Developing the Outline for an Argumentative Essay
Argumentative essays are also known as ‘position papers’ because of their justification of the side of the issue that they are written in support of. Generally, argumentative essays focus on topics that are prone to attract controversy, academic discourse and partisanship.
Common argumentative essay topics include issues such as euthanasia, capital punishment, abortions and animal testing. An argumentative essay should not be a unilateral rant. It should address counter-arguments and should be able refute them with evidence in support of its message.
Although the style of presenting an argumentative position is not set in stone and there is no definitive way to illustrate how to write an argumentative essay, it generally follows a generic format which enables it to maintain flow as the argument is explored.
The Format of an Argumentative Essay
A generic outline of an argumentative essay is as follows:
Writing a thesis statement for an argumentative essay is a strong and bold start. It should be chosen carefully as it provides a roadmap of the direction in which the essay is headed and it also provides a glimpse of what the reader should expect from the oncoming paragraphs. Thesis statements tend to:
- Deliver to the reader, a glimpse of how the subject’s importance will be interpreted and expressed.
- Address the audience’s expectations of the content and implies the main arguments used in the position paper.
- Offer ways to understand the subject rather than bluntly stating the subject itself e.g. if the essay addresses global warming, the thesis statement could be something that helps in the understanding of global warming even though it may not contain any directly related statements.
- Make claims and arguments that are bound to create controversy and multilateral debate. They tend to set the tone for the essay and enable proponents of the argument to band along as they read further e.g. Employees in a firm should be made to attend motivational seminars and training workshops every month to ensure effective workforce activity.
- Be in the first paragraph of the argumentative essay because they act as a greeting into the argument and a gateway towards the exploration of the issue at hand, while choosing the better alternative to begin with.
The primacy effect states that first impressions can create a lasting perception of a particular phenomenon. (Note: This can be counted as a thesis statement too!) The introductory paragraph should be interesting and should be able to captivate the reader’s attention.
An unimpressive start to an essay severely limits the chances of it being read till its conclusion. It should provide a brief summary of what is in store for the reader without giving away too much detail so that it does not steal any attention from the main body.
Introductory paragraphs also contain thesis statements which enable the article to start off with momentum. They can act as gateways to the main argument and lead the reader on into the detailed expression that the main body possesses.
This section is the core of the argumentative essay. This is where the arguments are brought forth in detail. This section should be split up into multiple paragraphs. It is a good idea to split every argument into its own paragraph and address the strongest arguments first so as to create a strong case for the essay.
Writing in the order of strength and relevance of the arguments helps reassure readers that are in agreement with the statement, and more importantly, helps to convince readers with opposing views.
The last few paragraphs of the main body should be reserved for the counter-arguments posed by the opponents of the essay’s view. These should be stated in the last few paragraphs along with reasons refuting their validity which helps in further strengthening the essay’s argument.
The essay conclusion is necessary to reiterate the thesis statement and it enables the reader to remember and recall the highlighted points by means of a review. It is not intended to plainly regurgitate the thesis statement; rather, it strengthens the argument made in light of the evidence provided in the body.
It also provides solutions proposed by the essay and the argument it supports so that the opposing arguments can be countered simultaneously with the proposed solution. Conclusions should contain a summary of the valid points made in the body and should make the findings more applicable and relevant to other scopes of study that the argument may apply to.
Apart from the outline, what else should one consider in depth before writing?
Choosing a Topic for an Argumentative Essay
Topics for an argumentative essay should be chosen with care as it should be made approachable and the writer should be able to elaborate with sufficient detail and relevance so that the point is made clearly to the reading audience and it is registered within their thought process. While choosing a topic, the writer should consider the following points:
- The topic should have the capacity to be argued for or against. Although most topics can be argued, the rule does not possess universality.
- The topic must be current and relevant. Referrals to past events must also be linked to the present so that the relevant counter-arguments can be addressed. An essay that fails to stir up significant discourse shows the signs of a weak topic.
- The topic must be of interest to the writer. Even though several arguments possess vast arrays of details, if the writer shows limited interest in the topic, he/she cannot delve deep enough into the web of its complexity and cannot effectively provide arguments for the issue at hand.
Some topics that can be argued in great depth are:
- Gay Rights in Modern Society
- The War on Terror: A Road to Freedom or a Grave Mistake?
- Abortion: Is it a Right or is it Murder?
- Communism leads to Societal Detriment.
Collecting Information for an Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay would have no validity if it did not possess the content and subject matter that it requires to propel its viewpoint. Collecting information can be one of the longest phases in the process of writing an argumentative essay.
Sources should be checked for validity and reliability e.g. Wikipedia, although a great source of general information, cannot be used as a credible source in most professional and academic works because of its limited validity, moderation and its grant of editing privileges to all users. Plagiarism should be avoided at all costs.
Every essay, prose or literary piece should be revised to check for errors and should not be heavily clichéd. It is also advisable to get feedback from neutral individuals so that other ideas can be added and the hidden errors can be rectified.
A brainstorming session always proves beneficial before and after writing an argumentative essay. New ideas, citations, grammatical errors, structural details and formatting can all be accounted for once the essay is revised and proof-read.
Once the writer is comfortable with the essay, then it should be published or submitted for evaluation. Writers should take feedback positively and should try to keep their argumentative skills as dynamic, lucid and adaptive as possible. Writers who are able to inculcate such details into their styles would know how to write an argumentative essay and would keep honing their skills with the passage of time.