Getting The Upper Hand In An Argumentative Essay

When your professor assigned it to you, you may have had the urge to debate on the intricacies of an argumentative essay. What is it? Why do you need to write it? And how are you going to accomplish it?

What is an argumentative essay?

First of all, you will need to know what an argumentative essay is. It is a genre of writing that requires you to do considerable research on a topic, collect evidence and data, evaluate your findings, and defend the resolution to your whole argumentative essay within the paper itself.

Sometimes people confuse an argumentative essay with an expository essay, possibly because the two involves research. The only difference is that argumentative essay prompts requires more time and effort to produce, since it is usually the last project assigned in a subject during a non-graduating class semester. The best part is that you can also use argumentative essays tips to write a scholarship essay, a convincing pitch at work, and many others.

What is in an argumentative essay?

  1. It must have a strong introduction.

Any writing work requires an impeccable introduction in order to transition to the succeeding parts of the paper. Without it, there is no paper. And without a paper, you have no grade at all. To give you a better idea on how impactful an introduction is, this is considered as your winning statement. This is where you summarize the issue, the research performed, the facts collected, and the findings that you’ve made. Still, it has to be short enough to leave more room for discussion in the succeeding parts of your essay.

  1. It contains a thesis statement located in the first paragraph of the essay, preferably the first sentence.

This is essentially the log line of your argumentative essay. The professor who assigned your argumentative essay prompt wants to know what the essay is about at first glance and not have to read through a lengthy introduction that does not contain anything useful. Your thesis statement is your logline and it will be the basis of your argument essay prompts’ introduction.

  1. The transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion are clean and understandable.

You can’t just jump from one topic to another. You have to smoothly slide in your next discussion with a strong connection to the previous paragraph. This is done by using proper writing skills and grammar usage.

  1. There is a clear emphasis on the data and facts you used.

You cannot just list down the sources and numbers you used to create your argumentative essay. You need to properly explain how you found it, where you found it, and how you used it. Even if it is more of a qualitative essay, you still have to emphasize the origin of your quotes and the development of your ideas.

  1. A simple, yet impactful conclusion.

This is what you need to close it all down. You cannot leave your professor – or anyone else reading your argumentative essay – hanging. They need to know how it all ends and why they ended up there in the first place. More importantly, your conclusion has to prove that your argumentative essay is leaning heavily in your favor.

What is the most important part of an argumentative essay?

Your whole essay is important, but the keystone for your argumentative essay is your introduction. It is the first thing people will see and it is what they will continuously return to as they read through your whole essay.

Your introduction is where you will explain why you chose the topic and how you came up with the conclusion. It is essentially a condensed version of your essay, but with little mention of what really went on. That part is discussed in the body. As for your results, you may mention the final verdict, but the conclusion can elaborate on that more.

Without the introduction, you cannot hope to keep the reader hooked through the body, let alone until the conclusion of your essay. Aside from that you need to write down an introduction that prepares the reader for what they are about to expect. It has to be enticing enough in order for them to want to prove your wrong or find out whether you’ve outdone yourself and proved a thesis statement completely.

Argumentative Essay Tips on Introduction Writing

Writing a good introduction requires you to be prepared with facts and argumentative statements that have bearing. Once you are ready to start, here are some tips that will help you along the way.

  1. Explain what your topic is.

In order for this to work, the reader must know what they are about to look at. A simple sentence or two will do. You can write a brief explanation as well, in case people are not familiar with the idea you proposed. This way, even if they are not interested, they might find out something new.

  1. Defend your topic.

Make the reader see why it is important to read about your essay. You need to have creative and interesting ideas for an argumentative essay that resonates with people. Even if it is a shallow topic, the reader must be interested in it enough to know the answer to the question you posed.

  1. Explain why some people may disagree with your topic.

Obviously, you cannot choose a topic that everyone adheres to, especially since there is no such thing as a one-sided discussion between two entities. You must elaborate on why your essay is a sore point for some people, so that the audience will understand why you feel the need to defend your idea.

  1. Give the readers a play by play on what is about to happen – or what they are about read.

The introduction also poses how the whole paper will flow. This way the readers know what to expect at every turn and where they can go to when they are looking for a particular piece of information. We are not talking about a table of contents – just a simplified enumeration of what the paper is about and how it is structured.

  1. Lastly, write a stimulating thesis sentence that will leave the readers wanting more.

Although the point of a thesis statement is to put all your thoughts in one line, it must also serve as the log line that will urge the reader to want to know more about what you have come up with. Do not choose a thesis statement that you cannot defend – especially one that is inarguable. This is an argumentative essay, is it not? If you are still having difficulty with composing a good introduction, why not check some argumentative essay introduction examples as well?

There are many famous argumentative essay tips, but simplicity is the true key. If you need help, you can always find someone who is writing essays for college cheap. If you do it yourself, you can still write your essay and get the upper hand in your subject!

argumentative essayessay writingwriting tips

War Correspondent Alan Wood Typing Dispatch Outside Arnhem, Netherlands, 1944

You must complete an argumentative essay to pass the course.  The essay will be at least five paragraphs and will probably come in around 3-4 pages double-spaced with 12-pt., New York Times font (often listed as Times, New Roman).  It will address a question that informed people disagree on and you’ll show what light history sheds on the topic.  We will discuss the papers more in class, but I encourage everyone to come and discuss their research with me during office hours if you are having any problems getting started.  It must concern American history, from 1492-1877 or thereabouts for 1301 and 1877 to the present for 1302.  Check the Course Syllabus: Calendar for due dates.  I use hard deadlines because they are more similar to what many of you will encounter in the workplace.  If you feel hard deadlines are unfair, finish the paper a week ahead of time just in case.

Submission & Grade
The essay is graded on a 60-point scale based on the quality of the argument, research, historical content, writing, and grammatical cleanliness (40 for argument/research/content & 20 for writing/grammar).  Submit your essay as an attachment in Blackboard; it will run through SafeAssign to check for originality.  Plagiarism of any sort will result in an F for the course.  Submit the paper on the due date, by 11:59 pm in Blackboard.  The Essay Submission tab is in Blackboard in the upper-left hand corner, along with the other tabs.  Don’t try to paste the whole essay into the little box; just submit the WORD attachment.  If you see the Goldish-Yellow ! in your Gradebook, you’ll know that it’s submitted.

Guidelines

Format
It’s a classic 5-paragraph persuasive or analytical essay that builds on the paragraph-writing skills you’ve been developing all semester, and what you’ve likely done (or are doing) in English Composition.  The opening paragraph should introduce a question you’re addressing and include a response to that question that is as succinct as possible (one or two sentences).  The question should be straightforward enough that you can use it as the title of your paper (embolden and capitalize the title).  Using the question as a title will help ensure that you’re asking a straightforward question.  The opening paragraph will start off fairly general as you frame the question by introducing some context then gradually narrow down to your thesis (response) toward the end of the opening paragraph.  Ninety percent of the time I could accurately guess an essay’s grade by the time I’m through with the opening paragraph because that’s where you “get your ducks in a row.”  Then follow through on your outline and you’re on your way toward a well-organized, coherent essay.

The next paragraphs will be the three main points of your argument, and the last paragraph will be your conclusion.  Each of the three (or more) argument paragraphs in the body of the essay will have an opening sentence or two that provides some transition from the previous paragraph while introducing a new idea.  Transition sentences should move along your discussion and crystallize main points.  Your paper should be ordered in a logical manner and not jump around all over the place.  Some well-placed direct quotes from primary sources are good but don’t waste a lot of space on direct quotes from secondary sources.  Here’s another good source with guides on effective paragraph writing and thesis statements.

Here are four important things to consider as you research your topic:

  • How does history shed light on the topic in ways that people might not otherwise consider?
  • What do partisans on either side of the issue most tend to include/emphasize or leave out of their arguments?  In other words, what are they “cherry-picking” or choosing to flush down the Memory Hole?  How are people marshaling evidence and formulating arguments concerning the question you’re writing on?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of various arguments and interpretations concerning the issue?
  • Before you hand in your essay, ask yourself: would your argument hold up in court?  Consider me a skeptical jurist or, better yet, an opposing attorney who is going to cross-examine.  Your thesis should be focused, substantive and coherent, and be followed by well-chosen points that back up your argument.  You don’t need to anticipate the other attorney’s weakest arguments; you need to anticipate that the opposition will be explaining the best counter-arguments to the same jury when you’re done speaking.  What are they?  A good place to address this is in the opening paragraph where you’re introducing the reader to the topic and why it’s controversial.  (A few of the pre-authorized topics won’t deal as much in counter-arguments because they ask “to what extent….” is something true.)
  • Take advantage of the links and asterisks I provide in Memory Hole, where appropriate.  They can help launch your research and, in some cases, give you multiple points of view to take into account.

Topic
You’ll need to start brainstorming early in the semester for a good topic.  The topic doesn’t have to be controversial, but it should be an interpretation historians might disagree on — not just descriptive.  You have a topic, now ask: what about it?  Clear the topic with me in office hours or via email, and I can help you formulate a question.  Make sure to consider topics from further along in the course, not just chapters you’ve already read.  The essay can be over anything historical, including social, political, economic, military, religious or cultural history, and isn’t limited to subjects covered in our textbook.  Twenty-first-century topics are acceptable (especially for 1302) if the focus is on their historical roots.

For ideas on controversial questions, you can check out the Memory Hole Link and pick a topic that’s still contested today.  Another source for ideas is Intelligence² Debates.  These hour-and-half public forums cover modern debates, which you could weigh in on by researching their historical background.  Start with their library of articles.  Three other good sites for ideas are: Origins, Real Clear History & Digital History (Controversies, Decision Making, Historiography).  You can also examine Texas Textbook Controversies.  Another source of ideas are the links at the bottom of most chapters.  Finally, another angle to consider is take something that’s going on currently and investigate the debate over its origins.

Familiarize yourself with the terminology surrounding the topic and think long and hard about the issue you’re writing on.  Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the more counter-intuitive question, that runs against the grain of normal interpretation (e.g. what worked about Prohibition? rather than what didn’t, since every 8th-grader already knows that).  See the Memory Hole links for more on how partisans emphasize or omit various points and arguments.  The History Hub Library has various left- and right-leaning textbooks and magazine/periodicals.  Use their search functions to get a feel for how historians argue the issue.  Also, consult the History Hub Library’s Topical Links to see if your topic has other sites related to it.

Jonathan Buckstead, ACC-Cypress Creek Librarian Specializing In U.S History

Sources & Research
This argumentative/analytical essay will have elements of a research paper insofar as you’ll consult and cite reference materials.  It’s really a hybrid of the classic argumentative/analytical essay and research paper models.  It’s built around a question and thesis, but it includes research.  Tap into 2-3 books (without reading the entire book), scholarly articles, and websites as secondary sources.  At the very minimum (for an average grade) use at least one book for research (online, Kindle or hard copy), even if you don’t read the whole thing — that’s where the hard-core scholarship can usually be found.  Exclude our own textbook from your sources; focus on sources written especially about your topic instead.  Generally use websites ending in .org, .gov, .net or .edu, not .com.  Your first line of attack should be to tap into our own extensive ACC Library, followed by our online History Hub Library or UT, then general Google searches.   Here’s the ACC Library’s U.S. History Page.  ACC’s Cypress Creek Campus library staff includes Jonathan Buckstead, the system’s specialist in U.S. History.  Talk to him; he’s there to help you.

The UT PCL library is open to the public before 10 PM or you can check out books by getting a Tex-share card from the Public Library.  The History Hub Library can be a bit overwhelming, but if you dive into it with an idea of what you’re looking for, it’s a good tool.  Real college-level research goes past Schmoop, History.org, History Channel, Sparknotes, etc.  Do not use online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia except for initial studies and peripheral fact-checking (not as a main source, in other words, but only as a jumping off point).  Wikipedia is a good source for bibliographies, toward the end of entries, but use real sources for the heart of your research, including scholarly books and articles, and primary sources.  Just as there is a lot of fake news out there on the Internet, also be wary of fake history (e.g. fake Jefferson quotes).  You’ll be graded on whether you spend a month rolling up your sleeves and doing some actual research or whether you just hit some cheesy websites quickly at the end.  Historian Kevin Levin suggests the following guidelines to steer students away from fake history, misinformation and distortion:

  • Is the site associated with a reputable institution like a museum, historical society or university?
  • Can you identify the individual or organization responsible for the site and are the proper credentials displayed?
  • Then, finally, you have to examine the material itself.  Is the information provided on the Website, including text and images, properly cited?  What can you discern from both the incoming and outgoing links to the site?  Only then can you approach it with the same level of trust that you would a scholarly journal or piece of archival material.

Include at least one primary source (original source) — a document, letter, diary, newspaper, telegram, speech, transcript, key photo, tape recording, film, manuscript, cartoon, etc. from the time period in question that provides evidence or firsthand testimony.  In this case, primary doesn’t mean main; it means original.  The best way to approach the primary source requirement isn’t to just go find one for its own sake, but rather to think about the question you’re addressing for your essay and how to approach it?  Where would you start if you couldn’t rely on the secondary sources of authors, journalists, etc. who have attempted to explain things for your benefit (as a reader)?  What sort of evidence would you want to have in a courtroom?  The point isn’t just to find a primary source but to use it well.  How might this firsthand testimony be biased?  How does the interpretation of this primary source impinge on your argument?  For instance, if you were investigating the atomic attacks on Japan at the end of WWII, you might look at President Truman’s diary.  What might be unreliable about Truman’s diary?  What sort of evidence are the authors writing and arguing about?  An obvious place to look for primary sources is in the discussion or notes of the main secondary sources you use.  A student asked if this source was primary or secondary.  The source is a secondary article, but footnote #1 within the article is primary (it’s a document from 1957).  Do you see the difference?  The History Hub Library is another good place to mine for primary sources, as are ACC Library’s American Decades/Gale Library and Milestone Documents pages.  Failure to utilize a primary source will result in a 5-point penalty.  For more on Primary Sources, see the video at the bottom of the page.  The Declaration of Independence and Constitution are both primary sources, and you should feel to use them, but neither count as your one required primary source.

For tips on analyzing a document, letter, photograph, cartoon, video, or sound recording, use this Document Analysis Worksheet tutorial from the National Archives (use the secondary student column).

This video was originally aimed mostly at teachers, but it’s worth watching to better understand primary sources and the type of questions historians (and students) must ask when analyzing primary source evidence.  These include considering issues like multiple claims, sourcing, context and evidence-based claims:

You should ask yourself where the primary sources (evidence) come from in your secondary source article, who generated them, and why.  How might they differ from other perspectives?

Sample
Here’s a SAMPLE by a former student.  She didn’t pick a particularly controversial issue, but I use this example because she lays out a clear question and formulates an answer toward the end of the first paragraph.  Then the body of the essay supports her thesis, and she wraps up with a conclusion that does more than just regurgitate what she’s already said — it elaborates on and refines the original thesis by explaining what we’ve learned in the preceding paragraphs.  You’ll be posing a more controversial question.  Remember to include both sides by including what proponents of either side emphasize or leave out of their arguments.

Citations
For Citations, you can use either the MLA or University of Chicago (Turabian) style.  For the MLA version, include a brief WORKS CITED page at the end.  The Chicago Method doesn’t need a WORKS CITED or BIBLIOGRAPHY page since the footnotes include full references.  Anyone planning to take upper-division history courses later on should use the Chicago Method.  For help formatting in the Chicago style, see eTurabian.  You can consult the ACC History Department’s Guide, or an excellent online guide, NoodleTools.

Online Writing Guide: Purdue Owl

Recipe for Success
1. Give Yourself Time To Consider A Topic. Use Your Imagination. Take An Hour Staring Into Space Thinking About It.
2. Do Real Research in Libraries/Books/Articles, Not Cheap Quick-Stop Shopping @ Encyclopedias.
3. Pick A Question You Can Sink Your Teeth Into — Something There’s Some Interpretive Disagreement About Among Reasonable People.
4. Consider Whether Your Thesis Really Matches Your Evidence and Conclusion.  Would Your Argument Hold Up In Court?
5. Take Time To Proof Your Paper.  Use Grammar-Check and ACC’s Learning Lab.
6. Organize Your Time Well. Follow the Suggested Work Schedule. Don’t Be Fooled By The Relatively Short Length Of Essay.
7. Have Some Fun. This Isn’t Torture. Take The Time To Find A Subject That Interests You, Start Early, Get The Draft Up And Running And Take Your Time Proofing And Refining.
8. Read About Common Fallacies Of Historical Thinking In The Rear Defogger (top bar).  When I Grade Your Paper I May Write Something Like “RD-4” In The Textual Comments.  That Means Look At Item #4 In The Rear Defogger.

Suggested Work Schedule:
Weeks 1-2: Pick Your Topic
After 1st Exam: You’ll Write On Your Topic For 6-pt. CAP
Weeks 3-6: Research; Dig Hard in the History Hub Library
After 2nd Exam: You’ll Write On A Primary Source & How It Impacts Argument For 6-pt. CAP
Weeks 7-8: Write Essay; Learn to Cite Sources & Format
Week 9: Revise, Proof (Grammar-Check & Learning Lab), Squeeze the Fat (Lean & Clean); Your Prose Should Be Clear & Concise. Read Over Grammar Tips in History Hub Menu (Under Syllabi)
Week 10: More Proofing & Ask Yourself: Does the Thesis Line Up With the Argument & Conclusion?
Week 10: Paper Due

Rubric for Grading That You’ll See In Blackboard (60 Pts.):
Content: X/40
— Strength of Main Argument: X/25
— Use of Good Sources: X/10
— Discussion of Strongest Counter-Argument: X/5
Writing: X/20

Late Papers, Backing Up & Grammar-Check
Each successive weekday the essay is late counts as another five points off the score, regardless of your excuse, up to 15 points off max. The smartest thing is to finish it before the deadline and work on polishing it – after all, you have plenty of time (2+ months), so what’s the use in finishing right at the deadline?  Or, worse yet, starting around the deadline?  Cover (or title) pages are unnecessary, but have a title that you embolden and capitalize that describes what your paper is about.  You should use the question you’re addressing as your title or some variation on it.  If you do not submit the paper by the last day of class, you will flunk rather than receive an incomplete.  Back Up!  Keep an electronic version of your paper; always save or email it to yourself, or keep a copy “in the clouds.”  For comments, don’t just look at the comment box, but also the text itself for inline commentary.  We can go over grammar in person with a hard copy if you have questions on that portion of the grade.  Go under WORD > PREFERENCES to set Grammar & Spell-checking at Standard.  Then after you’ve written the paper, go under TOOLS and run it through Grammar & Spelling check.  It’s an imperfect program, but it helps.  There’s no excuse that I can see for failing to use it (since the technology is free) other than simple laziness.  Also, check out the Grammar Tips in History Hub in the drop-down menu under Syllabi.

Some Helpful Websites on Writing Papers & Essays
Purdue Owl
Strunk & White’s Elements of Style
Dartmouth Guide
Univ. of Toronto Essay Writing Guide
Univ. of North Carolina Guide
ACC Writing Guide
ACC Library Study Skills Workshops (Including Effective Paragraph Writing & Effective Thesis Statements)

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