Argumentative Essays: Writing Your Own

Lesson Content

Inquire: It’s Time to Begin!

Overview

You’re now ready to write your own argumentative essay! Make sure, as with all essays, that you walk through the entire essay writing process from brainstorming to editing. Each step is vital in ensuring that you finish the process with a product you are proud of! You’ll begin by brainstorming before moving on to outlining and drafting your essay. Finally, you should engage in the revision and editing process, so you have a completely polished final essay.

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Big Question

How can I use the writing process to complete my argumentative essay?

Watch: The Argumentative Writing Process

Read: Beginning Your Argumentative Essay

Overview

So, now you’re ready to begin your argumentative essay, but where do you start? With an argumentative essay, you’ll want to make sure that you thoughtfully go through the entire writing process, from brainstorming to revision and editing. By taking your time with this process, you will ensure that you have a polished final product to share and submit.

Choosing Your Topic

If your teacher has given you a topic, you are ahead of the game, but if not, you’ll need to find some inspiration. You can look for it in many places:

  • Think about something you’re passionate about. It can be a future career field, parenting, a hobby, a sport, etc. Anything you care about is a goldmine for paper topics.
  • Think about problems you wish could be solved. Whether you’re thinking about something you’re passionate about or something else, consider problems — big or small — that deserve the world’s attention. These can also be great paper topics.
  • Consider the course theme. Does the class have any overarching theme? Social justice? Historical movements? Advertising? If it does, you could consider that theme and whether there are any issues within aspects of the theme.
  • Flip through class readings. Review some of the assigned readings from the course. Did anything stand out as interesting to you? Did you disagree with anything?

DecorativeThe above bullet points are simply a few options that can get you thinking. Really, inspiration is all around you, as long as you are looking for it. Try to keep a list of all the issues you hear about during the day, or the problems you see that need to be solved. Such issues would make excellent paper topics.

Writing Your Thesis

Once you have a topic, develop a claim that you will spend your essay making an argument for. At its most basic level, your thesis statement in an argumentative essay should state your claim. A good thesis, however, should also preview some part of your essay’s structure or sub points.

A claim, for example, might be something like this: “Universities should stop over-specializing their students.”

DecorativeTo revise this into a solid thesis, however, you will want to add additional information about your claim and preview your organization: “In order to provide their graduates with more job opportunities, universities should stop over-specializing their students by providing them with a well-rounded liberal arts education.”

You can use a well-developed thesis to help guide the organization of your essay.

Organizing Your Essay

Once you have a thesis and you’re ready to begin your essay, you’ll need to decide whether you’re writing a Rogerian argument or a Toulmin argument, as it will dictate the kind of organizational structure you need. Rogerian arguments are more focused on your readers and ensuring that you have considered their position fully and fairly. Toulmin arguments, instead, focus primarily on examining all the underlying assumptions in your claim and backing. Take a minute to decide which method of argumentation will be most effective for you, and then begin outlining your essay using that method’s argument structure.

Rogerian arguments all follow the same general structure:

  1. Introduction: Describe the issue at hand. Be sure to illustrate your understanding and appreciation of all valid alternative positions.
  2. Opposition’s Position: Take the time to outline the ways in which the opposition’s positions are valid and worthwhile.
  3. Your Position: State your own position on the issue. Take the same care to explain why your position is valid as you did in the above section.
  4. Benefits to Opposition: Conclude your essay by discussing the ways in which the opposition would benefit by adopting your position. Why should they take on your position?

DecorativeHere is a quick look at the basic structure of a Toulmin argument:

  1. Your Claim: Describe what you want to prove.
  2. Conditions: Express the limits you impose on your claim.
  3. Reasons/Evidence: Provide support for your claim.
  4. Warrants: Address underlying assumptions that support your claim.
  5. Backing: Provide evidence that supports your warrant(s).

Once you’ve chosen the type of argument that makes the most sense for your essay, you should begin outlining your content, including examples that support your overall claim.

Reflect: Essay Structure

Poll

Which aspect of the Rogerian structure do you think would be most difficult?

Expand: Revising Your Argumentative Essay

Discover

Now that you have a draft of your essay, you’re almost done! Taking the time to go through the revision and editing process before turning in your paper can vastly improve your essay.

Revising Your Essay

Once you’ve written your essay, it’s time to engage in revision. As you read back through your essay, you’ll need to give special thought to the ways in which you are appealing to your audience. Remember the audience for whom you are writing the essay. Which of your claims might they take issue with? How can you make sure that you are not alienating them or pushing them away with any of your claims? If you are using a Rogerian model of argument, this step is especially important.

DecorativeNow, read carefully back through your paper as a member of your target audience, as if you’re reading it for the first time. Does your argument make sense to a reader examining it for the first time? Is there anything that will require additional explanation?

Keep in mind the level of knowledge and understanding your audience has. Is the topic completely new to them? If so, make sure to explain important terminology and key concepts. If, however, your audience generally has expertise in the subject, don’t waste time by explaining things they already know.

Finally, as you reread your essay, be sure that you’re considering what kind of ethos you are projecting to your readers. Do you come across as knowledgeable? Do you come across as trustworthy? Do you support all of your claims with reasonable and reliable evidence? Is your language professional and courteous?

Revision is also the time for you to review your essay’s structure. Did you choose a method of organization that makes sense for your claim? Does everything flow logically together? If not, consider revising your essay to another method of organization or incorporating more transitions in your writing.

Editing Your Essay

DecorativeTake the time now to read carefully back through your revised essay for any proofreading or editing errors. Use methods like reading aloud or reading sentences backward to catch mistakes you might otherwise miss. You should also consider handing your essay over to a friend at this point in time, as a fresh pair of eyes can catch things you might miss after looking at your own paper for too long.

Check Your Knowledge

Use the quiz below to check your understanding of this lesson’s content. You can take this quiz as many times as you like. Once you are finished taking the quiz, click on the “View questions” button to review the correct answers.

Lesson Resources

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Additional Resources and Readings

Peer-Editing Form for Argumentative Essay

A guide for revising an argumentative essay with a peer

Brainstorming

A guide for brainstorming an essay

Persuasive Essays: How to Succeed at Argumentative Writing

A blog entry about how to succeed in argumentative writing

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Content License

Lesson Content:

Authored and curated by Cady Jackson MA, MSE for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA 4.0

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