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Need to defend your opinion on an issue? Argumentative essays are one of the most popular types of essays you’ll write in school. They combine persuasive arguments with fact-based research, and, when done well, can be powerful tools for making someone agree with your point of view. If you’re struggling to write an argumentative essay or just want to learn more about them, seeing examples can be a big help.
After giving an overview of this type of essay, we provide three argumentative essay examples. After each essay, we explain in-depth how the essay was structured, what worked, and where the essay could be improved. We end with tips for making your own argumentative essay as strong as possible.
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is an essay that uses evidence and facts to support the claim it’s making. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to agree with the argument being made.
A good argumentative essay will use facts and evidence to support the argument, rather than just the author’s thoughts and opinions. For example, say you wanted to write an argumentative essay stating that Charleston, SC is a great destination for families. You couldn’t just say that it’s a great place because you took your family there and enjoyed it. For it to be an argumentative essay, you need to have facts and data to support your argument, such as the number of child-friendly attractions in Charleston, special deals you can get with kids, and surveys of people who visited Charleston as a family and enjoyed it. The first argument is based entirely on feelings, whereas the second is based on evidence that can be proven.
The standard five paragraph format is common, but not required, for argumentative essays. These essays typically follow one of two formats: the Toulmin model or the Rogerian model.
- The Toulmin model is the most common. It begins with an introduction, follows with a thesis/claim, and gives data and evidence to support that claim. This style of essay also includes rebuttals of counterarguments.
- The Rogerian model analyzes two sides of an argument and reaches a conclusion after weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each.
3 Good Argumentative Essay Examples + Analysis
Below are three examples of argumentative essays, written by yours truly in my school days, as well as analysis of what each did well and where it could be improved.
Argumentative Essay Example 1
Proponents of this idea state that it will save local cities and towns money because libraries are expensive to maintain. They also believe it will encourage more people to read because they won’t have to travel to a library to get a book; they can simply click on what they want to read and read it from wherever they are. They could also access more materials because libraries won’t have to buy physical copies of books; they can simply rent out as many digital copies as they need.
However, it would be a serious mistake to replace libraries with tablets. First, digital books and resources are associated with less learning and more problems than print resources. A study done on tablet vs book reading found that people read 20-30% slower on tablets, retain 20% less information, and understand 10% less of what they read compared to people who read the same information in print. Additionally, staring too long at a screen has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including blurred vision, dizziness, dry eyes, headaches, and eye strain, at much higher instances than reading print does. People who use tablets and mobile devices excessively also have a higher incidence of more serious health issues such as fibromyalgia, shoulder and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and muscle strain. I know that whenever I read from my e-reader for too long, my eyes begin to feel tired and my neck hurts. We should not add to these problems by giving people, especially young people, more reasons to look at screens.
Second, it is incredibly narrow-minded to assume that the only service libraries offer is book lending. Libraries have a multitude of benefits, and many are only available if the library has a physical location. Some of these benefits include acting as a quiet study space, giving people a way to converse with their neighbors, holding classes on a variety of topics, providing jobs, answering patron questions, and keeping the community connected. One neighborhood found that, after a local library instituted community events such as play times for toddlers and parents, job fairs for teenagers, and meeting spaces for senior citizens, over a third of residents reported feeling more connected to their community. Similarly, a Pew survey conducted in 2015 found that nearly two-thirds of American adults feel that closing their local library would have a major impact on their community. People see libraries as a way to connect with others and get their questions answered, benefits tablets can’t offer nearly as well or as easily.
While replacing libraries with tablets may seem like a simple solution, it would encourage people to spend even more time looking at digital screens, despite the myriad issues surrounding them. It would also end access to many of the benefits of libraries that people have come to rely on. In many areas, libraries are such an important part of the community network that they could never be replaced by a simple object.
The author begins by giving an overview of the counter-argument, then the thesis appears as the first sentence in the third paragraph. The essay then spends the rest of the paper dismantling the counter argument and showing why readers should believe the other side.
What this essay does well:
- Although it’s a bit unusual to have the thesis appear fairly far into the essay, it works because, once the thesis is stated, the rest of the essay focuses on supporting it since the counter-argument has already been discussed earlier in the paper.
- This essay includes numerous facts and cites studies to support its case. By having specific data to rely on, the author’s argument is stronger and readers will be more inclined to agree with it.
- For every argument the other side makes, the author makes sure to refute it and follow up with why her opinion is the stronger one. In order to make a strong argument, it’s important to dismantle the other side, which this essay does this by making the author's view appear stronger.
- This is a shorter paper, and if it needed to be expanded to meet length requirements, it could include more examples and go more into depth with them, such as by explaining specific cases where people benefited from local libraries.
- Additionally, while the paper uses lots of data, the author also mentions their own experience with using tablets. This should be removed since argumentative essays focus on facts and data to support an argument, not the author’s own opinion or experiences. Replacing that with more data on health issues associated with screen time would strengthen the essay.
- Some of the points made aren't completely accurate , particularly the one about digital books being cheaper. It actually often costs a library more money to rent out numerous digital copies of a book compared to buying a single physical copy. Make sure in your own essay you thoroughly research each of the points and rebuttals you make, otherwise you'll look like you don't know the issue that well.
Argumentative Essay Example 2
There are multiple drugs available to treat malaria, and many of them work well and save lives, but malaria eradication programs that focus too much on them and not enough on prevention haven’t seen long-term success in Sub-Saharan Africa. A major program to combat malaria was WHO’s Global Malaria Eradication Programme. Started in 1955, it had a goal of eliminating malaria in Africa within the next ten years. Based upon previously successful programs in Brazil and the United States, the program focused mainly on vector control. This included widely distributing chloroquine and spraying large amounts of DDT. More than one billion dollars was spent trying to abolish malaria. However, the program suffered from many problems and in 1969, WHO was forced to admit that the program had not succeeded in eradicating malaria. The number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa who contracted malaria as well as the number of malaria deaths had actually increased over 10% during the time the program was active.
One of the major reasons for the failure of the project was that it set uniform strategies and policies. By failing to consider variations between governments, geography, and infrastructure, the program was not nearly as successful as it could have been. Sub-Saharan Africa has neither the money nor the infrastructure to support such an elaborate program, and it couldn’t be run the way it was meant to. Most African countries don't have the resources to send all their people to doctors and get shots, nor can they afford to clear wetlands or other malaria prone areas. The continent’s spending per person for eradicating malaria was just a quarter of what Brazil spent. Sub-Saharan Africa simply can’t rely on a plan that requires more money, infrastructure, and expertise than they have to spare.
Additionally, the widespread use of chloroquine has created drug resistant parasites which are now plaguing Sub-Saharan Africa. Because chloroquine was used widely but inconsistently, mosquitoes developed resistance, and chloroquine is now nearly completely ineffective in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 95% of mosquitoes resistant to it. As a result, newer, more expensive drugs need to be used to prevent and treat malaria, which further drives up the cost of malaria treatment for a region that can ill afford it.
Instead of developing plans to treat malaria after the infection has incurred, programs should focus on preventing infection from occurring in the first place. Not only is this plan cheaper and more effective, reducing the number of people who contract malaria also reduces loss of work/school days which can further bring down the productivity of the region.
One of the cheapest and most effective ways of preventing malaria is to implement insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs). These nets provide a protective barrier around the person or people using them. While untreated bed nets are still helpful, those treated with insecticides are much more useful because they stop mosquitoes from biting people through the nets, and they help reduce mosquito populations in a community, thus helping people who don’t even own bed nets. Bed nets are also very effective because most mosquito bites occur while the person is sleeping, so bed nets would be able to drastically reduce the number of transmissions during the night. In fact, transmission of malaria can be reduced by as much as 90% in areas where the use of ITNs is widespread. Because money is so scarce in Sub-Saharan Africa, the low cost is a great benefit and a major reason why the program is so successful. Bed nets cost roughly 2 USD to make, last several years, and can protect two adults. Studies have shown that, for every 100-1000 more nets are being used, one less child dies of malaria. With an estimated 300 million people in Africa not being protected by mosquito nets, there’s the potential to save three million lives by spending just a few dollars per person.
Reducing the number of people who contract malaria would also reduce poverty levels in Africa significantly, thus improving other aspects of society like education levels and the economy. Vector control is more effective than treatment strategies because it means fewer people are getting sick. When fewer people get sick, the working population is stronger as a whole because people are not put out of work from malaria, nor are they caring for sick relatives. Malaria-afflicted families can typically only harvest 40% of the crops that healthy families can harvest. Additionally, a family with members who have malaria spends roughly a quarter of its income treatment, not including the loss of work they also must deal with due to the illness. It’s estimated that malaria costs Africa 12 billion USD in lost income every year. A strong working population creates a stronger economy, which Sub-Saharan Africa is in desperate need of.
This essay begins with an introduction, which ends with the thesis (that malaria eradication plans in Sub-Saharan Africa should focus on prevention rather than treatment). The first part of the essay lays out why the counter argument (treatment rather than prevention) is not as effective, and the second part of the essay focuses on why prevention of malaria is the better path to take.
- The thesis appears early, is stated clearly, and is supported throughout the rest of the essay. This makes the argument clear for readers to understand and follow throughout the essay.
- There’s lots of solid research in this essay, including specific programs that were conducted and how successful they were, as well as specific data mentioned throughout. This evidence helps strengthen the author’s argument.
- The author makes a case for using expanding bed net use over waiting until malaria occurs and beginning treatment, but not much of a plan is given for how the bed nets would be distributed or how to ensure they’re being used properly. By going more into detail of what she believes should be done, the author would be making a stronger argument.
- The introduction of the essay does a good job of laying out the seriousness of the problem, but the conclusion is short and abrupt. Expanding it into its own paragraph would give the author a final way to convince readers of her side of the argument.
Argumentative Essay Example 3
There are many ways payments could work. They could be in the form of a free-market approach, where athletes are able to earn whatever the market is willing to pay them, it could be a set amount of money per athlete, or student athletes could earn income from endorsements, autographs, and control of their likeness, similar to the way top Olympians earn money.
Proponents of the idea believe that, because college athletes are the ones who are training, participating in games, and bringing in audiences, they should receive some sort of compensation for their work. If there were no college athletes, the NCAA wouldn’t exist, college coaches wouldn’t receive there (sometimes very high) salaries, and brands like Nike couldn’t profit from college sports. In fact, the NCAA brings in roughly $1 billion in revenue a year, but college athletes don’t receive any of that money in the form of a paycheck. Additionally, people who believe college athletes should be paid state that paying college athletes will actually encourage them to remain in college longer and not turn pro as quickly, either by giving them a way to begin earning money in college or requiring them to sign a contract stating they’ll stay at the university for a certain number of years while making an agreed-upon salary.
Supporters of this idea point to Zion Williamson, the Duke basketball superstar, who, during his freshman year, sustained a serious knee injury. Many argued that, even if he enjoyed playing for Duke, it wasn’t worth risking another injury and ending his professional career before it even began for a program that wasn’t paying him. Williamson seems to have agreed with them and declared his eligibility for the NCAA draft later that year. If he was being paid, he may have stayed at Duke longer. In fact, roughly a third of student athletes surveyed stated that receiving a salary while in college would make them “strongly consider” remaining collegiate athletes longer before turning pro.
Paying athletes could also stop the recruitment scandals that have plagued the NCAA. In 2018, the NCAA stripped the University of Louisville's men's basketball team of its 2013 national championship title because it was discovered coaches were using sex workers to entice recruits to join the team. There have been dozens of other recruitment scandals where college athletes and recruits have been bribed with anything from having their grades changed, to getting free cars, to being straight out bribed. By paying college athletes and putting their salaries out in the open, the NCAA could end the illegal and underhanded ways some schools and coaches try to entice athletes to join.
People who argue against the idea of paying college athletes believe the practice could be disastrous for college sports. By paying athletes, they argue, they’d turn college sports into a bidding war, where only the richest schools could afford top athletes, and the majority of schools would be shut out from developing a talented team (though some argue this already happens because the best players often go to the most established college sports programs, who typically pay their coaches millions of dollars per year). It could also ruin the tight camaraderie of many college teams if players become jealous that certain teammates are making more money than they are.
They also argue that paying college athletes actually means only a small fraction would make significant money. Out of the 350 Division I athletic departments, fewer than a dozen earn any money. Nearly all the money the NCAA makes comes from men’s football and basketball, so paying college athletes would make a small group of men--who likely will be signed to pro teams and begin making millions immediately out of college--rich at the expense of other players.
Those against paying college athletes also believe that the athletes are receiving enough benefits already. The top athletes already receive scholarships that are worth tens of thousands per year, they receive free food/housing/textbooks, have access to top medical care if they are injured, receive top coaching, get travel perks and free gear, and can use their time in college as a way to capture the attention of professional recruiters. No other college students receive anywhere near as much from their schools.
People on this side also point out that, while the NCAA brings in a massive amount of money each year, it is still a non-profit organization. How? Because over 95% of those profits are redistributed to its members’ institutions in the form of scholarships, grants, conferences, support for Division II and Division III teams, and educational programs. Taking away a significant part of that revenue would hurt smaller programs that rely on that money to keep running.
While both sides have good points, it’s clear that the negatives of paying college athletes far outweigh the positives. College athletes spend a significant amount of time and energy playing for their school, but they are compensated for it by the scholarships and perks they receive. Adding a salary to that would result in a college athletic system where only a small handful of athletes (those likely to become millionaires in the professional leagues) are paid by a handful of schools who enter bidding wars to recruit them, while the majority of student athletics and college athletic programs suffer or even shut down for lack of money. Continuing to offer the current level of benefits to student athletes makes it possible for as many people to benefit from and enjoy college sports as possible.
This argumentative essay follows the Rogerian model. It discusses each side, first laying out multiple reasons people believe student athletes should be paid, then discussing reasons why the athletes shouldn’t be paid. It ends by stating that college athletes shouldn’t be paid by arguing that paying them would destroy college athletics programs and cause them to have many of the issues professional sports leagues have.
- Both sides of the argument are well developed, with multiple reasons why people agree with each side. It allows readers to get a full view of the argument and its nuances.
- Certain statements on both sides are directly rebuffed in order to show where the strengths and weaknesses of each side lie and give a more complete and sophisticated look at the argument.
- Using the Rogerian model can be tricky because oftentimes you don’t explicitly state your argument until the end of the paper. Here, the thesis doesn’t appear until the first sentence of the final paragraph. That doesn’t give readers a lot of time to be convinced that your argument is the right one, compared to a paper where the thesis is stated in the beginning and then supported throughout the paper. This paper could be strengthened if the final paragraph was expanded to more fully explain why the author supports the view, or if the paper had made it clearer that paying athletes was the weaker argument throughout.
3 Tips for Writing a Good Argumentative Essay
Now that you’ve seen examples of what good argumentative essay samples look like, follow these three tips when crafting your own essay.
#1: Make Your Thesis Crystal Clear
The thesis is the key to your argumentative essay; if it isn’t clear or readers can’t find it easily, your entire essay will be weak as a result. Always make sure that your thesis statement is easy to find. The typical spot for it is the final sentence of the introduction paragraph, but if it doesn’t fit in that spot for your essay, try to at least put it as the first or last sentence of a different paragraph so it stands out more.
Also make sure that your thesis makes clear what side of the argument you’re on. After you’ve written it, it’s a great idea to show your thesis to a couple different people--classmates are great for this. Just by reading your thesis they should be able to understand what point you’ll be trying to make with the rest of your essay.
#2: Show Why the Other Side Is Weak
When writing your essay, you may be tempted to ignore the other side of the argument and just focus on your side, but don’t do this. The best argumentative essays really tear apart the other side to show why readers shouldn’t believe it. Before you begin writing your essay, research what the other side believes, and what their strongest points are. Then, in your essay, be sure to mention each of these and use evidence to explain why they’re incorrect/weak arguments. That’ll make your essay much more effective than if you only focused on your side of the argument.
#3: Use Evidence to Support Your Side
Remember, an essay can’t be an argumentative essay if it doesn’t support its argument with evidence. For every point you make, make sure you have facts to back it up. Some examples are previous studies done on the topic, surveys of large groups of people, data points, etc. There should be lots of numbers in your argumentative essay that support your side of the argument. This will make your essay much stronger compared to only relying on your own opinions to support your argument.
Summary: Argumentative Essay Sample
Argumentative essays are persuasive essays that use facts and evidence to support their side of the argument. Most argumentative essays follow either the Toulmin model or the Rogerian model. By reading good argumentative essay examples, you can learn how to develop your essay and provide enough support to make readers agree with your opinion. When writing your essay, remember to always make your thesis clear, show where the other side is weak, and back up your opinion with data and evidence.
Do you need to write an argumentative essay as well? Check out our guide on the best argumentative essay topics for ideas!
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.
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An analysis paper is an examination of the elements of a paper; in an argument analysis paper, the writer examines the argument of the author, the evidence, and the conclusions in an article. The purpose of the paper is not to agree or disagree with the position the author takes in their argument, but rather to evaluate the argument made. When writing an argument analysis paper, consider the following:
- Who is the author’s target audience?
- What is their argument?
- What supporting evidence does the author provide? Is it quantifiable or emotional?
- What is the quality of the sources which they use as evidence?
- Is the author making assumptions?
- Does their evidence support their conclusions?
When analyzing an argument, you are scrutinizing the logic and structure the author uses to present their argument. You can suggest improvements to their argument and point out counterarguments, but ultimately your point in the analysis is to evaluate the logic and quality of the support they provide for their claim.
Being able to identify core components of an argument and analyze the effectiveness of an argument helps you to understand the components of an argument, judge arguments critically, and to write your own effective arguments.
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Argumentative Essay Examples & Analysis
July 20, 2023
Writing successful argumentative or persuasive essays is a sort of academic rite of passage: every student, at some point in their academic career, will have to do it. And not without reason—writing a good argumentative essay requires the ability to organize one’s thoughts, reason logically, and present evidence in support of claims. They even require empathy, as authors are forced to inhabit and then respond to viewpoints that run counter to their own. Here, we’ll look at some argumentative essay examples and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
What is an argumentative essay?
Before we turn to those argumentative essay examples, let’s get precise about what an argumentative essay is. An argumentative essay is an essay that advances a central point, thesis, or claim using evidence and facts. In other words, argumentative essays are essays that argue on behalf of a particular viewpoint. The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince the reader that the essay’s core idea is correct.
Good argumentative essays rely on facts and evidence. Personal anecdotes, appeals to emotion , and opinions that aren’t grounded in evidence just won’t fly. Let’s say I wanted to write an essay arguing that cats are the best pets. It wouldn’t be enough to say that I love having a cat as a pet. That’s just my opinion. Nor would it be enough to cite my downstairs neighbor Claudia, who also has a cat and who also prefers cats to dogs. That’s just an anecdote.
For the essay to have a chance at succeeding, I’d have to use evidence to support my argument. Maybe there are studies that compare the cost of cat ownership to dog ownership and conclude that cat ownership is less expensive. Perhaps there’s medical data that shows that more people are allergic to dogs than they are to cats. And maybe there are surveys that show that cat owners are more satisfied with their pets than are dog owners. I have no idea if any of that is true. The point is that successful argumentative essays use evidence from credible sources to back up their points.
Argumentative essay structure
Important to note before we examine a few argumentative essay examples: most argumentative essays will follow a standard 5-paragraph format. This format entails an introductory paragraph that lays out the essay’s central claim. Next, there are three body paragraphs that each advance sub-claims and evidence to support the central claim. Lastly, there is a conclusion that summarizes the points made. That’s not to say that every good argumentative essay will adhere strictly to the 5-paragraph format. And there is plenty of room for flexibility and creativity within the 5-paragraph format. For example, a good argumentative essay that follows the 5-paragraph template will also generally include counterarguments and rebuttals.
Now let’s move on to those argumentative essay examples, and examine in particular a couple of introductions. The first takes on a common argumentative essay topic —capital punishment.
The death penalty has long been a divisive issue in the United States. 24 states allow the death penalty, while the other 26 have either banned the death penalty outright or issued moratoriums halting the practice. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it’s an effective deterrent against crime. Time and time again, however, this argument has been shown to be false. Capital punishment does not deter crime. But not only that—the death penalty is irreversible, which allows our imperfect justice system no room for error. Finally, the application of the death penalty is racially biased—the population of death row is over 41% Black , despite Black Americans making up just 13% of the U.S. population. For all these reasons, the death penalty should be outlawed across the board in the United States.
Why this introduction works: First, it’s clear. It lays out the essay’s thesis: that the death penalty should be outlawed in the United States. It also names the sub-arguments the author is going to use to support the thesis: (1), capital punishment does not deter crime, (2), it’s irreversible, and (3), it’s a racially biased practice. In laying out these three points, the author is also laying out the structure of the essay to follow. Each of the body paragraphs will take on one of the three sub-arguments presented in the introduction.
Argumentative Essay Examples (Continued)
Something else I like about this introduction is that it acknowledges and then refutes a common counterargument—the idea that the death penalty is a crime deterrent. Notice also the flow of the first two sentences. The first flags the essay’s topic. But it also makes a claim—that the issue of capital punishment is politically divisive. The following sentence backs this claim up. Essentially half of the country allows the practice; the other half has banned it. This is a feature not just of solid introductions but of good argumentative essays in general—all the essay’s claims will be backed up with evidence.
How it could be improved: Okay, I know I just got through singing the praises of the first pair of sentences, but if I were really nitpicking, I might take issue with them. Why? The first sentence is a bit of a placeholder. It’s a platitude, a way for the author to get a foothold in the piece. The essay isn’t about how divisive the death penalty is; it’s about why it ought to be abolished. When it comes to writing an argumentative essay, I always like to err on the side of blunt. There’s nothing wrong with starting an argumentative essay with the main idea: Capital punishment is an immoral and ineffective form of punishment, and the practice should be abolished .
Let’s move on to another argumentative essay example. Here’s an introduction that deals with the effects of technology on the brain:
Much of the critical discussion around technology today revolves around social media. Critics argue that social media has cut us off from our fellow citizens, trapping us in “information silos” and contributing to political polarization. Social media also promotes unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards, which can lead to anxiety and depression. What’s more, the social media apps themselves are designed to addict their users. These are all legitimate critiques of social media, and they ought to be taken seriously. But the problem of technology today goes deeper than social media. The internet itself is the problem. Whether it’s on our phones or our laptops, on a social media app, or doing a Google search, the internet promotes distracted thinking and superficial learning. The internet is, quite literally, rewiring our brains.
Why this introduction works: This introduction hooks the reader by tying a topical debate about social media to the essay’s main subject—the problem of the internet itself. The introduction makes it clear what the essay is going to be about; the sentence, “But the problem of technology…” signals to the reader that the main idea is coming. I like the clarity with which the main idea is stated, and, as in the previous introduction, the main idea sets up the essay to follow.
How it could be improved: I like how direct this introduction is, but it might be improved by being a little more specific. Without getting too technical, the introduction might tell the reader what it means to “promote distracted thinking and superficial learning.” It might also hint as to why these are good arguments. For example, are there neurological or psychological studies that back this claim up? A simple fix might be: Whether it’s on our phones or our laptops, on a social media app, or doing a Google search, countless studies have shown that the internet promotes distracted thinking and superficial learning . The body paragraphs would then elaborate on those points. And the last sentence, while catchy, is a bit vague.
Body Paragraph Example
Let’s stick with our essay on capital punishment and continue on to the first body paragraph.
Proponents of the death penalty have long claimed that the practice is an effective deterrent to crime. It might not be pretty, they say, but its deterrent effects prevent further crime. Therefore, its continued use is justified. The problem is that this is just not borne out in the data. There is simply no evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment, like long prison sentences. States, where the death penalty is still carried out, do not have lower crime rates than states where the practice has been abolished. States that have abandoned the death penalty likewise show no increase in crime or murder rates.
Body Paragraph (Continued)
For example, the state of Louisiana, where the death penalty is legal, has a murder rate of 21.3 per 100,000 residents. In Iowa, where the death penalty was abolished in 1965, the murder rate is 3.2 per 100,000. In Kentucky the death penalty is legal and the murder rate is 9.6; in Michigan where it’s illegal, the murder rate is 8.7. The death penalty simply has no bearing on murder rates. If it did, we’d see markedly lower murder rates in states that maintain the practice. But that’s not the case. Capital punishment does not deter crime. Therefore, it should be abolished.
Why this paragraph works: This body paragraph is successful because it coheres with the main idea set out in the introduction. It supports the essay’s first sub-argument—that capital punishment does not deter crime—and in so doing, it supports the essay’s main idea—that capital punishment should be abolished. How does it do that? By appealing to the data. A nice feature of this paragraph is that it simultaneously debunks a common counterargument and advances the essay’s thesis. It also supplies a few direct examples (murder rates in states like Kentucky, Michigan, etc.) without getting too technical. Importantly, the last few sentences tie the data back to the main idea of the essay. It’s not enough to pepper your essay with statistics. A good argumentative essay will unpack the statistics, tell the reader why the statistics matter, and how they support or confirm the essay’s main idea.
How it could be improved: The author is missing one logical connection at the end of the paragraph. The author shows that capital punishment doesn’t deter crime, but then just jumps to their conclusion. They needed to establish a logical bridge to get from the sub-argument to the conclusion. That bridge might be: if the deterrent effect is being used as a justification to maintain the practice, but the deterrent effect doesn’t really exist, then , in the absence of some other justification, the death penalty should be abolished. The author almost got there, but just needed to make that one final logical connection.
Once we’ve supported each of our sub-arguments with a corresponding body paragraph, it’s time to move on to the conclusion.
It might be nice to think that executing murderers prevents future murders from happening, that our justice system is infallible and no one is ever wrongly put to death, and that the application of the death penalty is free of bias. But as we have seen, each of those thoughts are just comforting fictions. The death penalty does not prevent future crime—if it did, we’d see higher crime rates in states that’ve done away with capital punishment. The death penalty is an irreversible punishment meted out by an imperfect justice system—as a result, wrongful executions are unavoidable. And the death penalty disproportionately affects people of color. The death penalty is an unjustifiable practice—both practically and morally. Therefore, the United States should do away with the practice and join the more than 85 world nations that have already done so.
Why this conclusion works: It concisely summarizes the points made throughout the essay. But notice that it’s not identical to the introduction. The conclusion makes it clear that our understanding of the issue has changed with the essay. It not only revisits the sub-arguments, it expounds upon them. And to put a bow on everything, it restates the thesis—this time, though, with a little more emotional oomph.
How it could be improved: I’d love to see a little more specificity with regard to the sub-arguments. Instead of just rehashing the second sub-argument—that wrongful executions are unavoidable—the author could’ve included a quick statistic to give the argument more weight. For example: The death penalty is an irreversible punishment meted out by an imperfect justice system—as a result, wrongful executions are unavoidable. Since 1973, at least 190 people have been put to death who were later found to be innocent.
An argumentative essay is a powerful way to convey one’s ideas. As an academic exercise, mastering the art of the argumentative essay requires students to hone their skills of critical thinking, rhetoric, and logical reasoning. The best argumentative essays communicate their ideas clearly and back up their claims with evidence.
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Dane Gebauer is a writer and teacher living in Miami, FL. He received his MFA in fiction from Columbia University, and his writing has appeared in Complex Magazine and Sinking City Review .
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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
What is an argumentative essay?
The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Please note : Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.
Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.
The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important ( exigence ) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis ( warrant ).
However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph essay
A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.
Longer argumentative essays
Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.
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How to Write an Argument Analysis Essay
As a college assignment, the argument analysis teaches critical reading and thinking skills. In professional applications, the argument analysis serves as a check and balance that may help an organization's leadership to make better decisions, effect change and make progress toward goals. The writer of an argument analysis will look closely at the rhetorical techniques and sources of support that another writer employs, and then construct an argument of her own that answers the first one.
Locate the thesis of the argument you are analyzing. The author or presenter will often state it in one succinct sentence close to the beginning of the article, essay or presentation.
List each argument and piece of evidence in support of the thesis and leave space for notations.
Analyze the logic, facts and any data that the argument presents. Look out for emotional arguments, hasty generalizations, and red herrings, which a sound argument must omit. Also look for erroneous facts, omissions of facts that you know should be there, and data that is dated or taken out of context. Make notes as you work.
Look at studies that the author quotes if they seem suspect. Sometimes researchers do only short studies or studies that do not include a large enough sample. Sometimes they don't ask the right questions or the methodology is weak. Also, the references should come from credible sources; credible sources are those written by research scholars in the field or practicing experts. Make notes as you work.
Open your analysis with a paragraph that ends with your own thesis, either agreeing or disagreeing with the other person's thesis.
Address the argument point by point. Do so in the same order in which the author or speaker presented his points. Alternatively, you can group related points together. Concede valid points, but point out flaws in others. Save your strongest, most important point for last.
Weave in concrete support for your analysis. Cite reliable, current references.
Conclude the analysis with the discussion of your strongest point or with a short discussion of the subject matter as it pertains to your thesis.
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Using Research and Evidence
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: The Argumentative Essay
Cat Reynolds has written professionally since 1990. She has worked in academe (teaching and administration), real estate and has owned a private tutoring business. She is also a poet and recipient of the Discover/The Nation Award. Her work can be found in literary publications and on various blogs. Reynolds holds a Master of Arts in writing and literature from Purdue University.