I. Why the argumentative essay
A. Arguments can be good or bad.
1. If they are negative, biased, or lead to violence, they are bad.
2. However, if they lead to further knowledge, understanding, or positive commitment, they are good.
B. Much of academic learning is based on arguments that are supported by evidence analyzed through critical thinking.
1. Critical thinking is the term for reasoning that is the basis for supporting the claims made in an argument.
2. Without specific evidence, an argument has no merit.
3. Thus, those people who have mastered the art of critical thinking are the most successful in having their arguments heeded because they can explain why the evidence proves that their case is more valid than the opposing case.
a. For example, good voters listen to the candidates who most successfully prove their platforms. b. Candidates who evade questions or can’t provide evidence to support their positions should not be elected (although they unfortunately are).
c. Candidates who can’t critically think through an issue will not be successful in government positions since much of that work is argumentative.
B. Outside of government, all professionals (and non-professionals, for that matter) must be able to argue successfully through both speaking and writing to make sure that their positions are heard, supported, and carried through.
1. If people cannot argue their positions, then they will not be successful in getting a loan, having a law passed, electing the preferred candidate, avoiding legal action, saving a marriage, raising children, running a business, etc.
2. All of those situations—and millions more—require that people be able to take a stand, provide evidence for that stand, and argue how that evidence makes the stand the best choice.
II. Selecting a topic
A. To select a topic, decide on an issue on which you can argue.
1. You may want to select a topic on which you feel strongly.
a. This type of topic will get you most personally involved in the paper.
b. However, be careful that you do not let emotions rule your arguments.
2. You may want to select a topic which relates to your major.
a. This topic will allow you to study your selected career area more by looking at controversies or questioned theories.
b. In this instance, your arguments are less likely to be emotionally based.
3. You can argue either for or against the status quo.
a. For example, if you want to argue in favor of a pro-choice stand on abortion, you are arguing in favor of the status quo since abortions are, at present, legal.
b. For example, if you want to argue against the absence of strong laws controlling carbon dioxide emissions, you will explain why new laws are necessary to control these emissions.
4. You can also argue to tighten or to loosen standards.
a. For example, if you want to argue to loosen laws that control guns, you can do so, although laws are presently considered liberal.
b. One limitation on your argument is that you cannot promote violence or hatred; to do so is illegal.
B. Remember that the issue must be one that has two sides.
1. You can't argue on a topic against which there are no arguments.
a. For example, you can't argue that spousal abuse is an
acceptable form of marital relationships.
b. You can't argue that the United States is a part of the
2. To be sure that you can argue a topic, you need to understand both sides of the argument.
a. If you can't see both sides, you have nothing against which to argue.
b. If you can't see both sides, then you likely have no argument in the first place.
C. Overall, select a topic familiar to you.
1. You should have an idea of your arguments already so that you don’t have to spend too much of your time researching arguments.
2. You need to have an idea of what your arguments are before you begin researching or writing.
III. A Guide to Writing Argumentative Essays
A. The art of argumentation is not an easy skill to acquire.
1. The primary purpose in an argument is to "win" it--to sway the reader to accept their point of view.
2. Thus, you don't want to alienate your readers by calling names, using biased language, or ignoring the point of view or research of others.
3. Most importantly, make sure that you have questioned your position or beliefs so that you are not writing based on beliefs inherited from others.
B. Thesis statement
A. In your thesis sentence, state what your position is.
1. Avoid using first person in the thesis statement.
a. Using the first person weakens your argument, as in "I believe that we should financially support the space station."
b. Instead make the statement more affirmative for all by saying "Funding for the space station is imperative to maintain America's competitive edge in the global economy."
2. The thesis can be modified elsewhere in the essay if you need to qualify your position, but avoid hedging in your thesis. You do not need to say: "I believe that we should financially support the space station."
B. See sample thesis statements.
C. The thesis must be backed up by data that persuades readers that the opinion is valid.
a. This data consists of facts, statistics, the testimony of others through personal interviews and questionnaires or through articles and books, and examples.
b. The writer of an argumentative essay should seek to use educated sources that are nonbiased, and to use them fairly.
c. It is therefore best to avoid using hate groups as a source, although you can use them briefly as an example of the seriousness of the problem.
d. Talk shows fall into the same category as they are frequently opinionated or untrue.
e. Make sure that any "questionable" sources are justified by the topic.
D. Researching the topic
1. To insure that your information is accurate, research carefully.
2. See Researching the Topic.
E. Adopt a reasonable tone.
1. Tone is the writer's attitude toward her or his subject.
2. Assume that your readers will disagree with you or be skeptical.
a. It is important, therefore, that your tone be reasonable, professional, and trustworthy.
b. By anticipating objections and making concessions, you inspire confidence and show your good will.
IV. Steps of an Argumentative Paper
A. Decide on a topic. Make sure it is one you are interested in and that it is not too broad or too narrow to analyze adequately.
B. Begin your library research.
C. Write the outline, rough draft, and the final paper. Then rewrite it to make it sound as professional as possible.
1. To analyze something, divide it into parts.
2. Since you are writing about a problem, the body of your paper might look something like this:
Paragraph 1: General introduction of the problem. Thesis statement which states your opinion. Source may be needed for attention getter.
Paragraph 2-3: History of the problem (including, perhaps, past attempts at a solution). Sources needed
Paragraphs 4-10: Basic arguments: reasons why your point should be accepted. Sources needed
Paragraph 11: Conclusion: Restatement of thesis and summary of main ideas. Source may be needed for closing attention-getter.
D. Once your paper has been written, check every quotation in it for accuracy.
E. Recheck your parenthetical citations and works cited entries for accuracy.
1.Make sure that all quoted and paraphrased material is cited.
2. Make sure that you have not included sources on the works cited page that you have not used in writing the paper.
F. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
V. See sample paper with comments.
2. gun control
3. gay rights
4. wetland conservation
5. farm subsidies
6. school prayer
7. NCAA academic requirements
8. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations
9. legalization of marijuana
10. private school vouchers
11. liberal arts requirements
12. term limitations for Congress
13. reinstitution of the draft
14. Equal Rights Amendment
15. controls on Internet pornography
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