10 Killer Tips For Argumentative Writing

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Argumentative Essay Writing – Here’s 10 Killer Tips

September 28, 2015 – Posted to Writing

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Starting Off With An Argumentation

In the early days of television, there was a show called “Dragnet.” It was a cop show featuring two detectives in the 50’s out to solve crime and keep the community safe. Today, it would be a bit laughable, but one phrase always sticks in my mind about this show. Whenever Detective Jack Webb was interviewing witnesses and they began to insert their opinions and emotions, he would always say, “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” And this really could be the mantra for an argumentative essay – you have to deal only with facts.

What an Argumentative Essay is and What It is Not

If you are struggling with trying to understand how to write an argumentative essay that will impress and get a good grade, you first have to understand what it is.

  1. It is a piece of writing where you get to give your opinion on an issue
  2. It is not a piece of writing where you get to go into an emotional tirade. We have plenty of that from crazy politicians.
  3. It is a piece of writing where you get to present facts that support your opinion
  4. It is not a piece of writing where you just spout your opinions and expect others to simply accept them
  5. It is a piece of writing where you do have to give the opposing side’s arguments too
  6. It is not a piece of writing where you can just dismiss the opposing side with personal insults and attacks – again, we get plenty of that from politicians.

By now, you should have figured out that an argumentative essay is easily defined. You take a stand on a controversial issue, you get the research done so that you have real facts in front of you, on both sides, and you write an essay that proves your opinion is the stronger one. If you don’t do this right, you are going to defeat your arguments, and other side “wins.” You don’t want to lose, do you?

 

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The Step-by-Step Process

Yes, you are waiting for your 10 killer tips, and they are coming. But first, let’s just take a quick look at the process for crafting an argumentative essay.

  • Pick a Topic: You will never be at a loss for argumentative essay writing ideas. They are all around you – just turn on TV and watch one show on MSNBC and one on FOX cable. These pundits scream and yell about issues all the time – politics, climate change, evolution, gay rights, abortion, religion, etc. Choose one that interests you or “hits close to home.”
  • Craft a Thesis Statement: You already have an opinion and that is your thesis statement – couldn’t be much simpler. But you may not know exactly why you have that opinion or how you can convince somebody else to agree with you. That’s for the next step.
  • Do the Research: You won’t have any problem finding information on your topic. The challenge will be to use reliable sources that actually give factual information you can use. It is fine to read an editorial in a newspaper that has been written by someone who believes as you do, but then you will need to find one written by someone who disagrees, so that you can know that facts that the other side is presenting too.
  • Make a List: Actually, make two lists, one for the evidence that supports your opinion and one for the evidence that supports the opposing opinion. Try to line them up.
  • Choose 3 Strong Arguments: Pick the 3 strongest arguments that support your opinion and make sure you have the facts to back them up. Then, look at your opponent’s list and find those arguments that relate to yours. Look at the evidence for those arguments and see how your evidence can outweigh it.
  • Structuring the Essay: It is usually acceptable to use a full paragraph on each of your 3 points, and then to provide one paragraph with the opposing side’s points. This gives your argument more weight, of course, but, in that paragraph, you can refer back to points you made in your argument to refute these.
  • Your Introduction: This should be easy. You introduce your topic and make your thesis statement. We’ll talk about it in the “tips” so you can make it brilliant.
  • Your Conclusion: Re-state your points and the belief that you have definitely “won” this argument.

Finally – the 10 Killer Tips

These should make writing you essay a bit easier and also a bit “crafty like a fox.”

  1. Only choose a topic you are passionate about – you’ll have more fun finding the facts and smashing the other side.
  2. No emotions on your part. Now, this does not mean that you can’t stir some emotions in your readers, but you have to do it subtly, by presenting facts that will make them respond emotionally. So, be sure you have some facts that will do that.
  3.  Don’t slam the other side with dis-respectful terms such as “stupid,” “uninformed,” “evil,” or “crazy.” You may be able to show this with your evidence, but don’t call it out. Let the reader come to those conclusions.
  4. Try presenting the opposing side first. This will be really different and may impress you instructor – those “brownie points” never hurt.
  5. Don’t ever make up evidence – it’s too easy to check these days. If you can’t find strong enough evidence for one of your points, choose another point to use.
  6. Get a stunner of an opening. You are going for shock value here, or to get a strong emotional response. Here’s an example:

Suppose you are opposed to the continued cuts that are being made to the Food Stamp program – a program that is less than 1/10 of 1% of the total federal budget (that’s a pretty surprising statement in itself). You may want to start with a short anecdote about a family of 4, in which both parents are working minimum-wage jobs and yet don’t make enough to meet all of their expenses. They rely on food stamps to supplement their budget so they can feed their kids. Here’s another fact: 86% of the people on food stamps today are disabled veterans and civilians, unemployed veterans, enlisted servicemen with families to feed, and senior citizens. Another 12% are single working moms or working parents who don’t make enough. Any of these beginnings would be great to use.

  1. Cite your sources within your essay so the reader (your instructor) knows you used credible ones.
  2. Let the evidence tell your story, not your opinion statements.
  3. Find really respected people who agree with you and quote them. Did you know, for example, that the Department of Defense has produced a report that says income inequality and poverty present a national security threat?
  4. Get a friend to read the essay and tell you if s/he was persuaded by your argument.
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Some Argumentative Essay Ideas

Some of the big issues are commonly taken by your classmates, and your instructor may get a bit bored reading the same thing over and. If you are really passionate about a less used topic, go for it. Here are a few that may be a bit more unique:

  1. Drug companies are suppressing important information about natural substances that may prevent and/or cure some diseases.
  2. The average campaign for Senator is $2-3 million; for President it is close to $500 million. We need to get money out of politics.
  3. We have, in the last 50 years, eliminated half the animal species on this planet. We have to put severe restrictions in place world-wide.
  4. General education requirements in college are “dinosaurs” and need to go.

You can probably think of others. The more unique, the better it will be received.

Your Takeaway

Don’t let an argumentative essay assignment intimidate you. Follow the steps outlined above, use the 10 tips to make it pop, and you’ll have a great experience and a great grade.

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Writing Argumentative Essays

 

  • Search for a topic which interests you (perhaps in your major field). Try to come up with something fairly controversial, but avoid subjects that have been overdone (abortion, capital punishment).
  • Try a heuristic strategy (free writing, brainstorming, clustering, journal writing, journalistic formula, etc.).
  • After doing the appropriate pre-writing and organizing activities, write a draft which supports a thesis or conclusion of your own. Be sure it is an arguable one so that you can clearly choose one side. At this point some research may be necessary (library, interviews of experts, polls, surveys, experiments, etc.) to find data to support your conclusion more strongly than you can from your own background knowledge.

Structure your argument similarly to the following:

 

  1. Introduction – Give background or perhaps an illustrative example to show the significance of the subject or the nature of the controversy. Consider stating the conclusion of your argument here as the thesis of your essay.

     

  2. Refutation – Give a brief statement of a refutation of the opposing view(s) to make your reader aware that you have considered but rejected it (them) for good reasons. This refutation may be more appropriately placed last, just before your conclusion, or even interspersed at effective locations throughout the essay. You must choose the best location.

     

  3. Presentation of your argument – Throughout the body of your essay you should build your case one point at a time, perhaps devoting one paragraph to the defense of each of your premises, or setting forth your evidence in separate, meaningful categories.

     

  4. Conclusion – After all your evidence has been presented and/or your premises defended, pull your whole argument together in the last paragraph by showing how the evidence you have presented provides sufficient grounds for accepting your conclusion. You may also add here some conventional device to finish your essay, such as a prediction, a new example, a reference to the example with which you began (now seen in a new light) etc.
  • Revise and edit, and be sure to apply the critical process to your argument to be certain you have not committed any errors in reasoning or included any fallacies for which you would criticize some other writer (see the handout “Guidelines for Writing Critical Essays”).

Adapted from George Hammerbacher, “Guidelines for Writing Critical and Argumentative Essays,” in D.W. Farmer. Enhancing Student Learning: Emphasizing Essential Competencies in Academic Programs Kings College Press: Wilkes-Barre, PA 1988. pp. 226-228.

 


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