Guidelines: Writing an Argument Essay
Make sure students understand the goal of argumentation is not having the loudest voice or engaging in an intellectual fistfight; it's not even necessarily convincing others to take up a position. The goal is to make a clear and logical case for a position on a debatable issue.
Share these keys to writing this type of essay:
- Start with an opinion but be open to changing your mind as you research the topic.
- Include (a) a carefully worded claim, (b) reliable supporting evidence, and (c) logical thinking throughout.
- Make sure your argument is fair and balanced. Readers should not feel forced into accepting the argument.
When your students are ready to write their own argument essays, support them with the material on this page. Help them select an interesting and timely topic, referring them to page 189 for more ideas. Next, assist them as they develop a proposition or claim statement, referring back to page 190 for more information.
When they begin to gather supporting reasons and evidence, recommend they start with what they already know about the topic but also conduct additional research to find more information.
When students are ready to begin drafting, discuss some effective opening strategies. For example, a compelling anecdote, intriguing background information, or a hypothetical scenario ("Imagine being let go from a job in place of a robot") could get readers' attention in the lead up to the proposition statement.
Also, provide support for developing the middle paragraphs. Tell students they should include reasons in support of their positions and back those reasons with evidence. They should also address the other side of the argument, either countering objections or making concessions. Remind them that the order of details should depend on whether the audience is receptive or resistant. Consider these strategies:
- If the audience is likely to be receptive to the argument, begin with the reasons and evidence before answering any objections.
- If the audience is likely to be resistant, address the other side of the issue up front before outlining your reasons and evidence for supporting your side.
Revising and Editing
To support students as they revise and edit, provide them the Revising and Editing Checklist for Argument Essays and the Argument Writing Assessment Rubric. Also refer them to the revising and editing chapters in their handbooks.