WRITING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY

What is an argument?

An argument states a clear position and presents evidence to support this position.

Your thesis statement or claim is a clear statement of position . It should be clear and focused enough for you to prove your position in your essay. The rest of the essay should be devoted to proving your position. Logical cohesion in your essay is very important because you should start from one premise, prove it, move from one argument to the next. All your arguments should serve to prove your main point. Moving away from the main point is not allowed, and if an idea does not support your main idea it should not be included in your essay.

Let's proceed step by step in writing an argumentative essay. Imagine you are given this task by your instructor:

"We should open a university in every town. Discuss."

1. Analyze the task

        Yes, it is debatable. Some may argue for it and some may argue against the idea.

        Do I agree?

        Do I disagree?

2. Develop your arguments

Let's try to answer some of these questions because they will help us formulate our arguments as well as provide our introduction to the issue by setting up the context.

Who cares?

What is the context?

Two sides of the issue: Why do people want it?

Why am I against it?

The quality of education in those universities will be substandard.

Why will the quality of education be below the desirable standards?

Now you fill in the boxes as you develop an argument against  the government plan to open a university in every town.

Argument: We should open a university in every town.

FOR

AGAINST

  •  practical/convenient

   support 1:

   support 2:

  • staffing problems

   support 1:

   support 2:

  •  economic development of the host town

   support 1:

   support 2:

  • financial problems

   support 1:

   support 2:

  •  sociocultural development of the host town

   support 1:

   support 2:

  • sociocultural development of the students

   support 1:

   support 2:

See answers

3. Writing an outline

Now we  have decided on our position, we have developed our arguments, and we have shown an awareness of both sides of the issue. We are ready to start writing our essay. Our outline looks like this:

Thesis: It is not a good idea to open a university in every town.

Argument 1: staffing problems

            support 1: not enough qualified teachers

            support 2: not willing to go

Argument 2: financial difficulties

            support 1: building facilities

            support 2: providing services

Refutation:

Counter argument : a university will contribute to economic and sociocultural development of host town

Refutation of counter argument:  a university wrestling with its own economic  and sociocultural problems cannot contribute to development of  host town

4. Writing the introduction

The purpose of the argumentative essay is

The purpose of the introduction is

How to develop an introduction:

Ask yourself the questions:

  1. What is the context?
  2. Who cares?
  3. So what?
  4. Why should people care about this topic?

Answer the questions:

1. What is the context?

2. So what?

3. Who cares?

4. Why should people care about this issue?

5. Writing the essay: further developing your arguments

While writing your essay, make sure that your arguments are developed sufficiently.

Let's go back to the outline and provide adequate formal reasoning and proof for our arguments..

Argument 1: staffing problems

            support 1: not enough qualified teachers

     why? rate of education low in our country/not enough university              

     graduates/not enough people with master's and PhD degrees

            support 2: not willing to go

            why? living conditions not good/academic conditions not good

            so what? low quality teaching staff==>low quality education

Argument 2: financial difficulties

            support 1: building facilities

            what kind? labs, libraries, dorms, sports and social facilities, cafeterias needed

            support 2: providing services academic and non-academic

services==>food, transportation, accommodation, how water, computers, lab equipment, bookstore, library services

so what ? quality of education will deteriorate

Refutation: In your refutation you want to show

Summarize the opposite opinion in a sentence or two and provide the context. Then,

1. problematize the opposing arguments

2. shift from opposing arguments to supporting arguments

1. Problematizing the opposing arguments: It is important that the reader knows that when you write opposing arguments you do not agree with them. You have to make it clear that you are presenting these arguments only to show that you understand the issue from both sides, that you have anticipated the opposing arguments and wish to criticize them. In order to signal this you have to use special phrases. To problematize something means you make it seem like a problem, to make it seem untrue.

However, you should avoid an aggressive approach when you are problematizing your opponent's arguments. For example, do not use expressions like, "This is silly/foolish/rubbish" or "It/This is not true."

Example:

Counter argument: "The establishment of a university in a small or developing town will contribute to the development of local culture, community and economy."

Problematized argument: "It is argued that the establishment of a university in a small  or developing town will contribute to the development of  local culture, community and economy."

See the language summary for Problematizing Arguments

2. Shifting  from opposing arguments to supporting arguments: You should clearly mark the point  where you shift from opposing arguments to supporting arguments. The most common of the contrast markers is "However".

Example:
It is argued that the establishment of a university in a small  or developing town will contribute to the development of  local culture, community and economy. However, if a university is wrestling with staff recruitment problems and cannot solve its financial funding problems,  it cannot be of any help to the local community or the economy.

6. Writing the conclusion

You can try one or several of the strategies below:

See the sample argumentative essay written using the arguments and strategies we have discussed in this handout.


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