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Argument and Persuasion: Structuring and Writing an Argument Essay

This Library Guide focuses on persuasive writing, or argument. While some of the contents may pertain to spoken rhetoric (debate/speech), the emphasis is on written rhetoric such as papers frequently assigned in freshman composition classes.

Page Overview

This page deals with the process of writing the argument: planning, structuring, strategies, writing, revision.

Pre-Writing Considerations

There are things that should be given some attention before you begin writing your argument.  Thoughtful planning in the pre-writing stage increases the chances of your argument successfully convincing your audience.  A well-executed piece of writing should be unified, coherent, and complete.

unified = the paper presents only a single idea or, if more than one idea, one point is made the principal one and the others are subordinated to it 

coherent = the discussion flows smoothly and logically and is easy for the reader to follow; trying to make sense of the writing does not become an ordeal

complete = everything that should be said, has been said; no questions are left in the mind of the reader

Achieving a coherent, complete, unified piece of Argumentative Writing 

1.  Clearly state the argument/proposition of your essay.

2.  Analyze the proposition.  First, jot down points of conflict between your view and the opposing view.  Second, think over your jottings and try to decide which points are the issues on which your argument should hinge.  Third, arrange your jottings in order to give unity and coherence to your essay.

3.  Write a paragraph (or more if necessary) on each point of conflict.  (This step will have some variation, depending on whether you are using the block or point pattern of organization.)

4.  Analyze and evaluate what you have written to see whether (a) the evidence seems reliable and (b) the reasoning free of fallacies.

5.  Establish effective transitions between the discussions of the various points (coherence), keeping in mind that your objective is to connect each point to the main contention of your theme, the main proposition.

6.  Think of your introduction.  What makes the topic worth arguing about now (purpose)?  (NOTE:  Your topic should be broad enough to interest a large number of people, yet narrow enough that you can focus and manage the discussion.)  What kind of people are you writing for (audience)?  Can you depend on an interested and sympathetic hearing, or must you strive to gain attention and win people over?  If you have to gain attention, how will you go about it?  After you have thought about these things and written a first draft of your introduction, do you think it necessary to go back and revise the discussion in the body of your essay to make it better adapted to your audience?

7.  Treat your conclusion as the last impression you will leave on your readers.  Do you return here to your key point (your thesis), showing how your whole argument essay bears on and supports it?  Do you leave your readers with a positive impression of your effort, even if you cannot be sure of having totally convinced them by reason? 

Outlines for an Argument Essay

Pattern Outlines for an Argument Essay

 

 

Outline #1: Block Pattern

Outline #2: Point Pattern

Stating Your Case: introducing your position and presenting your supporting arguments

I. Introduction 

A. Main Point 1

B. Main Point 2

C. Main Point 3

D. Main Point 4

Countering the Opposition: describing and refuting opposing arguments

II. Response Section 

A. Summarize the opposition argument against your Main Point 1, offering counter argument that uses explanation and proof to defend your point of view.

Follow this strategy for the other points of your argument.

III. Summary

A. Briefly restate the arguments  pro and con on the topic 

IV. Conclusion

A. Give a strong defense of your position, referencing your supporting evidence

Stating Your Case: introducing your position, presenting your supporting arguments, and refuting opposing arguments

I. Introduction

II. Main point 1

A. Summarize Point 1

B. Refute opposing arguments to Point 1, supporting  your statements with explanation

III. Main Point 2

A. Summarize Point 2  

B. Refute opposing arguments to Point 2, supporting  your statements with explanation

IV. Main Point 3

A. Summarize Point 3

B. Refute opposing arguments to Point 3, supporting  your statements with explanation

V. Main Point 4

A. Summarize Point 4

B. Refute opposing arguments to Point 4, supporting  your statements with explanation

VI. Conclusion

(Based on https://apps.spokane.edu/.../Summary%20Response%20Essay%20Assignment.pdf

     In the context of argument, "pro" means agree/support, and "con" means disagree/oppose.  Whether you structure your argument to follow the block style or point-by-point pattern, the three principal components of presentation, support, and refutation must be included.  A point-by-point structure probably will be easier to follow, as the block style creates some separation between the "pro" and "con" sides of an argument which may require readers to do some up-and-down "scrolling" of the text.

 

 

Breaking it Down in Detail

Defining Arguments: defines what argument is and is not while providing some insights on laying the groundwork before the writing begins

How To Create an Argument: covers the stages of pre-writng, writing, and revising an argument

Argument at a Glance: P.A.P.A.: a blank page with no content

Argument Claims: discusses types of claims and perspectives from which to launch your argument; includes links to sample readings

Argument Outline: provides outlines for various argument structures and types and also contains worksheets for preparing an argument

Rogerian Argument: explains an alternative approach to the "traditional" argumentative style

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos: offers tips on how to interact with the audience in an argumentative context

Fallacies:  a glossary of things to avoid

Sample Essays: a selection of seven argumentative essays written by students

Argument on the Web

The Purdue OWL:  The OWL is the Online Writing Laboratory maintained by Purdue University.  It is a comprehensive, encyclopedic online reference source for nearly all aspects of research and writing, from topic selection to citation styles and source evaluation.  Every serious researcher should bookmark the OWL. 

For information regarding writing argumentative papers, either type "Purdue OWL"   argument  into an internet search box.  The first page of results provides links to more specific aspects of writing argument.  Or, you can type the word argument into the "Search the OWL" box (https://owl.purdue.edu/search.html).  Once you have landed on any OWL screen, it is good to scan the left pane for other pages which you may find useful.  

CAVEAT:  Purdue OWL has merged with Chegg, a for-profit company who has created a citation machine service for citation management.  This partnership has resulted in pop-up advertisements appearing on OWL screens as well as permitting Chegg influence on OWL's citation help pages.  Those using the OWL may wish to keep these things in mind.

Useful options besides the Purdue OWL are 

To locate information on the internet on argument, in the search box type argument along with a modifying term such as writing or structure.

To locate additional LibGuides on argument on the internet, in the search box type argument libguide.