How to Write an Argument Essay

Strong Research, Persuasive Points Are Key

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Writing an argument essay takes careful research and planning. Hero Images / Getty Images

When you write an argument essay, you are, yes, trying to win a philosophical argument. That's the whole point, period. It's an aptly named piece. So to be effective an argument essay must contain certain elements that will persuade the audience to see things from your perspective. It needs persuasive language that leads to rational and convincing conclusions.    

Find a Good Topic

To find good topic for an argument essay, consider several issues and choose a few that spark two solid, conflicting points of view or very different conclusions.

As you look over a list of topics you should find one that really piques your interest.

While a strong interest in a topic is important, it's not enough to make it good material for an argument. You have to consider what position you can back up with reasoning and evidence. It's one thing to have a strong belief, but when shaping an argument you'll have to explain why your belief is reasonable and logical.

As you explore the topics, make a mental list of points you could use as evidence for or against an issue.

Consider Both Sides of Your Topic and Take a Position

Once you have selected a topic you feel strongly about, you should make a list of points for both sides of the argument and pick a side. One of your first objectives in your essay will be to present both sides of your issue with an assessment of each. Of course, you will decide that one side (your side) is the best conclusion. You'll need to consider strong arguments for the "other" side.

Then you'll shoot them down.

Gather Evidence

When you think of arguments you might picture two red-faced people speaking quite loudly and making dramatic gestures. But that's because face-to-face arguments often become emotional. In fact, the act of arguing involves providing proof to support your claim, with or without emotions.

In an argument essay you should provide evidence without providing too much drama. You'll explore two sides of a topic briefly and then provide proof as to why one side or position is the best one.

Write the Essay

Once you've given yourself a solid foundation to work with, you can begin to craft your essay. An argument essay, as with all essays, should contain three parts: the introduction, the body and the conclusion. The length of these parts -- the number of paragraphs -- varies depending on the length of your essay assignment.

Introduce your topic and assert your opinion: As in any essay, the first paragraph of your argument essay should contain a brief explanation of your topic, some background information and a thesis statement. In this case, your thesis is a statement of your position on a specific controversial topic.

Here's an example of an introductory paragraph with thesis statement:

Since the turn of the new century, a theory has emerged concerning the end of the world, or at least the end of life as we know it. This new theory centers around the year 2012, a date that many claim has mysterious origins in ancient manuscripts from many different cultures. The most noted characteristic of this date is that it appears to mark the end of the Mayan calendar. But there is no evidence to suggest that the Maya saw any great relevance to this date. In fact, none of the claims surrounding a 2012 doomsday event hold up to scientific inquiry. The year 2012 will pass without a major, life-altering catastrophe.

Present both sides of the controversy: The body of your essay should contain the meat of your argument. You should go into more detail about the two sides of your topic and state the strongest points of the counter-side of your issue.

After describing the "other" side, present your own viewpoint and then provide evidence to show why your position is the correct one.

Choose your strongest evidence and present your points one by one. Use a mix of evidence types, from statistics to other studies and anecdotal stories. This part of your paper could be any length, from two paragraphs to 200 pages.

Re-state your position as the most sensible one in your summary paragraphs.

Follow These Guidelines

  • Avoid emotional language. Overly emotional arguments sound irrational.
  • Know the difference between a logical conclusion and an emotional point of view.
  • Don't make up evidence and don't use bad sources for evidence.
  • Cite your sources.
  • Make an outline.
  • Be prepared to defend your side by knowing the strongest arguments for the other side. You might be challenged by the teacher or by another student.