Argumentative Essay

American author Rita Mae Brown wrote a brochure called "Language Exerts Hidden Power, Like a Moon on the Tides" (2014). One interpretation of the title could be that language choices affect persuasiveness and credibility when communicating.

Get started Sign up for free
Argumentative Essay Argumentative Essay

Create learning materials about Argumentative Essay with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Table of contents

    Similarly, effective argumentative essays use specific linguistic methods to defend a position on an issue.

    Argumentative Essay Definition

    What works better when trying to convince someone of something — using demands or reason? An argumentative essay relies on evidence and logic to prove that a viewpoint is valid or invalid or to convince an audience to take action. Statistics aren't always available to support beliefs (and that's where logic is helpful). Still, they need to be corroborated to be viewed as credible.

    Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence

    The two types of evidence used to support a thesis (claim) in an argumentative essay are qualitative and quantitative:

    • Qualitative evidence is data that describes a group or theme. It answers "why" or "how" questions. Examples of qualitative data include photographs, diary entries, audio/video recordings, documents (ex: public records, calendars, articles), and case studies.
    • Quantitative evidence counts or measures the amount of something. It asks "how many," "how often," or "how much." Some examples of quantitative evidence are height, temperature, amounts of time, distance, and length.

    It is natural to be confident about opinions. While researching topics, be aware of bias. Don't "cherry-pick" evidence to make an opinion look more substantial than it is, or it will be quickly discredited by someone knowledgeable on the subject.

    Types of Logic and Common Logical Fallacies

    When taking an exam and required to write an argumentative essay, there may not be any sources available to defend a position. Using logic to formulate an argument helps guarantee it will be understandable and reliable.

    Logic uses pathways to determine "good" and "bad" reasoning by examining parts of a declarative sentence to decide whether it's true or false. A logical argument is consistent (doesn't contradict itself), sound (supports its conclusion by using valid points), and complete (provable within itself).

    A declarative is a sentence that makes a statement about something.

    Rhetorical fallacies (also called logical fallacies) are reasoning mistakes people often make. Watch out for these logical fallacies:

    • Straw-man Argument: Twists an argument into an overly simplified version of itself. An example of a straw man fallacy is saying evolution isn't real because humans evolved from monkeys, and monkeys still exist.
    • Bandwagon Fallacy: Connects validity with popularity. Just because three out of four people prefer a particular soap brand doesn't mean it cleans the best.
    • Faulty Causality Fallacy: Implies that because two things share a connection, one caused the other to happen. False logic would conclude that because someone wore a new shirt when they got into a car accident, the new shirt caused the accident.
    • Argument From Authority Fallacy: This can happen when someone in a position of power makes claims about subjects outside their area of expertise. For example, if a veterinarian specializing in livestock wants to perform surgery on someone's pet boa constrictor, they should probably get a second opinion.

    The terms "argumentative" and "persuasive" are often used interchangeably, but they are technically two different types of essays. Both argumentative and persuasive essays use evidence and logic to defend a position.

    However, a persuasive essay also uses emotion to appeal to the audience. For example, if the topic were gun control, an argumentative essay would examine the issue and present facts to prove its claim. A persuasive essay would present facts and include how safe (or unsafe) guns make people feel.

    Argumentative Essay Topics

    Argumentative essays can be written about any polarized subject, meaning an issue that contains opposing ideas. Typical argumentative essay topic ideas fall into many categories, including current events, politics, history, and culture. Here are a few topic ideas:

    • Should we look at old media through the eyes of the time or era it was created?
    • Is it unethical to eat meat?
    • Should the United States have used atomic bombs on Japan?
    • Should parents limit screen time?
    • Should the United States accept more refugees from the southern border?

    Argumentative Essay. Thumbs up thumbs down. StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Defend a side, challenge a side.

    Argumentative Essay Format

    An effective argumentative essay is made up of five key components:

    • A claim statement that can be proven or disproven. (What are the opinions that surround this issue?)
    • Reasons that support the claim because they are supported by evidence. (What led someone to think this way?)
    • Verifiable evidence that backs the position. (What proves the claim is valid?)
    • Acknowledgement of the opposing viewpoint or counterclaim. (What does the opposite side think?)
    • Rebuttals that explain how the counterclaim is incorrect. (How is their logic faulty?)

    Qualifying the other side means parts of the opposing argument can't be dismissed entirely. In this case, list concessions that recognize their validity but focus on the areas they are incorrect. Words like "but" and "except" are commonly used in connection with concessions.

    An argumentative essay will look like a typical essay and include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Follow the standard and begin the introduction with a hook, such as a shocking statistic or anecdote, to engage the reader.

    The conclusion will usually reiterate the thesis, summarize the essay in response to the evidence provided, and possibly ask the audience to act on the issue's behalf. However, there are a couple of variations to experiment with.

    When something is reiterated, it is repeated to emphasize it or make it more clear.

    The Aristotelian Method is classic and straightforward. It uses a clear pathway of logic and reason to state its case. To use this form in an argumentative essay, the first thing to do is introduce the argument. Secondly, spell out its reasons. Next, explain and refute the opposing viewpoint, then provide proof. Finally, form a conclusion.

    The Toulmin Method helps disprove an argument or discuss a complex issue. Start by stating the claim clearly and concisely. Next, use evidence to ground the reasons. After that, express the warrant, or assumption, that connects the claim to the reasons. Back the claim with a specific example.

    The Rogerian Method is used when both sides have valid points, or the audience could support either side. Begin with an explanation of the issue. Next, discuss how the other side thinks, including their valid points. Then, assert the claim and proof. Summarize the argument by compromising to bring both sides together—end by offering an equalized conclusion.

    While disproving the other side, avoid insults and a superior tone. All these will accomplish is making the argument look weak. In addition, avoid using absolutes such as "always" or "never" because they are rarely the case, so credibility will be lost.

     Argumentative Essay. Man passionately arguing his case. StudySmarter.Fig. 2 - Always argue your case with logic.

    Argumentative Essay Outline

    A strong thesis statement is the cornerstone of an effective argumentative essay. If you want your position taken seriously, you need to provide a rational argument. One way to organize thoughts into a coherent claim is to brainstorm. Questions to ask include:

    • How does this affect me and others?
    • Why is this important?
    • Are there any solutions to this issue?
    • What will happen if nothing (or something) is done about this?

    Similar to how a math problem can be checked by solving it in reverse, the validity of reasoning can be checked by anticipating how the other side will disagree. Arguments while alone in the shower — it's your time to shine! Go through reasons one by one and challenge them to answer "because" in a credible way.

    Once everything is figured out, use the outline to play around with the argumentative essay structure. It's much less frustrating to spend some time on the organizational flow of an essay before writing than to realize halfway through constructing the essay that something should have been put in a different spot, and it saves time while proofreading, so win-win. Formulate the outline to look like this:

    I. Introduction

    A. Hook

    B. Introduce Topic and Relate it to the Hook

    C. Claim

    II. Body Paragraphs (number of paragraphs included and organized to suit your needs)

    A. Claim/Counterclaim/Rebuttal

    B. Evidence

    C. Reason/Concession

    III. Conclusion

    A. Summarize Main Points

    B. Restate Thesis

    C. Final Thought Based on Evidence Presented/Call to Action

    Argumentative Essay, Blackboard saying "Words Have Power," StudySmarterFig. 3 - Your words have the power to persuade.

    Argumentative Essay Example

    The included sample argumentative essay is an abbreviated example of an asserted claim formatted into the Aristotelian Method:

    A new mid-range sofa costs between $1000 and $3000.1 Most likely, a person protects their investment by applying a stain guard, but having a pet cat can pose its own threat. It's frustrating when a cat decides to start scratching on the furniture, and some people decide the best way to avoid it is to have their cats declawed. However, declawing cats is painful for them and can eventually lead to health and behavioral issues.

    The reader knows what to expect from the article because the thesis claim clearly explains its stance.

    While declawing cats used to seem like an easy solution for problem scratching behavior, veterinarians have become more outspoken about its negative aspects for the past decade or so. To declaw a cat, they remove a portion of the cat's bone, which is comparable to removing the tips of a person's fingers. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, it results in lasting nerve pain that can increase over time, cause infection, or interfere with their ability to walk.2 Rather than performing life-altering elective surgery on a pet, other options are available. Trimming the cat's nails and teaching it to use a scratching post will usually protect belongings from a cat's natural scratching behavior.

    The body paragraph includes a claim, evidence, and reason.

    A valid argument can be made that some cats are stubborn and refuse to use a scratching post. However, it's a pet owner's responsibility to take the time to try to figure out what is causing a cat to act out destructively. The cat could have an undiagnosed health issue, or it could just take a bit of extra work to persuade the cat to choose the scratching post over the arm of the expensive couch. A point to consider is the possibility that the declawed cat will not want to use its litterbox because scratching the litter causes discomfort, so the pet owner could be creating an even bigger behavioral problem down the road.3

    The body paragraph anticipates the opposing side's counterclaim. The author offers a rebuttal using evidence.

    Indeed, a cat can't claw furniture if it doesn't have claws. However, there are multiple ways to steer a cat's inborn desire to scratch in a suitable direction. Making sure the cat has ways to keep itself occupied to prevent boredom and using a pheromonal diffuser to lower its stress level could deter the cat from scratching things it shouldn't. The alternative is to commit to caring for a cat with long-term nerve pain and potentially worse behavioral difficulties.

    The conclusion offers solutions and restates the thesis claim as a consequence.

    What words were used in the sample argumentative essay to avoid using certainties that could weaken the author's credibility? Are there any logical fallacies?

    Argumentative Essay - Key takeaways

    • Unlike a persuasive essay that uses emotion to sway its audience, an argumentative essay uses logic and reason to state its case.

    • Evidence used to support your opinion in an argumentative essay can be grouped as qualitative or quantitative.

    • A logical argument is consistent and uses valid points.

    • Effective argumentative essays contain five key components: a claim, reasons, evidence, a counterclaim, and a rebuttal.

    • Ask yourself questions and challenge your beliefs to construct a compelling argument.

    1 Benedetti, Ginevra. "How Much Should I Spend on a Sofa? Price Up the Perfect Sofa to Last You a Lifetime." Homesandgardens. 2021.

    2 American Association of Feline Practitioners. "2017 Declawing Statement." Catvets. 2017.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Argumentative Essay

    What is an argumentative essay?

    An argumentative essay relies on evidence and logic to prove that a viewpoint is valid or invalid or to convince an audience to take action.  

    What are the five parts of an argumentative essay?

    The five parts of an argumentative essay are its claim, reasons, evidence, counterclaim, and rebuttal.

    What is an example of an argumentative essay?

    An example of an argumentative essay is "The Pleasure Principle" by Phillip Larkin

    What are some topic ideas for an argumentative essay?

    An argumentative essay can be written about any polarized subject, such as:

    • Should we look at old media through the eyes of when it was created?
    • Is it unethical to eat meat?
    • Should the United States have used atomic bombs on Japan?
    • Should parents limit screen time?
    • Should the United States accept more refugees from the southern border?

    How do you format an argumentative essay?

    An argumentative essay can be structured into three formats:

    • Aristotelian
    • Toulmin
    • Rogerian

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following is an argument based on principles?

    Which of the following is NOT used to make ethical arguments from principles?

    What is the correct reason an ethical argument based on consequences would be effective for a diverse audience?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team English Teachers

    • 11 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner