What is an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that takes a stance on an issue. The main purpose of an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to agree with the writer’s point of view. This is done by presenting a strong argument, which is supported by evidence.

An argumentative text requires thorough research and analysis of all relevant sources. Unlike persuasive writing, this one shouldn’t rely on the emotional aspect when trying to convince the audience. What makes argument papers unique is that you are only to substantiate your position — no more, no less.

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A good argumentative essay should have:

  • A clear and concise thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph
  • A logical transition after every element of the essay
  • Enough supporting evidence in every body paragraph
  • A meaningful conclusion going beyond mere restatement

Getting started

Mastering argumentative writing allows you to gain some valuable insights. It also gives you a competitive edge because it lets you hone your persuasive and critical thinking skills. Getting excellent marks should not be your sole priority. It teaches students how to argue their opinions, which is one of the most helpful skills.

First, scrutinize the definition. An argumentative essay is a piece of academic writing that presents a claim its author must prove. The capacity to write an effective argumentative paper can come in handy in different real-life situations. By using the skills you’ve gained while working on it, you can, for instance, persuade potential investors that your business is worth being funded.

A challenge many students might face is choosing a topic. But, there are other factors you should take into account before you start an effective argumentative essay:

  • Fact-checking
  • Enough background knowledge
  • Proving the topic’s relevance

Answer these questions when choosing a topic:

  • Are my arguments specific enough?
  • Will I be able to support my arguments with verified evidence?
  • Is my topic a yes-no question? (Avoid such topics)
  • Will there be people with opposing views? What are their arguments?

Topic example: let’s assume you want to write about gun control in your city or state. In a persuasive essay, you would try to persuade people that the government must implement stricter policies or make them less stringent. But, in an argument paper, you would also have to suggest a specific way of dealing with gun control in your area.

How to Write About Your Position

In real life, you’ll often want to examine carefully every perspective on the issue and balance between them — don’t do it here.

In an argumentative paper, you must choose one side and stick to it.

It’s essential to show YOUR thoughts and ideas. You must tell the reader about YOUR perspective on the matter and how YOU see things developing.

When talking about your position in an argumentative essay:

  • Avoid the indicators of uncertainty, words like “probably,” “I feel,” “might,” and so on.
  • Don’t pretend to be an expert if you don’t have enough knowledge — cite those who do.
  • Don’t base your evidence on moral claims — use statistics and facts instead.
  • Don’t try to paint opponents in a bad light but address their opinions and refute them.

How to address the opposing side

If you struggle to understand what’s happening in the minds of people with opposing viewpoints, try following this algorithm:

  1. Try to think of several reasons you’d want to be on the other side of the discussion and list them.
  2. Study that list. Ask yourself, “Who and why will agree with the points listed? What arguments will they use?”
  3. Analyze your audience. That includes their background, interests, and factors shaping their personality the most.
  4. Start thinking about how you can refute their arguments and look for credible evidence that can help you with that.
  5. When structuring your essay, place the part where you address their views after your argumentation.

How to Use Evidence in Argumentative Writing

Just presenting evidence won’t suffice. You must explain precisely how it backs your argument and why it is important. Your goal here is to show a clear link between the proof you give and the claim.

A mistake would be to assume that your reader knows everything about your topic, or that the subject is too simple to go into more detail. Yes, whoever is reading your argumentative paper can be familiar with the topic or the ideas you write about. Still, they won’t be able to know what we plan on doing with those ideas unless we provide enough explanations.

You can always cut out a few sentences. It’s like cutting a statue from a chunk of crude marble by removing the excess — it takes time to carve out a masterpiece from it.

Ask yourself these questions when evaluating evidence:

  1. Why should anyone consider this? Why is it significant?
  2. What are the implications this piece of evidence has?
  3. How can I develop my train of thought if I take this position?
  4. How does what I have said happen? Why is it like this?
  5. How is it linked to my thesis statement?
  6. Is there a relevant example I can give?

By answering those questions, you should be able to show how your evidence is connected with your argument.

Steps to Writing an Argumentative Essay

What do you do after you’ve learned the argumentative essay definition? How do you actually start an argumentative essay?

We also have a separate detailed guide dedicated solely to this section: How to Write an Argumentative Essay

Begin by formulating essay topic ideas. The key ingredients of success are an impartial analysis of the selected subject, credible sources, and convincing arguments. To achieve that, pick a topic you like and are knowledgeable about. You might have a hard time choosing one, so try selecting a subject that would be relevant to your class.

Avoid mundane topics or unsolvable problems. If you cannot find information online, you can try local libraries or archives. The letter can be a lot of fun, allowing you to feel like the main character of “Independence Day.” An argument paper should be based on evidence from trusted and up-to-date sources. Therefore, exclude any references older than 5-10 years whenever possible.

Another critical pre-writing step is devising a plan. Referred to as an essay outline, it usually includes three major parts, but it’s not limited to that number. A standard argumentative essay is made up of three to five body paragraphs that explain your stance on the topic. Below is a detailed example of how an argumentative essay can be structured.

A detailed infographic showing how a student can structure an argumentative essay

A plan will let you focus better on the topic. Search engines may offer too many template variations, so stick to the most common one, and decide how many body paragraphs you will have based on the number of supporting evidence. The information you have gathered during your research will help you decide.

Your introductory paragraph is the first thing the readers will set their eyes on. However, you should put it on the back burner and come back to it after you’re done writing the rest. You may consider including some surprising information or a funny story in the introduction to grab the readers’ attention. It would also be a good idea if you gave your readers some background details on the discussed matter.

Mention opposing views. When your work cites arguments of all the involved parties, it makes the audience perceive the author as more trustworthy and competent. So, you can mention some opposite standpoints to disprove them, thus strengthening your arguments.

Put all the core pieces together and sum up your arguments in the conclusion. Refer back to what you were talking about and summarize (rephrase) all the main points you have raised so far in your conclusion paragraph.

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Examples of Argument Essays

Below are resources where you can find good examples of argumentative essays on different topics.

1. Four samples by Skyline College.

Below, you can study four archived samples of argumentative papers in MLA style written on the following topics:

  1. Biotechnology in sports
  2. Preserving Yellowstone
  3. What news is fit to print
  4. Credit hooks for students

Each sample contains informative commentaries that explain every part of the paper. By studying the best examples, you can learn about:

  • Various methods of starting an argumentative essay
  • The right ways of formulating a thesis statement
  • What evidence you can use to support the claim
  • How to present opposing views and counter them
  • How to introduce examples and make transitions
  • Some techniques of echoing your thesis at the end
  • MLA paper formatting and citation rules

2. Seven samples by Paola Brown from Maricopa Community College.

Although samples cannot boast explanatory comments, studying them will still be beneficial. Below are the argumentative papers by topic:

3. This final one by Ashford University is just one example. However, the commentaries are exhaustive: highlighting and clarifying almost every little aspect.

After looking through all those samples, you will find out a lot about argumentative writing and have enough knowledge to create your paper.

Video analysis of an argumentative essay



Final Recommendations

Here are four easy argumentative essay writing tips:

  • Write in the first person — you’re arguing your stance, so using “I” is fine.
  • Decide early on how many paragraphs you need in your body section.
  • Write down all the references to the sources you’ve used during your research.
  • Always revise your work before handing it to your instructor.

Now, we hope you have a better idea of what argumentative assignments are and the best ways to handle this kind of task.

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