An argumentative essay is about making a well-crafted argument.
It requires the writer to research an idea, thoroughly evaluate it, and then present a position in a way that demonstrates the validity of the paper’s thesis. The goal of an argumentative essay is to prove your argument over and against others.
You may encounter argumentative essays in-class exams, final papers, or a senior thesis because they demonstrate that the student knows the material and understands it enough to create an informed opinion about it.
Argumentative Essays Must…
- Make an argument for or against something.
This may seem so obvious that it isn’t worth mentioning, but one of the often overlooked problems with argumentative essays is that they don’t end up taking a position on the material they are covering. The argumentative thesis must be an evaluative statement that clearly states the writer’s position.
- Use sound reasoning.
Argumentative essays depend on verifiable and comparable evidence. Unlike a persuasive essay, argumentative essays should rely on evidence-based claims that can be factually, logically, statistically, or anecdotally supported. This means you should avoid qualitative judgments that are based on opinions or beliefs.
- Logical transitions between supporting arguments.
Since you are trying to build a rock-solid argument, it is vital that your argument proceeds in a sensible manner. If your reader cannot easily follow your argument, then your thesis can’t stand up as reasonable and true.
- A conclusion that addresses the evidence.
The conclusion in an argumentative essay should not just restate the thesis but should review the thesis in light of the evidence offered through the paper’s body. This includes explaining why the thesis is important and logical.
In face-to-face conversations, it is easy to have a dialogue with the person you are arguing (discussing) an idea with. This isn’t the case in argumentative essays. That’s why it is important that your paper already address the various counter-arguments that you might receive from your reader.
One way to address a counter argument is by explicitly talking about it in your paper at the time that your reader might be prompted to raise it. Although this can be difficult to get into the mind of your reader (especially if you don’t know who it is), this can be a very effective way of keeping your reader’s attention on the points you are making at the moment.
Alternatively, you can address all of the counter-arguments at the end of your paper. This is especially effective if your paper takes a critical look at any shortcomings your argument may contain. Evaluating counter-arguments in this fashion tends to work well when your topic doesn’t lend itself to a cut-and-dry solution.
Finally, you could also try to cut any counter-arguments off at the pass before they have a chance to effectively form. This is difficult but helpful when reviewing and editing your arguments. It can ensure your arguments say exactly what you want them to, and not something else.
Keeping Track of Your Tone
The main purpose of an argumentative paper is to make an argument and “win”.
It’s important to make sure that while you are making the very best case for your thesis your tone doesn’t become too aggressive. If your reader starts to feel like you are attacking or berating them, they’ll get defensive or stop reading altogether. This is especially bad if your reader is also in charge of your grade!
Remember, winning an argument on paper isn’t about who can make their point the loudest, but about who can best support their thesis.
Tip: Get curious, not critical.
It’s completely fine to disagree with someone else. Instead of criticizing their view from the start, first “get curious” about why they think that. Then you’ll be able to enter a deeper and more informed dialogue with their perspective.