Step-by-Step Guide to Writing an Argumentative Essay
If you want to be an expert in writing argumentative essays, keep in mind that argumentative essays are those that present facts, evidence and reasoning to demonstrate a point. The demands for the type of argumentation you are allowed to use are typically strict. You are not allowed to use appeals to emotion and personal stories to illustrate a point – remember, the plural of anecdote is not ‘data’. In this type of essay, you can only rely on logical argumentation, nothing else.
At the end of a good argumentative essay, the reader must be convinced of the points you made, concede to your position, or at least admit that your position is valid and well-argued. You must also have presented a rebuttal to at least one counterargument to your position. Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to write an argumentative essay:
Do the research and choose your side
If you already have a position on the topic that’s being discussed, great! If you don’t, do some research. No doubt, your own thoughts on the subject will emerge while you do it. If you’re not that sure, just choose the side that’s easiest to argue. If you’re up for a challenge, try arguing something you don’t personally believe. While you’re doing your research, keep in mind that not all issues have two sides.
Write an outline
Writing an outline is key to a successful argumentative essay. If you’re one of those students who think they don’t have to use an outline, consider making one at least for this essay. Here, the writing needs to be logically consistent and the arguments need to be presented consequentially and in a cohesive manner. Read the rest of this post to see what the structure of each part of the essay should look like and write your outline accordingly.
The introductory paragraph (or several, depending on the size of your essay) is when you’re supposed to get the readers’ attention. Do this by creating a hook: explain why the topic you’re discussing is important and why you’re passionate about it. Describe in detail the implications of this debate and what’s at stake. Explain what the other side’s position on this issue is and what it’s dictated by. For instance, if you’re arguing the pro-choice stance on abortion, feel free to say that most of the opposition to the topic is religiously motivated. End your introduction by writing the thesis: this is the sentence that the rest of your essay will support.
The body of your essay
The body of your essay will contain all of the argumentation to support the position in your thesis statement. When you’re creating the outline for your work, devote a paragraph to each point you’re making in support of the thesis. Order them from least to most important, with at least one counterargument couched in between. The structure and order of your arguments is ultimately up to you, since these decisions should be made on a case by case basis and after doing research on the topic, you should know how to do that best.
When it comes to the structure of the paragraph itself, it should logically follow what the last paragraph left off on. Start the paragraph by writing the topic statement – the point that the paragraph is trying to make. Write out the argumentation in support of that point, and use a statistically significant example if you wish to illustrate it. You can’t use a story about your aunt or even three of your aunts. However, you can use a well-documented historical example. For a college essay, one illustration for every point you make should be sufficient.
In your essay, include at least one (again, depending on the size of your paper) rebuttal to an argument against your position. Choose a serious and significant counterargument. You don’t want to look like you’re not trying very hard – and that your position is weak and cannot stand up to scrutiny.
The conclusion of your essay, if it has been well-reasoned and well-structured, should follow naturally from the body. Reiterate why the matter you’re discussing is important as a whole, and important to you in particular. Even if you’ve done it in the beginning, write it here using different words. Remember to state your position once again, putting it into opposition with the counterargument – “Even though … is a valid concern, it is still important that … and … take place because … and …”. Make the wording strong, and memorable.
When you’re editing your argumentative essay, remember to check for logical consistency, as well as grammar and spelling. There’s nothing that irritates professors as much as wishy-washy, unfocused and unsound writing. In the end, when in doubt, write from the heart. If it’s an issue you’re truly enthusiastic about, your passion will come through in your writing and whatever faults it might have might be given a pass.