WRITING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY is a skill that anyone in school needs to know, though it can be useful outside of the classroom, as well. High school students must write argumentative essays. They are not difficult to do, as long as one keeps these simple ideas in mind. With today’s Common Core standards, learning to write an essay that intelligently proves your point is an essential part of your education.

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Here are some of the basic elements of an argumentative essay:

What is a Claim? – The thesis of one’s argumentative essay is a debatable claim. An essay is not an argumentative essay if it does not have a debatable claim. A claim is an assertion of something, but it must also be debatable. A debatable claim is a topic that clearly has two sides. Each side can be debated, which is why the claim is debatable. For example, “English should be the official language of the United States” is a debatable claim, and there are two sides to the issue.

What is an Appeal? – The writer of an argumentative essay will make appeals to her/his audience. There are three types of appeals:

  • Appeal to reason. The writer, appealing to his/her reader’s sense of logic, tends to make her argument citing facts, statistics, and in general, tends to rely on the reader using his sense of reason when reading the essay.
  • Appeal to emotion. When using this approach, the writer will appeal to the audience’s emotional side. Are there things about the argument that could make the reader upset or angry, in a way that will make him understand the writer’s argument?
  • Appeal to character. The writer must convince the reader that s/he is reliable and trustworthy. If s/he wants the readers to believe the argument, s/he must make them understand, through the writing, why s/he is credible.

Writers can use one or all of these appeals, and usually the most effective essays will use all three, even if one is used more than the others.

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 introductory paragraph of an argument essay, you should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Your introduction should introduce and set up your point, rather than lay out evidence to support it. Also, while your introduction is a road map for the rest of the essay, you shouldn’t explicitly announce what and how you will be arguing. 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. If you do not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective essay.

INTRODUCTION IDEAS – which may be mixed and matched – may include:

  • Use a true story – an anecdote.
  • Startling quotation, fact or statistic.
  • Scenario: imaginary story which illustrates the problem.
  • Explain the problem.
  • Describe vividly.
  • Frame story or flashback.

IN SHORT an introduction must have a brief explanation of your topic, some background information, and a thesis statement. In this case, your thesis is a statement of your position on a specific controversial topic.

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. Thus, 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.

Evidential support. You will need to include 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.

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

IN THE CONCULSION, try to make a final point which tells the reader what to think or do through engaging one or more these:

  • If your introduction had used a true story THEN your conclusion must show what will happen if your solution is adopted or people accept your argument.
  • If your introduction had a startling quotation, fact or statistic THEN in your conclusion use a real-life example of how your idea works.
  • If your introduction had scenario: imaginary story which illustrates the problem THEN your conclusion must revise the scenario showing what will happen if the reader adopts your ideas.
  • If your introduction had explained the problem THEN in conclusion tell the reader what they need to think, do, feel or believe.
  • If your introduction had described vividly THEN in conclusion you will need to appeal to the reader’s emotions, character or reason.
  • If your introduction had framed a story or flashback THEN in your conclusion you can finish the frame story.

Who Cares What the Opposing Side Has to Say?

Some points to note include:

  • The writer should care what the opposition says (because the reader certainly will).
  • If the writer simply ignores the other side, his argument will be dismissed.
  • Often, the best way to put together one’s essay is to look at the pros (arguments for the topic) and the cons (arguments against).
  • No matter what the writer’s viewpoint, it’s best for him to understand both sides.
  • Then, as he begins to construct his own argument, he can be sure to argue for his side and against his opposition.
  • As he refutes the other side, his argument naturally grows stronger.

It’s also wise to address the opposition because it shows the credibility of the author. If the writer simply ignores the other side, readers will not take him seriously.

Structure of Argumentative Essays

THE FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY of an argumentative composition follows two of these general formats:

The Pros-Cons Structure

For this type of an argumentative essay, a student must have an INTRODUCTION followed by THREE body paragraphs presenting the pros of the argument, then offer the cons and finally a CONCLUSION in which the author states the desired side.

  • The writer states an initial thesis that contains the point of view for which the author is arguing.
  • The body generally presents both sides of the argument, although each con is refuted in turn in each paragraph.
  • The author may first present the pros of the argument, then offer the cons and refutation later in one paragraph.
  • The author presents the desired conclusion in the final paragraph.

The Pros-Cons and Refutation Structure

This type differs slightly from the above pros-cons structure. It starts with an INTRODUCTION followed by THREE body paragraphs presenting the pros/cons of the argument which are either way refuted in each individual paragraph. Finally the author presents the desired CONCLUSION in the penultimate paragraph.

  • The writer states an initial thesis that contains the point of view for which the author is arguing.
  • The three body paragraphs present both sides of the argument with either each pro or con both being presented and refuted in an individual paragraph.
  • The author presents the desired conclusion in the final paragraph.

The 1-2-1-1 Structure

For a basic argumentative essay, a student should structure the essay so that there are five paragraphs: An INTRODUCTION is followed by TWO support body paragraphs with the fourth paragraph being COUNTER ARGUMENT WITH REBUTTAL and finally a CONCLUSION

  • The first paragraph will be the introduction – Start out with an attention-getter; which must be an interesting fact about the topic or a quote from an authoritative source about the topic. This will be followed by a general overview of the topic, generally spanning three to four sentences. The final sentence of the introduction will be the thesis statement. It is imperative that the writer must provide a stance in this statement along with unelaborated reasons that support this stance.
  • The second and third paragraphs will be the support paragraphs – These are the support body paragraphs. Each of these paragraphs will start with a topic sentence; the topic is taken from the thesis statement. Within the paragraph, the student must have two specific examples that will follow the reason of support for each paragraph. The specific examples must be accompanied by elaboration. Students must display the connection to the thesis and explain the importance of including the examples.
  • The fourth paragraph will be the counter argument with rebuttalIt is an important paragraph. The writer will state the opposing side of the argument in this particular paragraph, followed by an explanation of this opposing side. However, the writer should not stop there. The counter argument must be followed by a rebuttal, or a reason why the counter argument is ineffective or wrong. This will further strengthen the initial position of the writer and give more credibility to the stance that the writer has chosen.
  • Final paragraph will be the conclusion. Finally, the writer must provide a conclusion in the final paragraph. The conclusion will start with a restatement of the thesis statement. This will be followed by an explanation of the significance of the topic and how it affects, or can affect, the reader and/or society. The conclusion will end with a call to action. This call to action will hopefully inspire people to do something that shows support of the original stance of the writer. These tips will ensure efficiency when writing an argumentative essay.

YES, argumentative essays are more difficult to write than, say, personal essays. But being able to argue one’s side in this type of essay is a valuable skill to learn. Students will use this technique all through High School (and possibly on the job, in later life).

Once a student learns how to write this type of essay, future essays are not as difficult.

Practice Questions

Write a well-structured argumentative essay of 400-450 words on one the topics:

  • Classmates are a more important influence than parents on a child’s success in school. Write an argumentative essay that supports your point of view.
  • Destroy what is old, Bring in the new.” In a rapidly changing world, what do you think of this opinion? Support your opinion with reasons and examples.
  • ‘Environmental issues will be the most important issues of the decade.” Do you agree? Write a well-structured essay in which you agree, disagree or partly agree with this statement. Support your opinion with reasons and examples.

quote-chalk-think-words.jpgGood luck in your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.

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