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- How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips
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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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.
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.
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.
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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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‘Red Caesarism’ is rightwing code – and some Republicans are listening
Argument for a ‘red Caesar’ to rule US may seem esoteric but conservative thinktank behind idea has connections to Trump
In June, the rightwing academic Kevin Slack published a book-length polemic claiming that ideas that had emerged from what he called the radical left were now so dominant that the US republic its founders envisioned was effectively at an end.
Slack, a politics professor at the conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, made conspiratorial and extreme arguments now common on the antidemocratic right, that “transgenderism, anti-white racism, censorship, cronyism … are now the policies of an entire cosmopolitan class that includes much of the entrenched bureaucracy, the military, the media, and government-sponsored corporations”.
In a discussion of possible responses to this conspiracy theory, he wrote that the “New Right now often discusses a Red Caesar, by which it means a leader whose post-Constitutional rule will restore the strength of his people”.
For the last three years, parts of the American right have advocated a theory called Caesarism as an authoritarian solution to the claimed collapse of the US republic in conference rooms, podcasts and the house organs of the extreme right, especially those associated with the Claremont Institute thinktank.
Though on the surface this discussion might seem esoteric, experts who track extremism in the US say that due to their influence on the Republican party, the rightwing intellectuals who espouse these ideas about the attractions of autocracy present a profound threat to American democracy.
Their calls for a “red Caesar” are now only growing louder as Donald Trump , whose supporters attempted to violently halt the election of Joe Biden in 2020, has assumed dominant frontrunner status in the 2024 Republican nomination race. Trump, who also faces multiple criminal indictments, has spoken openly of attacking the free press in the US and having little regard for American constitutional norms should he win the White House again.
The idea that the US might be redeemed by a Caesar – an authoritarian, rightwing leader – was first broached explicitly by Michael Anton, a Claremont senior fellow and Trump presidential adviser.
Anton has been an influential rightwing intellectual since in 2016 penning The Flight 93 Election, a rightwing essay in which he told conservatives who were squeamish about Trump “charge the cockpit or you die”, referencing one of the hijacked flights of 9/11.
He gave Caesarism a passing mention in that essay, but developed it further in his 2020 book, The Stakes, defining it as a “form of one-man rule: halfway … between monarchy and tyranny”.
The Guardian contacted Anton at his Claremont Institute email address, but received no response.
Anton and others in the Claremont milieu are not simply hypothesizing about the future: their dreams of Caesar arise from their dark view of the US.
Anton wrote the scene-setting essay in Up From Conservatism, an anthology of essays published this year and edited by the executive director of Claremont’s Center for the American Way of Life, Arthur Milikh.
In that essay Anton writes baldly that “the United States peaked around 1965”, and that Americans are ruled by “a network of unelected bureaucrats … corporate-tech-finance senior management, ‘experts’ who set the boundaries of acceptable opinion, and media figures who police those boundaries”.
His diagnosis of US social and cultural life unfolds under a series of subheadings that are almost comical in their disillusionment: “The universities have become evil”, “Our economy is fake”, “The people are corrupt”, “Our civilization has lost the will to live”.
Damon Linker, a senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of several books on the American right, was early in noticing the extreme right’s drift towards Caesarism.
Linker told the Guardian that Anton and others in the Claremont milieu “have convinced themselves thoroughly that the current order is decadent, corrupt and far removed from the proper, admirable origins of American government”.
Linker said their current view is related to a long-held position among Claremont scholars that “democracy as they understand has been supplanted by bureaucrats and entrenched executive branch departments”.
“The fact that Trump lost in 2020 has just radicalized a lot of these people – it occurred to them that they might not win a proper election again,” he said.
“That would mean that – excuse the language – they’re shit out of luck unless there’s some other path to power. That’s where Caesarism comes in.”
Linker said that the danger in such ideas is not that the American people will actively choose a dictatorship, but more in how they might shape the rightwing response to a future emergency.
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“If Trump wins in 2024, what does the opposition do, and how does he respond?” Linker speculated. “Does he send in the troops? Does that lead to bigger protests?
“If he then declares martial law, do these ideas prepare people in the Republican party to say, ‘Well, we need law and order’?” Linker asked.
“Does Trump then listen to people like Michael Anton and his friends about the need to perhaps cancel the next election?”
Underlining this danger is the fact that Caesarism has won converts beyond Claremont as a solution to perceived decadence and the declining electoral appeal of far-right ideas.
Charles Haywood, a former industrialist the Guardian exposed last month as the founder of a secretive fraternal lodge and a would-be warlord, wrote in 2021 that “I like, if not love, the idea of Red Caesar” since “Caesarism, and its time-legitimated successor, monarchy, is a natural, realism-based system, under which a civilization can flourish”.
The idea has been lodged in the broader sphere of conservative debate in the rightwing writer Stephen Wolfe’s book The Case for Christian Nationalism, in which he proposes a “Christian prince” whose rule would be “a measured and theocratic Caesarism”, and might perhaps be installed by “a just revolution” against secular rule.
Caesarism and other antidemocratic ideas bemuse many observers, including some with whom they might otherwise share common ground.
Thomas Merrill is a political theorist and an associate professor at American University in Washington DC, who has written critically on the Claremont Institute, but from a broadly conservative perspective.
“We’re cousins,” he said of Claremont intellectuals in a telephone conversation, “and sometimes you have to ask your cousin, what the hell are you doing?”
He said that the authoritarian drift exhibited in work like Anton’s was an example of “the Claremont guys shooting themselves in the foot”. For Merrill, while he agrees that the ideas are dangerous, he thinks they have an air of compensatory fantasy.
“They’re selling a very dark picture of the world to conservative donors without going out and doing the hard work of democratic politics.”
For Linker, the author and lecturer, a far-right dictatorship remains “a tail-end, worst-case scenario”, but one that is more realistic in the US now than it has been for many decades.
“Thirty years ago, if I told you that a bunch of billionaires and intellectuals on the right are waiting in the wings to impose a dictatorship on the United States, you would have said that I was insane,” he said.
“But it’s no longer insane. It’s now real. There are those people out there,” Linker added. “The question is: will they get their chance.”
- The far right
- Donald Trump
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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.
Composition Writing Studio
From the University of Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/685/05/):
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.
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 s/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.
- Argument Essays: Getting Started
- Developing Paragraphs
- Finding Academic Journals
- Logical Fallacies
- Research Writing
- Argument : UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center's online handout in argument.
- Types of Argument
- Writing Arguments: An Overview : Comprehensive guide from Colorado State University's Writing Studio
- Sample Argument Essays
- Prompts for Argument Essays : 301 ideas from the New York Times
- Argument : Main page for several argument sources from Oregon State University
- Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion
Rhetorical Appeals (Logos, Pathos, Ethos)
- Examples of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos : Numerous examples of each appeal from YourDictionary
- The Rhetorical Situation : Purdue OWL's discussion of Aristotle's three appeals and use of telos and kairos
- Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Advertising : YouTube video
- Ethos, Pathos, Logos: YouTube video
- Toulmin Method : An extensive online guide from Colorado State University on using the Toulmin method of argumentation
- Toulmin Method of Analyzing Arguments : PowerPoint that defines and offers examples for Toulmin method
- Definition of the Toulmin Method : Adaptation of a chapter on Toulmin's approach to argument
- Toulmin Argument (Aims of Argument) : YouTube video
- Rogerian Argument : Information on definition and format of argument
- Rogerian Argument Example : YouTube Video
- Rogerian Argument : YouTube Video
- Counter Argument : Overview provided by Harvard College
- Writing Counter Argument Paragraphs : YouTube video
- Rhetorical Fallacies
Definition of persuasive essay.
The term “persuasive” is an adjective derived from verb “persuade,” which means “to convince somebody.” A persuasive essay is full of all the convincing techniques a writer can employ. It presents a situation, and takes a stand – either in its favor, or against it – to prove to readers whether it is beneficial or harmful for them.
The question arises why persuasion if the people are already aware of everything. Its answer is that each person’s ability of seeing and understanding things depend on his vision. He believes only what he sees or is told about. If another side of the coin is shown, the people do not believe so easily. That is why they are presented with arguments supported with evidences , statistics and facts. Persuasion is done for these reasons:
- A Better World : To ask the people that if they accept your argument , it will be good for them to take action and make the world a better place.
- A Worse World : It means that if readers do not do what they are asked to do, the world will become a worse place.
- Call to Action : It means to persuade or tempt readers to do what the writer wants them to do.
Difference Between a Persuasive Essay and an Argumentative Essay
A persuasive essay is intended to persuade readers to do certain things, or not to do certain things. It is the sole aim of the writer to coax or tempt readers, and force them to do certain things or take actions. However, an argumentative essay intends to make readers see both sides of the coin. It is up to them to select any of the two. In other words, an argumentative essay presents both arguments; both for and against a thing, and leaves the readers to decide. On the other hand, a persuasive essay intends to make readers do certain things. Therefore, it presents arguments only about one aspect of the issue.
Examples of Persuasive Essay in Literature
Example #1: our unhealthy obsession and sickness (by frank furedi).
“Governments today do two things that I object to in particular. First they encourage introspection, telling us that unless men examine their testicles, unless we keep a check on our cholesterol level, then we are not being responsible citizens. You are letting down yourself, your wife, your kids, everybody. We are encouraged continually to worry about our health. As a consequence, public health initiatives have become, as far as I can tell, a threat to public health. Secondly, governments promote the value of health seeking. We are meant always to be seeking health for this or that condition. The primary effect of this, I believe, is to make us all feel more ill.”
This is an excerpt from a persuasive essay of Frank Furedi. It encourages people to think about how the government is helping public health. Both the arguments of persuasion start with “First” in the first line and with “Secondly” in the second last line.
Example #2: We Are Training Our Kids to Kill (by Dave Grossman)
“Our society needs to be informed about these crimes, but when the images of the young killers are broadcast on television, they become role models. The average preschooler in America watches 27 hours of television a week. The average child gets more one-on-one communication from TV than from all her parents and teachers combined. The ultimate achievement for our children is to get their picture on TV. The solution is simple, and it comes straight out of the sociology literature: The media have every right and responsibility to tell the story , but they must be persuaded not to glorify the killers by presenting their images on TV.”
This is an excerpt from Grossman’s essay. He is clearly convincing the public about the violent television programs and their impacts on the kids. See how strong his arguments are in favor of his topic.
Example #3: The Real Skinny (by Belinda Luscombe)
“And what do we the people say? Do we rise up and say, ‘I categorically refuse to buy any article of clothing unless the person promoting it weighs more than she did when she wore knee socks?’ Or at least, ‘Where do I send the check for the chicken nuggets?’ Actually, not so much. Mostly, our responses range from ‘I wonder if that would look good on me?’ to ‘I don’t know who that skinny-ass cow is, but I hate her already.’
Just check the strength of the argument of Belinda Luscombe about purchasing things. The beauty of her writing is that she has made her readers think by asking rhetorical questions and answering them.
Function of a Persuasive Essay
The major function of a persuasive essay is to convince readers that, if they take a certain action, the world will be a better place for them. It could be otherwise or it could be a call to an action. The arguments given are either in the favor of the topic or against it. It cannot combine both at once. That is why readers feel it easy to be convinced.
- Elements of an Essay
- Narrative Essay
- Definition Essay
- Descriptive Essay
- Types of Essay
- Analytical Essay
- Argumentative Essay
- Cause and Effect Essay
- Critical Essay
- Expository Essay
- Process Essay
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Definition of argumentative
Examples of argumentative in a Sentence
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'argumentative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1
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Cite this Entry
“Argumentative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/argumentative. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.
Kids definition of argumentative, more from merriam-webster on argumentative.
Nglish: Translation of argumentative for Spanish Speakers
Britannica English: Translation of argumentative for Arabic Speakers
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What is argumentative essay definition, usage, and literary examples, argumentative essay definition.
An argumentative essay [ahr-gyuh-MEN-tuh-tiv ess-ay] is an essay in which the writer uses thorough research to defend their position on a disputable topic. An argumentative essay contains a thesis, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The body can also include a counterargument.
Roots in Ancient Rhetoric
The argumentative essay format has roots in ancient rhetoric , which Greco-Romans considered the “art of persuasion .” While ancient societies primarily used speech to persuade their audiences, modern academics most often use written arguments based on the ancient orators’ classical argument structure.
As detailed in Plato’s On Rhetoric , a classical argument—similar to an argumentative essay—begins with an introduction ( exordium ), gives necessary context ( narratio ), offers the writer’s position and thesis ( proposito and partitio ), presents supporting research to confirm the writer’s argument or refute other positions ( confirmatio and refutatio ), and ends with a conclusion ( peroration ).
The Five-Part Argumentative Essay
- Thesis and Introduction: Often only a sentence long, the thesis concisely describes the writer’s position, and the introductory paragraph provides context.
- Body Paragraphs and Counterargument: There are generally three body paragraphs used to present research that supports the writer’s thesis. They can also include a counterargument that details and refutes opposing positions.
- Conclusion: This summarizes the writer’s evidential findings and reiterates the thesis.
There are two main models of argumentation: the Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.
The Toulmin Model
British philosopher Stephen Toulmin founded the Toulmin model in his book The Uses of Argument (1958). This style of argumentation, an expansion of the classical model, has six major components:
- Claim: The thesis
- Data : The research supporting the thesis
- Warrant: An explanation that connects the data and the thesis
- Backing: Support for the warrant
- Modality: Confirmation of the arguer’s conviction in the thesis
- Rebuttal : A counterargument or exceptions to the thesis
The Rogerian Model
Psychotherapist Carl Rogers developed the Rogerian model as a form of rhetoric that favored empathy and multiple perspectives . This model attempts to weigh each option fairly before persuading its audience. The model consists of the following components:
- Introduction: Introduction of the topic as a mutual problem
- Opposing Position: An explanation of the writer’s position that recognizes opposing positions
- Context for Opposing Position: An outline of the opposing position and confirmation of its validity
- Argued Position: A presentation of the writer’s position
- Context for Position: This offers data that validates writer’s position
- Benefits: An explanation of how the writer’s position benefits the opposition
Argumentative vs. Expository Essays
Similar to an argumentative essay, an expository essay uses evidence to inform its readers. It teaches readers how to do something, analyzes a topic, gives step-by-step instructions, or describes an event.
Expository essays differ from argumentative essays in that they’re often assigned within a classroom structure, restricting the amount of outside research. The aim of an expository essay is more often to explain something rather than persuade its audience.
Argumentative Essays in Education
Argumentative essays appear primarily as assignments in education and academia. Writing in this form requires that students understand alternative opinions, learn the value of thorough research, and learn to persuade their audiences using evidence.
Examples of Argumentative Essays
1. Matthew L. Sanders, “ Becoming a Learner ”
“Becoming a Learner: Realizing the Opportunity of Education” is a 2018 essay by Matthew L. Sanders. In the essay, Sanders argues against the traditional understanding of a college education and suggests students seek out critical and creative thinking skills rather than job marketability. Sanders outlines his thesis clearly:
The primary purpose of college isn’t learning a specific set of professional skills; the primary purpose of college is to become a learner.
2. Margaret Fuller, “ The Great Lawsuit ”
In Fuller’s 1843 essay, she compares the plight of women to that of slaves and argues that women should have the same rights as men:
As men become aware that all men have not had a fair chance, they are inclined to say that no women have had a fair chance.
3. Nicholas Carr, “ Is Google Making us Stupid? ”
In his 2008 essay, Carr uses mostly anecdotal evidence to support his thesis. He posits that having access to the internet’s trove of information contributes to an inability to read longer-form materials. In the following excerpt, he presents current research that supports his thesis:
They [University College London] found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from on source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site.
Further Research on Argumentative Essays
The Purdue Online Writing Lab outlines effective argumentative essays.
Find examples of argumentative essays on LiteraryDevices.net and Prepscholar.com .
Masterclass.com has an argumentative essay step-by-step writing guide available.
- Expository Essay
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Argumentative Essay: Definition, Outline & Examples of Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay is one of the most frequently written types of essays and is something that you may need to write for yourself. In this article, we are going to be looking at what an argumentative essay is and how you can write one. We are also going to take a look at some examples of argumentative essays as a way of gaining a further understanding of how they are written.
Table of Contents
What Is An Argumentative Essay?
The argumentative essay is one which is used to present an argument surrounding two side of any particular issue. The essay can be written as a way of presenting both sides of the argument as equal or it might be written with one side taking preference over the other. This would be done when the writer has a specific opinion on the topic.
How To Write An Argumentative Essay
If you are going to write an argumentative essay, there are certain points to consider before you begin. Most essays of this type are structured in a uniform way, as follows:
- Introduction: This section is used as a way to get the attention of the reader and often includes a hook, the thesis statement and a general outline of what the essay is going to be about.
- Body: The body of the argumentative essay is used to present the initial argument along with any facts or data that support it.
- Counterargument: The counterargument of the essay is a section dedicated to showing the opposing side of the argument that was previously discussed. Once again, facts and data should be included.
- Conclusion: When writing a conclusion to an argumentative essay, the writer should sum up all of the points that have been made, present a call to action and refer to the thesis statement once again.
When writing this type of essay, there are two models which are usually used, these are the Rogerian model and the Toulmin model. They are structured as follows:
- The Rogerian model lays out two sides of an argument and gives weaknesses and strengths related to both. After this, the author can give a recommendation of his or her own thoughts based on the evidence provided.
- The Toulmin model will show an introduction to the subject using a claim or a thesis and will then present the reader with facts to support this claim. The author will then make use of warrants to show the reasons that this claim should be supported as well as ways it can be rebutted.
Some further tips for writing a good argumentative essay are as follows:
- Write on a topic that you feel passionate about. This will ensure that you put across a good argument. Your passion for the subject will be reflected in your writing.
- It is very important that you gather your facts and data prior to writing. You should always ensure that you use credible sources to make sure that facts are real and up to date.
- Don’t forget to outline your essay before you start to write, this way you are able to structure your work and make sure that all the important points are included.
- If you are arguing one specific side of a topic, it is important that you are aware of the opposing points so that you can refute them in a realistic manner. So don’t forget to research these as well.
Topics For Argumentative Essays
There are a whole wealth of topics that you might choose to write about when it comes to penning an argumentative essay, in fact there are so many that it can somewhat confusing when trying to select one. As we mentioned, it is important to write about something that you have a passion for, but let’s now take a look at some ideas of topics which you might write about.
- Everyone should receive a free education.
- Why are Americans getting more and more overweight?
- What is the relationship between fitness and food?
- Animals should not be used for research or experiments.
- Should those who destroy the rainforest face a punishment?
- The worlds most corrupt country.
- Are school tests useful?
- Golf is a demanding sport.
- Swimming is the best form of exercise.
- Children should have limited access to the internet.
- Is the monarchy important?
Learn more with hundreds of interesting argumentative essay topics .
Examples Of Argumentative Essays
Now that you are aware of how to write an argumentative essay and have chosen a topic, you might need a little inspiration or a further understanding of how this type of essay is written. We are now going to take a look at some passages from argumentative essays to inspire you.
Put A Little Science In Your Life Written By Brian Green
If we consider the ubiquity of personal computers, iPads and the net, it is not hard to see how science and technology have been woven into the very fabric of our day to day lives. When we see the benefits of things like MRI devices, CT scanners, arterial stents and pacemakers, we are able to appreciate immediately how science can affect our quality of life. If we assess the world’s state and look at upcoming challenge such as climate change, pandemics, threats to security and a lack of resources, we won’t hesitate to turn to science as a way of gauging the problems and finding a solution.
The Flight From Conversation Written By Sherry Tuckle
We have become accustomed to a way of being alone together. This is enabled by technology and we are then able to be with each other at the same time as being elsewhere, always connected to anywhere we wish to be. We want to be able to customise our lives and be able to move in and out of anywhere as the thing we most value is having control over where our attention is focused. We are used to the idea of being loyal to our party and being in a tribe.
Being one of the most common types of essay, the argumentative essay is fairly simple to write. There are various rules that one should follow when writing this type of essay and in this article, we have shown you some useful ways of doing this. Selecting a topic that you are passionate about is a must when it comes to writing an argumentative essay and the examples we have shown here serve as a great inspiration for your own work.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write an a+ argumentative essay.
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 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 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?"
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'"
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"
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.]
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
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.
"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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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
Once you've brought that final draft to a perfect polish and turned in your assignment, you're done! Go you!
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.
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.
Courtney scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She is passionate about bringing education and the tools to succeed to students from all backgrounds and walks of life, as she believes open education is one of the great societal equalizers. She has years of tutoring experience and writes creative works in her free time.
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