When you get into debates with friends or family members, do you tend to win or lose? The art of arguing is closely related to your ability to harness compelling facts, statistics, and concepts that support your viewpoint on a topic. When you lose an argument, chances are you only used opinion to support your position.
Being able to argue in a logical and reasonable way is a great life skill. It will help you to stand up for what you think is right and to get others to pay attention to your reasoning. In this blog post, I’ll teach you the secrets of a strong argumentative essay.
Important Elements of an Argumentative Essay
The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince others that your opinion is valid. Usually, an argumentative essay addresses readers who hold an opposing viewpoint on a particular issue. For example, you might argue the virtues of solar power to a group of city leaders invested in coal and oil.
There are four important elements to consider when constructing an argumentative essay.
#1 Your topic must be debatable.
When selecting an issue to argue, you need to choose a topic that has more than one side.
For example, there is no way you can argue on the topic of whether humans walk on two legs because it’s a known fact with no attached debate.
However, you could argue for days about contentious topics like GMOs, gun control, and even fast food. For example, should the government regulate the sale of sugary beverages? That’s certainly a question up for debate.
#2 You must take a strong stance.
You can’t possibly argue if you don’t take a stance and write a compelling thesis.
Imagine reading an argument about the regulation of sugary beverages that says something like, “I enjoy drinking Pepsi, so I’d like to be able to purchase it as I please, but the government should regulate it because it’s making me gain weight.”
All this does is confuse the reader. Is the author for or against the regulation of sugary beverages?
Take a stance and stick with it. A strong stance might be, “The government should regulate the purchase of sugary beverages because these drinks lead to a higher prevalence of diabetes.”
In this second example, it’s obvious which side of the argument the author is taking.
#3 Your argument must be supportable.
A good argument requires the use of logic and irrefutable evidence. You must be able to back up your statements with facts, statistics, examples, and informed opinions from experts. In the argument for regulating sugary beverages, the author might write something like, “A study by Imperial College London found that drinking just one 12-ounce can of soda per day leads to a 22% increase in a person’s chances of developing diabetes.”
An argumentative essay does not include unsubstantiated opinions. Writing “I think sugary drinks should be regulated because they are unhealthy” is not a valid argument…unless you support it with evidence.
#4 You must refute alternate positions.
The final element of a strong argumentative essay is refuting alternate positions. By addressing opposing positions, you make your argument stronger. It’s best to try to address the most common opposing beliefs.
For example, an opponent might say, “By drinking sugary drinks, I’m only hurting myself, so it’s not the government’s place to ban them.”
To refute this argument, the author might write something like, “The American Diabetes Association reports that the cost of diabetes has risen 41% in five short years, from $174 billion in 2007 to $245 billion in 2012. It’s a social problem that decreases productivity in the workforce and costs taxpayers money.”
By refuting alternate opinions, you make your opponents question their own arguments, which is a powerful tactic indeed.
A Real Argumentative Essay Dissected
To help you wrap your mind around the argumentative essay, I’ll dissect an example from a real argument that I found online.
In a 2013 Slate article, “The End of the College Essay,” author Rebecca Schuman argues against the practice of college teachers assigning essays to students. She follows the four elements of an argumentative essay as I described above. Here’s a table that breaks it down for you:
Now, as an English buff and a fierce believer in the importance of being able to communicate well through writing, I’m definitely against Schuman’s argument. However, she does such an amazing job writing her argumentative essay that I have to admit she makes a compelling point.
And that, my friends, is the mark of a successful argument!
Final Thoughts on the Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay doesn’t always have to follow a traditional 5-paragraph outline structure. As long as it contains all four of the elements we discussed, you can write a compelling and thorough argument.
Next time you need to write an argumentative essay, simply create an outline that covers the four steps I discussed. It might look something like this:
Need more help? Read How to Create a Powerful Argumentative Essay Outline.
How many points and counterarguments you include will depend on several factors, including your teacher’s requirements, if applicable, and the number of excellent points you can find to support your position in the first place. When in doubt, refer to the requirements of your assignment.
Also, be sure to include a good hook sentence to start off your paper. You’ll definitely lose the argument if no one wants to read your essay.
Finally, an argumentative essay that is polished and edited will be better received than one that isn’t.
Don’t go into your next argumentative essay empty-handed. Instead, gather the supportive evidence you need to argue and win. Good luck!
* Cover Image Credit: Northern Mockingbird juveniles at a bird bath in Austin, Texas. Original photo by Chiltepinster. (Creative Commons license)
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Most people do not require special skills to prove their point of view when providing arguments on various day-to-day issues. All of us sometimes argue why the movie we have watched is so impressive or why we should get a promotion. This means that we argue not only in the academic field, but also in our everyday lives. That is why writing an argumentative essay does not require any additional skills and most students can deal with the assignment with much success. However, it is also important to structure an argumentative essay in a correct way. For this reason, before writing an essay, you need to find out what elements should be included in your argumentative essay. You also need to support your viewpoint by providing an explanation of your ideas and specific examples. Let us discuss the fundamental elements of argumentative essays.
- Organization and focus. When writing an argumentative essay, you need to prove the main viewpoint by providing enough evidence and well-grounded arguments. The major idea of any argumentative essay should be included in a thesis statement that should be supported and proved by the remainder of the essay. The thesis statement should include a focus on which the main parts of the essay and conclusion will be grounded. For instance, you can argue that students studying in high school should be obliged to wear special uniforms. Your argumentation included in the body paragraphs should contain the information about certain financial gains for the families of students, the orientation of students on school work and greater professionalism that is associated with wearing a uniform at school. These elements should be included in your argumentative essay. They should also be reflected in your thesis statement that is an important element of this type of academic writing.
- Description and analysis. Among the most widely spread mistakes made by students while writing an argumentative essay is insufficient development of ideas. It is claimed that in writing assignments, you have to do much more than simply summarize the ideas of other authors and gather certain facts that have been analyzed in classroom. Instead, it is required to develop a viewpoint and interpret the available material. When providing an analysis of the information, you need to investigate the causes and effects of certain phenomena, the most vulnerable categories of people and the lasting impact of certain conditions on the society. This will ensure that your argumentation is developed to full extent. That is why description and analysis are two more elements of an argumentative essay that should be included in your paper if you want it to be consistent and relevant.
- Evidence. While the above elements of an argumentative essay serve more as a tool for providing theoretical background when making an argument in your paper, you also need to provide specific examples to prove your point of view. Evidence can be provided in different ways. For instance, you might have tried to make your parents lend you a car, so you probably know a trustworthy and reliable way of persuading other people to do your bid. In the conversation with your parents, you probably provided enough evidence using specific examples that it is absolutely safe for you to drive their car. In such a way, the examples must have served as a persuasive tool supporting your viewpoint. The same should be done when writing an argumentative essay. You should support your ideas with certain examples and make the readers accept your point of view by providing well-grounded evidence in favor of your position.
- Answering a counterargument. If you add a counterargument in your essay, it will make it clear for the readers that you fully understand the material you are discussing in your paper. You should ask yourself what a person who is against your point of view would say to your argumentation. For instance, if the main argument provided in your paper is that going on a bus is the safest means of transportation unlike riding a bicycle or driving a car, than the counterargument would be that riding a bike is safer for the natural environment. You will then answer that claim by providing arguments against this viewpoint to strengthen your own position. Again, if you write about the best means of transport, you might mention the electric cars that are also perfectly safe for the environment without causing as much harm to the surroundings as ordinary cars, but being more comfortable than bicycles. Counterarguments in your essay will disarm other people who might have a different position. If you acknowledge the opposite viewpoint and then refute this idea, you will make your own argumentation stronger and more mature.
- Generally speaking, any argumentative essay consists of such basic elements as introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs and conclusion. The elements mentioned previously are more specific and give a clear idea of how an argumentative essay should be structured. Just like any other essay, your paper should contain an introductory paragraph where you will give a preview of the information contained in your essay. The thesis statement should reflect the major idea of your argumentative essay, while the body paragraphs should contain all of your arguments in support of your ideas as well as counterarguments that will give readers a chance to understand the topic from different perspectives. As for the conclusion, it should contain a summary of your ideas in support of a specific viewpoint mentioned in your thesis statement. Such a structure will ensure that your essay is written in a consistent and relevant manner to meet the requirements of your instructor. If you follow all the above recommendations, you will be able to compose a well-structured and perfectly organized argumentative essay without any additional efforts. Don’t forget that your essay should also be formatted in a correct way following the guidelines provided by your professor.
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