Argumentative writing is made easy with this easy guide to the fundamentals of a good piece – from the what to the how.
Writing is difficult to define and even harder to write about. It is both the journey and destination at once. It is never a singular act conceived in isolation. The acts of writing, reading, and contemplation are all inextricably linked. Do we have to think in order to write? Writing allows us to give form to our ideas.
On the other hand, reading is essential to writing because most texts rely on previously acquired knowledge. The more one reads, the more one learns about the structure of various texts, one’s vocabulary grows, and one’s command of idioms grows. Reading expands your vocabulary, which in turn improves your ability to express yourself in writing. Composing something on paper requires a combination of mental and physical abilities.
There is no need to explain the distinction between writing with a keyboard and writing with a pen and paper; everyone is aware of the differences. It is precisely this focus on the differences wherein the branch of writing known as argumentative writing sprouts. It is the explication of differences, often balanced upon a thesis or premise which supports one difference over the other, and reaching a destination through rhetoric where the reader is convinced.
Simply put, argumentative writing is a kind of essay written in support of one view against another in order to sway the opinion of the reader.
What is Argumentative Writing?
What is argumentative writing is a question with no simple answer. To begin with, the basics, let us talk about what an argumentative essay is.
An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that requires you to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the given topic in a manner that is clear and succinct. This particular type of essay is frequently found on a variety of different types of competitive exams. The purpose of writing an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to take your point of view on the topic that you have been assigned.
An argumentative essay, as the name suggests, is made up of arguments that are supported by facts, statistics, expert opinions, and other forms of evidence in order to justify your stance on the topic. You can also draw support for your points of view from specific examples drawn from your own personal experiences.
Some keywords that are important while understanding the structure of argumentative writing are
- Argumentation: the act or process of forming reasons, drawing conclusions, and applying them to a case in discussion.
- Pro Argument (PRO): point or statement that supports one’s ideas.
- Counter Argument (CON): point or statement in opposition to the argument being made in a written document or speech.
- Refutation: the process of disproving an opposing argument.
- Opponent: a person who disagrees with something and speaks against it.
- Proponent: someone who argues in favor of something; advocate.
Features of argumentative writing
1. Dialectical nature
What is argumentative writing without a solid argument at its heart? You must be mindful to mention the opposing viewpoints throughout your argument because they are different points of view on the subject that need to be evaluated as well. The reader gets the impression that you could be unsure, afraid, or unaware of opposing ideas if you avoid talking about beliefs that are in opposition to your own.
You should ideally address contrasting points of view earlier in your article rather than later. Theoretically, arranging your primary arguments later in the piece enables you to refute those viewpoints mentioned in the beginning. By doing this, you make sure that your reader considers your argument rather than someone else’s. You have the last say.
Gaining the audience’s trust by acknowledging viewpoints that are different from your own also helps you to sound more credible. They immediately recognize your awareness of competing viewpoints and your willingness to offer them your full attention.
2. Balanced bias
Having a bias in any kind of writing is natural. The way you have categorized your experiences in your own mind as “good” and others as “bad,” cause this bias, and it is a great reason why you agree with some ideas and disagree with others. The ability to manage prejudice in writing and daily life however is what requires real effort.
Explicating your bias will enable you to express your own opinions while also defending them against contrasting ones. The goal of argumentative writing is to make your reader aware of the prejudice, but do not let this bias prevent you from recognizing the essential elements of a strong argument: solid, well-considered evidence and a fair discussion of opposing viewpoints. The prejudice should not be portrayed as an opinion, emptying the essay of its strong rational essence.
3. The presence of the I
It is again imperative to keep in mind that your argument should still be reasonable and rationally charged. One way of doing that is not using first-person narrative or toning it down to the occasional presence. Remember, utilizing the first-person pronoun excessively gives your argument a reflective touch. You must realize that an argumentative piece is entirely different from a persuasive essay or an essay that expresses an opinion. This will be discussed in detail in the next section.
The objective is frequently to present arguments for the targeted readers to think about. You specifically make arguments based on information from news stories, well-respected research studies, books, and other credible academic sources.
Argumentative writing vs. persuasive writing
Although argumentative and persuasive writing are often confused with one another, and initially seem to be the same mode of writing, they differ in ways that drastically change the approach to writing.
The goal of an argumentative essay is more formal. To write effective and impactful argumentative essays, one needs to put in thorough research. We have already acknowledged that it is natural for writers to feel biased, but that bias in argumentative writing is substantiated with hard facts. The writer emphasizes using evidence to support their claims.
Therefore, whether or not the reader is persuaded to accept the author’s argument, the goal of an argumentative essay is to support a certain claim with evidence.
A persuasive essay, on the other hand, begins with an opinion; the writer of the essay in question holds a certain idea or belief and seeks to persuade the reader to share it. The goal is to influence the reader rather than necessarily provide indisputable facts. Because of this, persuasive writing is more likely to rely on emotive arguments and other informal forms of argumentation.
The goal of any argumentative essay should be to educate the reader on both the author’s position and the various opposing positions. An argumentative essay takes on a contentious topic head-on, laying out a variety of viewpoints and evidence to prove that the author’s stance is the most compelling.
In contrast, the final product of a persuasive essay isn’t quite as solid, as it presents the author’s stance as singularly the most important or even the only way of looking at the subject. The acknowledgment of an opposing claim is often absent. It can be thought of as more reflective than research-based. At the end of a well-written persuasive essay, the reader should have reached the same conclusion as the writer.
Types of argumentative writing
The classical model
Because it follows a very straightforward train of thinking, this is the most popular technique for expressing your argument. Also known as Aristotelian, you offer the major argument, state your position, and try your utmost to persuade the reader that your perspective is correct. Because it concisely and clearly summarises all of the facts, this sort of argument works best when your audience lacks statistics and information or has a strong belief about the given topic.
The Toulmin model
This is the most popular technique because it is highly supported by facts that are tough to reject. You begin with an introduction, followed by a thesis/claim, grounds to support that claim, and finally data and evidence to justify and support that claim. This essay’s writing style also includes refutations or rebuttals of made arguments. However, this form of argument typically gives only one side of the problem, with the facts presented in such a way that the claim is difficult to refute.
The Rogerian Model
The third model examines both sides of an argument and concludes after assessing each side’s strengths and flaws. The writer introduces the problem, acknowledges the opposing side of the argument, expresses his/her point of view, and explains why his/her argument is the most advantageous to you, the reader. When writing on a polarising topic, use this method since it acknowledges the benefits and cons of both sides and presents a medium ground.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is the primary contention that will be argued in an argumentative piece. It clearly identifies the issue under consideration, covers the points made in the paper, and is designed for a specific audience. Your thesis should ideally be placed toward the end of your first paragraph. Use it to pique your audience’s interest in your topic and persuade them to keep reading. Your readers want to read work that grabs them by the shoulder. Naturally, then, you must make thesis statements that are debatable rather than factual.
The main reason why a thesis statement should not be factual is due to the objective of the writing, which is to make an argument. If something is a fact, it has already been established through sustained and irrefutable argumentation. These theses prohibit you from exhibiting critical thinking and analytical skills to your instructor. If you were to create a paper based on the next two claims, your writing would most likely be dull because you would be restating information that the general public is already aware of.
To make your work more fascinating, you should create an arguable thesis statement. Sometimes you’ll write to persuade others to view things your way, and other times you’ll just give your strong opinion and lay out your case for it. However, you can use a fact and try to deny it, which is a thesis that requires sufficient substantiation.
A good thesis statement will ideally have three claims, which will go on to become the topic sentence or sub-arguments for the main body.
Some examples of good theses are:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best types of sandwiches because they are versatile, easy to make, and taste good.
- The rise in populism on the 2016 political stage was in reaction to increasing globalization, the decline of manufacturing jobs, and the Syrian refugee crisis.
- A vegan diet, while a healthy and ethical way to consume food, indicates a position of privilege. It also limits you to other cultural food experiences if you travel around the world.
How to write a good argumentative essay: a step-by-step guide
There are many elements to a good argumentative piece. These can vary from linguistic to logical and technical. In order to write a great essay, it is important to follow the steps that ensure it. These include brainstorming, introduction-body-conclusion division, multiple types of evidence, proofreading, and editing.
Brainstorming is a method for coming up with creative solutions to problems in a free-flowing, open-ended fashion. If you are unsure about what should go into your essay, you should write it down on paper without caring too much about its logic. It’s a method of organizing all of your thoughts and determining what you already know about the subject. You will frequently discover that you know more than you think.
Brainstorming is a skill that you will not only use as a student. When you first start working, it’s a good way for coworkers to come up with new ways to solve company problems. Most of the time at university, you must learn to brainstorm successfully on your own. You will also need to do this at work as part of a team. Brainstorming is typically of three types, or rather there are three strategies that each for some and not for others: brain dump, outline, and word web.
A “Brain Dump” is exactly what the name implies. Allow yourself a few minutes after reading your assignment to absorb it. Then, set a five-minute timer and grab a pencil and paper. Start your timer and continue to write until it goes off. Even if you have thoughts that are unrelated to your paper, write them down.
The goal of this exercise is to keep you from overthinking things. After your timer goes off, take stock of your resources. Examine what has been written and cross out anything that isn’t relevant to your topic, then look at what remains. Do you have any ideas for body paragraph topics? How about the beginning of a topic sentence or thesis? You can repeat this process as many times as you like until you feel you have enough information to begin developing and outlining.
Outlining is a way of structurally bulleting or writing down in points the basic argument that you want to make. You’ve probably seen an outline before, have been given one by a professor, or even completed one for another paper. Whatever those outlines looked like, keep in mind that each one is unique and there is no right or wrong way to do one. However, if your professor has requested a specific format for your outline, make sure you follow their instructions.
This strategy is a great resource if you find that seeing the connections between things helps you relate to them better. them. Begin by writing a word in the inner circle that is either your topic or related to it. From there, try to think of things that relate to what you want to focus on (words, images, current events, etc). If one of your pertinent points makes you think of new ideas, you can add new bubbles and continue to explore the concept. After you’ve felt that you have exhausted your topic, look for similarities or differences in the ideas that you have written down, and find something interesting. Connections you made or unexpected ideas you had that you could discuss in your paper. You can use this exercise to examine your paper’s sub-claims or counter-arguments as well as to narrow down your thesis.
Once you have brainstormed a basic idea and drawn a rough map of what your essay is going to look like, you should try to give it all a coherent structure. This is commonly called the first draft and the process is known as drafting. Draft your essay in rough form. Particularly with argumentative essays that frequently cite outside sources, it is preferable to provide any facts and direct quotes as early as possible.
Once the first draft is ready and the points are coherently woven into a single account or narrative, the refinement stage begins. Improve your word choice, polish your rough draft, and, if necessary, reorganize your arguments. Verify that your language is clear and acceptable for the reader, and make sure that you have covered all of your bases in terms of points and refutations. You are now ready to start working on the essay.
Structuring the essay
The structure of an argumentative essay is essential because the success of one’s argument hinges on how well one conveys it. What is more, argumentative essays have a somewhat more complex structure than the other kinds of essays because the writer must additionally address opposing viewpoints. This raises further questions, such as when to provide substantial evidence and whose argument to address first. The most fundamental argumentative essay format is the straightforward five-paragraph framework that works best for short essays.
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Everything begins here – you introduce the subject of your essay and provide a coherent summary of the arguments that you’ll make in the paragraphs that follow. You should also state your thesis at the end of this paragraph. Because it expresses the argument you’re trying to make, your thesis is the most crucial section of your essay. It must adopt a strong position and refrain from using qualifiers like “seems to” or “maybe could” that undercut that position.
Consider your thesis statement as a summary of your essay for a simple method to write one. Your thesis summarises and backs up the main idea of your essay. Make sure your argument is communicated concisely in your introduction paragraph when you are finished editing your essay. If it’s not clear, go back and write a definitive thesis statement.
Paragraphs 2-4: Main Body
The body paragraphs of your essay are where you support your thesis statement with facts and evidence. Each body paragraph should discuss one supporting argument for your thesis by bringing up relevant data, content, or events.
Refer back to your thesis statement if you’re unsure whether to include a specific point or detail in your body paragraphs. If the detail is relevant to your thesis, it should be included in your essay. If it doesn’t, remove it. Because your thesis statement is the foundation of your basic essay structure, everything else in the essay should be related to it in some way.
Each of the three paragraphs should have a topic statement to relate to the thesis, which will be the claim linking the evidence to your thetical premise. These topic sentences can be thought of as sub-theses or sub-claims, that support your bigger claim, the thesis.
Each topic sentence should further be supported with multiple types of evidence, ideally two per topic sentence. This gives your main body structure and polishes your argument to seem coherent and effective.
Paragraph 5: Conclusion
In the concluding paragraph of your essay, you summarise the points you have made and bring your argument to a logical conclusion. Because your reader is now familiar with your thesis, your conclusion paragraph’s summary can be more direct and conclusive than the one in your introduction paragraph. It is important to remember that your conclusion should be wholly reiterative of your argument and should not make new claims or add new evidence not discussed in the main body or even the introduction.
A good way of thinking about your conclusion is in terms of rounding it up, by bringing it back to the very start.
Proofreading and editing
Once you have written your essay in its entirety, it is then time to proofread it for spelling, grammatical, or technical errors. At this point, it is advisable to take some distance from your essay as the writer and look at it from the neutral vantage point of a reader or evaluator. Edit your argument where it seems flawed or weak, iron out any contradictions, and make sure that the flow, upon final reading, is continuous.
Types of evidence
What makes a good piece of argumentative writing great is the type of evidence included. There are weak types of evidence like a personal anecdote or explanations of a fact or event, and strong types that include facts, studies, and statistics. These are some of them:
Facts are among the most effective tools for involving the reader in the argument. Because facts are unarguable, using them automatically wins the writer’s mutual agreement. The reader must accept the statement, “On January 28, 1986, the shuttle Challenger exploded upon lift-off,” because it is historical fact. Facts are primarily used to persuade the reader to agree with the writer’s point of view. For example, if a writer wanted to argue that smoking is bad for your health, he or she would start by citing statistics about the large number of people who die each year from smoking-related diseases. The reader would then be forced to agree with the writer on at least one point.
Facts, on the other hand, cannot carry the entire argument. It is also necessary for the writer to use Judgments. After carefully considering the facts, the writer makes these assumptions about his or her subject. For example, a writer could begin by presenting specific facts about scientists’ knowledge of the Challenger’s condition prior to takeoff. Based on these facts, the author concludes that the disaster could have been avoided if a few scientists had been willing to speak out about some troubling discoveries. This is a decision made by the author. There is nothing in history books or newspapers that supports this assumption. The overall success or failure of the argument is determined by whether or not the writer carries it over to the other side.
Testimony is the final type of evidence used in writing a convincing argument. There are two types of testimony: 1) an eyewitness account and 2) the opinion of an expert who has had the opportunity to examine and interpret the facts. Both of these add weight to an argument. The eyewitness can provide crucial facts for the writer to use, and the expert can provide valuable judgments to bolster the argument. In the case of the Space Shuttle Challenger, for example, the writer could rely on the testimony of one of the personnel who was present at NASA meetings prior to the launch. The author could also use an astrophysicist’s opinion on whether or not evidence of the crash existed prior to takeoff.
Statistics are used to back up claims with numbers. While statistics can be very useful in supporting broad claims, it is important to remember that no statistic is perfect. You could, for example, include statistics on how many children die each year because their parents failed to buckle them into a car seat. If you are writing an argumentative essay about the importance of car seats for children under the age of five, including a statistic about the number of deaths each year caused by children who are not buckled in.
Statistical evidence can also be used to dispel myths. If you’re writing an argumentative essay about the importance of getting enough sleep, you might want to include statistics about how many accidents are caused by drowsy drivers. You can also use statistics to demonstrate how frequently people make mistakes when they don’t get enough rest, which will help you make your point.
Anecdotes are stories or examples of personal experiences. They are frequently used to illustrate a general claim made in the essay in the form of a “lesson learned.” For example, if you were writing about the benefits of reading for pleasure on a regular basis, you could include an anecdote about how regular readers can pick up on literary devices used by the author, which will help them in high school English class.
Anecdotal evidence can also be used to refute a common misconception. If you are writing an essay on the benefits of exercise, you should include anecdotal evidence from people who have improved their health through regular exercise to counter the myth that exercise is bad for your health.
In conclusion, argumentative writing is a complex form of writing that requires the right balance between critical thinking and subjective values. There also needs to be the right amount of evidence to sway the reader or at least convince them to start thinking about your primary claim. A good piece of argumentative writing makes sufficient use of logic, emotional appeal, and ethical placement of the reader in the context of your argument.