How to Write an Argument Essay Step by Step

Updated on July 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.

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?

Stuck for an idea? Check out my Easy Argument Topics List.

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 Your Thesis

Question/Answer format: To make your topic idea into a thesis you need to turn the topic idea into a question first. Examples:

  • 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 last 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.

Refute Objections: You might want to put an introductory phrase in the first part of your thesis to show that you are refuting other ideas about the answer.

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.

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 time to get to know the other person before becoming engaged, spending time with one another's family and friends, talking about hot-button issues like finances, and getting extensive premarital counseling.

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

Introduction and Conclusion

Introduction Ideas
Conclusion Ideas
Use a true story
What will happen if your solution is adopted or people accept your argument.
Scenario: imaginary story which illustrates the problem
Revise the scenario showing what will happen if the reader adopts your ideas.
Startling quotation, fact or statistic
Use a real-life example of how your idea works.
Explain the problem
Tell the reader what they need to think, do, feel or believe.
Describe vividly
Appeal to the reader's emotions, character, or reason.
Frame story or flashback
Finish the frame story.
You can mix and match these ideas for your essay.

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 and make them think it is worth learning more about.
  2. Explain the controversy or problem clearly.
  3. Explain the 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 our point of view to do, think or believe something.

I. Introduction: Explain the subject, the controversy, and end with your thesis. Here are some tips:

  • Use the title to present your point of view. Often the title can be a question.
  • Think about your audience—what aspects of this issue would most interest or convince them?
  • Check out the introduction and conclusion chart for creative ways to introduce your paper.
  • Make sure you have a clear thesis which answers the question. The thesis should tell your position and is usually the last sentence of your introduction.

III. Body: Explains the reasons your audience should agree with your thesis. Your body needs to also refute objections or other points of view.

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 argument, 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 objections

  • 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: Make a final point which tells the reader what to think or do.

  • Why should the reader adopt your point of view?
  • You might use the anticipating objections in the conclusion.

Toulmin Argument Model

Toulmin Argument Model
Toulmin Argument Model | Source

3 Argument Strategies

There are three types of argument strategies: Classical, Rogerian and Toulmin.

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

Classical Argument Strategy

This strategy that you feel strongly about and when you feel you have a good chance of convincing your audience to agree with you. 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: announces subject, gets readers interest and attention, makes writer seem trustworthy
  2. Narration: gives background, context, statement of problem or definition
  3. Partition: states thesis or claim and outlines arguments
  4. Argument: makes arguments to support thesis and gives evidence (largest section of paper—the main body)
  5. Refutation: shows why opposing arguments are not true or valid
  6. Conclusion: Summarizes arguments, suggests solution and ties into the introduction or background.

Classical Strategy

Rogerian Strategy

Rogerian argument strategy attempts to persuade by finding points of compromise and agreement. It is an appropriate technique to use in highly polarized debates, but you must be sincere about willingness to compromise and change your point of view for the reader to take you seriously. Qualities of this strategy:

  • The author is Reasonable: Present your character as a person who understands and empathizes with the opposition. Often this means you state opposing position fairly and sympathetically. Example: it is not fair that animals are subjected to painful experimentation to help humans find new cures.
  • Common Ground: Establish common ground in beliefs and values you share Example: As the dominant species, we do have responsibilities.
  • Willingness to Change: Be willing to change views and show where your position could be modified. Example: It is a good idea to invest in trying to find ways to get information without using live animals in experiments.
  • Compromise: Direct your argument toward a compromise or workable solution. Example: let’s look for other ways to get information without using animals, but until we do, we probably need to continue experimentation.

Toulmin Strategy

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:

  • Data: Evidence presented. Example: Pornography on The Internet is bad for kids.
  • Claim: the thesis the author hopes to prove. Example: Government should regulate Internet pornography.
  • Warrant: The statement that explains how the data backs up the claim. Example: Government regulation works in other instances.
  • Backing: Additional logic and reasoning. Example: We have lots of other government regulations on media.
  • 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

Comments

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    • profile image

      Laura 

      3 weeks ago

      Thanks for the information. It was really helpful.

    • profile image

      Maryanne 

      2 months ago

      Thanks for the ideas.

    • profile image

      Mahri 

      2 months ago

      Thank you so much for priceless information.

    • profile image

      Dean 

      3 months ago

      Excellent

    • Kristina Heffter profile image

      Kristina Heffter 

      3 months ago from London, UK

      great article

    • profile image

      Kelly J 

      3 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Alessa Maninang 

      4 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 

      5 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 

      5 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Masechaba 

      8 months ago

      Thank you.... This is very helpful

    • profile image

      tt 

      9 months ago

      thanks this was the best information on arguments

    • profile image

      flddptcrd 

      10 months ago

      Thank you for the detailed explanation and tips!

    • profile image

      Jem Basha 

      10 months ago

      It is really useful , thank u a lot .

    • profile image

      Kyva 

      11 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 

      11 months ago

      Simple to pursue and put into practice

    • profile image

      Kitty 

      12 months ago

      This was helpful thank you

    • profile image

      Ashley 

      13 months ago

      This was great thanks

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      14 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 

      14 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 

      16 months ago

      this was very helpful. thank you.

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      19 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 

      19 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 

      2 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 

      2 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 

      4 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 

      4 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 

      6 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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