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How to Write an Argumentative Paper

January 26th, 2008

argumentative-paper.jpgWriting an argumentative paper is one of those things that most of us do not particularly like doing and often resort to procrastinating, but are usually required to complete at least once during our high school or college years. If you happen to find yourself in such a situation, I will try to make the process easier by explaining what an argumentative paper is and provide some steps that you can follow in order to write one effectively.

First of all, an argumentative paper is an essay that advocates a particular position on a topic where there is reasonable disagreement or about which there are at least two alternatives worthy of consideration. While it is common for many such essays to simply argue for or against a given position, note that some topics may have more than two sides. For example, when writing a paper on alternative energy solutions, you could argue in favor of solar power, wind power, nuclear power, hydroelectric power, or even for sticking with fossil fuels. Likewise, your favorite political candidate may have more than one opponent in the upcoming election. Before starting to write your paper, it is important to research your topic as much as practically possible and consider all of the available alternatives.

After you have chosen and researched your topic, argumentative papers are generally completed by performing the following steps:

1. State your topic and thesis. In your introductory paragraph, state what your paper is supposed to be about and write a strong thesis statement that clearly informs the reader of your position on the issue. In order to capture and hold the reader’s interest, you can use techniques such as challenging conventional wisdom or disproving a popularly held myth. Some people like to quote shocking or alarming statistics near the beginning of the essay to pull readers in before going on to provide reasons for their initial assertions.

Remember that an argumentative paper is neither a full-blown sales pitch nor a political attack ad. You should stick to a logical, well-reasoned tone and avoid simple opinions, heavily biased language, or blatant emotional appeals. For example, I might be tempted to start off an essay with something like, “I believe that gun control laws are unnecessary because they are unconstitutional, ineffective, and stupid.” Although this may be true, it is not really a proper argument, but rather a statement of opinion. Your thesis should simply state your position, after which you will provide facts and evidence to back it up throughout the rest of the paper.

2. Provide context or background if appropriate. Depending on the issue, it might be a good idea to inform your readers about why the issue you’re discussing is important in light of recent events or because of something that is expected to occur in the future. The amount of background information that is necessary may vary depending on your particular audience.

3. One at a time, present the reasons for your initial position. This is the main body of the paper where you will lay out the strongest arguments in favor of your chosen stance. This step should be alternated with steps 4 and 5 until all of your reasons have been explained. Remember to back up each reason with supporting evidence and write it out as a separate paragraph.

4. Address likely objections and counter-arguments. After each reason, state the most common objections to your arguments for readers to consider. In order for your paper to be effective, deal with disagreements fairly and avoid assigning weak “strawman” arguments or red herrings to the opposition. Otherwise, any reasonably proficient debater who reads your paper will easily see through these kinds of tactics, causing your arguments to lose credibility.

5. Provide convincing rebuttals to the counter-arguments. After each objection has been explained, answer these and refute them with additional evidence as necessary. You could either explain why the objection is invalid, or acknowledge that it is true while demonstrating that it does not invalidate your original argument.

6. Write your conclusion and wrap it up. In the final paragraph, you can restate your thesis and summarize the evidence provided in favor of it. You should avoid bringing up any new arguments here; simply emphasize the main point and briefly explain how any counterpoints were successfully refuted. You can also relate your conclusion to the overall context of your argument and make specific recommendations based on your findings. If you have managed to successfully convince enough readers of the validity of your arguments, you may be able to persuade some of them to take actions in support of your desired objectives.

Hopefully these tips will provide you with a convenient blueprint for how to write an argumentative paper. Don’t forget to proofread your final draft before handing it into your professor or publishing it on your website. If you have done your homework and have not procrastinated too long, you should be able to achieve a favorable result with your essay. Afterward, you may even be able to earn some revenue from it by offering your work for sale at outlets such as Constant-Content.


One Response to “How to Write an Argumentative Paper”

  1. comment number 1 by: Isna Abas

    Well, I am on the way of finishing my Essay. So, thanks a lot for the tips. :))

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