate technique to use in highly polarized debates—those debates in which neither side seems to be listening to each other. This strategy tells the reader that you are listening to opposing ideas and that those ideas are valid. You are essentially trying to argue for the middle ground.
Here's the basic outline of a Rogerian argument:
- Present the issue. Introduce the problem and explain why it should be addressed.
- Summarize the opposing arguments. State their points and discuss situations in which their points can be valid. This shows that you understand the opposing points of view and that you are open-minded. Hopefully, this will make the opposition more willing to hear you out.
- State your points. You won't be making an argument for why you're correct—just that there are also situations in which your points can be valid.
- State the benefits of adopting your points. Here, you'll appeal to the opposition's self-interest by convincing them of how adopting your points will benefit them.
Toulmin Model of Argument Tutorial
3. Toulmin Model of Argument
Toulmin is another strategy to use in a highly charged debate. Instead of attempting to appeal to commonalities, however, this strategy attempts to use clear logic and careful qualifiers to limit the argument to things that can be agreed upon. It uses this format:
- Claim: The thesis the author hopes to prove. Example: Government should regulate Internet pornography.
- Evidence: Supports the claim. Example: Pornography on the Internet is bad for kids.
- Warrant: Explains how the data backs up the claim. Example: Government regulation works in other instances.
- Backing: Additional logic and reasoning that supports the warrant. Example: We have lots of other government regulations on media.
- Rebuttal: Potential arguments against the claim: Example: Government regulations would encroach on personal liberties.
- Qualifier: The short phrase (usually uses “typically,” “usually,” or “on the whole”) which limits the scope of the claim. Example: In most cases, the government should regulate pornography.
- Exceptions: This further limits the claim by describing situations the writer would exclude. Example: Where children are not involved in pornography, regulation may not be urgent.
Questions & Answers
How do I start an argumentative essay on the topic, “Cleaning toilets should be a part of the school curriculum?"
Start with a story which describes why you have this belief. Then follow it up with your statement and reasons. Conclude with an appeal to the readers to include this in the school curriculum and an explanation of why that will help the school and pupils.Helpful 205
How do I start an argumentative essay on "There has been a rising voice for Nobel committees to consider gender diversity in addition to work quality when nominating scientists. To what extent do you agree with this opinion?"
You might want to start with telling the recent story of the Chemistry nobel prize given to a woman, Frances H. Arnold. I've heard some interviews of her and you could look those up to give you some quotes. She was often asked about her thoughts on diversity and gender in the prizes. That would be a good lead-in to your question. The answer you give to the question would be your thesis.Helpful 108
How do I start an argumentative essay with the topic, "should the death penalty be banned as a form of punishment"?
Start with the story of a person who was given the death penalty for a crime they did not commit.Helpful 106
Can you give me topics on how smoking affects human health?
1. What are the health risks of smoking?
2. What is the best way to quit smoking?
3. How can you encourage someone else to give up smoking?
4. What is the difference in health risks of cigarette smoking vs. electronic cigarette smoking?
5. Should smokers have to pay more on health insurance?Helpful 7
How do I start an argumentative essay on the topic, "Do people who commit heinous crimes deserve the death penalty?"
You can get the reader's attention by telling a real story about someone who committed a crime that would deserve the death penalty. Or if you want to say that we should not have the death penalty, start with the story of someone who was wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit. Then at the end of the story ask your question. Your answer to that question is your thesis. Here is how to take your thesis and turn it into topic sentences: https://hubpages.com/academia/How-to-Write-a-Great...Helpful 9