How to argue in an essay

Common argumentative essay structures

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How to argue in an essay

An argumentative essay supports a specific stance with the help of concrete evidence and logic. Its goal is not simply to present the writer's point of view but to provide thoughtful critique and constructive criticism on a particular topic.

If you want to learn how to argue in an essay, keep these principles in mind: a solid thesis statement, evidence, logic, and consequences. The thesis statement expresses your points and claims that you need to back up with fact-based evidence. At the same time, it's necessary to refute opposing perspectives. 

Logic should be used wisely so that your arguments are consistent and sound. Finally, you must draw a logical conclusion showing that your thesis is the only possible outcome. 

Argumentative essays are the most commonly practised writing exercises in the academic context. Want to learn how to argue in an essay? Let's dive into details.

Common argumentative essay structures

To learn how to argue in an academic essay, you should clearly understand the typical structures of argumentative essays. Whether you are a student preparing writing assignments or a professional writer who wants to write effective essays, understanding these structures can help you create persuasive content.

Aristotelian is the most commonly used essay format. Toulmin and Rogerian methods are for advanced writing that deals with complicated arguments and more conclusive rebuttals.   

Number 1# Aristotelian (classic) method of argument

Aristotelian arguments are the most common format of an argumentative essay. They are suitable for making uncomplicated, elementary arguments. 

The argument outline that this format follows is: 

Introduction: Introduce the problem and explain it briefly to the readers. 

Perspective: Present your standpoints with some background context and factual points about the issue. 

Thesis: Present the thesis statement by stating your stand on the topic and outlining the main points.

Argument and Refutation: Discuss the reasons for your point of view and present the evidence. Also, explain why the opposing points are invalid. 

Conclusion: Summarise your arguments and clearly state that your position or claim is correct. 

Number 2# Toulmin method of argument

The argument method is effective in two cases:

  1. Analysing a complex argument that does not have any concrete truths.
  2. Presenting a counterargument or rebuttal to another essay.

The Toulmin model analyses the structure and content of an argument in six steps: claim, reasons, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal. You can arrange these steps in any way that works best for your argumentative writing. 

Claim: It's the central part of an argument and the idea that the writer is trying to convey.

Reasons: The reasons are what support the claim.

Warrant: The warrant is what backs up the reasons. It provides convincing evidence for why the argument should be accepted.

Backing: The backing is what strengthens or supports the reasonings. It provides additional evidence to support what has been said already. 

Qualifier: It limits the scope of your thesis statement but still helps to clarify the claim and make it more precise. 

Rebuttal: Finally, the counter-statement responds to any challenges that have been made against the original argument.

Number 3# Rogerian method of argument

The Rogerian argument method is appropriate for topics with highly polarised views. It focuses on how people can reach reasonable compromises by considering their interests and those of others. It's based on the principle that people are more likely to accept something when they feel they're being listened to and understood.

To take such a middle-ground approach, you can follow the basic outline:

  1. Introduce the topic and the grounds to address it. 
  2. Summarise the main arguments made by your opponents.
  3. State your position clearly.
  4. Make sure you focus on why your position is the best option for everyone involved.

How to argue in an essay? Detailed explanation

An argument in academic essay writing is a claim or interpretation of something made to persuade the readers to see a particular issue in a certain way. It may aim to convince the readers of the correctness of a position or attempt to expose flaws in arguments and raise alternative perspectives.

To make a convincing argument, the writer must use evidence and reasoning to support their claim and refute any counterarguments.

Evidence can be data, a strong opinion from experts, or personal experience. An argument is not a statement of fact but an interpretation of evidence open to debate.

Keep a few things in mind for arguing effectively in an essay. Following these tips will help you craft a solid and convincing argument.

The basic structure of an argumentative essay

You can argue in an essay by following any of the methods mentioned above or taking elements from different models to form a clear outline. 

Regardless of which model you use, this is the basic structure you should always follow:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

The first paragraph will typically provide a rationale for writing the essay and outline the main points that will be covered. The body should contain evidence to support each argument and citations to sources that can help prove these points. The conclusion should summarise what has been discussed and offer any solutions or recommendations for further reading.

Let's discuss each part in detail:

Introduction

The first paragraph is where you set the stage for your argument by providing background information or highlighting key points. It's essential to make your reader understand what is at stake and why it matters.

Start the introduction with a hook, which is a strong claim, to gain the reader's attention. After introducing your principal arguments, provide a context for them by explaining why these particular issues are relevant and vital at this specific time. 

Finally, introduce your thesis statement—the central argument you will be backing up in the rest of the essay.

Body

Once you have presented the key points, the body paragraphs should deal with developing those arguments. The main body can consist of three or more paragraphs, which are the foundation of an argumentative essay. They should be well-crafted and persuasive to convince your reader that you have made a valid point.

Research the relevant information and develop a valid argument for your position. You then need to establish this argument systematically and support it with evidence from both sides of the debate.

To avoid bias and promote fairness, it is important to use credible sources when making your case. Additionally, ensure you address all of the critical points and arguments related to the issue. It'll make it easier for the readers to understand your position and form their independent opinion.

Conclusion

Conclude the argument by providing a clear, concise, and satisfying conclusion that ties everything together. It should summarise the main points of your discussion and make a strong case for your position. 

To help you write a convincing conclusion, here are some tips:

  • Make sure that your findings reflect the arguments you've presented up until this point and your convictions.
  • Be clear and precise in your wording so readers can understand what you're saying without reading between the lines.

The simple framework works well for essays written in schools and colleges. However, advanced articles are more complicated, requiring the application of the Toulmin or Rogerian method of argument. 

The writing process of argumentative essays in 6 steps

So, you may already have a clear idea about the basic structure of argumentative essays. But writing one still needs to cover several other points and dive deep into details. 

If you have never done this, you will probably get stuck in the first step—finding a topic to write about. But you can overcome this challenging task with the right approach. 

From developing a clear thesis to crafting logical body paragraphs, we'll show you how to construct a compelling argument that will persuade your audience. 

Step 1# Finding ideas

You can find the topics everywhere. Look at the issues currently being discussed in the news or on social media. Another way is reading articles or books to explore topics that interest you. Reading them will give you a better understanding of the issues involved and allow you to develop more thoughtful arguments.

You can also look for inspiration in other essays published in your field or area of expertise. By examining how other authors have approached the same topic, you can better understand what makes a good argument and apply that knowledge to your work. 

Finally, it's necessary to be open-minded when finding ideas for an argumentative essay. You never know where inspiration may come from!

There are five types of topics that you can deal with in an argumentative essay. 

Here are five examples of argumentative essay topics:

  1. Definition: Explores the meaning of a word or phrase. Example: What is a democracy?
  2. Fact: Looks into the evidence to prove a point. Example: Does exercise increase physical stamina?
  3. Value: Examines what something is worth and why. Example: Is capitalism good or bad?
  4. Cause and Effect: Examines how one event led to another and whether it was intended or not. Example: What effects does passive smoking have on health?
  5. Policy: Looks at the pros and cons of a particular policy or decision and offers an opinion on which is better suited for a specific situation. Example: Should life-saving medicines be taxed?

Step 2# Starting the essay

You first need to hook your reader to write a powerful introductory paragraph. Writing a successful hook will depend on the type of essay you're writing and the topic you're exploring. It might be as simple as introducing a new perspective on a familiar topic or highlighting a particular issue important to your argument. 

Generally, a good hook will be interesting, attention-grabbing and provide enough information for your readers to understand why they should read further.

Once you've generated your hook, it's time to provide some background and context. It will help establish the setting and make the readers realise why this particular argument is essential. You should also explain how the issues at hand relate to the broader scope of the essay and how they impact your view.

Now it's time for the thesis statement. In this part, you state exactly what you're arguing for in clear, concise language. 

Next, present evidence in a coherent and persuasive way. You don't have space here to go into detail on this topic. Leave their explanation and analysis for the body paragraphs.

Step 3# Preparing the outline

The outline will help you structure your thoughts and ensure that everything you say is relevant and worthwhile.

When you start writing, you'll need to gather the evidence that supports your arguments. It means finding quotes, statistics, or other information that backs up your words. Be sure to cite everything properly so readers can verify the sources.

Outline each section of your essay with specific, measurable goals in mind. 

Example: Suppose you're writing about gun control. In that case, it might be helpful to state how many people have been killed by guns in America over the past year, how many mass shootings have occurred in this period, and what gun reform measures could prevent these tragedies from continuing.

Consider who your audience is and what they might expect from your essay. After all of this groundwork is done, you're ready to start writing.

Step 4# Create the first draft

Write a rough draft based on the information you've gathered in the previous step. It's simply a rough version of your final product—the foundation on which you will build your essay. 

Creating a draft ensures that everything you write is accurate and organised and flows smoothly from one section to the next. Doing this will also help to avoid common writing problems such as fragmentation, inconsistency, and redundancy.

Step 5# Revise and polish the draft

Revising and polishing the draft version of your essay is a critical step in ensuring that it is as effective as possible. 

Review the structure of your essay carefully. Structure problems can lead to confusion on the part of readers. Ensure that all the essential elements are in place - such as headings, subheadings and supporting paragraphs - and that everything flows smoothly from one section to the next. 

Find out the arguments' contradictions or gaps and rewrite those parts for more clarity. Be aware of any clichés or formulas you may be using too often, and try to come up with more original expressions if possible.

Also, avoid factual errors or inaccuracies. Always double-check the information you are using and ensure that it is accurate regarding the timeframe you are dealing with and the specifics of the topic under discussion. Remember that poor content can lead to a loss of credibility on your part.

Step 6# Proofread 

Proofreading is an essential step in any writing project. It helps to remove errors and inconsistencies, which can lead to a better, more effective essay.

It's easy to overlook grammatical mistakes, but they can seriously damage the overall quality of your essay. Always use a spellchecker and keep an eye out for common errors. Also, check for incorrect sentence structure and avoid using rarely-used words and awkward phrasing. 

Doing these essential checks will make your essay more readable.

The three formulas of writing a thesis statement

A thesis statement is the central idea of your argument, and it should be well-supported by the evidence you provide later in the essay. It has to give the readers a clear concept of the topic you will present. A weak thesis statement can lead to confusion and a lack of focus on your argument.

There are three common ways of writing a thesis statement:

1# The question/answer formula

It's the simplest way to write a thesis statement since you can turn almost all topics into questions. So, the challenge for you would be to identify the questions that your essay will answer and then provide answers to those questions in a structured and logical manner.

Here are some examples of how to use this format:

Essay prompt: The harmful effects of GMOs and why they should not be allowed in the food supply. 

Thesis statement: Do GMO foods pose a risk to human health? 

Essay prompt: Humans are causing global warming, and we must act fast to stop it. 

Thesis statement: Is humanity the main culprit for global warming?

2# The refute objections formula

Another way of writing a thesis statement is to state one side of an argument and offer a response that refutes the objection. The essay's focus would be to establish the refuting idea, address its validity and discuss why it matters to your argument. 

Support your arguments with concrete evidence and examples from credible texts and sources. 

Example: Many people think using artificial intelligence will result in excluding humans from workplaces, but real-life applications have shown that it can assist humans in doing labour-intensive and mundane work.

The first part of the example states one side of the argument—"using artificial intelligence will result in excluding humans from workplaces." But the second part refutes the assertion by saying, "it can assist humans in doing labour-intensive and mundane work."

3# The roadmap formula

It extends the question/answer or refuting objections formula by stating the points covered in the essay. 

Example: Gun violence cannot be controlled without banning civilians from using firearms, but it can be minimised through strict supervision, making new laws, and teaching the gun holders to act more responsibly.

This is the best approach for writing a thesis statement because it covers your claim, stance, and main points. The readers will get the gist of the essay from this introductory paragraph.

How to write a good thesis statement

A good thesis statement for an argumentative essay should effectively communicate the main points of your paper. It must provide a basis for building your own argument, igniting the readers' interests, and motivating them to read further.

When thinking about what to include in your thesis statement, consider things:

  • What are you arguing against (i.e., the opposing arguments)?
  • What do they stand for (or why do you believe they are wrong)?
  • How does it affect your specific audience or society (especially if a moral aspect is involved)?
  • Where does the debate stand at this point?

Additionally, choose a topic that you can back up with sufficient evidence. The factual proof is the backbone of argumentative essays where your personal opinions don't hold any value.

Tips for better arguments: How to argue better in an essay

For better arguments, you must make your points clear and present compelling evidence to convince your readers. 

We'll provide some techniques that will help you take control of the narrative and make your case difficult to refute.

Ready to take your argument skills to the next level? Follow these writing tips:

Provide supporting evidence

Unlike a persuasive essay that builds a case by appealing to the reader's emotions, argumentative essays are based on reason and logic. So, you need to provide evidence that supports your points. 

Draw the evidence from the data derived from your research or already available statistics and findings. You can also use quotes from other sources to back up your claim.

Give examples

Connect your arguments with specific events or examples to illustrate how each point applies. Provide as many examples as possible so that readers can see how your statement works in practice.

Avoid Lengthy and Complex Sentence Style

Argumentative essays are all about concrete facts and solid logic, so you should not get bogged down in the details of the argument. 

When constructing your discourse, use logical reasoning and straightforward language for a better flow. Plus, avoid jargon and complex terminology because it can make your points difficult for others to understand.

Be careful about the tone

The tone you choose can significantly impact how people perceive your argument. For example, aggressive or hostile language will likely make your opponent feel defensive and entrenched in their views. In contrast, if you write calmly and rationally, your opponent is more likely to listen to what you have to say.

The tone is the emotional state you're trying to evoke in your reader. So, use it according to the topic of your essay. For instance, when writing a rebuttal or about a topic you want the readers to act on, use more thought-provoking language to get your point across.

In short, the golden rules of argumentative rhetoric are:

  • Signal (use words with precise meaning).
  • Emotion (elaborate on why an idea moves you).
  • Intent/purpose (why this particular evidence supports or invalidates one's position).

FAQs about how to argue in an essay

How do you argue in academic writing?

There is no one perfect way to argue in academic essays, as the goal of an evidence-based argument is to promote a logically cogent and persuasive perspective. However, there are a few key elements that should be included when constructing an argument: 

  • Provide adequate background information on the issue at hand.
  • Present your position clearly and succinctly.
  • Use strong logic and credible sources to support your points.
  • Make sure all arguments are supported by evidence.
  • Be transparent about how you reached your conclusions. Let readers know what data led you where you did.

What is a good argument in academic writing?

A good argument should include an intellectual consideration of the topic, supportive empirical data, and logical reasoning. Additionally, you should provide concrete evidence to support your claims.

In the academic context, a good argument should have a purpose. It has to contribute to an existing topic in the same field and should have enough grounds to hold against rational counterarguments.

How do you argue against something in an essay?

A counterargument is a technique used in argumentative writing to refute opposing arguments. It can be done by pointing out the flaws or inconsistencies in the logic presented. Address counterarguments by providing evidence to support your position. You can cite counter-instances or cases where similar arguments have resulted in negative outcomes.

How do you write a strong argument in an essay?

A strong argument can be boiled down to three essential points: thesis, evidence, and conclusion. When writing an essay, it is necessary to include as much relevant evidence as possible to support your points. Then use logical reasoning to connect the dots between facts and arrive at a valid conclusion.

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