How to Write an Argumentative Essay (5 Steps)

A good opening statement in a trial is half the battle. When making an argumentative piece of writing, the author should be as successful as a lawyer or attorney because putting forth an argument or claim is the chief element of persuasion. The idea is to present your position on a particular topic and convince the readers of your truth, making them want to share your opinion. Knowing how to write an argumentative essay is a valuable skill. Once it’s mastered, you should be able to explain something in a clear and logical manner, see all the strong and weak points of a particular stance, and get better at persuading others.

An argumentative paper may remind you of a critical thinking essay. It also has a lot in common with a persuasive essay as persuasive language is required. However, argumentative writing has several unique points that make it stand out from the rest of the academic tasks.

Note: In our other article How to Write an Essay, you can learn more about the essay writing process in general and every element it comprises.

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Essay Outline Section

The first step to creating an argumentative essay is drafting an outline. This is a road map that you shouldn’t overlook. As a writer, keep it in front of your eyes not to get lost in ideas and to avoid falling off the topic. A short outline for most academic essays is the same:

  1. Catchy introduction
  2. Body with evidence
  3. Logical conclusion

An extra element might be a Works Cited or References page (depending on the style).

As for the chronological order, many recommend starting with the body paragraphs so that it is easy to sum up all the main ideas in the intro and conclusion later. Now, take some time to learn more about what to include in every outline element. Further, we will elaborate on each part individually.

Let’s say you want to address euthanasia. Here’s how a more detailed argumentative essay outline might look:

  • I. Introduction
    • A. Hook — catch the attention of your readers with some context: a question, quotation, an anecdote, some historical background, some factual information, or a narration of events. For euthanasia, it can be a statistic showing how many people agreed to it within a specified period.
    • B. Background info — give some basic information about your issue and the position being argued. This is where you provide details that will help your readers recognize the need for your argument. Here, you can define euthanasia and explain why there are debates around it.
    • C. Thesis statement — state the position to be argued in the essay, along with the major points as pieces of evidence.
  • II. Body
    • A. Evidence — this is the core of your argument. Discuss the reasons you have taken your stance and present evidence to back them. There usually should be three paragraphs, each dedicated to its own reason. Their structure:
      • 1. Reason or argument — also known as a topic sentence
      • 2. Supporting evidence (at least two pieces)
      • 3. Transition sentence (optional)
    • B. Refutation — here, you predict and refute diverging views. By explaining what’s wrong with the logic of your opponents, you’ll show that you have examined the issue entirely and have found the only conclusion that’s adequate in this case. Generally, this part takes only one paragraph with one or two views refuted.
      • 1. Consider the arguments from the flip side of the problem (i.e., if you’re arguing that euthanasia should be legal in the US, mention the arguments from the people who oppose this standpoint).
      • 2. Briefly refute the other side’s arguments.
  • III. Conclusion — rephrase your thesis, review your major points, and call to action or use some of these techniques.

A Video-Example of an Outline with Explanations

Here’s a good video explanation of how to outline an argumentative essay by David Willis, a Chair in Humanities and Fine Arts Division at Coastal Alabama Community College, who also earned a Ph.D. in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing.

Choosing a Topic for Your Assignment

To decide on an argumentative essay topic, make a list of all possible ideas first. Try to include issues recently discussed in class. Your interests also matter; make certain you have enough knowledge and access to the necessary sources. Check out these argumentative essay topics before making a decision:

  1. The dangerous impact of social media on politics.
  2. Languages that are worth being studied today.
  3. The inefficiency of tests like the SAT and ACT.
  4. Reasons to legalize cannabis.
  5. Sports that make no sense.
  6. Men vs women athletes in college basketball.
  7. Access of journalists to the courts should be restricted.
  8. First aid around the world must be made free.
  9. People are all born good at heart.
  10. Women can be as physically strong as men.
  11. Parents should be stricter with their children.
  12. The best length for a movie.
  13. People should be allowed to work from home.
  14. Abortions should be made prohibited in the US.
  15. How safe is online dating?
  16. Cloning should be allowed.
  17. The high moral standards for athletes.
  18. A perfect tax system.
  19. Death penalty vs life sentence.
  20. Teachers should wear uniforms like students.

It is time to discuss the writing process in detail. And going forward, the most significant part is an introduction because it is the face of your paper. So, that is what we will cover first.

How Do I Start an Argumentative Essay?

To write a good argumentative essay, you must attract the audience’s attention first. Your opening lines are so-called hooks. It is a sort of interesting or shocking fact or stat that will persuade the readers of the issue’s significance right away. Otherwise, they might see no point in reading your 500-word or 1000-word paper.

To start an essay of any type, conduct a lot of research on the topic first and have an outline ready. Analyze verified sources with recent statistics to create a “bang” sentence based on that. Avoid references that are older than 5-10 years as information may lose its value and significance with time.

The next step is to give background info. Facts will help those readers who are not experts in the topic to get the main point and realize the significance of your discussion. For instance, for the issue of obesity among American teenagers, you may first recall the causes of this problem, such as fast food, their diets, and lack of movement.

Do not include any evidence or details in the introductory part. To write a great argumentative essay introduction, do not explicitly announce what you’ll be debating about and in what way. Here is an example of an intro for you:

“In 2018, more than 200 million people around the world were infected with malaria with 400,000 death cases, 67% of whom were children under the age of five. Dangerous parasites that are transmitted via female Anopheles mosquitoes are the reason. The death toll of malaria is increasing fast. The most effective method to decrease the number of patients who suffer from this disease is to prevent any contact with the parasites and invest more in programs developed to improve malaria treatment.”

How to Write a Thesis Statement for an Argumentative Paper

As for the final part of an intro, it must be a strong thesis statement. It is your answer to the main question, which should be justified. To make it clear, concise, and persuasive, plan the full text of your work and compose the central argument based on smaller claims. A thesis is never a fact. It should be the best guess of a writer concerning the offered research question or problem.

Here’s an example of a good thesis statement: “NATO should be restructured as this organization is currently not able to effectively deal with its responsibilities, including war prevention.”

One should also decide whether it should be a common-style or Rogerian argument. Unlike the Aristotelian or classical argument, the Rogerian argument is a negotiating strategy in which common purposes are defined along with opposing points of view that are shown as possible in an attempt to offer common knowledge and find a compromise. This is a type of empathic listening. Other sorts of arguments react more aggressively to the opposing views.

When writing argumentative essays for college, students should do their best to remain objective, so using Rogerian arguments is not a bad idea. As a type of structure, this model evaluates both sides of a claim and reaches a conclusion after assessing the pros and cons of each opposing side. However, if your assignment requirements indicate what type of argument you must stick to, follow those instructions.

Another style the writer can use is the Toulmin model. It starts with an intro, followed by a central argument, and provides reliable data to support the primary claim. A writer should add rebuttals and counterarguments. You can read more about it here.

Writing the Body of an Argumentative Paper

Great argumentative essays should have at least two supporting claims and a minimum of two body paragraphs apiece. The main argument is your thesis, and the claims are topic sentences — the beginning sentences of each body paragraph. This is a mini-outline of a typical body paragraph:

  1. Topic sentence (encapsulate and structure the paragraph; explain why this part matters)
  2. Explanation of the supporting claim
  3. Introduction of the evidence
  4. Insert and interpret the evidence using examples and the conflicting points
  5. Conclusive sentence(s)

This section mostly consists of strong evidence and explanations. Collect the proof before working on the body paragraphs. Mind a warning: avoid using information from newspapers, magazines, and other literature that are older than five years unless there are no fresher sources. Also, each time you insert a quote or use data from another source, you should format and reference it correctly to avoid issues with plagiarism! You can read more details about the formats here: Guide to Essay Formatting.

Check out some free argumentative essay examples available on various educational websites, including ours. But do not copy-paste any information from them! If you decide to rewrite or paraphrase, ensure the originality using plagiarism-checking software.

A Good Conclusion for an Argumentative Writing

This section aims to show the audience that your paper has covered all the essential points and that your view is the only correct one. It is where you involve a bit of persuasion.

The bigger share of a concluding paragraph consists of a summary of the writer’s and opposing views along with some forecasts for the future, if possible. Do not mention any new information in this section. Include these elements:

  • A clear answer to your question (often a rephrased thesis)
  • Up to three sentences that summarize the arguments from each body paragraph
  • General warning about the outcomes of not sticking to the offered solution

Here is how a conclusion for an argumentative essay may look:

“I am against the idea of gun control in the United States as these laws don’t facilitate crime control enough. The Second Amendment protects weapon ownership, but this measure still can’t prevent people with bad intentions from committing felonies. Thus, it makes no sense to implement gun control measures in the US as it would be smarter to give innocent people a chance to protect themselves.”

That is almost the last point of argumentative essay writing. No matter if you work on an expository essay for high school or a college argumentative paper, mind the formatting!

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Preferred Formatting and Other Tips

No matter if it’s an opinion essay or an argumentative paper, academic pieces should be properly formatted. Below are standard guidelines for APA and MLA styles.

  • Print the text on an 8.5 x 11-inch paper (A4).
  • Use a legible and easy-to-read font like Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Make the entire work 12 pt. font.
  • Put one-inch margins on all sides.
  • Indent the opening sentence of the paragraphs with half an inch (use TAB on your keyboard to do that).
  • Italicize/underline the titles of literary pieces that contributed to the research project and use quotation marks each time a new in-text citation is added
  • In MLA, do not create a separate title or cover page – do it only in APA.
  • Include a header in the upper-right-hand corner.
  • Add headings between various parts of the essay to improve clarity and flow.

Here are the basic recommendations and tips for writing an argumentative essay:

  • Find good sources of inspiration based on your topic.
  • Choose one issue and answer that question only.
  • Start your first paragraph with an attention-grabber sentence.
  • Avoid emotional language.
  • Review free essay examples online.
  • Provide evidence from up-to-date, credible sources like electronic textbooks and journals.
  • Always consider two sides of the debate.
  • A thesis is not a fact!

Once you understand argumentative writing, it will be easier for you to learn how to write persuasive essays as they are alike. It is a great chance to gain and develop skills that might be necessary for different types of careers in the future. Good luck!

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