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.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-10 11:46:44
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.
Remember when you were a kid and each time you went to the store with your mom you asked her for a new toy? When she answered “no,” I’m sure you asked, “why not?”
Her reply: “Because I said so.”
This may have worked for your mom, but this obviously isn’t a good strategy for your upcoming argumentative essay.
So what makes a good argument? And what makes an argumentative essay good?
Keep reading for a breakdown of two argumentative essay examples to find out!
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay attempts to convince readers. It’s that simple.
In order to write a good argumentative essay, you need four basic parts:
- An arguable topic. If you can’t take sides on a topic, it won’t work for an argumentative essay. You cannot argue whether you need a driver’s license in order to legally drive a car. It’s a fact. It’s not open to debate. You can, however, argue whether hands-free devices are distracting to drivers.
- A strong assertion or stance on a topic. Choose a topic you feel strongly about. If your friend is writing her argumentative essay about the dangers of acrylic nails and you don’t have an opinion one way or another about fake nails, it isn’t a good topic for you.
- Solid evidence to support your argument. An argumentative essay is not an opinion essay. You need solid evidence from credible sources to support your argument. Locate facts, statistics, and quotes that will support your claims and strengthen your argument.
- A counterargument.You need to acknowledge and refute the opposing viewpoint. This strategy shows readers that you’ve done your homework and that you realize there is another opinion. Presenting the other side of the argument actually makes your argument stronger and your writing more credible.
Two Argumentative Essay Examples With a Fighting Chance
Generation Bass (flickr.com)
It’s easy to say that all argumentative essays need a few key things. But it’s not always as easy to put them in your own paper or to identify them in an actual essay.
I’ve evaluated two essays below to help you identify the four key components.
Essay #1 An Argument Against the Proposition of a Later Start Time for High School
This essay is a good example of a basic argumentative essay.
It provides an arguable topic and a focused thesis statement, includes evidence to support claims, and shows a clear counterargument.
In the annotated argumentative essay example below, I’ve noted each of these sections to make it easy to spot effective writing. (You can click each page to enlarge.)
Topic, thesis statement, and counterargument:
Conclusion restates thesis statement:
Take note, though, that this argumentative essay example is missing a Works Cited. Because the essay cites sources and is cited in MLA format, it must include both in-text citations and a Works Cited.
Photographer, D. Sharon Pruitt (flickr.com)
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Essay #2 Organ Donors Should Be Financially Compensated
The second of the two argumentative essay examples, Organ Donors Should Be Financially Compensated is another example of a basic argumentative essay. It contains the key components of an argumentative essay: an arguable topic, a focused argument, evidence to support claims, and a counterargument.
I’ve added some comments to this essay too, to help you identify key sections of the paper and to highlight areas of importance.
Hook and thesis statement:
Evidence and more evidence:
Counterargument and refutation:
Final Words of Wisdom
With a better understanding of what makes an effective argument, you have more than a fighting chance of writing your own stellar argumentative essay.
What’s next? A topic—you cannot very well write an essay without a topic.
Here are 50 Argumentative Essay Topics That Will Put Up a Good Fight.
Most argumentative essays require research. If you need a little help finding sources or just getting started, take a look at How to Write a Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide.
A Few (More) Final Words of Wisdom
The purpose of an argumentative essay is to convince the reader. Once you’ve finished your argumentative essay, read it over once or twice (and maybe even read it out loud).
Do you believe yourself? Do you find your arguments convincing?
If you think your arguments sound pretty good, but you’re just not sure that readers will be convinced, let a Kibin editor help!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.