While some teachers consider persuasive papers and argument papers to be basically the same thing, it’s usually safe to assume that an argument paper presents a stronger claim—possibly to a more resistant audience.
For example: while a persuasive paper might claim that cities need to adopt recycling programs, an argument paper on the same topic might be addressed to a particular town. The argument paper would go further, suggesting specific ways that a recycling program should be adopted and utilized in that particular area.
To write an argument essay, you’ll need to gather evidence and present a well-reasoned argument on a debatable issue.
How can I tell if my topic is debatable? Check your thesis! You cannot argue a statement of fact, you must base your paper on a strong position. Ask yourself…
- How many people could argue against my position? What would they say?
- Can it be addressed with a yes or no? (aim for a topic that requires more info.)
- Can I base my argument on scholarly evidence, or am I relying on religion, cultural standards, or morality? (you MUST be able to do quality research!)
- Have I made my argument specific enough?
Worried about taking a firm stance on an issue?
Though there are plenty of times in your life when it’s best to adopt a balanced perspective and try to understand both sides of a debate, this isn’t one of them.
You MUST choose one side or the other when you write an argument paper!
Don’t be afraid to tell others exactly how you think things should go because that’s what we expect from an argument paper. You’re in charge now, what do YOU think?
…use passionate language
…use weak qualifiers like “I believe,” “I feel,” or “I think”—just tell us!
…cite experts who agree with you
…claim to be an expert if you’re not one
…provide facts, evidence, and statistics to support your position
…use strictly moral or religious claims as support for your argument
…provide reasons to support your claim
…assume the audience will agree with you about any aspect of your argument
…address the opposing side’s argument and refute their claims
…attempt to make others look bad (i.e. Mr. Smith is ignorant—don’t listen to him!)
Why do I need to address the opposing side’s argument?
There is an old kung-fu saying which states, "The hand that strikes also blocks", meaning that when you argue it is to your advantage to anticipate your opposition and strike down their arguments within the body of your own paper. This sentiment is echoed in the popular saying, "The best defense is a good offense".
By addressing the opposition you achieve the following goals:
- illustrate a well-rounded understanding of the topic
- demonstrate a lack of bias
- enhance the level of trust that the reader has for both you and your opinion
- give yourself the opportunity to refute any arguments the opposition may have
- strengthen your argument by diminishing your opposition's argument
Think about yourself as a child, asking your parents for permission to do something that they would normally say no to. You were far more likely to get them to say yes if you anticipated and addressed all of their concerns before they expressed them. You did not want to belittle those concerns, or make them feel dumb, because this only put them on the defensive, and lead to a conclusion that went against your wishes.
The same is true in your writing.
How do I accomplish this?
To address the other side of the argument you plan to make, you'll need to "put yourself in their shoes." In other words, you need to try to understand where they're coming from. If you're having trouble accomplishing this task, try following these steps:
- Jot down several good reasons why you support that particular side of the argument.
- Look at the reasons you provided and try to argue with yourself. Ask: Why would someone disagree with each of these points? What would his/her response be? (Sometimes it's helpful to imagine that you're having a verbal argument with someone who disagrees with you.)
- Think carefully about your audience; try to understand their background, their strongest influences, and the way that their minds work. Ask: What parts of this issue will concern my opposing audience the most?
- Find the necessary facts, evidence, quotes from experts, etc. to refute the points that your opposition might make.
- Carefully organize your paper so that it moves smoothly from defending your own points to sections where you argue against the opposition.
Argumentative essays often strike fear deep into the heart of even the most dedicated students; there really is no need. Let’s face it, we all like a good argument every now and again! Everyone’s at it: politicians, news broadcasters, lawyers, and solicitors… even that noisy couple next door who can’t seem to agree on whose turn it is to take the garbage out! But topping the list of supporters of the argumentative form simply has to be teachers and professors. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, the chances are that, at some point during the school year, you will be asked to write an argumentative essay.
Well, fear not, our essay editors have put together just the guide for you, and in a few minutes’ time, you will have the confidence and knowledge to go forth and argue!
So what exactly is an argumentative essay and how angry do I need to be?
It’s a harsh fact of life that human beings do not always agree. Even the most educated, wise and honest members of society suffer from differences of opinion every now and again, and there really is nothing wrong with that. Argumentative essays are important in the land of academia because they offer students an opportunity to develop an argument that is presented in a measured and considered manner. When you write an argumentative essay, you are not angry; in fact, it’s the complete opposite. You are putting forward your opinions in a calm manner that is aimed at convincing others to adopt your stance.
What Should I Argue About?
Quite often your professor will allow you to choose your own topic for your argumentative essays. If so, this is good news, and you will shortly see why. The most important thing you need when composing your essay is the desire to win. Your main objective is to change the opinion of the reader and, to do this, you need to be very, very convincing. To be convincing, you need to be knowledgeable. For this reason, you should have two things in mind when selecting a topic:
- It must be possible to actually win the argument in the first place. It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about something, if you address issues that are highly contentious then you will find it very hard to emerge the victor. Try and stay away from topics like abortion, capital punishment, stem cell research etc. because your teacher will probably have come across essays on these topics a million times before and you will find it difficult to present new arguments.
- You need to know your stuff. To write a strong argument, you need to have the knowledge required to present all the facts and address all the pros and cons. If you have never tried water skiing, then you are not qualified to write argumentative essays that claim water skiing is the best possible form of getting fit. Choose a topic that you are an expert in and, preferably, one that you find interesting.
I Have a Topic, Now What?
There are several steps to writing great argumentative essays:
I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed! -William Shakespeare
Yes, dull as it is, you need to read, read and read some more. To write effective argumentative essays, you need an advanced knowledge of the subject matter because, if you don’t know all the facts, you risk looking like a fool. For some great tips on researching papers, see our free tips for essay writing.
State Your Proposition.
Before you start writing you need to have a focus. The best way to achieve this is to define a short proposition or thesis statement. This is important as it will help you to concentrate on the topic in a productive manner. You may find that your proposition changes as your thought process develops; this is completely normal. Just ensure that you revise your proposition as you progress to ensure that it adequately reflects your thinking.
You should always ensure that your statement makes a debatable assertion. A proposition that states something like “social network sites should be banned,” is far too weak and broad and it doesn’t really inform the reader of what the essay will cover. Stay away from vague generalizations and try and be as precise as possible. For example, you may wish to revise the statement as follows: “Use of social network sites during classroom hours should be banned because they prevent students from concentrating.” Now the reader will know what to expect from the essay and will have a good understanding of the main points of the argument.
Think about the opposition.
The key to writing a good argumentative essay is to remember that someone, somewhere will disagree with your opinion. If not, then there’s no need for the essay in the first place. Your objective when writing argumentative essays is to anticipate what someone who is opposed to your argument may say, and to subsequently counter and overcome their objections. Ask the following:
- Who may disagree with me?
- What points will they disagree with?
- How strong will the opposition be?
- How can I refute their opinions?
- Which points are the most debatable?
By asking questions such as these, you can really understand whether you have a chance of winning the argument and can anticipate the crucial points that could determine your success or failure.
Structure Your Argument.
Think of your essay in terms of paragraphs, with each paragraph addressing a separate element of the argument. A useful structure may look like this:
- Introduction. Set up and establish your proposition. Try and make it interesting and draw the reader into reading your argument.
- Background. Provide a brief background of the topic under discussion. Explain key theories and terms.
- Supporting evidence paragraphs. Create one or more paragraphs that present your argument and supports it using the information you have found during the research process.
- Counterargument paragraphs. Create one or more paragraphs that address potential opposing views to the arguments you have given. Refute these arguments using hard facts.
- Conclusion. Sum up your argument and assert that you have achieved your objective of successfully arguing the facts.
One final point, argumentative essays do not need to be boring. Choose a topic that you’re interested in, and you may just find that writing essays can actually be fun!
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