Aug 17, 2020
How To Write An Argumentative Essay: Step By Step Guide

In life, your ability to lay out a convincing argument in every discussion is an admirable skill that most people lack. As a result, academic institutions try to teach students the basics of proper argumentation. 

With argumentative essays, the student must explore his stance on an issue and think about possible rebuttals to this claim. Otherwise, the argumentative essay is incomplete.

However, all forms of essay writing follow a specified format, and they all need an outline. So, let’s examine how to write an argumentative essay. This guide will also cover essay examples and useful writing tips to present a convincing argument.

What is an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is a form of writing that explores the writer’s viewpoint on any topic. The writer must outline their opinion in the opening paragraphs to give the reader a better understanding of their stance on the issue.

Despite similarities with other forms of writing like persuasive essays, argumentative essays go beyond convincing the reader that your point is superior. You also need to explore different existing viewpoints on the issue and refute them. Besides, you must support all your claims with irrefutable evidence based on fact.

For example, if the argumentative essay topic focuses on police brutality, your paper should support and refute these claims simultaneously.

In academia, argumentative essay writing is one of the most common assignments for students in the arts and humanities. Besides, the standard structure of argumentative essays is the bedrock of the famous 5-paragraph writing style.

5 Types of Argument Claims 

The argument claim describes the prevailing viewpoint in your argument — the theory you support. Before outlining your view, you need to select presentation criteria to dictate the paper’s tone and direction. Here are the five types of argument claims:

  • Fact 

The fact claim focuses on answering a ‘yes or no’ question. This claim uses concrete evidence to determine the veracity of the paper’s central claim. Often, the fact claim is used when the argumentative essay topic is a question

  • Definition

When using the definition claim, you should only focus on the standard definition of the word or expression. All forms of personal and contextual interpretation should not appear in the paper. 

  • Value

The value claim stresses the importance of the topic of discussion. What is the relevance to society? This type of claim is often used for existential problems affecting humans in general or a specific group.

  • Cause and effect 

As the name suggests, the cause and effect claim focuses on an issue and the reasons it occurred. In essence, the essay establishes a connection between an event and an outcome.

  • Policy

This claim assertion technique is used in politics. For argumentative essay writing, the policy claim should address the relevance of the discussion, the affected parties, and the best policy moving forward.

Argument Strategies 

Making a convincing argument relies on your ability to strategize. You need to acquaint yourself with the facts of the matter and choose a winning strategy to express your ideas. 

Think of lawyers in the courtroom; they spend hours preparing their arguments and studying the adversary. And in the end, they come up with a strategy to counter the opponent’s most vital points. Politicians also use this technique.

So, let’s go through the three main argument strategies to use in your argumentative essay.

– The Classical Approach (Aristotelian)

The classical approach is named after the great philosopher Aristotle. This argumentative strategy involves a straight-line expression of your argument. 

First, you start with your main claim and convince the reader that your stance is the only valid one. Then, you have to offer context and provide evidence-backed data to counter any rebuttals from your opponent. This strategy is the most straightforward since it follows a linear chain of action.

Also, the classical approach appeals to the credibility (ethos) of the claim and the logic (logos) of thinking. At the same time, you can appeal to the reader’s emotions (pathos) with vivid imagery. And most importantly, you can make a time-sensitive appeal (kairos) by calling the reader to immediate action.

 – The Rogerian Strategy

This argumentative strategy was developed by Carl Rogers and became popular through the works of Young and Pike. This strategy’s central ideology focuses on compromise — the ability to reach a middle ground and avoid further conflict with your adversary. 

In life, the Rogerian strategy is often applied when negotiating with family and friends. For example, if you want to visit Paris and your partner wants to see Venice, the Rogerian method will help you plan a trip that covers both destinations.

Therefore, this Rogerian strategy is not the best approach in an academic setting. Even if you are ready to reach a compromise, your opponent may not have the same motivations. Besides, you have to yield some ground to come to a sensible resolution, which contrasts the entire essence of argumentation.

 – The Toulmin Style

This argumentative approach was developed by Stephen Toulmin. The central theme involves coming up with a claim and backing it up. So, we can divide this strategy into three components: claim, grounds, and backing. 

The claim is your main opinion, usually an event that occurred somewhere. The grounds of the argument refer to a collection of facts and evidence supporting the original claim. Finally, the backing refers to additional data that corroborates the main claim without conceding to the opposition.

Choose one of these three approaches to present an opinion relevant to the argumentative essay topic. And if you are unsure about the best approach, use the classic method.

How to Choose a Topic for an Argumentative Essay 

Most teachers hand out argumentative essay topics to students. Sometimes, they provide an array of topics from which students can choose. However, some teachers allow students to flex their creative muscles and choose topics on their own. If you are left with the herculean task of selecting a fascinating essay topic, here are some tricks to help you come out unscathed.

– Choose a topic that interests you

Regardless of the essay writing genre, always choose a topic that interests you. If you are into sports, look for sports-related argumentative essay topics. Selecting a topic that you don’t care about will always reflect in the paper’s quality. The entire argument will lack inspiration and passion. 

Besides, writing on a topic that you find interesting helps you to explore the topic even more. It also reduces the amount of work needed to complete the assignment. So, always outline your interests when choosing a topic, and tailor your research to them.

– Research hot-button issues

Another easy way to come up with a relevant topic is by addressing hot-button issues. For example, topics related to animal rights and climate change are the subject of debates in politics and even at dinner parties. As a result, you can find enough material to structure your argumentative essay.

Besides, controversy sells. Readers want a topic that will strike all the emotional chords for them. So, choosing a controversial topic piques the reader’s interest and earns you maximum points in your essay. Most importantly, focus on hot-button issues related to your field of study.

Search for trending topics 

Trending topics are always a reliable go-to when you are struggling with creative ideas for your argumentative paper. By focusing on trending topics, you will come up with relevant issues for arguments. At the same time, you will fulfill the emotional aspect of argumentation since most trending issues are controversial.

Besides, writing about popular issues gives you access to enough materials. You can also select your topic from any form of media. 

Here are some reliable sources for argumentative essay topics:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • News
  • Internet forums (Medium, Quora, Twitter, etc.)

A common theme for argumentative essays is the current COVID pandemic and its effects on social interactions.

Find topics with arguable sides

When choosing essay topics, students often forget that they need to argue both sides. Therefore, the topic you choose must be arguable. In simpler terms, people should be able to look at it and agree or disagree instantly. Hence, the need to choose controversial topics for your argumentative essay.

For example: 

“The earth is flat.”

No one (in their right mind) will argue with this assertion. And even if they do, no evidence can support this stance.

“Climate change will lead to armageddon.”

Now, this topic is debatable since scientists are conflicted about the long-term impacts of climate change.

Avoid broad topics

You might think that choosing broad topics provides you with more content for your argumentative essay. But the reverse is the case: broad topics extend the area you need to cover in your paper. And since you have a word count restriction, you can’t express your ideas to the best of your ability.

Therefore, choose a topic that provides you with enough material. Some topics make you think, “How am I supposed to find evidence to support that?” 

Stay away from these ‘unresearchable’ argumentative topics.

Argumentative Essay Outline

With a clear understanding of the topic, you can now focus your efforts on brainstorming. Conduct extensive research on the issue to gather enough information for all sides of the argument. After collecting the data and supporting evidence, you need to create a plan for your paper. This plan is called an argumentative essay outline.

The outline provides structure to your paper. It also saves you time when working on time-sensitive assignments. And most importantly, an essay outline provides you with an arrangement framework for your points.

For argumentative essays, the outline contains at least five paragraphs — the basis of the standard essay structure.

Let’s take a look at the standard argumentative essay structure.

The introductory paragraph

Every essay starts with the introduction, making it the most crucial part of the argumentative essay format. This section previews the paper by providing background information on the topic. Besides, the argumentative essay introduction eliminates all elements of neutrality, stating the writer’s intentions to support a specific side of the argument. 

As a result, you need a well-crafted thesis statement that captures the central theme covered in the paper. The thesis statement is often concise, with a maximum of two sentences. You can also place it at the end of the introduction.

The body section

This is the paper’s main section because it contains the source of information and the main arguments. Also, the body paragraphs examine two sides of the writer’s viewpoint. In essence, you have at least three sections or paragraphs dedicated to each point.

Here are the main paragraphs that make up the body.

  • The claim

This paragraph expresses the author’s main argument in detail. Depending on the paper’s size, this section can contain two or more paragraphs linked by transitional phrases.

  • The rebuttal

This section presents opposing viewpoints to the main claim. In essence, the rebuttal counters the thesis presented in the introduction.

  • The counterclaim

This section reaffirms the thesis and counters the rebuttal.

All three sections must appear in the body of a full-fledged argumentative essay. Also, you must start every paragraph with a topic sentence. Don’t forget to use linking verbs to establish a relationship between paragraphs. And most importantly, provide supporting evidence and citations for your points.

The conclusion 

In this section, the student should restate the central ideas presented in the paper. A standard argumentative essay conclusion always starts by rehashing the thesis statement. However, you cannot introduce new ideas in the conclusion.

Argumentative Essay Examples

You can choose a myriad of topics for your essay based on the specific subject. But if you’ve hit a brick wall in your selection, here are some excellent examples to choose from based on earlier recommendations:

Controversial argumentative essay examples

  • Gender-based discrimination is prevalent in Silicon Valley.
  • Is the COVID-19 vaccine harmful to society?
  • CTE is a significant problem in all contact sports
  • Is police brutality warranted or an appropriate response to high crime rates?
  • Should all states legalize late-term abortion?

Trending argumentative essay topics

  • Is homeschooling better than traditional schools?
  • Will artificial intelligence replace humans in the workplace?
  • Should exotic pets be domesticated?
  • Are zoos a violation of animal rights?
  • War as a tool for world peace.

Fact-based argumentative essay topics

  • Racial discrimination is responsible for police brutality.
  • The racial quota is a slap in the face of meritocracy.
  • Fast food is responsible for obesity.
  • The criminalization of Cannabis is responsible for all drug wars.
  • High taxation is harmful to the local economy.

Useful Tips for Argumentative Essay Writing 

Every outstanding argumentative essay relies on persuasion. You need to convince the reader that your opinion is the ultimate truth. However, false evidence and poor grammar affect the credibility of your claims. So, let’s consider some essential tips when writing a convincing argumentative paper.

  • Choose an arguable topic 

If the teacher allows you to select your preferred topic, make sure you choose an issue with arguable sides. After all, an argumentative essay’s entire essence is to explore all the sides of the problem and confirm your viewpoint. So, look for topics that interest you and are relevant to your field of study.

  • Focus on controversial issues

Nobody wants to spend time reading a bland, uninspired essay. So, while searching for topics, focus on hot-button issues. But don’t choose controversial topics for kicks. Ensure that the topic is related to your field. Moreover, pay more attention to issues that ignite your passion. This emotional connection improves your argument and makes the paper more engaging.

  • Take a stance you can support

When choosing an emotionally-charged topic, avoid those that are limited in scope. You don’t have to select the ‘progressive’ side of every argument. Identify your interests and beliefs and focus your opinions on them. By doing so, you will give yourself more wiggle room to express your ideas better.

  • Consider your audience

Writing an argumentative essay for your peers is different because you can use an informal and conversational style. But since your audience is the teacher, you can only use formal language. Therefore, adapt your writing style to your audience to earn higher marks. And as a rule, stay away from informal expressions in academic writing at all costs.

  • Gather convincing evidence

Personal experience and opinions have no place in argumentative writing, no matter how painful and convincing. Only evidence from authoritative sources is acceptable when supporting your claim. Therefore, your research should focus on academic material and resources from acclaimed authors. You can also rely on the works of recognized experts in the field to back your claims. Stay away from Wikipedia, Quora, and other open-source platforms.

  • Outline your essay

As you gather your points, arrange them into a framework for your essay. This technique helps you to develop a relevant outline for your paper without much stress. Besides, the outline forms the basis of your argumentative essay and saves you tons of hours spent on arranging your ideas. Eventually, this outline will help you come up with a preliminary draft.

  • Write a captivating title and intro

Why is a title essential when writing an argumentative essay? First of all, using a question title allows the reader to take a stance right away. And if the topic is emotionally-charged, you have your reader by the hook. And as far as hooks are concerned, use them in your essay. Add essay hooks in the introduction alongside a well-written thesis statement.

  • Mind the formatting

Every academic writing assignment follows a specified format. The only exception is narrative essays that feature personal accounts. When writing your argumentative essay, use the formatting style specified by the teacher. Remember that APA writing style needs an abstract, while the MLA doesn’t need one. If you don’t know the differences between writing formats, consult the official style guides for more clarity.

  • Conclude by restating the thesis

The conclusion paragraph should always restate the thesis. For a more comprehensive conclusion, summarize every paragraph in the essay. Always be careful not to introduce any new ideas in the conclusion paragraph. And most importantly, keep it short and straight to the point.

  • End with a call to action

The last point in the conclusion should always call the reader to act on something. Since the point of an argument is to convince others that your opinion is the most logical, you should sign off by calling them over to your side. At the same time, you can highlight a moral lesson from the text.

  • Edit the final draft

Editing is the final frontier in any writing task. This stage of writing allows you to analyze your ideas and grammar. At the same time, you can adjust the writing structure or use a more impactful tone. When you are satisfied with the final draft, you can now submit your paper.

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