Summary: This resource begins with a general description of essay writing and moves to a discussion of common essay genres students may encounter across the curriculum. Note: The Modes of Discourse: Description, Narration, Exposition, Argumentation (EDNA) The four genres of essays (description, narration, exposition, and argumentation) are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres, also known as the modes of discourse, have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these genres and students’ need to understand and produce these types of essays. We hope these resources will help. Contributors:Jack Baker, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-17 05:33:55
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 s/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 1) an introductory paragraph 2) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and 3) 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. Analyzing and Assessing Thinking
In this section, we offer an interactive model which details the analysis and assessment of reasoning, and enables you to apply the model to real life problems.
On this page we introduce the analysis and assessment of reasoning. To skip this introduction and go directly to the model, see the links near the bottom of this page.
Why the Analysis of Thinking Is Important
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. If you want to think well, you must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. You must learn how to take thinking apart.
All Thinking Is Defined by the Eight Elements That Make It Up Eight basic structures are present in all thinking: Whenever we think, we think for a purpose within a point of view based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use concepts, ideas and theories to interpret data, facts, and experiences in order to answer questions, solve problems, and resolve issues.
|Thinking, then: |Click to Open the "Elements and Standards" Online Model | |generates purposes | | |raises questions | | |uses information | | |utilizes concepts | | |makes inferences | | |makes assumptions | | |generates implications | | |embodies a point of view | |
Each of these structures has implications for the others. If you change your purpose or agenda, you change your questions and problems. If you change your questions and problems, you are forced to seek new information and data. If you collect new information and data…
Why the Assessment of Thinking is Important
Once you have analyzed thinking, you then need to assess it, using universal intellectual standards. Reasonable persons judge reasoning using these standards. When you internalize them and explicitly use them in your thinking, your thinking becomes more clear, more accurate, more precise, more relevant, deeper, broader and more fair. You should note that we generally focus on a selection of standards. Among others are credibility, sufficiency, reliability, and practicality.
Using the Elements and Standards Online Model
The easy-to-use online model you will find at the following two links were developed to further introduce you to the Elements of Reasoning and Universal Intellectual Standards, and enable you to apply them to real life problems. These pages are self-guided and self paced, allowing you to move back and forth between the elements and standards. When moving around in the model realize that the cursor will need to be moved carefully around the wheel to keep from activating parts of the model you are not focusing on at the moment. With some practice you will see how the model works and be able to work with it effectively. Click to Open the "Elements and Standards" Online Model
Using the Elements and Standards To Analyze a Problem
An interactive extension of the Model Above, this tool will allow you to analyze a problem by identifying each of the Elements of Thoughtyou are using in your reasoning. Pay attention to the intellectual standards as you do so. Your analysis and conclusions can be viewed and printed in a report form when you have completed your analysis. You can save the logics of multiple problems in the database and return to review them or update them them at any time. This tool is available to Members (see complimentary membership) of the Critical Thinking Community. You must be logged in to view and use this resource.
Be creative, children
Updated: 2010-11-27 08:03
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That our students rarely get the chance to use their imagination was an open secret among Chinese people. Now, a global survey has brought it to the notice of the rest of the world. The survey covering 21 countries, conducted by International Educational Progress Evaluation Organization, showed Chinese students excelled at math, beating their peers from other countries. But when it came to using their imagination, they were tied for the last place. And in creativity, they were fifth from the bottom. The survey results are not shocking, given the way our children are taught in schools and at home. But they are a stern reminder to our educators and parents to change their ways. Chinese students rarely get the time or chance to use their imagination. Right from the day they enter school they are pushed into a culture of exams and more exams. Teachers and parents teach them that education is all about passing these exams with flying colors. And to pass those exams, they are made to learn by rote standard answers. Teachers dare not encourage students to think outside the box. Teachers don't like students questioning them, stifling the curiosity of the young minds. For children, there's hardly any room for bright ideas either in class or at home. Israel shares the value of education with China. But there is a world of difference between the way Israeli parents treat their children and we do. Israeli parents do not mollycoddle their children. Instead, they encourage them to learn how to live by themselves. In contrast, Chinese parents go to extremes, pampering their children one moment for doing what they think is good and punishing them severely the next for committing a "mistake". The global study should make us swing into action and help our students to throw open their young minds to imagination and creativity. It is time our education officials and educators asked themselves what they should do to let our children's imagination and creativity blossom. Creativity stems from imagination. To make students creative, educators should encourage them to use their imagination to the full. It is important for students to give wings to their imagination beyond school hours, too. And parents can contribute to the creative development of their children by encouraging them to be more inquisitive. Only by being imaginative can our students come up with creative solutions to problems and expand their world.