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How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.

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Table of contents

When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.

You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.

The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.

Argumentative writing at college level

At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.

In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.

Examples of argumentative essay prompts

At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.

Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.

  • Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
  • Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
  • Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
  • Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
  • Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
  • Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.

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An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.

There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.

Toulmin arguments

The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:

  • Make a claim
  • Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
  • Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
  • Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives

The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.

Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:

  • Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
  • Cite data to support your claim
  • Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
  • Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.

Rogerian arguments

The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:

  • Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
  • Highlight the problems with this position
  • Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
  • Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?

This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.

Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:

  • Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
  • Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
  • Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
  • Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.

You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .

Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.

In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.

Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.

This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.

Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.

No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.

Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

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Argumentative Essays

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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.

What is an argumentative essay?

The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.

Please note : Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.

Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.

The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.

  • A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.

In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important ( exigence ) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.

  • Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.

  • Body paragraphs that include evidential support.

Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis ( warrant ).

However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.

  • Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).

The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.

  • A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.

A complete argument

Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.

The five-paragraph essay

A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.

Longer argumentative essays

Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.

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Miscellaneous

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You'll no doubt have to write a number of argumentative essays in both high school and college, but what, exactly, is an argumentative essay and how do you write the best one possible? Let's take a look.

A great argumentative essay always combines the same basic elements: approaching an argument from a rational perspective, researching sources, supporting your claims using facts rather than opinion, and articulating your reasoning into the most cogent and reasoned points. Argumentative essays are great building blocks for all sorts of research and rhetoric, so your teachers will expect you to master the technique before long.

But if this sounds daunting, never fear! We'll show how an argumentative essay differs from other kinds of papers, how to research and write them, how to pick an argumentative essay topic, and where to find example essays. So let's get started.

What Is an Argumentative Essay? How Is it Different from Other Kinds of Essays?

There are two basic requirements for any and all essays: to state a claim (a thesis statement) and to support that claim with evidence.

Though every essay is founded on these two ideas, there are several different types of essays, differentiated by the style of the writing, how the writer presents the thesis, and the types of evidence used to support the thesis statement.

Essays can be roughly divided into four different types:

#1: Argumentative #2: Persuasive #3: Expository #4: Analytical

So let's look at each type and what the differences are between them before we focus the rest of our time to argumentative essays.

Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essays are what this article is all about, so let's talk about them first.

An argumentative essay attempts to convince a reader to agree with a particular argument (the writer's thesis statement). The writer takes a firm stand one way or another on a topic and then uses hard evidence to support that stance.

An argumentative essay seeks to prove to the reader that one argument —the writer's argument— is the factually and logically correct one. This means that an argumentative essay must use only evidence-based support to back up a claim , rather than emotional or philosophical reasoning (which is often allowed in other types of essays). Thus, an argumentative essay has a burden of substantiated proof and sources , whereas some other types of essays (namely persuasive essays) do not.

You can write an argumentative essay on any topic, so long as there's room for argument. Generally, you can use the same topics for both a persuasive essay or an argumentative one, so long as you support the argumentative essay with hard evidence.

Example topics of an argumentative essay:

  • "Should farmers be allowed to shoot wolves if those wolves injure or kill farm animals?"
  • "Should the drinking age be lowered in the United States?"
  • "Are alternatives to democracy effective and/or feasible to implement?"

The next three types of essays are not argumentative essays, but you may have written them in school. We're going to cover them so you know what not to do for your argumentative essay.

Persuasive Essay

Persuasive essays are similar to argumentative essays, so it can be easy to get them confused. But knowing what makes an argumentative essay different than a persuasive essay can often mean the difference between an excellent grade and an average one.

Persuasive essays seek to persuade a reader to agree with the point of view of the writer, whether that point of view is based on factual evidence or not. The writer has much more flexibility in the evidence they can use, with the ability to use moral, cultural, or opinion-based reasoning as well as factual reasoning to persuade the reader to agree the writer's side of a given issue.

Instead of being forced to use "pure" reason as one would in an argumentative essay, the writer of a persuasive essay can manipulate or appeal to the reader's emotions. So long as the writer attempts to steer the readers into agreeing with the thesis statement, the writer doesn't necessarily need hard evidence in favor of the argument.

Often, you can use the same topics for both a persuasive essay or an argumentative one—the difference is all in the approach and the evidence you present.

Example topics of a persuasive essay:

  • "Should children be responsible for their parents' debts?"
  • "Should cheating on a test be automatic grounds for expulsion?"
  • "How much should sports leagues be held accountable for player injuries and the long-term consequences of those injuries?"

Expository Essay

An expository essay is typically a short essay in which the writer explains an idea, issue, or theme , or discusses the history of a person, place, or idea.

This is typically a fact-forward essay with little argument or opinion one way or the other.

Example topics of an expository essay:

  • "The History of the Philadelphia Liberty Bell"
  • "The Reasons I Always Wanted to be a Doctor"
  • "The Meaning Behind the Colloquialism ‘People in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones'"

Analytical Essay

An analytical essay seeks to delve into the deeper meaning of a text or work of art, or unpack a complicated idea . These kinds of essays closely interpret a source and look into its meaning by analyzing it at both a macro and micro level.

This type of analysis can be augmented by historical context or other expert or widely-regarded opinions on the subject, but is mainly supported directly through the original source (the piece or art or text being analyzed) .

Example topics of an analytical essay:

  • "Victory Gin in Place of Water: The Symbolism Behind Gin as the Only Potable Substance in George Orwell's 1984"
  • "Amarna Period Art: The Meaning Behind the Shift from Rigid to Fluid Poses"
  • "Adultery During WWII, as Told Through a Series of Letters to and from Soldiers"

body_juggle

There are many different types of essay and, over time, you'll be able to master them all.

A Typical Argumentative Essay Assignment

The average argumentative essay is between three to five pages, and will require at least three or four separate sources with which to back your claims . As for the essay topic , you'll most often be asked to write an argumentative essay in an English class on a "general" topic of your choice, ranging the gamut from science, to history, to literature.

But while the topics of an argumentative essay can span several different fields, the structure of an argumentative essay is always the same: you must support a claim—a claim that can reasonably have multiple sides—using multiple sources and using a standard essay format (which we'll talk about later on).

This is why many argumentative essay topics begin with the word "should," as in:

  • "Should all students be required to learn chemistry in high school?"
  • "Should children be required to learn a second language?"
  • "Should schools or governments be allowed to ban books?"

These topics all have at least two sides of the argument: Yes or no. And you must support the side you choose with evidence as to why your side is the correct one.

But there are also plenty of other ways to frame an argumentative essay as well:

  • "Does using social media do more to benefit or harm people?"
  • "Does the legal status of artwork or its creators—graffiti and vandalism, pirated media, a creator who's in jail—have an impact on the art itself?"
  • "Is or should anyone ever be ‘above the law?'"

Though these are worded differently than the first three, you're still essentially forced to pick between two sides of an issue: yes or no, for or against, benefit or detriment. Though your argument might not fall entirely into one side of the divide or another—for instance, you could claim that social media has positively impacted some aspects of modern life while being a detriment to others—your essay should still support one side of the argument above all. Your final stance would be that overall , social media is beneficial or overall , social media is harmful.

If your argument is one that is mostly text-based or backed by a single source (e.g., "How does Salinger show that Holden Caulfield is an unreliable narrator?" or "Does Gatsby personify the American Dream?"), then it's an analytical essay, rather than an argumentative essay. An argumentative essay will always be focused on more general topics so that you can use multiple sources to back up your claims.

Good Argumentative Essay Topics

So you know the basic idea behind an argumentative essay, but what topic should you write about?

Again, almost always, you'll be asked to write an argumentative essay on a free topic of your choice, or you'll be asked to select between a few given topics . If you're given complete free reign of topics, then it'll be up to you to find an essay topic that no only appeals to you, but that you can turn into an A+ argumentative essay.

What makes a "good" argumentative essay topic depends on both the subject matter and your personal interest —it can be hard to give your best effort on something that bores you to tears! But it can also be near impossible to write an argumentative essay on a topic that has no room for debate.

As we said earlier, a good argumentative essay topic will be one that has the potential to reasonably go in at least two directions—for or against, yes or no, and why . For example, it's pretty hard to write an argumentative essay on whether or not people should be allowed to murder one another—not a whole lot of debate there for most people!—but writing an essay for or against the death penalty has a lot more wiggle room for evidence and argument.

A good topic is also one that can be substantiated through hard evidence and relevant sources . So be sure to pick a topic that other people have studied (or at least studied elements of) so that you can use their data in your argument. For example, if you're arguing that it should be mandatory for all middle school children to play a sport, you might have to apply smaller scientific data points to the larger picture you're trying to justify. There are probably several studies you could cite on the benefits of physical activity and the positive effect structure and teamwork has on young minds, but there's probably no study you could use where a group of scientists put all middle-schoolers in one jurisdiction into a mandatory sports program (since that's probably never happened). So long as your evidence is relevant to your point and you can extrapolate from it to form a larger whole, you can use it as a part of your resource material.

And if you need ideas on where to get started, or just want to see sample argumentative essay topics, then check out these links for hundreds of potential argumentative essay topics.

101 Persuasive (or Argumentative) Essay and Speech Topics

301 Prompts for Argumentative Writing

Top 50 Ideas for Argumentative/Persuasive Essay Writing

[Note: some of these say "persuasive essay topics," but just remember that the same topic can often be used for both a persuasive essay and an argumentative essay; the difference is in your writing style and the evidence you use to support your claims.]

body_fight

KO! Find that one argumentative essay topic you can absolutely conquer.

Argumentative Essay Format

Argumentative Essays are composed of four main elements:

  • A position (your argument)
  • Your reasons
  • Supporting evidence for those reasons (from reliable sources)
  • Counterargument(s) (possible opposing arguments and reasons why those arguments are incorrect)

If you're familiar with essay writing in general, then you're also probably familiar with the five paragraph essay structure . This structure is a simple tool to show how one outlines an essay and breaks it down into its component parts, although it can be expanded into as many paragraphs as you want beyond the core five.

The standard argumentative essay is often 3-5 pages, which will usually mean a lot more than five paragraphs, but your overall structure will look the same as a much shorter essay.

An argumentative essay at its simplest structure will look like:

Paragraph 1: Intro

  • Set up the story/problem/issue
  • Thesis/claim

Paragraph 2: Support

  • Reason #1 claim is correct
  • Supporting evidence with sources

Paragraph 3: Support

  • Reason #2 claim is correct

Paragraph 4: Counterargument

  • Explanation of argument for the other side
  • Refutation of opposing argument with supporting evidence

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

  • Re-state claim
  • Sum up reasons and support of claim from the essay to prove claim is correct

Now let's unpack each of these paragraph types to see how they work (with examples!), what goes into them, and why.

Paragraph 1—Set Up and Claim

Your first task is to introduce the reader to the topic at hand so they'll be prepared for your claim. Give a little background information, set the scene, and give the reader some stakes so that they care about the issue you're going to discuss.

Next, you absolutely must have a position on an argument and make that position clear to the readers. It's not an argumentative essay unless you're arguing for a specific claim, and this claim will be your thesis statement.

Your thesis CANNOT be a mere statement of fact (e.g., "Washington DC is the capital of the United States"). Your thesis must instead be an opinion which can be backed up with evidence and has the potential to be argued against (e.g., "New York should be the capital of the United States").

Paragraphs 2 and 3—Your Evidence

These are your body paragraphs in which you give the reasons why your argument is the best one and back up this reasoning with concrete evidence .

The argument supporting the thesis of an argumentative essay should be one that can be supported by facts and evidence, rather than personal opinion or cultural or religious mores.

For example, if you're arguing that New York should be the new capital of the US, you would have to back up that fact by discussing the factual contrasts between New York and DC in terms of location, population, revenue, and laws. You would then have to talk about the precedents for what makes for a good capital city and why New York fits the bill more than DC does.

Your argument can't simply be that a lot of people think New York is the best city ever and that you agree.

In addition to using concrete evidence, you always want to keep the tone of your essay passionate, but impersonal . Even though you're writing your argument from a single opinion, don't use first person language—"I think," "I feel," "I believe,"—to present your claims. Doing so is repetitive, since by writing the essay you're already telling the audience what you feel, and using first person language weakens your writing voice.

For example,

"I think that Washington DC is no longer suited to be the capital city of the United States."

"Washington DC is no longer suited to be the capital city of the United States."

The second statement sounds far stronger and more analytical.

Paragraph 4—Argument for the Other Side and Refutation

Even without a counter argument, you can make a pretty persuasive claim, but a counterargument will round out your essay into one that is much more persuasive and substantial.

By anticipating an argument against your claim and taking the initiative to counter it, you're allowing yourself to get ahead of the game. This way, you show that you've given great thought to all sides of the issue before choosing your position, and you demonstrate in multiple ways how yours is the more reasoned and supported side.

Paragraph 5—Conclusion

This paragraph is where you re-state your argument and summarize why it's the best claim.

Briefly touch on your supporting evidence and voila! A finished argumentative essay.

body_plesiosaur

Your essay should have just as awesome a skeleton as this plesiosaur does. (In other words: a ridiculously awesome skeleton)

Argumentative Essay Example: 5-Paragraph Style

It always helps to have an example to learn from. I've written a full 5-paragraph argumentative essay here. Look at how I state my thesis in paragraph 1, give supporting evidence in paragraphs 2 and 3, address a counterargument in paragraph 4, and conclude in paragraph 5.

Topic: Is it possible to maintain conflicting loyalties?

Paragraph 1

It is almost impossible to go through life without encountering a situation where your loyalties to different people or causes come into conflict with each other. Maybe you have a loving relationship with your sister, but she disagrees with your decision to join the army, or you find yourself torn between your cultural beliefs and your scientific ones. These conflicting loyalties can often be maintained for a time, but as examples from both history and psychological theory illustrate, sooner or later, people have to make a choice between competing loyalties, as no one can maintain a conflicting loyalty or belief system forever.

The first two sentences set the scene and give some hypothetical examples and stakes for the reader to care about.

The third sentence finishes off the intro with the thesis statement, making very clear how the author stands on the issue ("people have to make a choice between competing loyalties, as no one can maintain a conflicting loyalty or belief system forever." )

Paragraphs 2 and 3

Psychological theory states that human beings are not equipped to maintain conflicting loyalties indefinitely and that attempting to do so leads to a state called "cognitive dissonance." Cognitive dissonance theory is the psychological idea that people undergo tremendous mental stress or anxiety when holding contradictory beliefs, values, or loyalties (Festinger, 1957). Even if human beings initially hold a conflicting loyalty, they will do their best to find a mental equilibrium by making a choice between those loyalties—stay stalwart to a belief system or change their beliefs. One of the earliest formal examples of cognitive dissonance theory comes from Leon Festinger's When Prophesy Fails . Members of an apocalyptic cult are told that the end of the world will occur on a specific date and that they alone will be spared the Earth's destruction. When that day comes and goes with no apocalypse, the cult members face a cognitive dissonance between what they see and what they've been led to believe (Festinger, 1956). Some choose to believe that the cult's beliefs are still correct, but that the Earth was simply spared from destruction by mercy, while others choose to believe that they were lied to and that the cult was fraudulent all along. Both beliefs cannot be correct at the same time, and so the cult members are forced to make their choice.

But even when conflicting loyalties can lead to potentially physical, rather than just mental, consequences, people will always make a choice to fall on one side or other of a dividing line. Take, for instance, Nicolaus Copernicus, a man born and raised in Catholic Poland (and educated in Catholic Italy). Though the Catholic church dictated specific scientific teachings, Copernicus' loyalty to his own observations and scientific evidence won out over his loyalty to his country's government and belief system. When he published his heliocentric model of the solar system--in opposition to the geocentric model that had been widely accepted for hundreds of years (Hannam, 2011)-- Copernicus was making a choice between his loyalties. In an attempt t o maintain his fealty both to the established system and to what he believed, h e sat on his findings for a number of years (Fantoli, 1994). But, ultimately, Copernicus made the choice to side with his beliefs and observations above all and published his work for the world to see (even though, in doing so, he risked both his reputation and personal freedoms).

These two paragraphs provide the reasons why the author supports the main argument and uses substantiated sources to back those reasons.

The paragraph on cognitive dissonance theory gives both broad supporting evidence and more narrow, detailed supporting evidence to show why the thesis statement is correct not just anecdotally but also scientifically and psychologically. First, we see why people in general have a difficult time accepting conflicting loyalties and desires and then how this applies to individuals through the example of the cult members from the Dr. Festinger's research.

The next paragraph continues to use more detailed examples from history to provide further evidence of why the thesis that people cannot indefinitely maintain conflicting loyalties is true.

Paragraph 4

Some will claim that it is possible to maintain conflicting beliefs or loyalties permanently, but this is often more a matter of people deluding themselves and still making a choice for one side or the other, rather than truly maintaining loyalty to both sides equally. For example, Lancelot du Lac typifies a person who claims to maintain a balanced loyalty between to two parties, but his attempt to do so fails (as all attempts to permanently maintain conflicting loyalties must). Lancelot tells himself and others that he is equally devoted to both King Arthur and his court and to being Queen Guinevere's knight (Malory, 2008). But he can neither be in two places at once to protect both the king and queen, nor can he help but let his romantic feelings for the queen to interfere with his duties to the king and the kingdom. Ultimately, he and Queen Guinevere give into their feelings for one another and Lancelot—though he denies it—chooses his loyalty to her over his loyalty to Arthur. This decision plunges the kingdom into a civil war, ages Lancelot prematurely, and ultimately leads to Camelot's ruin (Raabe, 1987). Though Lancelot claimed to have been loyal to both the king and the queen, this loyalty was ultimately in conflict, and he could not maintain it.

Here we have the acknowledgement of a potential counter-argument and the evidence as to why it isn't true.

The argument is that some people (or literary characters) have asserted that they give equal weight to their conflicting loyalties. The refutation is that, though some may claim to be able to maintain conflicting loyalties, they're either lying to others or deceiving themselves. The paragraph shows why this is true by providing an example of this in action.

Paragraph 5

Whether it be through literature or history, time and time again, people demonstrate the challenges of trying to manage conflicting loyalties and the inevitable consequences of doing so. Though belief systems are malleable and will often change over time, it is not possible to maintain two mutually exclusive loyalties or beliefs at once. In the end, people always make a choice, and loyalty for one party or one side of an issue will always trump loyalty to the other.

The concluding paragraph summarizes the essay, touches on the evidence presented, and re-states the thesis statement.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay: 8 Steps

Writing the best argumentative essay is all about the preparation, so let's talk steps:

#1: Preliminary Research

If you have the option to pick your own argumentative essay topic (which you most likely will), then choose one or two topics you find the most intriguing or that you have a vested interest in and do some preliminary research on both sides of the debate.

Do an open internet search just to see what the general chatter is on the topic and what the research trends are.

Did your preliminary reading influence you to pick a side or change your side? Without diving into all the scholarly articles at length, do you believe there's enough evidence to support your claim? Have there been scientific studies? Experiments? Does a noted scholar in the field agree with you? If not, you may need to pick another topic or side of the argument to support.

#2: Pick Your Side and Form Your Thesis

Now's the time to pick the side of the argument you feel you can support the best and summarize your main point into your thesis statement.

Your thesis will be the basis of your entire essay, so make sure you know which side you're on, that you've stated it clearly, and that you stick by your argument throughout the entire essay .

#3: Heavy-Duty Research Time

You've taken a gander at what the internet at large has to say on your argument, but now's the time to actually read those sources and take notes.

Check scholarly journals online at Google Scholar , the Directory of Open Access Journals , or JStor . You can also search individual university or school libraries and websites to see what kinds of academic articles you can access for free. Keep track of your important quotes and page numbers and put them somewhere that's easy to find later.

And don't forget to check your school or local libraries as well!

#4: Outline

Follow the five-paragraph outline structure from the previous section.

Fill in your topic, your reasons, and your supporting evidence into each of the categories.

Before you begin to flesh out the essay, take a look at what you've got. Is your thesis statement in the first paragraph? Is it clear? Is your argument logical? Does your supporting evidence support your reasoning?

By outlining your essay, you streamline your process and take care of any logic gaps before you dive headfirst into the writing. This will save you a lot of grief later on if you need to change your sources or your structure, so don't get too trigger-happy and skip this step.

Now that you've laid out exactly what you'll need for your essay and where, it's time to fill in all the gaps by writing it out.

Take it one step at a time and expand your ideas into complete sentences and substantiated claims. It may feel daunting to turn an outline into a complete draft, but just remember that you've already laid out all the groundwork; now you're just filling in the gaps.

If you have the time before deadline, give yourself a day or two (or even just an hour!) away from your essay . Looking it over with fresh eyes will allow you to see errors, both minor and major, that you likely would have missed had you tried to edit when it was still raw.

Take a first pass over the entire essay and try your best to ignore any minor spelling or grammar mistakes—you're just looking at the big picture right now. Does it make sense as a whole? Did the essay succeed in making an argument and backing that argument up logically? (Do you feel persuaded?)

If not, go back and make notes so that you can fix it for your final draft.

Once you've made your revisions to the overall structure, mark all your small errors and grammar problems so you can fix them in the next draft.

#7: Final Draft

Use the notes you made on the rough draft and go in and hack and smooth away until you're satisfied with the final result.

A checklist for your final draft:

  • Formatting is correct according to your teacher's standards
  • No errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  • Essay is the right length and size for the assignment
  • The argument is present, consistent, and concise
  • Each reason is supported by relevant evidence
  • The essay makes sense overall

#8: Celebrate!

Once you've brought that final draft to a perfect polish and turned in your assignment, you're done! Go you!

body_prepared_rsz

Be prepared and ♪ you'll never go hungry again ♪, *cough*, or struggle with your argumentative essay-writing again. (Walt Disney Studios)

Good Examples of Argumentative Essays Online

Theory is all well and good, but examples are key. Just to get you started on what a fully-fleshed out argumentative essay looks like, let's see some examples in action.

Check out these two argumentative essay examples on the use of landmines and freons (and note the excellent use of concrete sources to back up their arguments!).

The Use of Landmines

A Shattered Sky

The Take-Aways: Keys to Writing an Argumentative Essay

At first, writing an argumentative essay may seem like a monstrous hurdle to overcome, but with the proper preparation and understanding, you'll be able to knock yours out of the park.

Remember the differences between a persuasive essay and an argumentative one, make sure your thesis is clear, and double-check that your supporting evidence is both relevant to your point and well-sourced . Pick your topic, do your research, make your outline, and fill in the gaps. Before you know it, you'll have yourself an A+ argumentative essay there, my friend.

What's Next?

Now you know the ins and outs of an argumentative essay, but how comfortable are you writing in other styles? Learn more about the four writing styles and when it makes sense to use each .

Understand how to make an argument, but still having trouble organizing your thoughts? Check out our guide to three popular essay formats and choose which one is right for you.

Ready to make your case, but not sure what to write about? We've created a list of 50 potential argumentative essay topics to spark your imagination.

Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!

Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

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Chapter 8: Making Academic Arguments

8.2 Basic Structure and Content of Argument

Amanda Lloyd and Emilie Zickel

Basic Components of an Argumentative Essay

When you are tasked with crafting an argumentative essay, it is likely that you are to do so based on a number of sources–all of which should support your topic in some way. Your instructor might provide these sources for you, ask you to locate these sources, or provide you with some sources and ask you to find others. Whether or not you are asked to do additional research, an argumentative essay should be comprised of these basic components.

Claim: What do you want the reader to believe?

The thesis in an argument paper is often called a claim.  This claim is a statement in which you take a stand on a debatable issue. A strong, debatable claim has at least one valid counterargument–an opposite or alternative point of view that is as sensible as the position that you take in your claim. In your thesis statement, you should clearly and specifically state the position you will convince your audience to adopt.

A closed thesis statement includes sub-claims or reasons why you choose to support your claim.  For example:

  • The city of Cleveland has displayed a commitment to attracting new residents by making improvements to its walkability, city centers, and green spaces.

In this instance, improvements to walkability, city centers, and green spaces are the sub-claims or reasons why you would make the claim that Cleveland is attracting new residents.

An open thesis statement does not include sub-claims and might be more appropriate when your argument is less easy to prove with two or three easily-defined sub-claims.  The choice between an  open or a closed thesis statement often depends upon the complexity of your argument. When in doubt about how to structure your thesis statement, you should seek the advice of your instructor.

Consult section 3.4  for help constructing a strong open or closed thesis statement.

Context: What background information about the topic does your audience need?

Before you get into defending your claim, you will need to place your topic (and argument) into context by including relevant background material. Remember, your audience is relying on you for vital information, such as definitions, historical placement, and controversial positions. This background material might appear in either your introductory paragraph/s or your body paragraphs. How and where to incorporate background material depends a lot upon your topic, assignment, evidence, and audience.

Evidence or Grounds: What makes your reasoning valid? 

To validate the thinking that you put forward in your claim and sub-claims, you need to demonstrate that your reasoning is  not only based on your personal opinion. Evidence, sometimes referred to as grounds, can take the form of research studies or scholarship, expert opinions, personal examples, observations made by yourself or others, or specific instances that make your reasoning seem sound and believable. Evidence only “works” if it directly supports your reasoning — and sometimes you must explain how the evidence supports your reasoning (do not assume that a reader can see the connection between evidence and reason that you see).

Section 4.4 provides a thorough overview of what evidence is and how evidence fits into body paragraphs. As you plan or draft your argument, use this chapter as a resource to help you organize ideas.

Warrants:  Why should a reader accept your claim?

A warrant is the rationale the writer provides to show that the evidence properly supports the claim ,  with each element working towards a similar goal.  Think of warrants as the glue that holds an argument together and ensures all pieces work together coherently.

An important way to ensure you are properly supplying warrants within your argument is to use “linking sentences” or a “link” that connects the particular claim directly back to the thesis.  Ensuring that there are linking sentences in each paragraph will help to create consistency within your essay.  Remember, the thesis statement is the driving force of organization in your essay, so each paragraph needs to have a specific purpose in proving or explaining your thesis; linking sentences complete this task. These linking sentences will often appear after your textual evidence in a paragraph. See Section 4.5 for help linking supporting evidence to your thesis.

Counterargument: But what about other perspectives?

In Section 10.4 , Steven Krause offers a thorough explanation of what counterargument is (and how to respond to it). In summary, a strong arguer should not be afraid to consider perspectives that either challenge or completely oppose his or her own claim. When you respectfully and thoroughly discuss perspectives or research that counters your own claim or even weaknesses in your own argument, you are showing yourself to be an ethical arguer. Here are some things that counterarguments may consist of:

  • summarizing opposing views
  • explaining how and where you actually agree with some opposing views
  • acknowledging weaknesses or holes in your own argument

You have to be careful and clear that you are not conveying to a reader that you are rejecting your own claim; it is important to indicate that you are merely open to considering alternative viewpoints. Being open in this way shows that you are an ethical arguer – you are considering many viewpoints.

Response to Counterargument: I see that, but…

Just as it is important to include counterargument to show that you are fair-minded and balanced, you must respond to the counterargument so that a reader clearly sees that you are not agreeing with the counterargument and thus abandoning or somehow undermining your own claim. Failure to include the response to counterargument can confuse the reader. There are several ways to respond to a counterargument. You can:

  • concede to a specific point or idea from the counterargument by  explaining why that point or idea has validity. However, you must then be sure to return to your own claim, and explain why even that concession does not lead you to completely accept or support the counterargument
  • reject the counterargument if you find it to be incorrect, fallacious, or otherwise invalid
  • explain why the counterargument perspective does not invalidate your own claim

Again, Chapter 10.4  offers a much more developed discussion of how to respond to counterarguments.

A note about where to put the counterargument:

It is certainly possible to begin the argument section (after the background section) with your counterargument + response instead of placing it at the end of your essay. Some people prefer to have their counterargument first, where they can address it and then spend the rest of their essay building their own case and supporting their own claim. However, it is just as valid to have the counterargument + response appear at the end of the paper, after you have discussed all of your reasons.

What is important to remember is that wherever you place your counterargument, you

  • Address the counterargument(s) fully. Explain what the counter perspectives are. Describe them thoroughly. Cite authors who have these counter perspectives. Quote them and summarize their thinking.
  • Then, respond to these counterarguments. Make it clear to the reader of your argument why you concede to certain points of the counterargument or why you reject them. Make it clear that you do not accept the counterargument, even though you understand it. Be sure to use transition phrases that make this clear to your reader. This page contains material from “About Writing: A Guide” by Robin Jeffrey,  OpenOregon Educational Resources , Higher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY 4.0

A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing by Amanda Lloyd and Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Structure an Argument

Based on the article, “Argumentative Essays”  from the Purdue Owl

Argumentative essay assignments tend to require in-depth research of literature; some reading response assignments may also call for the student to present an argument or contention regarding assigned reading. Additionally, some assignments may require a collection of data via interview, survey, observation or some other methodology. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.

An argument consists of several parts, a thesis statement, transitions between introduction, body and conclusion, paragraphs that provide evidence supporting the argument, evidence and a conclusion.

1st paragraph: Thesis Statement

  • Review of the topic
  • Explanation of why the topic is important (exigence)
  • Thesis statement, appropriately narrowed to meet assignment specifications

Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion

  • Transitions hold an essay together
  • Readers need a logical progression of thought to follow the argument
  • Transitions summarize the ideas from a previous section and introduce the next section

Body paragraphs that include evidential support

  • Limit each paragraph to the discussion of one general idea
  • Provide a logical connection to the thesis statement
  • Explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis
  • Provide differing points of view on the topic and why these points of view do not support the thesis

Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal)

  • Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis as well as collecting evidence related to multiple points of view
  • NOTE:  It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis.
  • The writer has an obligation to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic

A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

  • Conclusions are often the most challenging part of an argumentative essay
  • Conclusions provide the most recent impression
  • Do Not  introduce any new information into the conclusion
  • Synthesis of the previous information comprises a conclusion
  • Restate why the topic is important, review the main points and review the thesis
  • A short discussion of more research that should or could be done given the findings is also appropriate in a conclusion

A complete argument  is similar to a written version of a competitive debate, one that requires an obvious purpose. At the very least, the debate contains a premise, evidentiary support and persuasive content as to why the premise should be accepted. The argument needs to be complete and logical so that there is no doubt as to the intention.

One of the more common formats for an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph format. But this method is by no means the only acceptable construction for an argument. The five-paragraph essay consists of:

  • an introductory paragraph
  • three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and
  • a conclusion.

Longer argumentative essays  are appropriate when addressing complicated issues and detailed research. Most argumentative works are longer than five paragraphs. Depending on the assignment, students may need to discuss the topic’s content, sources of information and authority, varying opinions and implications of the research before concluding the essay. The key is to follow the assignment specifications when creating an outline for the essay or research paper.

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Elements of Argumentative Essay: The Complete Guide

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by  Antony W

October 24, 2022

elements of an argumentative essay

It’s important to learn and understand the different elements of an argumentative essay to navigate the writing process for the project.

Understanding these elements will enable you to structure your essay well, so you can write the most significant details from start to finish.

Key Takeaways

A comprehensive argumentative essay must feature the following elements:

  • Thesis statement: A thesis statement gives a summary of the main claim of the subject. Instead of being a fact or random opinion, the statement should be arguable in nature with a matter of probability.
  • Audience: The audience is the people to whom you present your argument.
  • Exigence: Exigence allows you to create an environment in which you make a claim and offer strong evidence to support your position.
  • Support: Your premise should include reasons to support your claim.
  • Reasoning: You have to use reasons to give answers to hypothetical challenges, which should act as a way to convince your audience that your claims are valid.
  • Counterclaims and Rebuttals: You anticipate objections to your argument and must therefore recognize counterclaims and refute them with rebuttals.

If you’re struggling with incorporating these elements in your argument or you can’t get yourself to write the essay fast, hire an argumentative essay writer from Help for Assessment for writing assistance.

6 Elements of an Argumentative Essay Explained

Below is a detailed explanation of all the six elements of an argumentative essay:

1. Thesis Statement

A thesis in an argument highlights the main claim of a subject. It should be a sentence long, although some essays can have a maximum of two sentences.

In argumentative writing, a statement of declaration cannot be a fact or random opinion. Instead, it must be arguable in nature with a matter of probability. Moreover, the statement should bring out point clearly, even if the subject is on a complex or controversial issue.

The thesis statement should be clear, concise, and specific. Or your audience is likely to miss the primary objective of the essay.

Your argument’s thesis must touch on a major warrant before you begin working on the body paragraphs .

By touching on the main premise, you grab the attention of the opposing reader and demonstrate the reasonability of your argument. 

2. Audience

The audience is your reader or a group of people you need to convince that your position on an issue is more viable.

You must use a tentative approach with a strong conviction to get your human readers or listeners to agree with you. In some cases, though, you may have to present your argument in a passionate way.

Whichever approach you use, ensure you detail your arguments so that you audience can pay attention to the message you wish to communicate.

Your audience is a mix of readers from different backgrounds and varying opinions. A part of your audience will agree with your position on an issue, some will debate your argument. Therefore, you must use significant evidence in a manner that moves the audience to agree with you.

3. Exigence

Exigence is a rising circumstance that pushes for the need for a real argument. By creating a forum in time, exigence enables you to make claims to which you can provide sufficient evidence for support.

Although exigence is mostly only possible in real-time debates that happen in classrooms, your teacher may ask you to present it in the written form. In such a case, you may create your own exigence and use it throughout the writing.

Support is one of the elements of an argumentative essay that requires you to consider a few important questions.

  • What is your premise?
  • Is your evidence good enough to convince your readers or listeners of the reasonability of your side of the argument? 

Your premise must have a “because” statement to support your claim. If you intend to make longer arguments, ensure you introduce sufficient supporting statement.

To support your claim and get your audience to agree with your position on an underlying issue:

  • Provide as much data or evidence as possible provided they’re relevant to the subject.
  • If possible, don’t hesitate to include some or rhetorical appeals, statistics, anecdotal support, and historical data.

Regardless of the information you provide, the premise should give your audience enough reasons to consider your argument’s thesis statement. In other words, the evidence you provide must be valid and logical enough to prove the validity of your claim.

Consider including a concession in your argumentative essay even as you provide credible evidence and reliable data to support your stance on an issue.

If you think about it, your opponent’s argument will have some truth in it, so it makes sense to concede with these. However, exercise caution so that you don’t agree with points that serve to weaken your argument.

5. Reasoning

Reasoning responds to the “but why?” question in an argument. Written to serve as a response to a hypothetical challenge, reasoning proves to your target reader that your claim is valid.

To be clear, reason tries to support a claim whether it’s part of the introduction or the body of the essay.

In the terms of structure , your argumentative essay must have a single thesis statement. However, the essay may have sub-claims proved by different reasons as long as they tie back to the thesis statement.

6. Counterclaims and Rebuttals

In argumentative essay writing, you must anticipate probable objections and other arguments that challenge the position you hold. These objections are what we refer to as counterclaims .

With this respect, some readers might find the whole or parts of your argument illogical. Interestingly, these objections can help you to analyze your ideas, making it possible for you to review the strength and credibility of the evidence you provide.  

We hope this guide has helped you to understand the different elements of an argumentative essay as well as the reasons why they’re important in writing.

Ideally, these elements will enable you to structure your essay well, so you can present your arguments in a way that easily convinces your audience of the validity of your claims and position. 

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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8 Effective Strategies to Write Argumentative Essays

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In a bustling university town, there lived a student named Alex. Popular for creativity and wit, one challenge seemed insurmountable for Alex– the dreaded argumentative essay!

One gloomy afternoon, as the rain tapped against the window pane, Alex sat at his cluttered desk, staring at a blank document on the computer screen. The assignment loomed large: a 350-600-word argumentative essay on a topic of their choice . With a sigh, he decided to seek help of mentor, Professor Mitchell, who was known for his passion for writing.

Entering Professor Mitchell’s office was like stepping into a treasure of knowledge. Bookshelves lined every wall, faint aroma of old manuscripts in the air and sticky notes over the wall. Alex took a deep breath and knocked on his door.

“Ah, Alex,” Professor Mitchell greeted with a warm smile. “What brings you here today?”

Alex confessed his struggles with the argumentative essay. After hearing his concerns, Professor Mitchell said, “Ah, the argumentative essay! Don’t worry, Let’s take a look at it together.” As he guided Alex to the corner shelf, Alex asked,

Table of Contents

“What is an Argumentative Essay?”

The professor replied, “An argumentative essay is a type of academic writing that presents a clear argument or a firm position on a contentious issue. Unlike other forms of essays, such as descriptive or narrative essays, these essays require you to take a stance, present evidence, and convince your audience of the validity of your viewpoint with supporting evidence. A well-crafted argumentative essay relies on concrete facts and supporting evidence rather than merely expressing the author’s personal opinions . Furthermore, these essays demand comprehensive research on the chosen topic and typically follows a structured format consisting of three primary sections: an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.”

He continued, “Argumentative essays are written in a wide range of subject areas, reflecting their applicability across disciplines. They are written in different subject areas like literature and philosophy, history, science and technology, political science, psychology, economics and so on.

Alex asked,

“When is an Argumentative Essay Written?”

The professor answered, “Argumentative essays are often assigned in academic settings, but they can also be written for various other purposes, such as editorials, opinion pieces, or blog posts. Some situations to write argumentative essays include:

1. Academic assignments

In school or college, teachers may assign argumentative essays as part of coursework. It help students to develop critical thinking and persuasive writing skills .

2. Debates and discussions

Argumentative essays can serve as the basis for debates or discussions in academic or competitive settings. Moreover, they provide a structured way to present and defend your viewpoint.

3. Opinion pieces

Newspapers, magazines, and online publications often feature opinion pieces that present an argument on a current issue or topic to influence public opinion.

4. Policy proposals

In government and policy-related fields, argumentative essays are used to propose and defend specific policy changes or solutions to societal problems.

5. Persuasive speeches

Before delivering a persuasive speech, it’s common to prepare an argumentative essay as a foundation for your presentation.

Regardless of the context, an argumentative essay should present a clear thesis statement , provide evidence and reasoning to support your position, address counterarguments, and conclude with a compelling summary of your main points. The goal is to persuade readers or listeners to accept your viewpoint or at least consider it seriously.”

Handing over a book, the professor continued, “Take a look on the elements or structure of an argumentative essay.”

Elements of an Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay comprises five essential components:

Claim in argumentative writing is the central argument or viewpoint that the writer aims to establish and defend throughout the essay. A claim must assert your position on an issue and must be arguable. It can guide the entire argument.

2. Evidence

Evidence must consist of factual information, data, examples, or expert opinions that support the claim. Also, it lends credibility by strengthening the writer’s position.

3. Counterarguments

Presenting a counterclaim demonstrates fairness and awareness of alternative perspectives.

4. Rebuttal

After presenting the counterclaim, the writer refutes it by offering counterarguments or providing evidence that weakens the opposing viewpoint. It shows that the writer has considered multiple perspectives and is prepared to defend their position.

The format of an argumentative essay typically follows the structure to ensure clarity and effectiveness in presenting an argument.

How to Write An Argumentative Essay

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an argumentative essay:

1. Introduction

  • Begin with a compelling sentence or question to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Provide context for the issue, including relevant facts, statistics, or historical background.
  • Provide a concise thesis statement to present your position on the topic.

2. Body Paragraphs (usually three or more)

  • Start each paragraph with a clear and focused topic sentence that relates to your thesis statement.
  • Furthermore, provide evidence and explain the facts, statistics, examples, expert opinions, and quotations from credible sources that supports your thesis.
  • Use transition sentences to smoothly move from one point to the next.

3. Counterargument and Rebuttal

  • Acknowledge opposing viewpoints or potential objections to your argument.
  • Also, address these counterarguments with evidence and explain why they do not weaken your position.

4. Conclusion

  • Restate your thesis statement and summarize the key points you’ve made in the body of the essay.
  • Leave the reader with a final thought, call to action, or broader implication related to the topic.

5. Citations and References

  • Properly cite all the sources you use in your essay using a consistent citation style.
  • Also, include a bibliography or works cited at the end of your essay.

6. Formatting and Style

  • Follow any specific formatting guidelines provided by your instructor or institution.
  • Use a professional and academic tone in your writing and edit your essay to avoid content, spelling and grammar mistakes .

Remember that the specific requirements for formatting an argumentative essay may vary depending on your instructor’s guidelines or the citation style you’re using (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). Always check the assignment instructions or style guide for any additional requirements or variations in formatting.

Did you understand what Prof. Mitchell explained Alex? Check it now!

Fill the Details to Check Your Score

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Prof. Mitchell continued, “An argumentative essay can adopt various approaches when dealing with opposing perspectives. It may offer a balanced presentation of both sides, providing equal weight to each, or it may advocate more strongly for one side while still acknowledging the existence of opposing views.” As Alex listened carefully to the Professor’s thoughts, his eyes fell on a page with examples of argumentative essay.

Example of an Argumentative Essay

Alex picked the book and read the example. It helped him to understand the concept. Furthermore, he could now connect better to the elements and steps of the essay which Prof. Mitchell had mentioned earlier. Aren’t you keen to know how an argumentative essay should be like? Here is an example of a well-crafted argumentative essay , which was read by Alex. After Alex finished reading the example, the professor turned the page and continued, “Check this page to know the importance of writing an argumentative essay in developing skills of an individual.”

Importance of an Argumentative Essay

Importance_of_an_ArgumentativeEssays

After understanding the benefits, Alex was convinced by the ability of the argumentative essays in advocating one’s beliefs and favor the author’s position. Alex asked,

“How are argumentative essays different from the other types?”

Prof. Mitchell answered, “Argumentative essays differ from other types of essays primarily in their purpose, structure, and approach in presenting information. Unlike expository essays, argumentative essays persuade the reader to adopt a particular point of view or take a specific action on a controversial issue. Furthermore, they differ from descriptive essays by not focusing vividly on describing a topic. Also, they are less engaging through storytelling as compared to the narrative essays.

Alex said, “Given the direct and persuasive nature of argumentative essays, can you suggest some strategies to write an effective argumentative essay?

Turning the pages of the book, Prof. Mitchell replied, “Sure! You can check this infographic to get some tips for writing an argumentative essay.”

Effective Strategies to Write an Argumentative Essay

StrategiesOfWritingArgumentativeEssays

As days turned into weeks, Alex diligently worked on his essay. He researched, gathered evidence, and refined his thesis. It was a long and challenging journey, filled with countless drafts and revisions.

Finally, the day arrived when Alex submitted their essay. As he clicked the “Submit” button, a sense of accomplishment washed over him. He realized that the argumentative essay, while challenging, had improved his critical thinking and transformed him into a more confident writer. Furthermore, Alex received feedback from his professor, a mix of praise and constructive criticism. It was a humbling experience, a reminder that every journey has its obstacles and opportunities for growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

An argumentative essay can be written as follows- 1. Choose a Topic 2. Research and Collect Evidences 3. Develop a Clear Thesis Statement 4. Outline Your Essay- Introduction, Body Paragraphs and Conclusion 5. Revise and Edit 6. Format and Cite Sources 7. Final Review

One must choose a clear, concise and specific statement as a claim. It must be debatable and establish your position. Avoid using ambiguous or unclear while making a claim. To strengthen your claim, address potential counterarguments or opposing viewpoints. Additionally, use persuasive language and rhetoric to make your claim more compelling

Starting an argument essay effectively is crucial to engage your readers and establish the context for your argument. Here’s how you can start an argument essay are: 1. Begin With an Engaging Hook 2. Provide Background Information 3. Present Your Thesis Statement 4. Briefly Outline Your Main 5. Establish Your Credibility

The key features of an argumentative essay are: 1. Clear and Specific Thesis Statement 2. Credible Evidence 3. Counterarguments 4. Structured Body Paragraph 5. Logical Flow 6. Use of Persuasive Techniques 7. Formal Language

An argumentative essay typically consists of the following main parts or sections: 1. Introduction 2. Body Paragraphs 3. Counterargument and Rebuttal 4. Conclusion 5. References (if applicable)

The main purpose of an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to accept or agree with a particular viewpoint or position on a controversial or debatable topic. In other words, the primary goal of an argumentative essay is to convince the audience that the author's argument or thesis statement is valid, logical, and well-supported by evidence and reasoning.

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Essential components of argumentative writing

structural elements in an argumentative essay

In high-quality argumentative writing, defending a position is not enough. It is necessary to provide counterarguments and rebuttals. To strengthen the quality of your argumentation, ask critical questions from the proponent (the side in favour of the argument) and the opponent’s (the side opposed to the argument) sides, and don’t hesitate to include critical questions in your argumentative writing. Asking questions is an effective method that guides self-explanation, elaboration, and self-regulatory learning. The main components of an argumentative paper are:

Claims assert your position on an issue. Your claims must be arguable. This is not an arguable claim: “this paper will examine the extent to which grouping students based on ability would accommodate their different needs.” Examining the extent of an issue suggests an expository paper instead of an argumentative one. You should claim your position by stating: “grouping students based on ability accommodates their different needs.” 

You also need to provide reasons to support your claim(s), and back up your reasons with evidence (note: your "evidence" is usually what you have found by doing your research!).

Counterarguments:

Counterarguments predict what an opponent would say to reject an argument. When you provide a counterargument, you provide reasonable objections to an argument that may arise for some who disagrees with you. For example, someone claims, “making learning fun in classrooms allows for good learning because it motivates students to learn.” Ask yourself: are there people who would say that having fun in classrooms is not necessary for learning? What would be the reasons that would support that claim? Could someone argue that emotional interest stimulated through fun activities is not as important as cognitive interest stimulated through relevant information? Would they have evidence to back up their reason? Can they explain how and why the evidence supports their claim?               

After you set up the counterarguments, you need to respond to, address, or refute those counterarguments. Otherwise, your read might end up being convinced by the opposing argument! 

In the previous example, you could ask yourself: “What can I say to show that it isn't right to suggest that emotional interest isn't as important as cognitive interest?" 

To provide a reasonable rebuttal, weigh up the balance of evidence and reasons provided in the arguments and the counterarguments, and prove that you have more evidence and reasons for the argument.

-- blog post by Teeba Obaid, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education 

For more support on writing effective argumentative papers, check out the SLC's new resources on using templates to structure an argumentative essay, including practice exercises!: 

https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/writing/argumentation/templates-structuring-argumentative-essays

Thank you to SLC Graduate Writing Facilitator Mohsen for his work creating these resources! 

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59 Introduction to Argumentative Writing

Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini

by Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini

Argumentative writing, also referred to as persuasive writing, is a cornerstone of any first-year writing course. We encounter arguments on daily basis, in both formal and informal contexts. Most of the time, however, we don’t realize how the arguments are actually working. This example developed by Ohio State’s University Library shows how a relatively informal argument may unfold. The dialogue has been annotated to show what kinds of rhetorical elements tend to appear in casual arguments.

As the example above shows, a number of elements typically play a role in most well-developed arguments:

  • a question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer
  • a claim that responds to the question
  • one or more reasons  for accepting the claim
  • evidence  that backs each reason
  • objections & response to objections

We often employ many or all of these elements in everyday life, when debating current issues with friends and family. It just unfolds in a messier way than your academic essay will need to structure the conversation. However, even though academic persuasive essays rely on some techniques you’re already familiar with, certain strategies are less well-known, and even certain obvious elements, such as using “evidence” to back a claim, has a certain flavor in more formal environments that some students may not find obvious.

Different models have been proposed for how to best package the elements above. The three models most commonly employed in academic writing are the Aristotelian (classical) , Toulmin , and Rogerian , covered in this chapter. The proposal method is also included though this strategy focuses on solutions rather than problems.

Key Characteristics:

Argumentative writing generally exhibits the following:

  • Presents a particular position/side of an issue
  • Attempts to persuade the reader to the writer’s side
  • Uses elements of rhetoric and strategies that include the integration of logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos in intentional and meaningful ways
  • Presents information, data, and research as part of the evidence/support (logos)
  • Relies on real-world stories and examples to nurture empathy (pathos)
  • Leans on experts in their fields to cultivate credibility (ethos)
  • Enlists or elicits a call to action (kairos)
  • Presents and acknowledges opposing views

Contents within this Chapter:

  • Elements of an Argument Essay
  • Aristotelian (Classical) Argument Model
  • Rogerian Argument Model
  • Toulmin Argument Model
  • Proposal Argument Model
  • Counterargument and Response
  • Generating Antithetical Points in Five Easy Steps
  • Tips for Writing Argument Essays

Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research  by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Introduction to Argumentative Writing Copyright © 2020 by Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Teaching Basic Argument Writing Components

structural elements in an argumentative essay

Over the past two years since Keys to Literacy published my Keys to Argument Writing professional development module and the associated training book Keys to Content Writing   I am often asked by teachers advice for how to teach argument writing (and opinion for elementary grades). The place to start is to introduce students to the structure of argument/opinion writing.

The first standard of the Common Core Writing Standards is devoted to argument writing. Here is the anchor standard from which Standard #1 for grades K through 12 are based:

WS #1: Write opinions/arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Sometimes argument writing seems very similar to informational writing (Common Core Writing Standard #2). They both incorporate information, and they have similar basic text structures: They must begin with an introduction that states the topic and end with a conclusion. However, their aims are different and the body of an argument organizes  information in a different way.

The purpose of informational writing is to examine and explain previously learned information or new information, and this information is typically organized into paragraphs of main ideas that are “chunked” into topics and sub-topics. That is, the information is presented in categories/sections. The purpose of argument writing is to convince a reader that a point of view is valid or to persuade the reader to take a specific action. Information is used, but it is organized based on these major components of an argument: claim, reason, evidence, counter-claim, and rebuttal.

Here are simple descriptions of these components to share with your students:

  • Claim: the position taken by the writer; what the writer is trying to prove or argue
  • Reason: provided to support a claim; reasons are supported by evidence
  • Evidence: use to support or prove a reason; statistics, facts, quotations, surveys, etc.
  • Counterclaim: opposing position, counterargument
  • Rebuttal: refutes or disproves the counterclaim; addresses the criticism of the claim

And here’s an even simpler set of questions students can ask themselves to help remember each component:

  • Claim: What do I think?
  • Reason: Why do I think it?
  • Evidence: How do I know (proof)?
  • Counterclaim: What is the other side?
  • Rebuttal: My response to the other side?

The claim is typically stated in the introduction, and restated again in the conclusion. The information in the body paragraphs is organized as a series of reasons supported by evidence. For arguments that include a counter-claim and rebuttal (a requirement for students in grade seven and beyond), there will be additional paragraphs that represent the counter-claim and rebuttal.

Keys to Literacy has posted a nine-minute video recorded during a teacher training in which I explain the major components of an argument and offer suggestions for teaching them to students. The video, along with several other training video clips is available to the public for free at the Free Resources section of the Keys to Literacy website.

At the same resource site you will find a teacher’s checklist and rubric  for giving feedback to students about their argument writing that include items related to the text structure of an argument writing piece.

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structural elements in an argumentative essay

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11 Comments

Azra Shah

I have found your lectures and instructions very helpful. Do you have any guidelines on Exposition?

Joan Sedita

Visit our free videos and webinars where you will find several items related to writing.

maryam yousif

What components are there into the claim and evidence rubric?

Some of the things to look for in student argument writing are: Is the claim (position taken) supported with logical reasons and relevant evidence? Are the reasons and evidence presented in an organized way? Is the evidence from sources integrated effectively? Is the rebuttal supported with logical reasons and evidence? Are transitions used to link and to create cohesion among claim, reasons and evidence? Is there a formal style and an objective tone established and maintained throughout the piece?

May

That was a super helpful resource! I used it to write a paragraph essay on “Elements of Argument”.

Leonie

Thank you for explaining an argumentive essay. and supportive of me getting started on this essay.

Linda Okia

Thanks for the tips..really helpful in writing my assignment in Academic English.

Ray

May you send me an example of an argumentative essay and other essay and their example please.

This site has examples of argument essays: https://www.collegeessay.org/blog/argumentative-essay-examples

Cynthia

Thank you for better clarity and better simplicity

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IV. Types of Argumentation

4.1 Features of an Argument

Terri Pantuso

Argument is not the loud, assertive, unwavering statement of your opinion in the hopes of conquering the opposition. Argument is the careful consideration of numerous positions and the careful development of logically sound, carefully constructed assertions that, when combined, offer a worthwhile perspective in an ongoing debate. Certainly you want to imagine yourself arguing with others—and certainly you want to believe your ideas have superior qualities to theirs—but the purpose of argument in the college setting is not to solve a practical problem or shut down a conversation. Rather, it’s to illuminate, expand, and further inform a debate happening on a worthwhile subject between reasonable, intelligent people. In other words, calling the opposition stupid is not good argument, it’s an ad hominem attack. For a review of this and other logical fallacies, refer to section 3.6 of this text.

Some of the key tools of argument are the strategies that students are asked to consider when doing a rhetorical analysis. Before beginning an argument of your own, review the basic concepts of rhetorical appeals below. As you plan and draft your own argument, carefully use the following elements of rhetoric to your own advantage.

Rhetorical Appeals

The use of data, statistical evidence, and sufficient support to establish the practicality and rationality of your claims should be the strongest element of your argument. To have a logically sound argument, you should include:

  • A debatable and supportable claim
  • Logical reasoning to support your claim
  • Sound evidence and examples to justify the reasoning
  • Reasonable projections
  • Concessions & rebuttals
  • Avoid logical fallacies

The ethical and well-balanced use of all of the strategies above will help you to present yourself as trustworthy and intelligent in your consideration of the topic and in the development of your argument. This balance should include the use of credible, relevant sources which can be accomplished through research methods utilizing the strategies governing your discipline. Following those strategies will build your credibility as a writer of argument, particularly in the college setting, as you pay attention to the needs of the audience with regard to presentation and style. In college, this means that you have used the style manual (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) required for the assignment and appropriate to the audience. In so doing, make certain to cite the sources you have used according to the style manual you are using.

The use of examples and language that evoke an appropriate emotional response in your reader—that gets them to care about your topic—can be helpful in argument. For academic essays, pathos may be useful in introductory sections, concluding sections, or as ways to link various parts of the paper together. However, if your argument is based solely or primarily upon emotional appeals, it will be viewed as weak in an academic setting, especially when data or ethical sources can disprove your claims. Therefore, college writing often puts more emphasis on logos and ethos.

Approaches to Argument

A well-structured argument is one that is carefully and optimally planned. It is organized so that the argument has a continuous building of ideas, one upon the other or in concert with the other, in order to produce the most persuasive impact or effect on the reader. For clarity, avoid repeating ideas, reasons, or evidence. Instead, consider how each idea in your argument connects to the others. Should some ideas come before others? Should you build your reasons from simple to complex or from complex to simple? Should you present the counterargument before your reasons? Or, would it make more sense for you to present your reasons and then the concessions and rebuttals ? How can you use clear transitional phrases to facilitate reader comprehension of your argument? Consider these questions while constructing and revising your argument.

Simple to Complex/Complex to Simple

Whether structuring a paragraph or a research paper, the simple to complex (or reverse) method can be an effective way to build cohesion throughout your writing. Just as the phrase implies, simple to complex is when a writer introduces a simple concept then builds upon it to heighten interest. Sometimes, the opposite structure works to move the reader through your position. For example, if you choose to write on the topic of pollution as it impacts the world, you might begin with the concept of straws and sea turtles. Your simple topic of sea turtles swallowing straws thrown away might then move to the complex issues of consumption, consumerism and disposal. Conversely, if you begin with the broad, complex topic of consumerism, you could then move to the story of the sea turtles as a way of building pathos in the reader. Whichever method you choose, make sure that the relationship between the topics is logical and clear so that readers find validity in your position.

Cause/Effect

The cause/effect method is a way of establishing a reason, or reasons, why something has occurred. For example, if you live in south Texas, then you understand the problem that mosquitoes cause in the hot, humid summer months. While there is no way to eliminate all mosquitoes, there are ways to minimize their growth in your backyard. If you research the ways in which mosquitoes are born, you would understand the importance of things such as emptying containers of all stagnant water so that they cannot incubate or keeping your grass mowed to eliminate areas for them to populate. The process by which you go through to determine the cause of mosquito infestations is the cause and effect method. In argumentation, you might use this method to support a claim for community efforts to prevent mosquitoes from growing in your neighborhood. Demonstrating that process is effective for a logos based argument.

Chronological

Sometimes an argument is presented best when a sequential pattern is used. Oftentimes, that pattern will be based on the pattern of time in which the sequence occurs. For example, if you are writing an argumentative essay in which you are calling for a new stop light to be installed at a busy intersection, you might utilize a chronological structure to demonstrate the rate of increased accidents over a given period of time at that intersection. If your pattern demonstrates a marked increase in accidents, then your data would show a logical reason for supporting your position. Oftentimes, a chronological pattern involves steps indicated by signal words such as first, next, and finally. Utilizing this pattern will walk readers through your line of reasoning and guide them towards reaching your proposed conclusion.

Another method for organizing your writing is by order of importance. This method is often referred to as emphatic because organization is done based upon emphasis. The direction you choose to go is yours whether you begin with the strongest, most important point of your argument, or the weakest. In either case, the hierarchy of ideas should be clear to readers. The emphatic method is often subjectively based upon the writer’s beliefs. If, for example, you want to build an argument for a new rail system to be used in your city, you will have to decide which reason is most important and which is simply support material. For one writer, the decrease in the number of cars on the road might be the most important aspect as it would result in a reduction of toxic emissions. For another writer, the time saved for commuters might be the most important aspect. The decision to start with your strongest or weakest point is one of style.

Style/ Eloquence

When we discuss style in academic writing, we generally mean the use of formal language appropriate for the given academic audience and occasion. Academics generally favor Standard American English and the use of precise language that avoids idioms , clichés , or dull, simple word choices. This is not to imply that these tropes are not useful; however, strong academic writing is typically objective and frequently avoids the use of first-person pronouns unless the disciplinary style and conventions suggest otherwise.

Some writing assignments allow you to choose your audience. In that case, the style in which you write may not be the formal, precise Standard American English that the academy prefers. For some writing assignments, you may even be asked to use, where appropriate, poetic or figurative language or language that evokes the senses. Additionally, instructors should be cognizant of second language learners and the variations in style when writing in a non-native language.

In all cases, it is important to understand what style of writing your audience expects, as delivering your argument in that style could make it more persuasive.

This section contains material from:

“Arguing.” In A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing , by Melanie Gagich and Emilie Zickel. Cleveland: MSL Academic Endeavors. Accessed July 2019. https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/8-2-arguing/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .

Pronouncement, affirmation, or endorsement; a declaration or statement of belief, usually positive in nature.

An acknowledgement of at least one aspect of the other side of the argument  that admits or accepts validity or legitimacy.

A counterstatement or counterargument; to offer evidence that opposes the argument that is being made.

Motionless, inactive, idle, or sluggish; a lack of development, growth, or advancement.

A system involving rank. Hierarchical refers to a system that involves a hierarchy. For example, the military is a hierarchical system in which some people outrank others.

To take the position or side of the subject (rather than the object) which is the one doing the observing (rather than being observed); the belief, preference, or understanding of an individual.

A phrase that is not traditionally associated with the meaning that the words provide; idioms cannot be literally translated into another language. For example, when someone is “feeling under the weather,” they are feeling ill.

A stereotyped or corny phrase, expression, or idea that has lost its original meaning from overuse, usually over a long period of time. The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is an example of a cliché.

A stereotypical or predictable literary convention or device such as a plot point (the damsel in distress), a figure of speech (metaphor, idiom, etc.), or theme or motif (red roses represent true love).

Impartiality or fairness; dispassionate or detached. Also refers to the goal, aim, or intention that someone or a group of people hope to achieve.

Having awareness.

4.1 Features of an Argument Copyright © 2022 by Terri Pantuso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

What is an Argumentative Essay? How to Write It (With Examples)

Argumentative Essay

We define an argumentative essay as a type of essay that presents arguments about both sides of an issue. The purpose is to convince the reader to accept a particular viewpoint or action. In an argumentative essay, the writer takes a stance on a controversial or debatable topic and supports their position with evidence, reasoning, and examples. The essay should also address counterarguments, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the topic.

Table of Contents

  • What is an argumentative essay?  
  • Argumentative essay structure 
  • Argumentative essay outline 
  • Types of argument claims 

How to write an argumentative essay?

  • Argumentative essay writing tips 
  • Good argumentative essay example 

How to write a good thesis

Frequently asked questions, what is an argumentative essay.

An argumentative essay is a type of writing that presents a coherent and logical analysis of a specific topic. 1 The goal is to convince the reader to accept the writer’s point of view or opinion on a particular issue. Here are the key elements of an argumentative essay: 

  • Thesis Statement : The central claim or argument that the essay aims to prove. 
  • Introduction : Provides background information and introduces the thesis statement. 
  • Body Paragraphs : Each paragraph addresses a specific aspect of the argument, presents evidence, and may include counterarguments. 
  • Evidence : Supports the main argument with relevant facts, examples, statistics, or expert opinions. 
  • Counterarguments : Anticipates and addresses opposing viewpoints to strengthen the overall argument. 
  • Conclusion : Summarizes the main points, reinforces the thesis, and may suggest implications or actions. 

structural elements in an argumentative essay

Argumentative essay structure

Aristotelian, Rogerian, and Toulmin are three distinct approaches to argumentative essay structures, each with its principles and methods. 2 The choice depends on the purpose and nature of the topic. Here’s an overview of each type of argumentative essay format.

Argumentative essay outline

An argumentative essay presents a specific claim or argument and supports it with evidence and reasoning. Here’s an outline for an argumentative essay, along with examples for each section: 3  

1.  Introduction : 

  • Hook : Start with a compelling statement, question, or anecdote to grab the reader’s attention. 

Example: “Did you know that plastic pollution is threatening marine life at an alarming rate?” 

  • Background information : Provide brief context about the issue. 

Example: “Plastic pollution has become a global environmental concern, with millions of tons of plastic waste entering our oceans yearly.” 

  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position. 

Example: “We must take immediate action to reduce plastic usage and implement more sustainable alternatives to protect our marine ecosystem.” 

2.  Body Paragraphs : 

  • Topic sentence : Introduce the main idea of each paragraph. 

Example: “The first step towards addressing the plastic pollution crisis is reducing single-use plastic consumption.” 

  • Evidence/Support : Provide evidence, facts, statistics, or examples that support your argument. 

Example: “Research shows that plastic straws alone contribute to millions of tons of plastic waste annually, and many marine animals suffer from ingestion or entanglement.” 

  • Counterargument/Refutation : Acknowledge and refute opposing viewpoints. 

Example: “Some argue that banning plastic straws is inconvenient for consumers, but the long-term environmental benefits far outweigh the temporary inconvenience.” 

  • Transition : Connect each paragraph to the next. 

Example: “Having addressed the issue of single-use plastics, the focus must now shift to promoting sustainable alternatives.” 

3.  Counterargument Paragraph : 

  • Acknowledgement of opposing views : Recognize alternative perspectives on the issue. 

Example: “While some may argue that individual actions cannot significantly impact global plastic pollution, the cumulative effect of collective efforts must be considered.” 

  • Counterargument and rebuttal : Present and refute the main counterargument. 

Example: “However, individual actions, when multiplied across millions of people, can substantially reduce plastic waste. Small changes in behavior, such as using reusable bags and containers, can have a significant positive impact.” 

4.  Conclusion : 

  • Restatement of thesis : Summarize your main argument. 

Example: “In conclusion, adopting sustainable practices and reducing single-use plastic is crucial for preserving our oceans and marine life.” 

  • Call to action : Encourage the reader to take specific steps or consider the argument’s implications. 

Example: “It is our responsibility to make environmentally conscious choices and advocate for policies that prioritize the health of our planet. By collectively embracing sustainable alternatives, we can contribute to a cleaner and healthier future.” 

structural elements in an argumentative essay

Types of argument claims

A claim is a statement or proposition a writer puts forward with evidence to persuade the reader. 4 Here are some common types of argument claims, along with examples: 

  • Fact Claims : These claims assert that something is true or false and can often be verified through evidence.  Example: “Water boils at 100°C at sea level.”
  • Value Claims : Value claims express judgments about the worth or morality of something, often based on personal beliefs or societal values. Example: “Organic farming is more ethical than conventional farming.” 
  • Policy Claims : Policy claims propose a course of action or argue for a specific policy, law, or regulation change.  Example: “Schools should adopt a year-round education system to improve student learning outcomes.” 
  • Cause and Effect Claims : These claims argue that one event or condition leads to another, establishing a cause-and-effect relationship.  Example: “Excessive use of social media is a leading cause of increased feelings of loneliness among young adults.” 
  • Definition Claims : Definition claims assert the meaning or classification of a concept or term.  Example: “Artificial intelligence can be defined as machines exhibiting human-like cognitive functions.” 
  • Comparative Claims : Comparative claims assert that one thing is better or worse than another in certain respects.  Example: “Online education is more cost-effective than traditional classroom learning.” 
  • Evaluation Claims : Evaluation claims assess the quality, significance, or effectiveness of something based on specific criteria.  Example: “The new healthcare policy is more effective in providing affordable healthcare to all citizens.” 

Understanding these argument claims can help writers construct more persuasive and well-supported arguments tailored to the specific nature of the claim.  

If you’re wondering how to start an argumentative essay, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you with the argumentative essay format and writing process.

  • Choose a Topic: Select a topic that you are passionate about or interested in. Ensure that the topic is debatable and has two or more sides.
  • Define Your Position: Clearly state your stance on the issue. Consider opposing viewpoints and be ready to counter them.
  • Conduct Research: Gather relevant information from credible sources, such as books, articles, and academic journals. Take notes on key points and supporting evidence.
  • Create a Thesis Statement: Develop a concise and clear thesis statement that outlines your main argument. Convey your position on the issue and provide a roadmap for the essay.
  • Outline Your Argumentative Essay: Organize your ideas logically by creating an outline. Include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph should focus on a single point that supports your thesis.
  • Write the Introduction: Start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention (a quote, a question, a surprising fact). Provide background information on the topic. Present your thesis statement at the end of the introduction.
  • Develop Body Paragraphs: Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that relates to the thesis. Support your points with evidence and examples. Address counterarguments and refute them to strengthen your position. Ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs.
  • Address Counterarguments: Acknowledge and respond to opposing viewpoints. Anticipate objections and provide evidence to counter them.
  • Write the Conclusion: Summarize the main points of your argumentative essay. Reinforce the significance of your argument. End with a call to action, a prediction, or a thought-provoking statement.
  • Revise, Edit, and Share: Review your essay for clarity, coherence, and consistency. Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Share your essay with peers, friends, or instructors for constructive feedback.
  • Finalize Your Argumentative Essay: Make final edits based on feedback received. Ensure that your essay follows the required formatting and citation style.

Argumentative essay writing tips

Here are eight strategies to craft a compelling argumentative essay: 

  • Choose a Clear and Controversial Topic : Select a topic that sparks debate and has opposing viewpoints. A clear and controversial issue provides a solid foundation for a strong argument. 
  • Conduct Thorough Research : Gather relevant information from reputable sources to support your argument. Use a variety of sources, such as academic journals, books, reputable websites, and expert opinions, to strengthen your position. 
  • Create a Strong Thesis Statement : Clearly articulate your main argument in a concise thesis statement. Your thesis should convey your stance on the issue and provide a roadmap for the reader to follow your argument. 
  • Develop a Logical Structure : Organize your essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Each paragraph should focus on a specific point of evidence that contributes to your overall argument. Ensure a logical flow from one point to the next. 
  • Provide Strong Evidence : Support your claims with solid evidence. Use facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinions to support your arguments. Be sure to cite your sources appropriately to maintain credibility. 
  • Address Counterarguments : Acknowledge opposing viewpoints and counterarguments. Addressing and refuting alternative perspectives strengthens your essay and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the issue. Be mindful of maintaining a respectful tone even when discussing opposing views. 
  • Use Persuasive Language : Employ persuasive language to make your points effectively. Avoid emotional appeals without supporting evidence and strive for a respectful and professional tone. 
  • Craft a Compelling Conclusion : Summarize your main points, restate your thesis, and leave a lasting impression in your conclusion. Encourage readers to consider the implications of your argument and potentially take action. 

structural elements in an argumentative essay

Good argumentative essay example

Let’s consider a sample of argumentative essay on how social media enhances connectivity:

In the digital age, social media has emerged as a powerful tool that transcends geographical boundaries, connecting individuals from diverse backgrounds and providing a platform for an array of voices to be heard. While critics argue that social media fosters division and amplifies negativity, it is essential to recognize the positive aspects of this digital revolution and how it enhances connectivity by providing a platform for diverse voices to flourish. One of the primary benefits of social media is its ability to facilitate instant communication and connection across the globe. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram break down geographical barriers, enabling people to establish and maintain relationships regardless of physical location and fostering a sense of global community. Furthermore, social media has transformed how people stay connected with friends and family. Whether separated by miles or time zones, social media ensures that relationships remain dynamic and relevant, contributing to a more interconnected world. Moreover, social media has played a pivotal role in giving voice to social justice movements and marginalized communities. Movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #ClimateStrike have gained momentum through social media, allowing individuals to share their stories and advocate for change on a global scale. This digital activism can shape public opinion and hold institutions accountable. Social media platforms provide a dynamic space for open dialogue and discourse. Users can engage in discussions, share information, and challenge each other’s perspectives, fostering a culture of critical thinking. This open exchange of ideas contributes to a more informed and enlightened society where individuals can broaden their horizons and develop a nuanced understanding of complex issues. While criticisms of social media abound, it is crucial to recognize its positive impact on connectivity and the amplification of diverse voices. Social media transcends physical and cultural barriers, connecting people across the globe and providing a platform for marginalized voices to be heard. By fostering open dialogue and facilitating the exchange of ideas, social media contributes to a more interconnected and empowered society. Embracing the positive aspects of social media allows us to harness its potential for positive change and collective growth.
  • Clearly Define Your Thesis Statement:   Your thesis statement is the core of your argumentative essay. Clearly articulate your main argument or position on the issue. Avoid vague or general statements.  
  • Provide Strong Supporting Evidence:   Back up your thesis with solid evidence from reliable sources and examples. This can include facts, statistics, expert opinions, anecdotes, or real-life examples. Make sure your evidence is relevant to your argument, as it impacts the overall persuasiveness of your thesis.  
  • Anticipate Counterarguments and Address Them:   Acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints to strengthen credibility. This also shows that you engage critically with the topic rather than presenting a one-sided argument. 

The length of an argumentative essay can vary, but it typically falls within the range of 1,000 to 2,500 words. However, the specific requirements may depend on the guidelines provided.

You might write an argumentative essay when:  1. You want to convince others of the validity of your position.  2. There is a controversial or debatable issue that requires discussion.  3. You need to present evidence and logical reasoning to support your claims.  4. You want to explore and critically analyze different perspectives on a topic. 

Argumentative Essay:  Purpose : An argumentative essay aims to persuade the reader to accept or agree with a specific point of view or argument.  Structure : It follows a clear structure with an introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs presenting arguments and evidence, counterarguments and refutations, and a conclusion.  Tone : The tone is formal and relies on logical reasoning, evidence, and critical analysis.    Narrative/Descriptive Essay:  Purpose : These aim to tell a story or describe an experience, while a descriptive essay focuses on creating a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing.  Structure : They may have a more flexible structure. They often include an engaging introduction, a well-developed body that builds the story or description, and a conclusion.  Tone : The tone is more personal and expressive to evoke emotions or provide sensory details. 

  • Gladd, J. (2020). Tips for Writing Academic Persuasive Essays.  Write What Matters . 
  • Nimehchisalem, V. (2018). Pyramid of argumentation: Towards an integrated model for teaching and assessing ESL writing.  Language & Communication ,  5 (2), 185-200. 
  • Press, B. (2022).  Argumentative Essays: A Step-by-Step Guide . Broadview Press. 
  • Rieke, R. D., Sillars, M. O., & Peterson, T. R. (2005).  Argumentation and critical decision making . Pearson/Allyn & Bacon. 

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10.1: How Argument Analysis Essays are Structured

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In some humanities classes in college, you may be asked to write a kind of paper that goes further than a summary, an assessment or a response paper in describing another writer's argument. Such an argument analysis , also called a rhetorical analysis , asks you to describe what the other writer is up to, not just in terms of ideas but in terms of all the strategies they used to make the argument convincing. You become a kind of detective, piecing together the moves the writer made, the reasons for them, and their likely effects on readers.

A man's brown hand holds a magnifying glass over a page of characters in an unknown script. The other writes notes in a book.

In such an essay, you will need to analyze and evaluate the quality of the logical reasoning, as we learned to do in Chapter 4: Assessing the Strength of an Argument.  But you will also need to describe and evaluate how the writer seeks to affect readers' emotions and gain readers' trust. How well are the author's appeals to trust and emotion likely to work? Will readers likely respond as the writer imagines?

The introduction should include the title of the argument you analyze and several sentences that summarize the argument. Imagining an audience unfamiliar with the argument will encourage you to choose your words carefully and offer full explanations. After introducing readers to the content of the argument, you can state your thesis: your assessment of how convincing the argument is and what its weaknesses are, if any.

There is a lot to cover in such a paper since you will need to summarize and analyze the ideas, identify strategies the author has used, and discuss how readers will respond to these strategies. With so many points to discuss, you may wonder how you can create a cohesive thesis. The key is to focus on what you consider to be most important in propelling the argument forward or sinking it. A thesis can pick two or three important aspects of the argument and identify them as strengths or weaknesses. The more you can group several different strategies together under a common theme, the more focused and memorable your thesis becomes. For example, if a writer uses “we” to refer to Latinx people, inserts Spanish phrases, and tells a moving story of a family’s immigration to the U.S. from Mexico, you could refer to all three of those aspects of the argument at once in your thesis by noting that the writer “appeals to readers’ Latinx identity.”

Each body paragraph can focus on just one aspect of the reasoning or on an argumentative strategy. In the above example, you could develop one paragraph about the use of “we” to refer to Latinx people, another paragraph about the use of the Spanish language in the argument, and another about how the writer introduces a Spanish-speaking immigrant story. Your transitions could refer to what these paragraphs have in common--a reference to Latinx identity. To support your ideas in each body paragraph, you can use evidence in the form of quotations and paraphrases from the argument analyzed.

The conclusion should provide some assessment of the overall effectiveness of the argument. You can make a prediction about how most readers will respond in the end. Given the combination of logical strength or weakness and appeals to trust and emotion, how convinced will readers likely be? Are there any lessons we can learn from the successes or failures of this argument?

The word "understanding" as a red statue at the edge of a bay.

Structure of An Argumentative Essay

Structure of An Argumentative Essay

Table of Contents

Introduction to argumentative essay writing.

Argumentative essay writing, in a nutshell, is about persuading or convincing readers about a certain point of view through facts and reasoning. Contrary to popular belief, argumentative essays are not about charged language with emotional tone and voice. They are objective to their core and do the convincing by developing sound arguments and then backing them through empirical evidence.

Writers use different approaches to develop and prove their arguments, including the Classical approach, also called Aristotelian, Toulmin, and Rogerian. The former is commonly used by students in schools and colleges because it is the easiest.

There are three major types of argumentative essays Persuasive essays, analysis essays, and research papers . They are all written in academia based on the level, scope, and depth of a problem and the academic understanding of the writer. 

An a rgumentative essay is recognized by its rigid structure, objective approach, and reliance on proofs and citations to develop and validate an argument.

Elements of An Argumentative Essay

A thesis statement is an integral part of any essay, but it has a special place in argumentative essay writing. It is a summary of the writer’s stance about a problem or an issue that is discussed in the essay. Again, instead of being subjective and opined, it is rather objective and based on sound arguments. Writers need to state it in the opening of the essay so that readers can know what is the stance of the writer. The ideal place is at the closing of the introductory paragraph.

Contrary to other writing styles, argumentative essays need to cover the reader’s persona. Since the writing is about convincing and persuading readers about a belief or point of view, the audience of the essay constitutes an element in the bigger scheme of things. While writing the essay, writers should consider the reader’s persona in mind so that they can go to the appropriate lengths and depths of the arguments and proofs to make a point. This is most common in argumentative essays so it makes a distinguishing mark on the essay.

Exigence may seem like an alien word for students in schools and colleges, but the meaning and application are far from it. Exigence is about providing an environment to the readers where they become better receptive to the main argument or postulate. This is where the utility of an introduction comes to the fore. An introduction is often opened with a hook and then provides the background information about the problem before moving on to the main body of the essay. So, the opening is where the writers can achieve that.

As the name indicates, this element is about providing concrete evidence and proof for the arguments and stance. Argumentative essays are about basing the personal stances or positions of the writers on facts and then covering the foundations of those arguments with citations and references from credible sources. There is no point in writing an argumentative essay if a writer does not have support and material evidence to support the claims. Usually, support comes from because statements that not only identify the stance but provide prompt support to the argument

Reasoning is another crucial element of argumentative essays. It covers the response to the hypothetical challenge and the “proof” that the writer provides through logic and mathematical reasoning. Many writers struggle with reasoning, finding a proper place for it, or how to expound it for a better impact. Also, reasoning should not be confused with a thesis statement which is only one in an essay. However, reasons can be multiple to support various sub-claims throughout the essay. If you are having a hard time identifying reasoning in an argumentative essay, look for statements that were answering the “but why” questions.

An argumentative essay is not about arguing about a claim for what it is but also about what it is not. This may seem confusing to novice writers but we will explain it to help them understand better. Rebuttals are the answers to objections and challenges in the essay. While explaining an argument, it is necessary to anticipate these objections and claims and ensure that they are taken care of in the body. By covering the objections and their answers, you will be able to further tighten your arguments and stance.

How To Write An Argumentative Paragraph

Argumentative essays are written in schools and colleges to gauge the research and writing skills of the students. For the same issue, academic institutions also employ paragraph writing. Since we have gone through the mechanics and dynamics of essay writing, let us go through that of paragraph writing.

An argumentative paragraph is a miniature of an argumentative essay. It shares the same features and elements with the grander counterpart but it has a limit of words and space. central main premise and format remain the same.

In this light, the highlights of writing an argumentative paragraph are as follows:

  • Introducing and developing an essay question
  • Providing support and evidence for the answer or argument
  • Covering rebuttals and objections to strengthen the argument

This is where the argumentative essay starts. The opening sentences are often molded and styled in such a way that they grab the readers’ attention. These are called hooks and they can be different types of sentences or statements, including a question, a statistic, a bold statement, or a fact. Make sure that the hook is relevant to the main claim or topic of the essay. After the hook, writers have the space to cover some ground in the form of context or exigence.

The main body is the bulk of an argumentative essay. It covers the arguments and their evidential information through an even and balanced picture for the readers. Since there is only a single argument in a persuasive essay, it needs to have several sub-claims and evidence to that. In a typical essay structure, the main body covers three paragraphs, this is usually ample to develop arguments and then provide support and rebuttals. After connecting the dots in the main body, this section transitions into the conclusion.

This is another important part of an essay. It is where all the loose ends are tied and sign off the essay on a higher note. In the case of argumentative writing, writers need to cover all the main ideas in the body but they should reiterate them in this section. The best way to do so is to summarize them logically and then rely on one-liners and catchy sentences to make them more memorable for the readers. This section should be well-planned and executed.

What are the 4 main elements of argumentative essays in schools and colleges?

There is a debate regarding the major parts or components of an argumentative essay. In essence, it is no point in contesting the stance with simple evidence or proof. So, here are the four main components of argumentative essays:

  • Counter-claims

How can you describe the three main parts of an argumentative essay?

Like other essays, argumentative essays follow a rigid structure with elements and traits combined to convey the message. The text of the essay is based on facts and that is the main point of the essay.

Here is a rundown of the major sections in an argumentative essay:

How can I ideally structure an argumentative essay?

Argumentative and expository essays need a lot of research and reasoning to stay afloat. This is the essence of the structure and formatting of an argumentative essay. The best way to structure an essay is to research and outline at the same time. This way, writers can understand the depth and scope of the essay without stumbling across roadblocks.

What is the format of an argumentative paragraph?

An argumentative paragraph follows the same format as that an essay. It has three sections to form and explain an argument. The opening should have the hook and the question that will be answered in the text. The body should cover the evidential information to support the claims. The concluding sentences should tie it all up.

What are the 2 common argumentative essay formats?

Depending on the subject matter and scope of the topic, two common argumentative essay formats are used by the writers. One is block structure where all the arguments or questions are covered in a single paragraph while the evidence is stated separately. The other is a chain structure where each argument or sub-claim is followed by the necessary evidence.

Argumentative essay writing is about symmetry and structure. Experts also prescribe that these essays are as good as the arguments they are based on. This is true to a great extent as writers need to convince and persuade the readers to agree with their stances. In this post, we have covered the major elements of an argumentative essay, its structure with major sections, and then top it all off by answering frequently asked questions. In addition to this, we have also dedicated a section to teach students how to write an argumentative paragraph. 

We aim to furnish students in schools and colleges to learn the art and craft of argumentative essay writing. But if they are not up for the task, we can help them with custom argumentative essays!

Courtesy of PerfectEssay

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    An argumentative essay presents a specific claim or argument and supports it with evidence and reasoning. Here's an outline for an argumentative essay, along with examples for each section: 3. 1. Introduction: Hook: Start with a compelling statement, question, or anecdote to grab the reader's attention.

  22. 10.1: How Argument Analysis Essays are Structured

    This page titled 10.1: How Argument Analysis Essays are Structured is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills ( ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) . An argument analysis should summarize the argument and discuss how well any appeals to trust and emotion are likely to work with readers.

  23. Structure of An Argumentative Essay

    An argumentative paragraph is a miniature of an argumentative essay. It shares the same features and elements with the grander counterpart but it has a limit of words and space. central main premise and format remain the same. In this light, the highlights of writing an argumentative paragraph are as follows: Introducing and developing an essay ...