Unit 6: Argumentative Essay Writing

38 Writing Argumentative Essays

Elements of an Argumentative Essay

In order to write an effective argumentative essay, writers must show that they understand the issues involved with the topic. In argumentative essays, these arguments are called claims, and they must be supported with evidence. In addition, writers must also communicate their understanding of both sides of the topic, not just the point of view they agree with. This is done by including some of the key arguments for the opposing viewpoint.

Arguments for your viewpoint — “Pro-arguments”

In order to convince your readers of your viewpoint, you need to carefully construct your arguments. These arguments that support your viewpoint are called pro-arguments. Your pro-arguments need to do the following:

Make sense:

  • The arguments need to be logical and appropriate for your opinion on the topic.
  • Example: If your opinion is that living together before marriage is beneficial, you would want to use arguments that directly relate to the positive aspects of living together. In this example, you would not want to use an argument that claims that living together results in more divorces. That would obviously not logically support your opinion that living together is a good thing.

Contain convincing evidence:

  • The support for your arguments needs to be based on evidence, not opinions. The following types of evidence may be used. They are listed in terms of strength from strongest to weakest.
    1. Paraphrase from a source
    2. Quote from a source
    3. Personal example

Relate to your readers:

  • Your arguments need to be convincing to your readers. If your audience is your classmates in your own country, in other words, people your own age from your same culture, your arguments or supporting details would be different than if your audience is a group of adults who come from different cultures.

Be thoughtfully ordered:

  • The arguments need to be organized so you maximize their impact. This means you need to think about how best to build your arguments.
    • Weakest to strongest—Many writers want to start with their weakest arguments and end with their strongest arguments. This technique allows them to leave their readers with their strongest arguments fresh in the readers’ minds. This may help to convince the readers of the writer’s opinion.
    • Strongest to weakest—Some writers start with their strongest arguments to get their readers on their side as soon as possible. The idea is that if the reader begins to believe the writer’s arguments from the beginning, the weaker arguments might be viewed more positively. In other words, if the reader does not agree with the writer’s opinions and the writer begins with the weaker arguments, the reader may dismiss the weaker arguments and not be persuaded until reading the strongest argument.

Arguments against your viewpoint — “Counterarguments”

The arguments against your viewpoint are called counterarguments or opposing arguments. You need to give a fair representation of the other side’s views, but you do not want your readers to be convinced by these counterarguments. There are five steps in presenting and refuting an opposing argument.

Step 1: Problematization

  • In order to make it clear that the counterarguments are not your arguments, you need to problematize them. Use special language to introduce them so that the reader knows whose arguments they are.


It (may / might / could) be (argued / claimed / contended / said) that…

It has been (argued / said) that…

Some people/experts might (argue / believe / maintain / claim / contend) that…

Critics might argue that…

Step 2: Development

  • Try to limit the number of counterarguments you discuss. For this course, you should choose the strongest counterargument and develop only that one point. For the “you first” and “me first” organization patterns choose one. (For the “point by point” pattern, you must develop three counterarguments. You need to explain each idea briefly, but you do not want to spend too much time supporting the opposing views! Please use “you first” or “me first” for this course.)
  • Although you do not want to spend too much time supporting the opposing views, you must explain each idea briefly. To show you understand these opposing ideas and have researched them, you need to support your counterargument with evidence and explanation. Your counterargument must be directly related to your main topic and focus.

Step 3: Acknowledgement / Concession

  • After the counterargument, there is sometimes a statement(s) in which you acknowledge that these points have some merit. Be careful not to give too much weight to these opposing views since the objective is to show that you have looked at both sides and believe your argument is correct and the counterargument is not.


This argument seem to make sense

This argument have some validity…

There is some truth to the point that

It is / may / might be true that…

Step 4: Transition

  • After discussing the counterargument, signal to the reader that your refutation will follow.


However, ….

Despite the claim that …

In fact, …

… yet they do not …

Step 5: Refutation (or Rebuttal)

  • Your task as a writer is to refute the counterarguments you introduce. You need to show how their claims are not as strong as your arguments.
    • In a “Point-by-point” essay, each counterargument is refuted separately. The writer’s own arguments serve as the refutation in each body paragraph.
    • In “Me First” and “You First” essays, there may be a short or more detailed refutation in the same paragraph as the counterargument (or it may be a separate paragraph). This refutation is separate from your own arguments, which are explained in the rest of the body of the essay.
  • If you are focusing on only one counterargument, your refutation should address the problems with that point specifically. The details of the refutation should cause readers to doubt the truth of the other side’s claim. Be careful: Do not duplicate one of your pro-arguments for your refutation.
  • Regardless of the number of counterarguments you are including in your essay, they should be directly related to your main topic and focus. Your refutation should then address the problems with the point of your counterargument. These problems will often be the same as the ideas you are developing in one of your pro-arguments. To avoid any repetition, you can use one of your pro-arguments as your refutation, in other words, one of your main pro-arguments will become your refutation.

Watch the video, introducing you to argumentative essays

from: Mallory Kirkland


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