How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay

How do you make an argument? In everyday life, the answer might be, yell a lot and call people names. Well, this is simply not going to work in a college essay. The argumentative essay is one of the most common types of essays a college student is asked to write, yet many don’t know how to make an argument. The good news is that the argumentative essay has a simple structure, and anyone can learn it.  An argumentative essay does two things:

  1. It presents a thesis. A thesis takes a definite stand on a specific issue. A good thesis is a debatable claim. Otherwise how can you have an argument?
  2. It provides evidence to support the thesis. Good evidence is going to require thorough research and logical thinking.

All argumentative essays have three sections: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction is a single paragraph which presents the reader with the general topic, tells them why the problem you are addressing is important, and ends with the thesis statement. It’s impossible to overrate the importance of a good thesis statement. It should state the point you are arguing in the briefest, clearest way possible. Write several versions.

The body, the longest section, presents all of the evidence which supports the thesis. Each paragraph should present a new piece of evidence. You want smooth transitions between paragraphs, so that they seem to flow logically, and not like you’re just changing the subject. Avoid redundancies. Every word, sentence, and paragraph has its own job to do. Don’t use subjective phrases like “I think,” or “I believe,” which only weaken your argument.

Here are the main kinds of evidence:

  • Logic: Make your argument logical by thinking of possible objections to your thesis and trying to refute them.
  • Facts: Do good research. Gather all the relevant data and statistics.
  • Quotations from experts: These serve as the “expert witness” at a trial. Don’t overuse them! They add extra weight to your case, but they shouldn’t make the case for you.
  • Anecdotes:  People are moved by real stories, but these only illustrate your point. They don’t prove it.

Your conclusion will be a single paragraph which summarizes and synthesizes your evidence, and restates the thesis. Here is where you really drive home your point, so finish strong. Be interesting and creative!

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