You’ve probably argued with people before, maybe with your parents, siblings, or friends. Heck, you may have even been in a fight or two, but get ready to put away the harsh words and heavy gloves because writing an argument essay is a totally different beast.
Writing a winning argument essay may seem tough, but knowing more than just the basics can make all the difference. In this post, I’ll start by reviewing fundamentals, and then we’ll dive right into the tools you’ll need to write an argument essay worthy of the big ‘A.’
So…What IS an Argument Essay?
Because even Batman started somewhere…
You may already know about some of the argument essay fundamentals, and that’s awesome. But wait—there’s more. A winning argument essay includes some very important techniques that you’ll want to use, so keep reading. I’ll tell you all about them.
It all starts with the thesis—your claim about an issue that interests you. Throughout the rest of the paper, you support this claim through appealing to the audience and using logic, emotion, and valid sources. A counterargument and rebuttal are commonly used in this type of essay as well.
This is what a typical argument essay’s structure looks like in outline form:
- Intro and thesis
- Supporting paragraphs: 1, 2, 3, etc.
- Counterargument paragraph(s)
- Rebuttal paragraph(s)
Where do you begin, then? There is much more to writing a winning argument essay than just a good structure. So let me take you through the process, step-by-step, and soon you’ll be arguing your way through your topic like a pro—just as good at Batman is at fighting crime and saving the day.
Be original. Your professor wants to read your specific ideas about an interesting issue that means something to you. There are a lot of great argument topics out there, but many students over the years have come up with the same arguments on the same issues.
Brainstorm some issues that mean something to you. It’s easier to write on a topic you actually care about. Your professor has probably read a gazillion papers on abortion or legalizing marijuana. You won’t impress your prof by following in the footsteps of so many predictable students who came before you.
Instead, spice things up, and take the road less traveled.
That’s right, Sherlock—it’s research time! Whether or not you’re still in the brainstorming phase, getting to know more about your topic is vital to writing a winning argument essay.
Through research, you’ll learn about what arguments have been and are being made about your topic. This can be especially useful if you haven’t settled on a thesis yet. If you already have your claim in mind, then the research process can help you find strong sources to support your argument. Make use of your university’s library and research databases, Google Scholar, or news sites to find good info on your topic. Avoid Wikipedia—it’s not always accurate.
Is it good, or is it CRAAP? No, that’s not a misspelling! You cannot just use any old source—you have to make sure that your sources accurately support your argument using current information. Apply the CRAAP test to all your sources to make sure they’re not actually crap.
Catch More Flies With Honey
Language is everything. It’s good to keep in mind that an argument is not a rant. Instead, you’re trying to persuade your audience that your point of view is valid. Respectfully address your audience, and consider their ideas too. Really think about your audience or opposition—each is different, and you’ll need to carefully appeal to their specific ideas about an issue.
How is this done? Take it away, Aristotle!
Ethos, logos, and pathos. More than just being a long-dead Greek guy, Aristotle has a lot to do with how we create winning arguments today. He came up with the concepts of ethos, logos, and pathos, and how to apply them toward strong arguments. Let’s quickly break these concepts down:
If you’ve found credible sources to back up your argument, then you already have ethos covered.
Logos is the logical appeal to your audience. Use data, charts, and other forms of scientifically measurable evidence to show your audience the hard facts.
Logos is important, and having good sources can help you support your ideas with strong logic that will likely persuade your audience. But you also want to make sure that your own writing’s logic is rock-solid from beginning to end. That means avoiding logical fallacies.
This YouTube video provides a great way to learn more about logical fallacies and why they should be avoided when writing your winning argument essay.
Pathos is the emotional appeal, which allows you to add a bit of humanity to your argument. You can use real-world accounts, anecdotes of individuals troubled by the issue you’re arguing for/against, or language that appeals to specific members of your audience in a meaningful way. For example, if you’re arguing to parents about the merits of vaccination, you’ll want to focus on their concerns for their children’s well-being.
Did you know that sentence-level language is also important? Check out this awesome infographic that shows you what language to include in your argument essay. The right tone is vital, and through a good balance of logos and pathos, your argument will win over your audience.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Don’t plagiarize.Your sources should be used to reinforce your assertions (and thus your thesis) in each body paragraph—you don’t want to scaffold from the work of others. Focus on your own ideas first, and add evidence later.
You may be wondering how to do this effectively. No worries! Here is an easy-to-follow formula for your body paragraphs to help you get started:
- Assertion: Claim that argues a part of the issue in support of the thesis.
- Reasoning: States why assertion is valid.
- Evidence: Information from your sources that supports the assertion.
- Analysis: Your explanation of why/how this evidence supports the assertion.
You must explain how your evidence matches up with what you have to say. You can’t just make a claim and provide the evidence, expecting the audience to make the connection for you. So be sure you’re following this formula, and you should be fine.
And be sure to double-check with your professor about the citation requirements. When you cite your sources, you’ll want to make sure you’re following the right format, whether it be APA, MLA, CMS, etc.
Counterargument and Rebuttal
You may be worried about using a counterargument in your argument essay—don’t be. Contrary to popular belief, using a counterargument actually makes your stance stronger.
This approach allows you to show your audience that you’ve carefully considered an opposing viewpoint, have analyzed findings that don’t jibe with yours, and found a way to refute them. If done well, a counterargument and rebuttal can help you seal the deal when writing a winning argument essay.
Counterargument and rebuttal components
Clearly detail another author’s opposing viewpoint. Summarize this information from the author’s source material, which you found during your research. Don’t just assume that readers will be aware of this opposing argument—that can throw them off entirely.
Explain to the reader why you disagree with the opposition’s stance on the issue. You may want to focus on how the argument is fallacious (has logical fallacies) or contains outdated information. If you can poke holes in the opposition’s credibility as an authority on the subject, then you’ve just about won.
But hang on—you’re not done yet. Just like with your supporting body paragraphs, you have to reinforce your assertions about the opposition with reason and evidence.
If the argument is fallacious, explain the fallacies you see and why these weaken the argument. If the evidence is poor or outdated, offer new evidence that trumps the old info.
Whatever the case, just be sure you’re prepared to support what you say when you tackle someone else’s work and views. That’s a major key to writing a winning argument.
The Finish Line in Sight
We’ve reviewed the fundamentals behind writing an argument essay, and now you know the specifics behind what makes a winning argument essay.
Just remember that an argument essay needs the following in order to win that big ‘A’:
- Good organization
- An original, interesting topic
- Top-notch research
- Audience-oriented language
- Ethos, logos, and pathos
- Summary, paraphrasing, and direct quotes with appropriate citations
- Counterargument and rebuttal
Still want to see how it’s done? Check out the great examples in our argument essay database.
Okay—now you’re ready to wow your professor with your original topic, well-supported thesis, and strong evidence. And you should also let our awesome editor team proofread your argument essay to make sure it really is a winner.