What is an Argumentative Essay?

The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires you to:

  1. Present a claim on a topic
  2. Explain, clarify, and illustrate that claim
  3. Persuade the reader that the claim supported in the essay is valid by:
    a. Convincing the reader that the claim is correct
    b. Persuading the reader that the claim is worth considering
  4. Support the claim by means of giving evidence using facts, examples, and statistics
  5. Present counterarguments to the thesis and refute them respectfully and critically.

Key Vocabulary

  • Argument/claim – An argument states a claim and supports it with reasons and evidence from various sources.
  • Counterargument – An argument that stands in opposition to your argument/claim. The counterargument is your opponent’s that tries to explain why you are wrong.
  • Refutation – Simply disproving an opposite argument. It is an important skill because it is how a writer successfully convinces the audience of the validity of his/her argument.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

Stage 1: Choosing a topic and writing the thesis statement.

It is important to note:

  • Your topic must be debatable.
  • You must have a thesis statement – belief statement.

Topics: Debatable vs. Non-Debatable

  • Pollution is bad for the environment. – NON-DEBATABLE
  • Cigarette smoke is harmful to people’s health. – NON-DEBATABLE
  • At least 25% of the federal budget should be spent on limiting pollution. – DEBATABLE
  • The government should impose higher taxes on cigarettes. – DEBATABLE
  • A good education is necessary for a successful and happy life – DEBATABLE

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence in which you state your main argument and a brief description of how you will prove it.

Thesis statements do the following:

  • Lets the reader know the main idea of the essay.
  • Answers the question: “What am I trying to prove to the reader?”
  • NOT a factual statement, but a claim that has to be proven throughout the essay.

ConcessionThesisReasons Model

Example thesis statement: “Although surveillance cameras may be expensive, schools should install them because they increase safety, reduce vandalism, and keep both teachers and students accountable for their actions.”

  • The first part of the statement above is the concession, where you recognize the opposing side’s most important counter-argument: “Although surveillance cameras may be expensive.”
  • Next comes the thesis, a simple statement of your main argument: “Schools should install them.”
  • Last comes a preview of the reasons that support your argument: “Because they increase safety, reduce vandalism, and keep both teachers and students accountable for their actions.”

It’s important to note that concessions and reasons in the concession-thesis-reasons model can help you build the structure of the following body paragraphs.

Each reason needs to be its own paragraph, so each reason will be strong enough to be considered a “reason.”

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