Guide to Writing Argumentative Essays

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A Brief Guide to Writing Argumentative Essays


1. So, what do you write about? Pick a well-defined, controversial issue.

2. A clear position taken by the writer. In your thesis sentence, state what your position is. You do not need to say: "I believe that we should financially support the space station." Using the first person weakens your argument. Say "Funding for the space station is imperative to maintain America's competitive edge in the global economy." The thesis can be modified elsewhere in the essay if you need to qualify your position, but avoid hedging in your thesis.

3. A convincing argument. An argumentative essay does not merely assert an opinion; it presents an argument, and that argument must be backed up by data that persuades readers that the opinion is valid. This data consists of facts, statistics, the testimony of others through personal interviews and questionnaires or through articles and books, and examples. The writer of an argumentative essay should seek to use educated sources that are nonbiased, and to use them fairly.

 4. A reasonable tone. Assume that your reader will disagree with you or be skeptical. It is important, therefore, that your tone be reasonable, professional, and trustworthy. By anticipating objections and making concessions, you inspire confidence and show your good will.

Steps of a Research Paper

1. 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.

2. Begin your library and/or web research.

3. Write the outline, rough draft, and the final paper. Then rewrite it to make it sound as professional as possible.

To analyze something, divide it into parts. 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.

 Paragraph 2-3: History of the problem (including, perhaps, past attempts at a solution). Sources needed

 Paragraph 4-6: Extent of the problem (who is affected; how bad is it, etc.). Sources needed

 Paragraphs 7-8: Repercussion of the problem if not solved. Sources needed.

 Paragraphs 9-10: You should have led up to a conclusion that your argument is sound. Pull it all together by connecting your argument with the facts. Anticipate objections and make concessions.

 Paragraph 11: Conclusion: Restatement of thesis and summary of main ideas.

5. Once your paper has been written, check every quotation in it for accuracy. Your instructor may require that every quotation should be photocopied and included with what you turn in. All quoted matter should be clearly marked on the photocopy.


A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. To be as effective as possible, a paragraph should contain each of the following: Unity, Coherence, A Topic Sentence, and Adequate Development


The most important paragraphs in an essay introduce your topic to your reader. Your introduction may be one paragraph in a fairly short essay or several paragraphs in a longer essay.

A proper introduction should:

Some approaches to writing an introduction:

NOTE: Regardless if one uses a single paragraph or three paragraphs, the introduction should be proportionately no more than one-fifth of the overall essay.


Thesis Statement Opening- This is the traditional style of opening a paper. This is a "mini-summary" of your paper.

Opening with a Story (Anecdote)- A good way of catching your reader's attention is by sharing a story that sets up your paper. Sharing a story gives a paper a more personal feel and helps make your reader comfortable.

Specific Detail Opening- Giving specific details about your subject appeals to your reader's curiosity and helps establish a visual picture of what your paper is about.

Open with a Quotation- Another method of writing an introduction is to open with a quotation. This method makes your introduction more interactive and more appealing to your reader.

Open with an Interesting Statistic- Statistics that grab the reader help to make an effective introduction.

Question Openings- Possibly the easiest opening is one that presents one or more questions to be answered in the paper. This is effective because questions are usually what the reader has in mind when he or she sees your topic.

Beginning with a question- When you begin your essay with a question, you ask your reader to consider with you the problem that inspired you to write. What question are you trying to answer in your essay? Why is this question important to you and to your readers?
Beginning by Stating a Position- When you are writing an argumentative essay, you may decide to begin by stating your position in the first paragraph. When you state your position, however, you need to be sure to help your reader understand the context for your argument. Your thinking about this topic did not spring from nowhere: why is this topic important to you? Why should it interest your readers?
Beginning by Offering Background- If your readers may be unfamiliar with the topic about which you are writing, your introductory paragraph may serve to give them necessary background. Sometimes that background can summarize the results of other people's writing about the topic. Sometimes background information can place your topic in a larger context.

Beginning by Defining- Whenever you present an essay to readers, you want to be sure that you and your readers are defining terms in the same way. Starting out by defining key terms may be useful when those terms are confusing or able to be misread.
Beginning by Illustrating- An illustration, example, or anecdote can be an effective way of generating your readers' interest in your essay. Vivid details, suspenseful narrative, or interesting descriptions can make your reader want to continue reading. Illustrations, however, should relate to the focus of your essay.


A typical body paragraph should concern itself with a single focus.
The number of body paragraphs to which a writer should dedicate her essay development is often debated; three body paragraphs are the least development expected of you because your thesis should bear enough complexity to warrant at least three points of further discussion.


A topic sentence is a sentence that indicates in a general way what idea or thesis the paragraph is going to deal with. Although not all paragraphs have clear-cut topic sentences, and despite the fact that topic sentences can occur anywhere in the paragraph (as the first sentence, the last sentence, or somewhere in the middle), an easy way to make sure your reader understands the topic of the paragraph is to put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph.

Typically, body paragraphs organize themselves around the following pattern of development.


  • Your concluding paragraph should give your readers a sense of closure or completion. Very often, your concluding paragraph will develop naturally as you finish writing your body paragraphs.

You should avoid doing the following in concluding paragraphs. While there are those that believe the first two, especially, are necessary in argumentation papers, these techniques can take a fairly good paper and turn it into BAD writing. Be sure that your concluding paragraph exemplifies the same kind of careful consideration during development that your body paragraphs do.

  • AVOID restating the thesis statement from the introductory paragraph in exactly the same words

  • AVOID listing the main points of each of the body paragraph

  • AVOID introducing an entirely new topic.

Once you have written your concluding paragraph, reread your thesis statement. Has your paper strayed from the original thesis? Do you need to rewrite the thesis statement, the concluding paragraph, or both? A common freshman writing error is letting the paper develop naturally to its conclusion, even if it strays from the thesis, then submitting the paper without making sure that the thesis statement and the conclusion express the same opinion. Don't be afraid to change your thesis statement to reflect the main idea of the paper that you have written, but do be sure that the rest of the paper supports that final thesis statement.

Once you have written your concluding paragraph and you know what your paper is really about, it's time to work on the introductory paragraph.


Summary Closing

Many times conclusions are simple re-statements of the thesis. Many times these conclusions are much like their introductions .

Close with a Logical Conclusion

This is a good closing for argumentive or opinion papers that present two or more sides of an issue. The conclusion drawn as a result of the research is presented here in the final paragraphs.

Real or Rhetorical Question Closings

This method of concluding a paper is one step short of giving a logical conclusion. Rather than handing the conclusion over, you can leave the reader with a question that causes him or her to draw his own conclusions.

Close with a Speculation or Opinion

This is a good style for instances when the writer was unable to come up with an answer or a clear decision about whatever it was he or she was researching.

Close with a Recommendation

A good conclusion is when the writer suggests that the reader do something in the way of support for a cause or a plea for them to take action.


Ensure your paragraph is coherent. Every sentence in your paragraph should connect naturally with the surrounding sentences. Avoid lengthy or complicated paragraphs that lose the readers’ attention even when only one idea is presented. Instead, use transitional expressions to direct the reader along your train of thought and repeat key words to connect each item to your main idea. For example, transitional expressions can help you expand an idea further by using words such as: and, also, besides, and furthermore. For more information on transitional expressions see the "Transitional Expressions" handout.

Some Useful Transitional Expressions

If you want to:

Use these transitional expressions:


also, and, and then, as well, besides, beyond that, first (second, third, last, and so on), for one thing, furthermore, in addition, in fact, moreover, next, what is more


also, as well, both (neither), in the same way, in like manner, likewise, similarly


although, be that as it may, but, even though, however, in contrast, instead, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, yet, whereas

Concede (a point)

certainly, granted that, of course, no doubt, to be sure


above all, especially, in fact, in particular, indeed, most important, surely


as a case in point, as an illustration, for example, for instance, in particular, one such, yet another


above, beside, below, beyond, further, here, inside, nearby, next to, on the far side, outside, to the East (North, South, and so on)



Give a reason

as, because, for, since

Show a result

and so, because of this, as a consequence, as a result, consequently, incidentally, for this reason, hence, so, therefore, thus


all in all, finally, in any event, in brief, in conclusion, in other words, lastly, on the whole, to sum up

Place in time

after a while, afterward, as last, at present, briefly, currently, during, eventually, finally, first (second, and so on), gradually, immediately, in the future, later, meanwhile, now, recently, soon, suddenly, then



Every paragraph in an essay should have a topic sentence with a controlling idea.  Each sentence in the paragraph should relate to the topic and develop the controlling idea.

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