Writing An Argumentative Essay (A Guideline)
An argument is basically a claim (presented as a conclusion to premises) which is supported by supporting statements (premises). An argument is used to convince the reader that a particular claim is true, or at least, likely to be true. Alternatively, an argument can also be used to cast doubt on a claim or to convince the reader that a claim is not true, or likely to be false. The purpose for putting forth an argument (in written or verbal form) is to try to convince the readers to accept / believe a claim (or conclusion) that is put forth.
Example of an argument: “Marrying at an early age is not advisable because young couples are not emotionally equipped to cope with the pressures of married life as well as financial constraints.”
The conclusion (the claim) = “Marrying at an early age is not advisable…..”. The premise = “…….young couples are not emotionally equipped to cope with the pressures of married life as well as financial constraints.” (Note: if more than one premise = premises). Premise indicator = “… because …”.
A good argument should have premises that are acceptable or likely to be true. In addition, a good argument should be backed up with examples or even better, evidence which is relevant to the claim (or conclusion) and provide sufficient grounds for accepting the claim (or conclusion). This is best carried out by referring to reliable sources of information which are then cited (the citation / reference part).
Now that you have understood what an argument is, let us look at how to write an argumentative essay.
An argumentative essay is a written form of an argument which has a typical organizational pattern consisting of an introduction which contains a thesis statement (the claim that is made in that essay - or simply thought of as the “main” or central argument), a few paragraphs of supporting arguments which argue for the validity of the claim made, at least a paragraph of counter arguments with the appropriate refutation and a concluding paragraph which often summarizes the arguments in support of the claim. In a nutshell, the goal of an argumentative essay is to convince the reader that the claim that is made is true based the list of supporting arguments and the evidence (or examples) that have been provided in support of the claim. Remember that the aim in writing an argumentative essay is not merely to convey information but to take sides in the argument presented and to try to win over the readers into accepting a claim. Therefore, it is important to make sure the supporting arguments put forth are relevant and valid.
An argumentative essay with a clear, concise statement of the claim (termed a thesis statement) of the chosen topic provides the direction of the essay because it presents the central argument on an issue. As in any issue, when claims pertaining to the issue are made, there are sides in which one could agree or disagree with. Thus, a thesis statement must be framed in a way which is open for debate or discussion and presents a good issue to be argued (for or against). In that sense, a thesis statement that is made based on a known fact or an already widely accepted claim would NOT be appropriate. E.g. “Dinosaurs existed millions of years ago.” Or “Smoking is bad for health and leads to illnesses such cancer and emphysema.”
A good, effective thesis statement in an argumentative essay should at least meet these 3 criteria: (1) It is a claim that can be supported by evidence (or example). (2) It is a condensed outline of the essay: it is the central focus in which the rest of the essay is based on. (3) It is specific; this means that it should be a topic that is narrowed down. E.g. “Gambling should be prohibited” (Statement is too broad & vague) should be rewritten as “Legalized gambling in casinos and public places should be prohibited in this...
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