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What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that takes a stance on an issue. In a good argumentative essay, a writer attempts to persuade readers to understand and support their point of view about a topic by stating their reasoning and providing evidence to back it up.
Argumentative essay writing is a common assignment for high school and college students. Generally, argumentative essay topics are related to science, technology, politics, and health care.
How To Outline an Argumentative Essay in 4 Steps
Argumentative essays should have a straightforward structure so they are easy for readers to follow. The goal of an argumentative essay is to clearly outline a point of view, reasoning, and evidence. A good argumentative essay should follow this structure:
- Introductory paragraph. The first paragraph of your essay should outline the topic, provide background information necessary to understand your argument, outline the evidence you will present and states your thesis.
- The thesis statement. This is part of your first paragraph. It is a concise, one-sentence summary of your main point and claim.
- Body paragraphs. A typical argumentative essay comprises three or more paragraphs that explain the reasons why you support your thesis. Each body paragraph should cover a different idea or piece of evidence and contain a topic sentence that clearly and concisely explains why the reader should agree with your position. Body paragraphs are where you back up your claims with examples, research, statistics, studies, and text citations. Address opposing points of view and disprove them or explain why you disagree with them. Presenting facts and considering a topic from every angle adds credibility and will help you gain a reader’s trust.
- Conclusion. One paragraph that restates your thesis and summarizes all of the arguments made in your body paragraphs. Rather than introducing new facts or more arguments, a good conclusion will appeal to a reader’s emotions. In some cases, writers will use a personal anecdote explaining how the topic personally affects them.
How to Write a Thesis Statement in 3 Steps
Your thesis statement is only one sentence long, but it’s the most important part of your argumentative essay. The thesis appears in your introductory paragraph, summarizes what your argumentative essay will be about, and primes the reader for what’s to come. These steps will help you get your point across clearly and concisely:
- Turn the topic into a question and answer it. Set up a big question in the title of your essay or within the first few sentences. Then, build up to answering that question in your thesis statement. For example, in your title or introduction, you could pose the question, “What is the best type of sandwich?” And then answer with your thesis statement: “The best type of sandwich is peanut butter and jelly.” This method is effective because intriguing questions draw readers in and encourage them to keep reading to find the answer.
- State an argument—and then refute it. Introduce an idea that contrasts with your belief, and immediately explain why you disagree with it. For example: “While some people believe peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are too simple, they’re versatile sandwiches that you can easily turn into a gourmet meal.” This method is effective because it uses evidence and immediately demonstrates your credibility.
- Briefly outline your main points. Introduce your main point and explain how you’ll back it up. For example: “You can turn a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a gourmet meal by using artisanal bread, toasting the bread, and adding additional toppings.” This method is effective because it gives readers a clear idea of everything you’ll discuss in your essay. It also serves as a roadmap to help keep you organized and on track.
5 Types of Argument Claims
Once you decide what you’re arguing and know your thesis statement, consider how you’ll present your argument. There are five types of argument claims that can drive your essay:
- Fact: whether the statement is true or false.
- Definition: the dictionary definition of what you’re arguing, plus your own personal interpretation of it.
- Value: the importance of what you’re arguing.
- Cause and effect: what causes the problem in your essay and what effects it has.
- Policy: why the reader should care and what they should do about it after reading.
3 Main Types of Arguments and How to Use Them
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There are three main ways to structure an argumentative essay. Choose one of the following or combine them to write your persuasive paper:
- Classical. Present the main argument, state your opinion, and do your best to convince the reader why your stance is the right one. Also called Aristotelian, this is the most popular strategy for making an argument because it’s the most simple line of thinking to follow. It’s effective when your audience doesn’t have a lot of information or a strong opinion about your topic, as it outlines the facts clearly and concisely.
- Rogerian. Present the problem, acknowledge the opposing side of the argument, state your point of view, and explain why yours is the most beneficial to the reader. This type of argument is effective for polarizing topics, as it acknowledges both sides and presents the middle ground.
- Toulmin. Present your claim, present grounds to back up that claim, and then justify that the grounds are linked to the claim. This type of argument is also effective for polarizing topics, but rather than present both sides, it presents one, hinging particularly on facts presented in a way that makes the claim difficult to argue with.
Whether you’re writing an essay as an artistic exercise or trying to get the attention of a top publication, knowing how to correctly structure your point of view is the key to a good argumentative essay. Renowned nonfiction storyteller and bestselling author of Blink and The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell has spent decades honing his craft. His books have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. In his class, Malcolm provides insight into how to research topics and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.
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