The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
What is an argumentative essay?
The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Please note: Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.
Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.
The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important (exigence) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis (warrant).
However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph essay
A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.
Longer argumentative essays
Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.
The broadness of persuasive writing is what makes it extremely valuable to learn. It is taught early on in schools. Students learn how to dissect political speeches, advertisements, and various other media. Most persuasive writing addresses contemporary issues. It challenges writers to take a stance and provide an educated opinion. So what is a persuasive essay?
The persuasive essay definition is an When writing a persuasive essay, the writer must conduct solid research and analysis to understand their subject to the fullest extent. They must be aware of their own (and the readers’) biases. Upon finishing reading a persuasive essay, the reader must be convinced that there is no other correct point of view.
Our professional essay writers have crafted this definitive guide to help you write an outstanding persuasive essay!
Table Of Contents
In schools, persuasive writing is taught using the five-paragraph essay structure. The high school persuasive essay format is usually APA. However, senior students are often tasked to write in MLA to help them transition into college.
The format of a persuasive essay . For example, a typical body paragraph is the presentation and solidification of one argument. The section opens up with an introductory sentence which leads to the argument. After the argument is presented, the writer uses sources to prove that their argument is valid. Next, the writer transitions into the next argument, and so forth. The ‘outline’ section of this article provides further insight on how to format a persuasive essay.
Persuasive Essay Topics
When thinking of persuasive essay ideas, . Broad issues such as gun control and abortion rights can spawn novel length essays. These best be avoided unless you’re writing a dissertation.
Say you want to argue in favor of space exploration. It perfectly fits the description of a widely explored contemporary subject. Creating a structure where every body paragraph explores a different planet might be a bit too much. This way, you can convince the audience of the benefits of creating a moon base, and giving them a small idea of what can be achieved from space exploration on a larger scale.
Hence, you have persuaded your reader on a small topic connected to a much broader one. This will leave them inspired with plenty of thoughts to feast on, allowing them to dive further into the world of space.
Topics For High School
Perhaps the concept of space exploration is long and tedious and makes your stomach turn. Don’t worry - you can come up with plenty simple persuasive essay topics for high school. Perhaps you have already debated on some of these with your friends:
- Should sex ed be taught in public schools?
- Should ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ be banned in school because its language makes some kids uncomfortable?
- Should cellphones be banned in classrooms?
- Should students wear uniforms in school?
- Should students influence the school curriculum?
Topics for College
Persuasive essay topics for college get a bit more complicated. Students have the opportunity to make a serious impact with their writing, fearlessly breathing new life into the old world. For college, it is best to choose controversial persuasive essay topics. They challenge the writer to engage in relevant intellectual issues. Here are some examples:
- Media marketed for teenagers advertise morally and ethically wrong messages.
- Federal courtrooms must have live cameras that televise all trials.
- Beauty contests should not be encouraged.
- With the amounts of information available online, college education should be made significantly cheaper.
- Create a prisoner rehabilitation system using music and art.
- Arguing in favor of Net Neutrality.
Crafting A Thesis Statement
The primary concern when writing a persuasive essay thesis should be the writer's position on the selected topic. The writer’s mission is to create a piece that will solidify the thesis, proving it as valid and unchallenged. Here are some examples to shed more light on how to write a thesis statement for a persuasive essay:
Bad Thesis Statements:
- Homeless people are becoming a nuisance in Chicago, and someone should take care of them.
- There are many pros of buying food from local markets.
- Life on Mars is possible if we make it so.
Good Thesis Statements:
- The government of Chicago must take the homeless problem more seriously, providing them access to services such as food donations, public restrooms, and camping facilities.
- Buying food from local markets is hugely beneficial in improving the economy of small towns and villages, and the country as a whole.
- Mars colonization might be the only hope left for humanity, as pollution levels on Earth will soon make the planet uninhabitable.
As you may have noticed, lousy thesis statements offer a generalized and neutral view. Good thesis statements take a stable position in the argument.
Persuasive Essay Outline
After getting well-versed on your topic, it is essential to craft an outline. The outline will assist you in organizing your argument. These arguments and references used will all be placed in your outline which you can always refer to when writing your essay. The end of this section contains a persuasive essay outline example to help you get it done.
There are plenty of ways how to start a persuasive essay. The introduction of the essay must blast off with a hook to grab the audience’s attention. You can start with a humorous statement to break the ice and suggest a less formal writing approach. Alternatively, you may begin with a robust controversial statement. Put the reader straight into the action!
The same goes for a persuasive essay introduction. While it seems like a small structural element without any reliable info, the opening is crucial to capturing and maintaining the reader’s interest. It is best to write the introduction in the end. Knowing the content that follows will help you lead into it.
Here’s where the heavy artillery comes into play. Good persuasive writers know the topic inside out. They can anticipate any opposing views and provide counter-arguments. Here are ways you could support an argument in a persuasive essay body paragraph.
- Use Facts. Factual information will come from reading and observation, as well as personal experience. These facts always have to be backed up by sources to make them credible.
- Quotes. “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” It is highly likely that there have been writers who already tackled your topic. Referring to them, and solidifying your argument with quotes can have a tremendous impact.
- Statistics. Some things just can’t be argued with. Always have statistics from a reliable scientific source to make your argument solid.
- Examples. These can include all of the above. Painting a specific scenario as an example could also work - depending on how it’s written. A good essay writer can persuade on just about any point.
- Concessions. An excellent way to prove your expertise in the field is by accepting part of your opponent's argument as valid. Creating a concession will put you in a right place from an ethical perspective. It will help you find common ground with your opponent. “True, building a border wall will help keep drugs out of the country. However, people who fully rely on it are missing the point…”
It is precious to know how to end a persuasive essay efficiently. The persuasive essay conclusion does not delve far from the introduction. However, certain elements are exclusive for conclusions. Restating the thesis and summarizing main points is the obvious first thing to do.
To make a conclusion effective, one must write a meaningful personal comment. This could be a call for action to leave the reader with something to ponder about. This can be a prediction based on the information presented in the essay. It could be a quote that you believe perfectly summarizes the piece and its main points. Perhaps you’ve already found the solution to the problem, and you want to use the conclusion to suggest a way to solve it?
The final version of your outline should look something like this.
There are specific things instructors will look for in your essay. Following this persuasive essay rubric will help you win the praise of your professors.
- Focus: The thesis statement, as with the whole paper, must state a concrete point of view instead of being neutral. Every piece of writing in the paper exists to defend that thesis statement.
- Supporting the thesis: The thesis is well defined through solid arguments and references to credible sources. There is a minimum of 3 supporting points, which are organized in the essay outline.
- Organization: Every transition from one idea to the next is executed smoothly. There are transitional sentences which help the essay flow. Arguments are presented in the most suitable order.
- Conclusion: After reading the essay - the reader must have understood the writer’s point of view. The point of view is unbiased and educated and presented in a way that challenges the writer to take part in the argument.
- Conventions: Punctuation and grammar rules are supported. The essay isn’t hard to read due to a balance between short and long sentences.
Having ticked off these points, you can rest assured you’ve done everything correctly.
With all being said, here are some final tips for writing a persuasive essay.
- Avoid fancy vocabulary: Having some variety when it comes to vocabulary is fine - but don’t expect your grade to go up because of some fancy synonyms. Find your style and write in a way that makes sense.
- Search for different persuasion techniques. There are plenty of them in countless different mediums. Perhaps doing some research on persuasion might help you with your essay.
- Triple check your work! Practice makes perfect, and so does proofreading. Check the essay for readability. Make sure that everything flows in harmony with the thesis. Get a second pair of eyes by giving your essay to a friend for reading!
- Every paragraph is a mini-essay: This is the best out of all the persuasive essay tips you will find. Take the essay outline, compress it, and apply it to every paragraph. This way, every section has an introduction with a hook, a mini-thesis, a sustained argument, and final concluding sentence. The structure is everything!
Check out any persuasive essay example to help get those creative juices flowing!
Are Women Weaker Than Men Today?
Have Human Been Too Dependent On Technology
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This type of essay is one of the most common types of papers assigned in your early high school years. Their main purpose is to teach a beginner writer how to present and structure an argument. From my years of experience writing such essays, I’ve learned that the most important thing to do is to always, always, always present the counter argument. If your paper just talks about your side of the argument, then you didn’t do a good job writing. The way you win over a person who doesn’t share your point of view is not by blindly forcing them to accept your argument, but instead explaining to them why their argument is invalid. My advice for writing persuasive essays is: when you’re toward the end of your essay, include a paragraph of the counter argument and explain why that point of view is invalid. This strategy will make your essay infinitely stronger.