How to write an argumentative essay by Jack Caulfield.

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.

Argumentative essays are by far the most common type of essay to write at university.

When do you write an argumentative essay?

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.

Example: Two-sided argumentative essay prompt
Has the rise of the internet had a net positive or negative impact on education? Support your argument with evidence.

The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.

Example: Open argumentative essay prompt
What is the greatest challenge facing young people today?

How to write an Argumentative essay 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.

Discuss the effects of globalization on the economy of Nigeria.

  • 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.
Assess the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures in the last decade.

  • 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.
Analyze the role of the doppelgänger in 19th-century Gothic fiction.

  • 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.

Approaches to argumentative essays

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.

Toulmin arguments

The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:

  1. Make a claim
  2. Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
  3. Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
  4. 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:

  1. Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
  2. Cite data to support your claim
  3. Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
  4. Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.

Rogerian arguments

The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:

  1. Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
  2. Highlight the problems with this position
  3. Present your own position, showing how it addresses these problems
  4. 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:

  1. Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
  2. Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
  3. Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
  4. 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.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay, Argumentative Essay Examples - English Grammar Here

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

Introducing your argument

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.

The body: Developing your argument

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.

Concluding your argument

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.

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