Unit 6: Argumentative Essay Writing

40 Developing RQs and Thesis Statements for Argumentative Essays

Research questions (RQ) for Argumentative Essays

A research question guides your research. RQs help you identify sources and locate appropriate information in your sources (and ignore information that may be irrelevant) during the research process. As you read, you will become familiar with the topic and the answers to your research question. Once you have found the answers (the evidence), you can formulate your thesis statement and identify supporting ideas.

Effective RQs are:

  • Clear: Provide enough information to convey the writer’s purpose.
  • Narrowed: Limited to the amount and type of information that can be included in the writing.
  • Arguable: The answers to the question are debatable and not simply accepted facts.

Examples:

RQ Possible answers (= thesis statements)
1.     What are the most important benefits of requiring international university students to have an American roommate in the dorms? International students benefit from having an American roommate in three main ways: A, B, and C.

Universities should require international students to have an American roommate because A, B, and C.

2.     What happens when instructors use collaborative projects in undergraduate university content classes? Undergraduate university students retain content more effectively if they participate in collaborative projects for three main reasons: A, B, and C.

It is advisable for instructors to use collaborative projects to promote academic success in undergraduates because A, B, and C.

3.     Should children under ten years old be allowed to use social networking sites? The use of social networking sites by young children harms their development by A, B, and C.

Parents should restrict the use of social networking sites for children under ten because A, B, and C.

4.     Are current recommended guidelines restricting the use of screen time for children under 10 effective? The recommended guidelines limiting screen use for children under ten have been ineffective because A, B, and C.
5.     What impacts does the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have on developing countries? Or, How does the IMF impact developing countries? Through its structural adjustment programs and fiscal and monetary policies, the IMF undermines labor rights, educational opportunities, and the health of people in developing countries.

What are the criteria of an Argumentative Thesis Statement?

An effective thesis statement for an argumentative essay should:

  1. Be debatable. Reasonable people can disagree with your claim. Which statement is debatable?
    1. The number of English language classes taught in Japanese elementary schools has increased dramatically in the past twenty years.
    2. Developing English education at the elementary school level in Japan is an inefficient use of time and resources due to the emphasis on grammar instead of speaking, and the limited number of contact hours with a native or near native English speaker.
  2. Clearly state an opinion. Avoid statements which are vague or lack a position. Which statement asserts an opinion?
    1. Voluntourism programs in the Philippines are not sustainable in the long run because they harm the animals, the environment, and local people.
    2. Voluntourism in SE Asia is controversial because it impacts the people, environment, and animals.
  3. Be supported by evidence. Claims based on value systems or religious beliefs cannot be effectively supported with evidence. Which statement is evidence based?
    1. The practice of selling organs goes against the natural order of society because organs are not commodities.
    2. The selling of organs should be prohibited because donors face health issues and recipients often reject the organs.
  4. Be narrowed. A narrowed claim will be more persuasive and is easier to support. Which statement is narrowed?
    1. Thailand’s 2020 ban on single use plastics does not seem to be an effective way to reduce plastic pollution since the country continues to import plastic waste from foreign countries and participation in the ban is voluntary for local businesses.
    2. Plastic should be banned to save the animals, the people, and the environment.

Answers: 1 – #1, 2 – #1, 3 – #2, and 4 – #1.

Thesis statements: Arguments or reports?

An argumentative essay expresses a position, or opinion, on the topic; it does not merely summarize or report on information. See the chart and notice the language used to express a position:

  • International students benefit from …
  • Universities should require …
  • Undergraduate university students retain content more effectively
  • It is advisable for instructors to …
  • The use of social networking sites by young children harms their development …
  • Parents should restrict …
  • The recommended guidelines limiting screen use for children under ten have been ineffective

In the examples below, note the difference between an “argument” and a “report.”  

Argument versus Report

  • REPORT:
    • RQ: What are the negative consequences of alcohol addiction?
    • Thesis statement: Alcohol addiction leads to family problems, job loss, and health issues. (Here, the writer simply lists the impacts.)
  • ARGUMENT:
    • RQ: Should the legal age for drinking be lowered from 21 to 18?
    • Thesis statement: The legal age for drinking should not be lowered to 18 because of three risks: drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, and violent behavior. (Here, the writer states their opinion by recommending a call for action.)
  • BUT: Argument:
    • RQ: What are the negative consequences of alcohol addiction?
    • Thesis statement: The most important impacts of alcohol addiction on family problems are job loss, and health issues. (Here, the writer has included their evaluation of the many problems by selecting the three most important.)

Adapted from Carlock et al (2010), The ESL Writer’s Handbook

Writing a Good Research Question

Watch the video below to learn how to write a research question for an argumentative essay.

from ARC Library

Using your RQ to Brainstorm Key Words for Research

Once you have your research question, you can begin conducting Internet and database research. Watch the video below to learn strategies for brainstorming “key words” from your RQ.

From Oslis Elementary Videos

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Academic Writing I Copyright © by UW-Madison ESL Program; Heidi Evans; Andrea Poulos; and Becky Tarver Chase is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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