If you want to know how to write a perfect argumentative essay, you will love this complete step-by-step guide I am about to share with you.
In fact, these are the exact strategies I used to ace this question in my English exam.
So keep reading.
But first of all, let me give you a brief introduction to the topic.
What is an Argumentative essay?
You have heard of an argument, right? In simple words, it is the opposition or disagreement over something.
Argumentative writing is a genre (category) of writing in which you either speak in favour of a topic or against it. Plus, you use facts and examples to support your point of view.
Pretty simple, isn’t it?
In short, a well-written essay will:
- Have a compelling topic introduction to engage the readers
- Have a fair analysis of both sides of the argument
- Persuade the reader to consider a (new) different perspective
Do not worry! We will take a look at each of them in detail.
But first of all, let me tell you how to properly select a topic before writing.
How to select the “right” topic?
If you want to know, how to properly select a topic, this is for you.
Look, selecting a topic can be crucial. Here is a simple example for you:
Question 1: ‘Sport is not just good for exercise – it teaches us lessons about values and behaviour.’ Do agree? Give reasons and examples to support your view.
Question 2: ‘We should always obey rules, both inside and outside school: there is never an excuse for breaking them.’ What is your opinion? Give reasons and examples to support your opinion.
Let’s suppose that these were the topics you were to choose one from. What would you do? Here is a simple step-by-step guide for you.
- First of all, read both the questions twice and underline the keywords.
- Then, make a brief (but quick) mind-map. This will show you how much information you have for the particular topic.
- Select the topic that you find more interesting (and of course, for which you have better arguments).
Note: During the exam, MANY students just skim through the question (because they think they are running out of time). You DO Not have to do this. Take your time and decide which topic you will attempt.
When you know which topic to write on, it is time to move straight on to the next topic.
Format of Argumentative Writing:
Here is the format that you are going to use in your writing, “the five-paragraph structure“.
Let’s take a look at each of them in detail now:
- Body Paragraphs (for arguments and counter-arguments)
Before moving ahead, let me tell you that each of these three sections has a unique structure. Let me show you how.
What do you know about an introductory paragraph already? The first part of your essay explaining what you are going to cover?
But here is a catch.
The introductory paragraph for an argumentative essay is divided into three parts:
Part 1: Hooking your reader (grabbing the attention)
Part 2: Background information
Part 3: Thesis statement
Let me explain each part to you in detail.
The first thing you are going to do is to engage your reader (grabbing the attention). Look, a good introduction is the one that entices (attracts) the reader.
But, how can you hook your reader? Here are the three things you can do:
- Throw up questions:
Sometimes, a couple of questions straight away can be enough to grab your readers attention (as you will see in the example below).
When you put questions in front of your readers at the start, chances are that they will go through the entire passage (essay) to find answers to those questions.
- State a fact:
Think of this: Will you be engaged by the passage that mentions a fact or an interesting finding straight away?
I would! And good chances are that you would also be.
So if you know a fact about a topic, you can simply start off with that as well. For example, the first line for the topic “Is a university degree enough to get a good job?” can be:
“Do you know that graduates still out-earn people without degrees…”
Now, let’s move on.
The second thing you have to do is to give some background information.
This will help your reader understand what the topic is all about. Plus, this information will also explain the main keyword as well.
So after grabbing your readers attention, give some background information so that your reader understands the main context and the problem.
When you are done with these two parts, move on to the third and the most important part of the introduction, the thesis statement.
In simple words, this statement lets your reader know about your viewpoint (opinion) about the topic.
And if I say that this one-to-two sentence statement presents the main idea of your essay, I will not be wrong. Plus, your thesis is the MOST important part of your introduction.
Note: Your thesis should be “crystal clear”. This means that you should clearly give your opinion about the topic.
Now, here is a simple example of an introduction for you:
The Question says:
“The students who study abroad achieve greater success”. Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer.
“Do you know that US students studying abroad during 2018-2019 increased by 1.6% (from 341,751 to 357,099)? But, does that mean studying abroad promises greater achievements?
(Hooking the readers)
For years, many students are interested in studying abroad as it helps them to have an understanding of the world, learn new languages, overcome challenges of living in another place and appreciate other cultures. To be precise, America’s first study abroad program (started by the University of Delaware) was launched in 1923.
In my opinion, the students who study abroad achieve greater success because they develop their skills in a better way than those who study do not study abroad.”
With this, it is time to move on and talk about the body paragraphs.
An argumentative essay contains three body paragraphs (can be more) that give reasons and explanations on why you support your thesis.
Plus, you also give one or two counter-arguments (the arguments that oppose your thesis) to create a balance.
You should know that a typical paragraph contains a topic sentence (telling why your reader should agree with your opinion), examples and studies etc.
Note: You will apply the inverted pyramid technique over here. This simply means that you will give your strongest argument first (followed by the relatively weaker one).
Let’s take a look at this example:
Here is a paragraph in favour of the topic: “Skills are more important than knowledge“.
Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” He further explained that knowledge is limited, while imagination encircles the world.
All the information in this world is useless unless it is used in creative ways. For example, if a person knows a lot of facts, it is impressive. But, it is not useful.
On the other hand, skills make information management and innovation (the most desired in the business world). In short, skills are what bring about development because they are practically applicable.
Now, here is a counter-argument paragraph for the same topic.
However, some people say that knowledge is more impotent than skills. The reason being is that skill is the end product of knowledge.
If you have good knowledge about how to set a camera for a shoot, then you can practice that knowledge and the practice over time will make you skilful for that work.
And since knowledge is an accumulation of experiences, it is more important.
In short, you support your thesis (that you made in the introduction) in the body paragraphs.
This takes us straight to the next part, the conclusion.
The Concluding Paragraph:
I have a question from you: What do you know about a conclusion, apart from that it is the last paragraph of your essay?
Let me tell you.
This is the paragraph where you re-state your thesis. Plus, you also give a brief summary of the arguments you made in the essay above.
Remember that conclusion is NOT the place to introduce new points. In fact, to write a good conclusion, you will have to appeal to your reader’s emotions.
We will take a look at all this with the help of an example.
Here is the concluding paragraph for the topic: “Skills are more important than knowledge.”
“In short, yes skills are more important than knowledge because skills can be practically applied. Moreover, skills lead towards development and birth innovation. But, knowledge is also important if it is practically applied.”
With this, let me share some amazing tips for you if you want to ace this topic in your exam.
Tips for Argumentative Writing:
- Make your thesis crystal clear.
As I said above as well, you HAVE to state your thesis clearly.
For example, if you agree that “money can’t buy you happiness”, then state clearly: In my opinion, Yes! money cannot buy you happiness.
As just a quick reminder for you, the thesis will be mentioned in the introduction as well as the conclusion.
- Be convincing.
Here’s a deal.
If you want your essay to stand out, you have to be persuasive (convincing). But, how can you do so?
Firstly, remember that people are easily persuaded by logic. Therefore, you have to give strong arguments in favour of your claim.
Quick Tip: Before writing anything, make a rough draft where you write all the arguments you have. Then, shortlist the MOST convincing arguments.
The second thing you can do is to use plenty of facts, examples and anecdotes (your personal story or experience) to support your claim.
Let’s suppose that you are writing on the topic: “University degree is more important than skill.”
In support of this argument, you could have stated that the 2016/17 HESA survey shows that 81% of people who finished their undergraduate degree three years ago are in full or part-time work.
In short, try to use case studies, facts and examples to support your opinion. Do not JUST give your opinion, but back it up as well.
- Use effective transitions.
Now you might be wondering, what are effective transitions. These are the words (or phrases) that connect your ideas and paragraphs, effectively.
Simple isn’t it.
Effective transitions are essential if you want to create coherence (logic and unity).
Here is a list of transition words that you can use in your writing.
For similarity: In addition, In the same way, similarly, identically etc.
For Opposition: Besides, in contrast, on the contrary, unlike and above all etc.
For examples and support: For instance, specifically, to illustrate, undoubtedly and especially etc.
So, create unity and link between your arguments, as they help the reader to (better) understand your claim.
- Avoid repetition:
Let’s be honest.
This is the biggest issue in argumentative writing. And, this problem can really impact your grade.
In simple words, repetition is talking about the same ideas (point) multiple times. This usually happens when you run out of unique ideas.
Remember that repetition makes your response unconvincing. Here is how can you deal with it:
First of all, make a rough draft before writing and write down all the points that come to your mind. When you will have all points in front of you, good chances are that you will not repeat any argument.
The second thing you can do is to read your writing aloud. Look, it is easy to lose track of what you are writing.
So when you read your work aloud, you will remember what you are writing. As a result, you will not repeat the same point.
With this, our topic of how to write an argumentative essay has come to an end.
Now I turn it over to you.
Which part of this topic do you find the most challenging? Is it writing relevant facts or writing strong arguments. Do let me know.
Remember that this topic is very important from an examination point of view for GCE O Level English (1123). So, do practise a couple of past paper questions as well.
Thank you for reading and staying with me till the end. Stay tuned for more.