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Argumentative Essay Aim

Almost all students will at some time be expected to write an essay, or some other kind of argument, e.g. a review or discussion section, in a longer piece of writing. In English, an essay is a piece of argumentative writing several paragraphs long written about one topic, usually based on your reading. The aim of the essay should be deduced strictly from the wording of the title or question (See Academic Writing: Understanding the Question), and needs to be defined at the beginning. The purpose of an essay is for you to say something for yourself using the ideas of the subject, for you to present ideas you have learned in your own way. The emphasis should be on working with other people's ideas, rather than reproducing their words, but your own voice should show clearly. The ideas and people that you refer to need to made explicit by a system of referencing.

According to Linda Flower (1990, p. v), "students are reading to create a text of their own, trying to integrate information from sources with ideas of their own, and attempting to do so under the guidance of a purpose."

2. Main text

English essays are linear:

- they start at the beginning and finish at the end, with every part contributing to the main line of argument, without digressions or repetition. Writers are responsible for making their line of argument clear and presenting it in an orderly fashion so that the reader can follow. Each paragraph discusses one major point and each paragraph should lead directly to the next. The paragraphs are tied together with an introduction and a conclusion.

The main text of the essay has three main parts:

  1. An introduction
  2. A main body
  3. A conclusion

    The introduction consists of two parts:

    1. It should include a few general statements about the subject to provide a background to your essay and to attract the reader's attention. It should try to explain why you are writing the essay. It may include a definition of terms in the context of the essay, etc.
    2. It should also include a statement of the specific subdivisions of the topic and/or indication of how the topic is going to be tackled in order to specifically address the question.

    It should introduce the central idea or the main purpose of the writing.

    The main body consists of one or more paragraphs of ideas and arguments. Each paragraph develops a subdivision of the topic. The paragraphs of the essay contain the main ideas and arguments of the essay together with illustrations or examples. The paragraphs are linked in order to connect the ideas. The purpose of the essay must be made clear and the reader must be able to follow its development.

    The conclusion includes the writer's final points.

    1. It should recall the issues raised in the introduction and draw together the points made in the main body
    2. and explain the overall significance of the conclusions. What general points can be drawn from the essay as a whole?

    It should clearly signal to the reader that the essay is finished and leave a clear impression that the purpose of the essay has been achieved.

Essays are organised differently according to their purpose. Essays can be divided into the following main types.

1. The descriptive essay

a. Description of object or place

b. Describing a sequence of events.

c. Describing a process

d. Describing and explaining

2. The argument essay

a. The balanced view

b. The persuasive essay

c. The to what extent essay.

3. Compare and contrast essays

a. The contrast essay

b. The compare essay

c. The compare and contrast essays

1. The descriptive essay

a. Description of object or place

Describe essays require you to state the appearance of something, or to state the major characteristics of it. Note the word state i.e. you are not asked to comment on the subject or to give your personal point of view on it. Questions are often introduced by:

Describe ....
Narrate...
Tell....

Plan:

Introduction

major aspects of the subject.

description of aspect A

description of aspect B

etc.

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Describing objects, locations & directions

b. Describing a sequence of events.

Describing a sequence of events is simply telling a story.

State clearly when events happened or how one event caused another. Questions may be introduced by:

Give an account of...
Trace...
Examine developments in...

Intoduction

First situation

then A happened

then B happened

etc.

Final situation

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Reporting & narrating

c. Describing a process

This is like telling a story but here the connections between the facts must be clearly shown and explained. Group the events into steps or stages.

Examples of such questions are :

Explain/What is the connection between...
Describe the procedures by which...

Definition of process

Main equipment/Main steps

Step One

leads to

Step Two

leads to

Step Three

Conclusion

Summary of process

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Describing processes & developments

d. Describing and explaining

Some of the words and phrases which introduce this type of description are:

Explain the causes/reasons....
Account for....
Analyse the causes....
Comment on (the reasons for)....
Show that....
Show why...
Examine the effect of....
Suggest reasons for....
Why did...?
What are the implications of...?
Discuss the causes of....
Discuss the reasons for....

When we are asked to describe or explain causes, factors, functions or results, the examiner wants us to group our facts. Similar causes are put together, for instance the economic causes of a situation. There are basically two main ways to organise this type of essay.

The question is "Describe the causes of A. Illustrate your answer by specific examples."

i.

Introduction to causes of A

Cause 1 + example

Effects 1

Cause 2 with example

Effects 2

Cause 3 with examples

Effects 3

Cause 4 with example

Effects 4

etc.

Conclusion

ii.

Introduction to causes of A

Causes + examples

Transition

Effects

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Expressing reasons and explanations / cause and effect

2. The argument essay

There are two main methods of presenting an argument, and in general the one you choose will depend on exactly how the essay title is worded.

a. The balanced view

If the essay title begins with something like:

Give the arguments for and against....
Assess the importance of....
Examine the arguments for and against....
What are the advantages and disadvantages of...?
Evaluate....
Critically examine the statement that....
To what extent is...true?

or even just the word

Discuss....

then it is clear that a balanced essay is required. That is to say you should present both sides of an argument, without necessarily committing yourself to any points of view, which should always be based on evidence, until the final paragraph.

At its simplest your essay plan will be as follows:

Introduce the argument to the reader.

e.g. why it is particularly relevant topic nowadays
or refer directly to some comments that have been voiced on it recently.

Reasons against the argument

Reasons in favour of the argument

After summarising the two sides,
state your own point of view,
and explain why you think as you do

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Arguing and discussing; - Expressing degrees of certainty; - Generalising; - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Giving examples

b. The persuasive essay

This second type of argumentative essay involves stating your own point of view immediately, and trying to convince the reader by reasoned argument that you are right. Perhaps the essay title will begin with something like:

Give your views on....
What do you think about...?
Do you agree that...?
Consider whether....

Or perhaps the title itself will be so controversial that everyone will hold a definite opinion in one direction or another.

The form of the essay will be, in outline, as follows:

Introduce the topic briefly in general terms,

and then state your own opinion.

Explain what you plan to prove in the essay.

Reasons against the argument.

Dispose briefly of the main objections to your case.

Reasons for your argument

the arguments to support your own view,

with evidence and examples.

Conclusion - Do not repeat your point of view again.

End your essay with something memorable

e.g. a quotation or a direct question.

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Arguing and discussing; - Expressing degrees of certainty; - Generalising; - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Giving examples

c. The to what extent essay

In this type of essay the examiner is giving you a statement. It is obviously true but truth is never 100%. You must decide how true it is? Are there some areas where you disagree with the statement. If so, describe how far you agree, and your points of agreement and disagreement. Words used in the question are:

To what extent ....
How true ....
How far do you agree....

A possible answer structure is:

Introduction to problem

Aspect 1 - true

Aspect 1 - false

Aspect 2 - true

Aspect 2 - false

Aspect 3 - true

Aspect 3 - false

etc

Conclusion

a ‘subtraction’ sum

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Arguing and discussing; - Expressing degrees of certainty; - Generalising; - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Giving examples

3. Compare and contrast essays.

a The Contrast essay

Contrast or distinguish between questions usually present you with two or more terms, instruments, concepts or procedures that are closely connected, and sometimes confused. The purpose of the essay is to explain the differences between them. The question may be of the form:

Contrast ....
Distinguish between ...
What is the difference between....
What are the differences between....
How are ... and ... different?

A suitable answer structure would be:

Introduction to differences between A and B

Contrast A & B in terms of first difference

Contrast A & B in terms of second difference

Contrast A & B in terms of third difference

etc

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Defining; - Generalising; - Giving examples

b. The Compare essay

Compare questions usually present you with two or more terms, instruments, concepts or procedures that are closely connected, and sometimes confused. The purpose of the essay is to explain the similarities between them. Words used are:

Compare ....
What features do ... and ... have in common?
What are the similarities between....
How are ... and ... similar?

A suitable answer structure would be:

Introduction to similarities between A and B

Compare A & B

in terms of first similarity

Compare A & B

in terms of second similarity

Compare A & B

in terms of third similarity

etc.

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Defining; - Generalising; - Giving examples

c. The compare and contrast essay

Compare and contrast essays require you to indicate areas in which the things to be compared are similar and different.

Compare and contrast....

There are two main ways to answer such questions:

i.

Introduction to differences and similarities between A and B

Difference 1

Difference 2

Difference 3

etc.

Transition

Similarity 1

Similarity 2

Similarity 3

etc.

Conclusion

ii.

Introduction to differences and similarities between A and B

Aspect 1 - similarities

Aspect 1 - differences

Aspect 2 - similarities

Aspect 2 - differences

Aspect 3 - similarities

Aspect 3 - differences

etc

Conclusion

How to Write Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essay writing requires that one is able to convince reasonable readers that their argument or position has merit. The art of argumentation is not an easy skill to acquire. It is one thing to have an opinion and another to be able to argue it successfully. 

What Is an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is a genre of writing that aims at investigating an issue, taking a stand on an issue, generating and evaluating a multitude of evidence in a logical manner to support the overall claim. An argument essay is therefore meant to persuade people to think the same way you do i.e. convincing the reader to agree with the writer’s point of view.

While making an argument in academic writing, we aim at expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with logical evidence. We all use arguments at some time in our daily routines, and you probably have some know-how at crafting an argument. The verbal arguments we occasionally engage in can become unreasonable and heated losing the focus. The goal of an argumentative essay, however, is quite the opposite as the argument has to be specific, reasoned, detailed and supported with evidence.


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Difference between an Argumentative and Persuasive Essay

Well, some confusion may occur between the difference of argumentative essay and persuasive essay. Though both essays aim to present a particular point of view, they are both different in how they get their points across and why. A persuasive essay is mostly one-sided and uses passion and emotion to attempt to sway the reader’s loyalty. Argumentative essays, on the other hand, are more structured and try to look at critical issues from multiple angles.

Structure of an Argumentative Assay

The only way to writing a captivating argumentative essay is to understand the structure so as to stay focused and make a strong point.

1. The Introduction

The introductory paragraph sets the stage for the position you are arguing for in your essay. It’s made up of a hook, background information, and a thesis statement.

The Hook

A hook is a sentence that is meant to capture the reader’s attention. As a writer, you need a strong hook that should knock your reader’s socks off and set an expectation of what they are reading. For example if I am writing an argumentative essay about why American people should start eating insects as part of their diet, my hook could be, “For those interested in improving their diets as part of their resolution this year, you may want to reduce your chicken, fish and beef intake and say hello to eating insects.”

Background information

The next part of your introduction is dedicated to offering some detailed background information about your topic. It gives the reader the necessary information he/she needs to understand your position. This is required to understand the argument by answering questions such as, what is the issue at hand, where is the issue prevalent and why is it important?

Thesis statement

When making a thesis statement for your argumentative essay, you clearly state your position on the topic and a reason for taking that stance. For example, “A diet of insects can provide solutions to issues of starvation, obesity and climate change thus Americans should embrace and learn to rely on insects over beef, chicken and fish as their primary source of nutrition.” The reader needs to know what exactly the argument is and why it is important.

2. Developing an argument

You now have to back up your argument with credible evidence. This is the heart of your essay and needs to be started off with a general statement that is backed with specific details or examples. Depending on the length of your essay, you will need to include two or three well-explained paragraphs to each reason or type of evidence. The use of opinions from recognized authorities and first-hand examples and scientific knowledge on your topic of discussion will help readers to connect to the debate in a way they wouldn’t with the use of abstract ideas.

3. Refuting opponent’s arguments/claims

At this point, you state your opponent’s views then offer a counter argument. A well written argumentative essay must anticipate and address positions in the opposition. This will make your position more convincing and stronger. Additionally, pointing out what your opponent is likely to say in response to your argument shows that you have taken the time to critically analyze and prepare your topic.

4. The conclusion

This is the section of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Emphasize why the issue is so important, review the main points and review your thesis statement. Make the reader think about the ramifications of your argument by showing what would happen if people acted as per your position. Closing the argumentative essay with a clear picture of the world as you would like to see it can leave the reader convinced that your argument is valid.

What Makes Your Argumentative Essay Successful?

To write an effective argumentative essay, you should find a topic that you are interested in and one that offers two sides of an issue rather than giving an absolute answer. For instance, it is impossible to make an argumentative essay about how 4+4=8. However, you could argue for days about contentious topics like GMOs, homosexuality, gun control etc.

Further, the topic should be narrow in focus so that detailed, substantial evidence can be presented. For example, writing an argumentative essay on World War II can seem vague as the topic is too broad.

Finally, the writer should take a stance and stick with it. The reader should be able to determine easily what position you are advocating for in the essay.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Argumentative Essay Writing

Do’s

  • Use passionate and convincing language.
  • Illustrate a well-rounded understanding of the topic under discussion.
  • Back up your statements with facts, statistic, examples and informed opinions of experts who agree with you.
  • Address the opposing side’s argument and refute their claims.
  • Demonstrate a lack of bias.
  • Take a stand and don’t confuse your readers.

Dont's

  • Refrain from using weak qualifiers like ‘I think, I believe, I guess’, as this will only reduce the level of trust the reader has in your opinion.
  • Don’t assume that the audience will agree with you about any aspect of your argument.
  • Don’t use strict moral or religious claims as support for your argument.
  • Don’t claim to be an expert if you are not one.
  • No strong personal expressions must be used as it weakens the grounds of your essay, like saying, ‘Mr. Chris is ignorant.’
  • Do not introduce new points while making your conclusion.

There are lots of argumentative essay topics to write about if you think about it. Choose a topic that matters to you and make a strong case on the topic using the above guidelines.

 

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