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What is an Argumentative Essay?


An argumentative essay aims to convince the reader to agree with the writer’s perspective on a particular issue or topic. It relies on factual evidence, logical reasoning, acknowledgment of counterarguments, and persuasive techniques to present a strong, defensible position.

Unlike other essay types that may report or describe, an argumentative essay actively makes a case by citing reliable sources, addressing different viewpoints, and ultimately arguing why one side has more merit. The writer takes a definitive stance from the opening lines and utilizes each section to methodically reinforce that overarching claim.

Argumentative essays are commonly assigned to students to assess their critical thinking, research, and rhetorical persuasion skills. However, they’re also widely used in professional spheres like law, science, business proposals, and more to rigorously analyze an issue and drive decision-making.

At their core, these essays rely on airtight logic and well-qualified evidence to change the tide of readers’ opinions or beliefs on a topic. When executed effectively, argumentation becomes a powerful tool to sway even the most contradictory perspectives.


Argumentative Essay Structure

There is a fundamental structure and flow that all effective argumentative essays follow:



The opening section circulates around a precise, defensible thesis statement which explicitly identifies the issue and reveals the writer’s stance. This is typically a single sentence thesis, though it may be two for highly complex topics. The introduction should engage readers with some background context, an interesting fact/statistic, or a rhetorical question related to the subject.


Body Paragraphs

The body acts as the crux of the argumentative essay, comprised of several paragraphs that lay out and develop the main supporting reasons, evidence, examples, and logic behind the writer’s position. Typically, each body paragraph focuses on fleshing out a singular point or piece of reasoning through extended analysis, facts, quotes, anecdotes, etc. These paragraphs should link together cohesively and guide the reader through the writer’s argument in a sensible sequence.



While not its own section, a substantive argumentative essay must dedicate part of the body or a full paragraph to describing opposing viewpoints and providing counterarguments. This demonstrates the writer’s thorough understanding of the issue’s complexities and preemptively defuses potential objections or criticisms. By directly grappling with contrasting perspectives, the writer can systematically rebut and fortify their original thesis.



The essay closes with a conclusion that recapitulates the main points, revisits the thesis, and reinforces why the writer’s stance is best supported. This section should flow naturally from the body paragraphs while driving home the overarching argument one final time. Some conclusions may offer insight into broader implications of the issue, suggest next steps or solutions, or share an insightful closing remark.


Different Types of Argumentative Essays

While the term “argumentative essay” encompasses various styles, there are a few distinct types to be aware of:


Persuasive Essays

These essays aim to not only present the writer’s perspective, but actively seek to sway the reader’s thoughts, beliefs, or actions. They adopt a forceful, unwavering tone and pull from authoritative evidence to try to bring others around to the writer’s way of thinking.


Research Essays

As the name implies, research essays concentrate more on synthesizing findings, data, and insights from credible sources to construct an argument. While a persuasive element remains, the primary focus rests on investigating an issue and analyzing what the preponderance of evidence suggests.


Polemical/Controversial Essays

These essays introduce a controversial or inflammatory thesis orchestrated to provoke heated debates or stir up conflict and dissent with the reader. The goal moves beyond mere persuasion into disrupting currently held norms or beliefs in service of a polemic stance.


Response Essays

A response essay operates as a direct rebuttal or reaction to another writer’s argument, opinion piece, or claims. The aim involves systematically dismantling the original viewpoint through the writer’s own counterargument and evidence.

While each type has a distinct purpose, all demand coherent logic, thorough corroboration, anticipation of counterarguments, and utilization of rhetorical techniques to strengthen the writer’s position. Only through recognizing and mastering these key commonalities can writers construct truly resonant argumentative pieces.


How to Write an Effective Argumentative Essay

Pre-Writing & Research

The first crucial step involves conducting copious upfront research to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issue before settling on a stance. Investigate the topic thoroughly using a variety of reliable, authoritative sources like academic journals, expert studies, government reports, and publications from credible organizations. Take diligent notes and gather relevant evidence that can substantiate your viewpoints.


Developing Your Thesis

Once you’ve explored the complexities of the topic, develop a definitive thesis statement that outlines your core claim and position. This thesis should encapsulate your main argument in 1-2 concise sentences and lay the groundwork for the overall structure. An effective argumentative thesis goes beyond factual claims to offer an assertion that can be reasoned through evidence and reasoning. It must be coherent, logical, and take a firm stance rather than endorsing ambiguous generalities.


Organizing Your Outline

With thesis in hand, map out a logical flow and sequence for your essay during the outlining phase. Determine your key supporting reasons, examples, and pieces of evidence organized into designated body paragraphs. Consider which perspectives, counterarguments, and objections you’ll need to address and where they should be interwoven. An argumentative outline provides a skeletal preview of how you plan to structure your analysis and progression of ideas.


Developing Reasoned Claims

Beyond reiterating your position, true argumentative writing involves developing a series of well-reasoned claims that cumulatively reinforce your overarching thesis. Thoroughly analyze each supporting point across body paragraphs, ensuring airtight logic connects your claims and evidence in a sensible way. Use techniques like induction, deduction, causality, analogy, and credible sourced facts to construct nuanced arguments.


Acknowledging Counterarguments

While it may seem counterintuitive, substantively grappling with counterpoints actually strengthens an argument. Demonstrate fairness and expertise on the topic by directly acknowledging and respectfully describing opposing viewpoints. Systematically refute each counterargument through evidence and reasoning to uphold the validity of your original assertions. Address complexity head-on rather than oversimplifying or ignoring rebuttals.


Using Rhetorical Persuasion

In addition to logical reasoning, leverage rhetorical persuasion techniques to heighten the power of your writing. Employ methods like pathos (appeals to emotions), ethos (conveyings principles or expertise), rhetorical questions, vivid language, and representative examples/analogies. Judiciously wield these tools throughout the essay to sway readers’ sentiments and understandings.


Maintaining Coherence & Flow

Throughout the entire piece, prioritize logical coherence and a smooth, interconnected flow between ideas. Use clear topic sentences, suitable transitions, and maintain consistent voice, tense, and perspective. Align your phrasing and tone to most effectively get your argument across without distractions or inconsistencies. Strong transitions and signposting to guide readers are invaluable.


Delivering an Impactful Conclusion

Your conclusion should solidify your stance while imparting a sense of resolution. Restate your thesis and briefly revisit or reemphasize key points that support your argument. You may choose to leave readers with a rhetorical question, recontextualized quotation, or insight into broader implications. Overall, your conclusion should reinforce why your position represents the strongest, most meritorious viewpoint.

By carefully executing each of these steps in crafting an argumentative essay, your final product will present a thoroughly reasoned, well-substantiated perspective designed to win over the toughest skeptics.


Argumentative Essay FAQs

1. What makes a good argumentative essay topic?

The best argumentative essay topics are issues that are currently controversial with major societal impacts, backed by plentiful credible sources and research. Ideal examples include subjects like gun control, immigration policies, environmental regulations, technology’s effects, education reform, and more. These complex topics are rife with multiple perspectives and evidence to analyze.


2. How do I make my thesis statement clear and defensible?

An arguable thesis should avoid taking an obvious, indisputable stance that essays cannot logically contest. Rather than an innocent observation like “Global warming is a concerning issue,” aim to offer a specific claim to convince readers about, such as “Excessive meat consumption is an environmental threat that must be mitigated through taxation.” You want to posit a thesis that demands substantive evidence and rationale.


3. How many body paragraphs do I need?

For most academic argumentative essays, aim for 3-6 body paragraphs exploring your key supporting claims and reasoning in depth. Each new body paragraph should logically transition into tackling a different facet or argument point for your overarching thesis. Unity and coherence between these sections are crucial. The number may vary based on complexity, required word count, and other particulars of the assignment.


4. How do I incorporate counterarguments and rebuttals?

Anticipating oppositions viewpoints and counterarguments is critical in an argumentative essay. You may opt for a dedicated section that comprehensively describes objections and methodology refuting them. Or, you could intersperse counterargument acknowledgment throughout relevant body paragraphs then follow up with your specific rebuttal evidence. The latter approach may improve overall flow and cohesion. Either way, be fair in depicting other stances before dismantling perceived shortcomings.


5. What types of evidence and sources are most effective?

The strongest argumentative essays rely on hard facts, data, expert viewpoints, and scientific findings from credible sources like academic journals, government and NGO reports, books from respected authorities, and high-quality website publications. Other sources like reputable newspaper/magazine articles, interviews, and historical examples can supplement but should not be the primary basis. Additionally, using a blend of source types (e.g. facts, quotes, anecdotes, logic, etc.) creates a more multidimensional argument.


6. How important is my conclusion?

While the body carries the analytical heft, your conclusion matters greatly in solidifying your position and leaving an impactful impression. An effective conclusion concisely summarizes your key evidence, revisits your thesis, and answers the “so what” question by underscoring broader importance or insights. You want to exit with a resolute sense of closure and convey why your argumentative essay offers a profoundly convincing stance worthy of embracing.


7. Should I use the first-person voice (I, me, etc.)?

For most academic and professional argumentative essay writing, adopt an objective third-person perspective using phrases like “the evidence suggests” over subjective first-person voices like “I think.” However, thoughtful use of “I” in an introductory context or to reinforce ethos/expertise with personal experiences may be acceptable. Check your specific assignment requirements, but objectivity and authoritative distance tend to strengthen argumentative persuasion.


8. Where can I find reliable sources to support my argument?

University libraries, academic databases like JSTOR, Google Scholar, government websites, and publications from respected think tanks and industry organizations offer plentiful credible sources. When searching, prioritize scholarly journals, scientific studies, books from experts, and publications with extensive citations over commercially-biased website blogs or shaky origins. Use advanced search strategies like finding sources that plenty of other quality publications cite.


Additional References & Resources:

Toulmin Argument Model
Stanford Philosophical Arguments Analysis
Rhetorical Persuasion Techniques


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