The argument essay is the most common type of writing assignment that college students will encounter throughout their academic careers. While there are different variations of the argument essay, the overall foundation is always the same: the writer is tasked with investigating an issue, taking a stand on the issue, and finding and incorporating a multitude of evidence in a logical manner to support the overall claim.
Most of us have experience with arguing, but an argumentative essay is quite different than a verbal argument that arises out of the blue. Verbal arguments often become heated and unreasonable, while the goal of an argumentative essay is the opposite: the argument must be specific, reasoned, detailed and supported with a variety of evidence. Furthermore, a verbal argument often focuses on who is right regarding a specific issue, while a well-written, researched argument essay focuses on what is the right side of a particular issue. In short, an argument essay must be logical from beginning to end.
The following are important elements of a good argument essay:
- Create a clear, firm,and debatable thesis. An effective thesis statement is an important foundational element of any essay, but it is of even greater importance in an argument essay. The reader needs to know exactly what the argument is and why it is important; there can be no confusion. For more on creating a thesis statement, view the thesis statements page.
- Provide the necessary background information on the topic. While an argument essay isn’t the same as a research essay, a bit of background information is often needed early in the essay to understand the argument. For example, if the writer is arguing that a certain amendment to the state constitution should be passed, it is probably necessary to describe what changes the amendment would make and whether or not a similar amendment has been proposed at some point.
- Focus on organization and transitions. While transitions are important in any type of essay, they are particularly important in an argument essay. This is because the argument essay involves multiple reasons and evidence to support the overall thesis, and counter arguments are often discussed and refuted as well.
Argument essays can be organized in a variety of ways. Regardless of the order in which it is organized, all argument essays should explain and support several reasons why the argument is valid, as well as explain and refute several opposing arguments offered by the other side. All writers will benefit from creating an outline to organize all of the information that will be presented, and this benefit becomes even greater with longer argument essays. For more on creating an outline, view the creating an outline page.
- Perform effective and thorough research. Most argumentative essays require incorporating research into the essay. If this is the case with your essay, make sure to perform a significant amount of research before fully committing to a topic. This is important because you need to make sure there are enough credible sources that can be used in your essay. You don’t want to commit to a topic and begin writing the essay only to later discover that you can’t find enough quality sources to make the topic work.
- Incorporate logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is a term that refers to the use of logic in a debate. As a writer, the use of logos should be primary, should appear throughout the essay, and it is the best way to convince someone to adopt a particular stance on any issue. It is also important to avoid using logical fallacies. While logos should be the primary target, pathos – which is the use of emotion – can also be incorporated. Pathos means getting the reader emotionally involved in the argument so that the reader is open to further persuasion. One of the best places to use pathos is in the introduction. Ethos – the use of credibility – is also important. The best way for writers to incorporate ethos is by addressing counterarguments and using credible sources. Additionally, taking a reasonable stand on the issue (as opposed to an extreme one) will also lead to more credibility.