An argumentative essay is often called by an alternative name: a persuasive essay. The purpose of this specific essay form is to pose a question and answer it with compelling evidence. At its core, the argumentative essay works to champion a specific viewpoint. The key, however, is that the topic of the argumentative essay has multiple sides, which can be explained, weighed, and judged by relevant sources. This essay often explores common questions associated with any type of argument including:
- What caused this particular issue?
- Who does this issue affect?
- What are the potential outcomes?
- What should people know about this issue?
Types of Argument
When delving into the types of argument, the vocabulary suddenly becomes quite “lawyerish”; and that makes sense since lawyers stake their whole livelihood on their ability to win arguments. So step into your lawyer shoes, and learn about the five kinds of arguments that you could explore in an argumentative paper:
- Claims of cause and effect
This paper focuses on answering what caused the issue(s), and what the resulting effects have been.
- Claims of definition
This paper explores a controversial interpretation of a particular definition; the paper delves into what the world really means and how it could be interpreted in different ways.
- Claims of Fact
This argumentative essay examines whether a particular fact is accurate; it often looks at several sources reporting a fact and examines their veracity.
- Claims of Policy
This is a favorite argumentative essay in government and sociology classes; this paper explores a particular policy, who it affects, and what (if anything) should be done about it.
- Claims of Value
This essay identifies a particular value or belief and then examines how and why it is important to a particular cohort or a larger, general population.
The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. Joseph Joubert
When mulling over how to approach your argumentative essay, you should be aware that three main argument strategies exist regarding how exactly to argue an issue: classical, Rogerian, Toulmin.
This argument structure dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this strategy, the arguer introduces the issue, provides context, clearly states their claim, provides key arguments backed by lots of evidence, and nullifies opposing arguments with valid data.
Hate conflict? This may be the argumentative essay strategy for you. At its core, this strategy works to identify compromise aspects for both sides; this approach works to find commonality and an ultimate agreement between two sides rather than proclaiming a winner or loser. The focus in this argument in compromise and respect of all sides.
Remember Spock? This is his type of strategy; the Toulmin approach focuses solely on logic to persuade the audience. It is heavy on data and often relies on qualifies to narrow the focus of a claim to strengthen the writer’s stance. This approach also tends to rely on exceptions, which clearly set limits on the parameters of an argument, thus making a particular stance easier to agree with.
Organizing the Argument
An argumentative essay follows the typical essay format: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. However, the body paragraphs are structured a bit differently from other body paragraphs. While the introduction should still begin with an attention getter sentence that grabs the reader’s interest and compels him or her to continue reading and provides key background information, the following paragraphs focus on specific aspects of the argument. Let’s begin with the introduction.
As its name suggests, this paragraph provides all the background information necessary for a reader unfamiliar with the topic to understand what it’s about. A solid introduction should:
- Begin with a descriptive title that communicates your position regarding the topic
- Use an attention getter to grab the audience’s interest
- Rhetorical question
- Personal anecdote
- Provide necessary background, including definitions of any relevant words
- End with a thesis statement that communicates your position
Body paragraphs can range in size from six to fifteen or more sentences. The goal of these paragraphs is to support the thesis statement. Recommended areas of focus for the body paragraphs within an argumentative essay include:
- Identifying and explaining the problem
- Identifying the two (or more) sides to the problem
- Exploring the side the writer believes is more appropriate than the others
- Shooting down the other sides, with evidence
- Recommending a course of action for the reader to take
One major way an argumentative essay differs from other kinds is its specific nature. At the end of reading such an essay, the audience should clearly understand an issue or controversy and have enough information to make an informed decision regarding the issue. But what makes an audience make an informed decision? Several things!
- Authoritative sources (experts in their field)
- Real-world examples
- Attributable anecdotes
In this paragraph, often the shortest of all the paragraphs, the writer reviews his or her most compelling reasons for taking a particular stance on an issue. The persuasion should be strong here, and the writer should use combative language including examples such as
- .then statements
- There can be no doubt
- Without immediate action
- Research strongly supports
In an argumentative essay, it is also appropriate to refute opposition in the conclusion. By stating the objections readers could have and showing why they should be dismissed, the conclusion resonates more strongly with the reader.
Remember: the key to winning any argument should be reliable sources — the better, the more trustworthy your sources, the more likely the audience will be to consider a viewpoint alternative to their own. And while you may feel a deep passion towards a particular topic, keep in mind that emotions can be messy; an argumentative essay should present all sides to the argument respectfully and with a clear intention to portray each fairly. Let the data, statistics, and facts speak loudly and clearly for themselves. And don’t forget opinionated language — using such diction is a must in any strong argumentative essay!