How to Write an Argumentative Essay Step by Step

Updated on December 3, 2018
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

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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?

Still can't come up with an idea? Check out the full list of my easy argumentative essay topic ideas.

How important are fathers? What makes a good father?
How important are fathers? What makes a good father? | Source

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.

Are larger families happier?  Does having children prevent divorce?
Are larger families happier? Does having children prevent divorce? | Source

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

  1. Tell a true story.
  2. Present a hypothetical situation that illustrates the problem.
  3. Ask a thought-provoking question.
  4. State a startling fact or statistic (cite a reputable source).
  5. Simply explain the problem.
  6. Compare and contrast.

Incorporate Logos, Pathos, and Egos

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:

  1. Interest the reader in the situation. Make them want to learn more about it.
  2. Explain the controversy or problem clearly.
  3. Explain the different sides of the debate.
  4. Tell them your side.
  5. Convince them that your side is the best one to take.
  6. Refute any objections they may be thinking about as they read.
  7. Urge the reader to adopt your point of view.

Introduction

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.

Body

The body usually consists of three or more paragraphs, each presenting a separate piece of evidence that support your thesis. 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?

Conclusion

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)

2. Rogerian

3. Toulmin

You can choose one of these or combine them to create your own argument paper.

Classical Argument

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:

  1. Introduction: Get readers interest and attention, state the problem, and explain why they should care.
  2. Background: Provide some context and key facts surrounding the problem.
  3. Thesis: State your position or claim and outline your main arguments.
  4. Argument: Discuss the reasons for your position and present evidence to support it (largest section of paper—the main body).
  5. Refutation: Convince the reader why opposing arguments are not true or valid.
  6. Conclusion: Summarize your main points, discuss their implications, and state why your position is the best position.

Rogerian Argument

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:

  1. Present the issue. Introduce the problem and explain why it should be addressed.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  • How do you write a thesis statement in an argumentative essay?

    For instructions and examples on easy ways to write a good thesis statement for an argument essay see:https://hubpages.com/humanities/Easy-Ways-to-Write...

    For help in writing excellent topic sentences see: https://hubpages.com/academia/How-to-Write-a-Great...

  • 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.

  • How can I connect the topic sentences?

    My most popular article, Easy Sentence Starters, (https://hubpages.com/academia/Words-to-Use-in-Star...

    explains how to use transition words effectively to connect all of your ideas, including the topic sentences. What you need to do is to think about how each sentence relates to the other ideas and choosing the appropriate transition (adding, comparing, contrasting, or sequence).

Comments

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    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      2 days ago from United States

      Hi Haaris! It is very hard to write a full essay in just 20 minutes. What I suggest is that you start by writing a brief outline. Turn the topic into a question. Answer the question (that is your thesis statement). Then write 3 reasons or supports for that thesis (you can jot down examples you will use to support those). Then do a conclusion that tells the reader what they are supposed to think, do or believe after reading your essay. Example:

      Should students have to write essays in 20 minutes?

      Writing twenty minute essays is helpful for learning to write quickly but does not teach students to think clearly, develop strong arguments, or fully think out answers.

      Body: turn those three points above into 1-3 paragraphs with some examples.

      Conclusion: Teachers should consider whether they want their students to write quickly or well when they give essay assignments.

    • profile image

      Haaris Madaha 

      2 days ago

      Hello, my name is Haaris. I am in 8th grade. I am about to take an exam for the #1 highschool in Delaware. Wilmington Charter. I now know that we have to write an essay and we have 20 minutes. How I can finish in time and still have a good, effective essay.

    • profile image

      angel 

      3 weeks ago

      Thanks. Its really helpful

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      6 weeks ago from United States

      Hi Ansumana, debate questions need to be issues that have more than one answer. They also need to be something that people disagree about. Another quality of a good debate question is it has to be something that people care about. Here are some examples:

      1. Is the WACE a fair test?

      2. Do the questions on the WACE really test what someone has learned?

      3. Does passing the WACE test mean a person is ready for University?

      4. How can the WACE be more effective?

    • profile image

      Ansumana Allieu 

      7 weeks ago

      This is really marvelous. You give us the right stuff in writing essays. But will you please guide me more on how to write to debate questions on West African Certificate Examination (WACE)?

    • rosespwnz profile image

      Rose Bell 

      8 weeks ago from Toronto

      Beautiful article. Interesting to read

    • profile image

      Sukhan 

      2 months ago

      Very good.you are a great guide. Thank you so much

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      2 months ago from United States

      Hi Sofia, political power is a good topic but you need a question to focus your essay around. Think about a question people have about political power, such as: “How can we make sure the government doesn’t abuse political power?” Start your essay with a story about the problem. Then ask your question. Your answer to the question is your thesis. Explaining and arguing for that answer is the body. Appealing to your audience to do something or believe a certain way is the conclusion.

    • profile image

      Sofia 

      2 months ago

      Hi Virginia,

      English is my second language and I have a hard time to figure out how to write my essay with a subject "POWER". I don't know if political will work but I don't know how I can start. Could you please give me some advice? Thank you.

    • profile image

      Laura 

      3 months ago

      Thanks for the information. It was really helpful.

    • profile image

      Maryanne 

      4 months ago

      Thanks for the ideas.

    • profile image

      Mahri 

      5 months ago

      Thank you so much for priceless information.

    • profile image

      Dean 

      6 months ago

      Excellent

    • Kristina Heffter profile image

      Kristina Heffter 

      6 months ago from London, UK

      great article

    • profile image

      Kelly J 

      6 months ago

      excellent explanation! Thank you so much, this have been very helpful

    • profile image

      Alessa Maninang 

      6 months ago

      I am so grateful for this work. I believe as much as it has helped me,so will it help others.

    • profile image

      Houda samad 

      8 months ago

      This artical was really helpful for me because it shows the whole technique how to write an argumentative essay. In fact, everyone now could write one with such an ease and confidence.

      I want to thank you so much for this artical.

    • profile image

      Nick Celin 

      8 months ago

      Thank you....... this is the best information on arguments

    • profile image

      Masechaba 

      10 months ago

      Thank you.... This is very helpful

    • profile image

      tt 

      12 months ago

      thanks this was the best information on arguments

    • profile image

      flddptcrd 

      13 months ago

      Thank you for the detailed explanation and tips!

    • profile image

      Jem Basha 

      13 months ago

      It is really useful , thank u a lot .

    • profile image

      Kyva 

      14 months ago

      This was very helpful. Thank you for this great guide for me. Also for my notes for my writing test.

    • profile image

      Kavitha 

      14 months ago

      Simple to pursue and put into practice

    • profile image

      Kitty 

      15 months ago

      This was helpful thank you

    • profile image

      Ashley 

      16 months ago

      This was great thanks

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      17 months ago from United States

      Hi Judith, I'm also a trained academic writer who has become more interested in popular writing. Some of the instructors that I work with have students write a paper in a particular style, but I prefer to view all of the argumentative techniques as part of our "bag of tricks." So, I think that to persuade, the most important thing is to, first of all, think about your audience carefully. Consider what they know and what they believe, including any "false beliefs" that they may hold about your subject. Then think about what it is that you actually want them to think, do, or believe after reading your work. Then look at the different strategies and decide which ones might work to convince that audience best. I have several different articles on persuasion that you might want to look at for ideas and examples.

    • profile image

      Judith Coche PhD 

      17 months ago

      Virgiia..thank you ...clear and targeted language for the author of 4 books who wants to tell stories instead of more academic writing.

      What is the difference between an academically constructed argument and memoir/ trade book on psychological topics?

      Seems that Toulman is the style but need details....

      Judith

      Judith

    • profile image

      Beth 

      18 months ago

      this was very helpful. thank you.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      22 months ago from United States

      Sisila-I wish you all the best. I have about 100 articles on Hubpages about writing. I encourage you to keep on learning!

    • profile image

      Sisilia R Toutai 

      22 months ago

      Hi Virginia,

      English is my second language and struggling with essay writing and an argument essay, I find your advise but time is very short for my assessment test tomorrow. I will try my best to focus on your advise and see if I can pass on this level for my future study. Many thanks for this very helpful article about argument essay.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      3 years ago from United States

      Miranda--I'm so glad this article has helped you. It really comes from my experience in teaching students to write rather than from a textbook. My students have taught me a lot! Much luck to you on your courses.

    • MirandaStork profile image

      Miranda Stork 

      3 years ago from England

      Thank you for a really great hub! It's now officially on my 'favourites' bar. I have to do a lot of argument essays at the moment for my course, and I sometimes have a tricky time working out how to structure them - this hub is going to help me so much with making my arguments clearer.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      5 years ago from United States

      Honestly, Dragos--often the best way to get started is just to write down everything you know, then write down questions that occur to you. If you are doing a research paper, you can then start gathering information based on your questions. I often just start by Googling some of the questions. Often you won't come up with research you can use in your paper, but it can jog you into having some good ideas. In an argument essay, what you really need is:

      a question

      an answer (your answer, plus what other people would answer)

      3 or more good reasons for your answer

      reasons why the other answers aren't as good as yours

      That is basically what you are going to write about.

    • profile image

      Dragos 

      5 years ago

      I pretty much know what has to go in an essay but I'm having a hard time planning my thoughts and writing down ideas on a topic.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      7 years ago from LA

      I am so happy to see what you have brought to us! I hope everyone who is sittin' around doin' nothin' and complaining about everything will discover these HubPages and join in on what was started during the golden ages of America. The wisdom that we have and the capability of transmitting it over the internet is SO AWESOME. Thank You

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much for reading! I work hard to try to make the process as easy as possible.

    • winphatak profile image

      winphatak 

      7 years ago from Pune,India

      Wonderful and useful hub. It will certainly help improve my writing. Thanks.

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