How to Write an Argumentative Essay
You’ve just been assigned a dreaded Argumentative or Persuasive Essay, and you have no idea where to start! Utilize the following tips to get you through the process with a minimum of fuss and stress.
Do a Cursory Search on Your Topic
Before attempting to form an opinion on the issue, it is important to educate yourself on your topic. Find out what types of articles people are writing about your issue. You will need to narrow your search effectively in order to find quality information. For example, searching for a general topic “gender” will probably be fruitless. However, search for “U.S. salary gap for females” will generate some quality leads. Make sure to keep track of your sources throughout this process; you may need to cite them later.
Write a thesis statement.
The best thesis statements introduce the issue and the writer’s knowledge on this topic, focus and control the entire essay writing process, and state an opinion. Be careful to avoid vague language such as “Many politicians might find that negative campaigning could hurt their chances of re-election.” Instead, use strong, opinionated language such as, “In order to increase their chances of re-election, politicians must not endorse negative campaign ads.” A good thesis statement also includes language that informs the reader of what is to come in the body of the essay: “For the sake of serving our state residents properly, the California state legislature must balance the budget immediately in order to adequately fund educational programs and keep government offices in operation.” This thesis statement deals with all of the main issues (i.e., funding, state offices and educational programs, and the state budget) that the writer plans to cover in more depth throughout the essay.
Write Strong Topic Sentences
Look back to the main ideas you included in your thesis statement. These will become discussable topic sentences for your body paragraphs. In the previous discussion, the main idea of educational programs was mentioned in the thesis statement. This general idea could be broken down into many different sub-topics. For example, this writer may want to address the issues of public school disability programs, cafeteria programs for low-income students, and ESL programs statewide. Write a topic sentence for each of these ideas. Topic sentences are arguable, support your thesis statement, and deal with only one, single point. For example, “Ninety-five percent of Californians claim they take some prescription drug” is not a topic sentence; it is a fact. A topic sentence should state an opinion that supports the thesis statement. Organize your topic sentences in the order in which you plan to present them in your essay.
Each of your body paragraphs should tackle one issue. Do not try to make several points in a paragraph, instead limit your discussion to a single point addressed in your topic sentence. Once you have outlined your list of discussable topic sentences, you can begin to fill in your body paragraphs with other types of sentences, those that explain, illustrate, inform, or quote expert ideas. Make sure fully to develop your discussion of each topic sentence by only including paragraph sentences that support it.
Utilize Quality Sources
Now that you have narrowed down your topic and done some writing on it, you will have a better understanding of the types of research you will need. Doing random searches on the internet is not the most-productive use of research time. You might consider visiting a community or school library to enlist the aide of a trained librarian who can direct you to quality sources, find books and articles that address your specific thesis statement, and help to order unique materials from other libraries.
Write an Interesting Introduction
It may seem backwards to write an introduction to your essay after most of your paper is finished. However, this strategy will help to make your introduction interesting and informative. At this point, you have a good general knowledge on your topic and opinion on it. Now is the time to lead your audience where you want them to go. Start with something attention grabbing like a shocking quote or a question. Then, use transitional sentences to inform your reader on the general nature of your topic, narrowing with each additional sentence, and ending with your thesis statement. Placing the thesis statement in the last line of the introduction will help to control and focus the essay for your reader.
Write a Satisfying Conclusion
The conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay and functions as your final goodbye to the reader. Make it memorable. You will need briefly to recap some of the discussion you raised in the introduction, but you must also leave the reader with the feeling that you have successfully completed your argument.
Rethink the Thesis Statement
Now that your paper is written, go back and look at the thesis statement. Is it still applicable to EVERYTHING in your essay? If not, feel free to change your thesis to reflect what is in your body paragraphs.
Revise, Revise, Revise!
Always check through your paper several times looking for specific errors. You might, for example, read through your draft once just looking at your sentence structure. Then, read through the entire essay again looking at punctuation. Professional writers often spend more time in revision than they do in initial writing.
Additional Tips: 1) Make sure you fully understand your assignment before attempting to write. 2) Read your essay aloud to yourself. You may “hear” errors that your eye has a tendency to skim over. 3) Have a friend or family member look at your essay. A second set of eyes is always helpful in spotting errors.