What is an argumentative essay? Essentially, it’s a form of persuasive writing that focuses on an area of contention. The writer of such an essay takes a particular stand, or position, on an issue and then uses persuasive techniques to outline why this position is correct or best. The writer must also consider opposing positions, providing evidence to refute them.
This argumentative essay definition will get you started, but to fully master the concept, as well as the writing process involved, you need a more nuanced definition. Let’s dive deeper!
Often, argumentative essay topics are controversial, which is one reason they are great for college students who are trying to expand their thinking. For example, the question of whether tobacco should be banned by law is highly contentious. Some believe that people should be allowed to use tobacco because it generates economic returns. Other people believe tobacco should be outlawed because it harbors chemicals that affect human health, contributing to chronic illnesses and cancer.
Because of the inherent controversy, writers of argumentative essays are sometimes considered rockstars. Such writers must know how to leverage the power of persuasion through logic, well-arranged thoughts, and a deep understanding of the topic (Purdue Education, 2015). In other words, a skilled argumentative essay writer should have the means to become an expert on a topic and be able to tackle it from different sides using studies and other evidence. He or she should take a clear position on one side of the argument, and that position should appear in a thesis statement. By becoming an expert on the topic, the writer can fully support the chosen position and refute any counterclaims.
So how do you write such an essay? An effective argumentative essay has many elements besides the writer’s stated position, and all must be logical and well organized. These elements include the following: reasons, evidence, counterarguments, and refutation.
Reasons are the author’s justifications. They primarily support the stated position and strive to give power to the author’s line of argument (Wood, 2001).
Evidence, on the other hand, refers to the data and facts that reflect the position under argument. Tangible quantified evidence will enhance the value of the essay because it influences the reader and ushers them to your line of argument.
The author’s argument is a combination of the thesis, the reasons, and the evidence. It presents the writer’s case for why his or her position is correct or best. With these in place, an argumentative essay writer should analyze opposing positions, or counterarguments.
The writer should not only describe the counterarguments but also state key reasons and evidence for why they’re wrong—in other words, a counterargument for the counterargument. This process is called refutation, and it helps to strengthen the writer’s position and show how contentious the topic is.
The Argumentative Essay Outline
The argumentative essay structure is similar to that of other essays, but it has a few unique elements that you need to watch out for. Your essay should follow this outline:
Now that you know the basic argumentative essay template, as well as some of the specifics of writing such an essay, let’s discuss some topics you could write about and ways you can brainstorm new topics.
Good Argumentative Essay Topics
Not sure how to start an argumentative essay? If you don’t know what argument you want to take yet, that’s OK. There are many possibilities. You can start by creating a graphic organizer or an outline (see more on that below). Then you can use it to decide.
In fact, it’s often a good idea to come up with several potential topics in different areas and then choose the best one. You might explore topics in the areas of morality, technology, health care, the media, society, family structures, or even schools. For example, an argumentative essay on abortion could fall under the category of morality, health care, society, or family structures, depending on what you plan to argue. In the areas of technology or society, you could write about the impact or ethics of artificial intelligence.
Want some specifics? Following are some good example topics for an argumentative essay.
Example topics that revolve around morality:
- Should consumers buy goods and products made with child labor?
- Should patients have the ability to apply for physician-assisted suicides? Here’s another way to phrase this: Should hospitals have the right to give patients euthanasia?
- Are nude photos and monuments appropriate in public?
- Are atheists less morally upright than theists?
- Does pre-employment drug testing infringe on a person’s privacy and confidentiality?
Example topics that revolve around the media:
- Should depictions of sex be permitted on primetime TV?
- Is it acceptable for organizations and companies to advertise to children?
- Should movies and TV shows have the responsibility of being diverse?
- Should advertisements for drugs and alcohol be permitted?
Example topics that revolve around family:
- Should parents be allowed to spank children?
- At what age should parents communicate or educate their children about sex?
- Is the child’s room theirs or their parents’?
- Should parents pay their children for good grades or not?
Creating the Argumentative Essay Graphic Organizer
Now that you know the argumentative essay format, it’s time to begin planning and writing your essay. For the planning stage, you can try creating an outline using bullet points, or you can create a graphic organizer such as a chart or mind map if that helps you better. It’s up to you.
For example, you can create a spreadsheet with your three main claims listed across the top row. Then, in the rows below each claim, you can list the evidence you plan to use. You can also list any opposing arguments, as well as your rebuttals.
But don’t spend too much time organizing your thoughts. Eventually, you need to start writing your argumentative essay! With your plan already created, writing the essay should be no problem.
The Argumentative Essay Rubric
After you’ve written the whole essay, you should go through it one last time to remove any mistakes and make any improvements you can. Doing so will ensure you get the best grade possible. While the exact rubric your teacher uses will vary, here’s a basic one that may help you see what’s expected in your essay. Use this example rubric to guide your editing process.
Grade A: Excellent
Both introduction and thesis are strong.
Details and examples are strong and well organized.
Conclusion is strong enough.
Grammar is correct.
Grade B: Good
- Both introduction and thesis are strong.
- Details and examples are strong and well organized.
- Conclusion is strong enough.
- Has some spelling and grammar errors.
Grade C: Fair
- Introduction is good, but the thesis is weak.
- Examples used are weak.
- Conclusion is weak.
- Has major spelling and grammar errors.
Grade D: Poor
- Introduction and thesis are weak.
- Details and examples are weak and somewhat unorganized.
- Details or examples are few.
- Does not have a conclusion.
- Has serious spelling and grammar errors.
Grade F: Unsatisfactory
- Does not contain a thesis, and introduction is weak.
- Details and examples are weak and have no clear organization, or there are none at all.
- Does not have a conclusion.
- Has serious spelling and grammar errors.
If your teacher gave you a copy of the actual assignment’s rubric, make sure you read it carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. The rubric should tell you exactly what your teacher is looking for in a good argumentative essay.
Final Thoughts on the Argumentative Essay
Throughout history, argumentative essays have acted as a platform for independent minds and thoughts. They offer writers the flexibility, freedom, and liberation to argue situations from their unique identities and reasoning capacities (Nash, 2001). In argumentative works, authors will argue from one position and strive to influence readers to subscribe to their line of reason and logic. More often than not, these works are viewed differently by different readers because they provoke social ideologies differently. Therefore, it seems that writing an argumentative essay serves to test the thinking capacity of people, as well as the ability of writers to analyze texts, materials, and sources in favor of their arguments.
With the above information at your disposal and a rubric in-hand, you should know how to write an argumentative essay that gets you the grade you want.
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