Argumentative essays are the worst.
They take too much time, and you never seem to find the right words. Your professors send disappointed looks your way, and you receive graded papers full of corrections and comments. After days wasted on research and writing, you get a C instead of an A you deserve.
If you are about ready to give up, let us show you how to write a good argumentative essay with minimum effort and still receive high grades. But first, let’s go over the basics.
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
The traditional argumentative essay definition says something along the lines of “a paper that presents both sides of an issue, balanced or otherwise.” In simpler terms, it means you argue one or both sides of a difficult question.
Do not confuse argumentative and persuasive writing. The latter can use no research and rely mostly on emotional or pathetic arguments. You will often have to write persuasive papers as in-class assignments. Argumentative essays, on the other hand, do not work without extensive research.
An argumentative essay is also nothing like narration or description. It should hold analysis and transitions, not just facts or numbers. Addressing the counterargument or discussing the other side of the issue is also a must.
Do not move forward with your essay unless you understand the differences between argumentative and other types of writing in full. If you do, there is just one thing left to learn before we move onto the essay itself, and that’s the answer to the most crucial question of all.
Why Should You Care About Argumentative Essays?
Writing an argumentative essay is a pain, whether you are a high schooler or a college student. It feels like a chore, and most students put it off until the last possible moment. It’s no wonder most essays end up weak and convoluted, not deserving of a high grade. To get you pumped for this assignment, we’ve designed a couple of scenarios where your argumentative skills can come in handy outside the classroom.
- A good argumentative essay is a blueprint for any shouting match you have with your significant other. When you can’t find common ground, support your point as you would in a paper, and refute the opposing view at the same time. This won’t win you every argument, and will likely annoy your SO at times, but the chances of getting your way will be much higher.
- When you ask your boss for a raise you deserve, argumentative skills will also come in handy. No company wants to increase your paycheck, but if you lay out your arguments right, the raise will be yours. Instead of appealing to the manager’s emotions, use cold hard facts, and explain how your work benefits the company. Just remember to keep your pitch brief instead of dragging it out for hours, like you would your essay.
- If you are a startup founder at heart, argumentative skills will help you secure funding and convince customers to try your product. While people make decisions based on emotions, they need solid facts and logical arguments to validate their reasoning, and that’s where your skills will shine. After you convince investors and customers that your products are the best solution on the market, nothing will stop your startup from becoming a unicorn.
How to Write an Argumentative Essay
Before we go over how to write an argumentative essay step by step, we want to suggest an experiment. Imagine you were a lawyer and had to argue a case in court. The way you would prepare for the hearings would be very similar to argumentative writing. Keep this role in mind, and you will never have to remember what comes first and what must be done to achieve the results you crave, be it a high grade or a court ruling.
Step 1. Brainstorm
As a lawyer, you want to find the best case to represent. If you want an easy win, you will choose a no-brainer with enough evidence to back up your claims. If you want to make a name for yourself, you will find a convoluted high-stakes case that will make you work through the nights.
The same rules apply to choosing an argumentative topic. You can take the easy way out and write about abortion, the death penalty, or euthanasia. They are all controversial topics but have been discussed in so many essays, that you hardly stand a chance of finding a new approach. Still, this option is best if you have little time or desire to write an essay. Another way to save your time is by adopting the issue you have already covered in another paper. For instance, if you’ve written a descriptive essay on feminism, you can add a couple of new sources, restructure your ideas, and transform them into an argumentative essay.
If you enjoy a challenge, you can find a fresh concept to discuss, such as smartphone addiction, mass shootings, or the refugee crisis. News headlines, social media trends, and local stories can all become an inspiration for you. If you choose this approach, your topic should be researchable. If you can’t find enough sources on time, you will fail the assignment.
Don’t be afraid to come back to this step and change the topic if you feel like it. After all, lawyers can refuse to represent the clients after studying the details of the case.
Step 2. Research
After counselors select their cases, they review all materials and evidence, talk to their clients and witnesses, and look for additional clues. No self-respecting lawyer would go into a hearing without doing their homework, at least, if they want to win.
Before you even think of crafting an argumentative essay outline, you need to research the topic. Most students think it’s enough to browse the first few Google search results to understand the issue, but they are wrong. To craft a convincing argument,
- Forget Wikipedia. You can browse the entry, but do not cite it in your paper. However, you can use the reference section to get a list of relevant sources.
- Replace Google with Google Scholar. You need scientific articles and books instead of blog posts and news stories. ResearchGate, DeepDyve, and Academia.edu are all excellent places to look for credible sources.
- Use your school library. The online catalog is bound to have helpful resources, and most colleges have access to international scientific databases, such as Scopus, Elsevier, Springer, and more. Learn how to use these resources, and you will never be out of credible references for your papers.
Once you have a stack of papers or a folder full of digital files, it’s time to take out your legal pad and take notes like a pro. Experienced lawyers never rely on memory alone; they take copious notes and keep them organized to get access to any useful information quickly. Follow their lead, and copy anything you find helpful from your sources in a pad or to a separate file. Don’t forget to add reference information, or your citation will turn into a nightmare.
Step 3. Outline
Lawyers need to make their words stick in the minds of the judge and the jury. To achieve this goal, they study psychology and structure their speeches for the most impact. They start with the most surprising or controversial statements to grab the audience’s attention and close with their most powerful arguments.
When you plan an argumentative essay structure, you will always have opening and closing passages. It’s the sequence of your body paragraphs that will have the most significant impact on the reader and will define your final grade. Look through your research notes and figure out the strongest points supporting your position and place two of the most powerful ones at the beginning and the end of your outline. The rest should go in the middle in the order that makes the most sense.
One of the most compelling tools in your arsenal is the refutation of the opposing side. Remember to include it before the conclusion. It will prove that you are aware of all sides of the problem and make your argument even more compelling.
Unless your professor requires a formal outline, you don’t need to spend much time on planning your essay structure. However, we want to remind you that every paragraph should include a topic sentence, supporting data from one or several references, as well as your analysis. If any passage misses even one item on this list, it will look weak and unconvincing, and no one wants that in their paper.
Few lawyers can come up with a striking opening or closing statement at the spur of the moment. They take their time to plan the most effective structure and go from there. Without even a basic outline, your essay can quickly turn from an argumentative piece into an incomprehensible jumble.
Step 4. Write
There might be some universal rules for opening and closing statements, but how they come to be usually depends on individuals. Some can write everything from start to finish in one sitting, while others prefer to divide the task into bite-sized chunks.
If you don’t know how to start an argumentative essay, forget about the introduction and the hook, and start with your most persuasive argument. Flesh out the body one paragraph at a time. Once all the main points are done, it will take you no time to create a conclusion. From there, it’s just one step to an opening paragraph.
If you can’t make yourself start writing, set a timer for 30 minutes, sit down at your laptop, and type everything that comes to mind. Forget about correcting typos and going back over what you’ve just written. Your goal is to fill as much blank space as you can. With all your materials close at hand, it will take you only five or six 30-minute sprints to write everything. After a quick breather, you can go over the text and clean it up before the final edits. This is the easiest way to write an essay if you have done all the preliminary work.
Step 5. Edit
Experienced lawyers do not go into their opening and closing statements without practicing and polishing their wording. They rework and enhance the speech until it can make a lasting impression and cause the desired ruling.
Think of the proofreading and editing process as your practice. In an ideal world, you would have a personal team to look over your argumentative paper and point out its weaknesses and inconsistencies. You can ask a friend or a classmate to swap essays for editing, or you can hire a professional proofreader to weed out the mistakes and typos.
Of course, you can also edit without extra help, but you will need at least several hours away from your essay. Take a break and look at your piece with fresh eyes; mistakes will jump out at you, and you will be able to correct most of them. However, the crucial part of this process should be the elimination of redundancies and repetitions. They may extend your word count, but they also weaken your argumentation and make it look like you don’t have enough evidence to support your claim.
Finally, lawyers know when to quit fiddling with their speeches and rest before the hearing. Give your inner perfectionist a break and stop editing before you make a rash decision to rewrite the whole thing. You have done your best, and now the grade depends on your professor. You can only await the ruling with patience and dignity.
Where Can You Find Argumentative Essay Samples?
After our deep dive into the minute detail of argumentative writing, your head might be buzzing with new information and ideas, but you haven’t gained the skills yet. Your first instinct will be to look up good argumentative essay examples online to help you along. Before you take the plunge, check out our sample and a few final tips on finding and using other examples.
- Learn from the best argumentative samples. Most writing companies use student-submitted papers, and you can never know whether they are actually good or bad. Instead, look for argumentative essay contests and browse the winning entries. This way, you will be sure you use the best practices to impress your teacher and secure a high grade.
- Use active reading to make most of your research. Note what you like about the sample and which devices you find most compelling and would like to use in your essay. You can also make a list of effective words and phrases. You can add to this swipe file any time you come across a compelling argument, whether you find it in a classmate’s essay or a celebrity speech.
- Know when to switch from reading to writing. Outstanding essays are intoxicating and intimidating at once. The more you research the samples, the more insecure you will feel about your writing skills. Perfectionism is the flip side of procrastination, and no less damaging for your grades. Before you set out on your research, decide on the maximum number of essays you let yourself read. Three to five examples are usually enough to get the hang of this writing style. Don’t go over the limit, and your grades and psyche will be safe.