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A. WHAT IS AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY?

In an argumentative essay, the writer’s purpose is to persuade the reader of an

opinion about something, for example, that female military personnel can be as effective

as male military personnel in combat missions. The writer argues his or her point, gives

reasons to support it and tries to convince the reader.

ARGUING PRO OR CON

Choosing a topic that is appropriate for an argumentative essay is especially

important because some things can’t be argued. For example, you can’t argue that a rose

is more beautiful than a daisy- this is an opinion than can’t be supported by facts.

However, you can argue that roses are more popular than daisies and support the

argument with facts about florists’ sales of the two kinds of flowers.

Here are a few effective topics and thesis statements for an argumentative essay:

• Marriage under eighteen: People under the age of eighteen should not be

allowed to marry.

• Standardized testing: Standardized testing should not be required for

application to a university.

• Fast-food restaurants: Communities should decide if fast-food restaurants

are right for them.

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You can argue either for (pro) or against (con) these statements. If your topic does not

have two viewpoints, your essay will not be effective. Look at the following example of

an ineffective topic and thesis statement.

Jazz music: Jazz music began with African Americans.

You cannot argue against this statement because it is a fact. Therefore, you cannot write

an argumentative essay with this thesis.

WRITER’S NOTE: Choosing a topic

Be sure that the topic you choose for an argumentative essay can be argued both pro and

con.

B. OPINIONS AND SUPPORTING DETAILS

In writing an argumentative essay, you will have to make a statement or give opinion on

a particular issue and then support it with reasons, facts and examples. In argumentative

essay, you try to persuade your readers to accept your point of view. Your point of view

may be for or against a particular issue. In order to do this, you have to defend your

opinions with supporting details. These supporting details can be in the form of reasons,

facts or examples. You should make sure that the reasons you give are logical and that

they support your thesis statement. For each opinion you present, you may write out one

or more supporting details. The examples given are ways in which you can support your

opinions in an argumentative essay.

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Providing support for debatable statements (Thesis Statement)

You now know that debatable statements are not statements of fact but are Thesis

Statement or premises with which other people may or may not agree. When you are

writing an argumentative essay your aim is to make your readers agree with your

debatable statements or premises. You need to convince your readers of the value or truth

of your premises. But by themselves, they are not convincing - they need support. You

will learn how to provide supporting statements for your topic sentences. You will also

learn how to use connectives to link these statements to each other and to the topic

sentence.

a) Thesis Statement: It is healthier to live in the countryside than in the city


Topic The air is cleaner as there are less factories and vehicles.
sentence/Supporting
Statement 1
Topic Life is at a pace that is slower and more relaxed.
sentence/Supporting
statement 2

b) Thesis Statement: Cigarette companies should be banned from advertising


Topic These advertisements encourage the unhealthy habit of
sentence/Supporting smoking
statement 1
Topic Smoking has been linked to various health problems
sentence/Supporting
statement 2

c) Thesis Statement: Men should do more to help their wives at home


Topic These days many married women are also working outside
sentence/Supporting the home
statement 1
Supporting Men should do their share of household chores as they are
statement 2 also part of the family

d) Thesis Statement: Marijuana should be legalised


Topic It is less harmful to people's health than alcohol.
sentence/Supporting

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statement 1
Topic
sentence/Supporting A very large percentage of the population uses it.
statement 2

Both supporting statements provide information that helps prove or support the
premise. We can use connectives to link these statements together:

Thesis Statement: Marijuana should be legalised


Topic sentence 1: Firstly, it is less harmful to people's health than alcohol.
Topic sentence 2: In addition, a very large percentage of the population uses it.

Firstly tells the reader that this is the first supporting statement. (There are no
normal connectives that can be used in this place. It is, however, acceptable to
have no connective here)

In addition tells the reader that this is an extra supporting statement. Other
connectives that you could use here are Furthermore, Moreover and Secondly.

Task 1
The following premises or thesis statements have one supporting statement. Rewrite them
adding a second supporting statement. Also use connectives for the first and second
supporting statements

Example:

Immigration
(Thesis Statement) A strong immigration program is necessary in Australia.
(Topic sentence) The population is too small for sustained economic
growth.
(Topic sentence) Immigrants bring in new skills that can help the country
develop.
Firstly, the population is too small for sustained economic growth.
Moreover, immigrants bring in new skills that can help the country develop.

b. Smoking

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(Thesis Statement) Smoking should be banned in restaurants and pubs.
(Topic sentence) It will help people to give up this unhealthy habit.
(Topic sentence) ____________________________________________
____________________________________________
c. Public Transport

(Thesis Statement) The government should build more public transport


instead of freeways.
(Topic sentence ) It provides cheap transport to people who can't afford
cars

(Topic sentence) _____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

CONVINCING THE READER

Your job as the writer of an argumentative essay is to convince your readers that your

opinion about a topic (your thesis statement) is the most valid viewpoint. To do this, your

essay needs to be balanced- it must include an opposing viewpoint, or counterargument.

Even though you are arguing one side of an issue (either for or against); you must also

think about what someone on the other side of the issue would argue. As soon as you give

your opponent’s point of view, you must offer a refutation of it. This means that you

refute the other point of view, or show how it is wrong. If you give only your opinion,

your essay will sound like propaganda, and your readers will not be convinced of your

viewpoint.

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C. PLANING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY

It is useful to prepare an outline first before writing an argumentative essay. The outline

includes the points that will help you to write a complete argumentative essay.

I INTRODUCTION
A. Arouse the reader’s interest, introduce the subject and highlight its importance
B. State your stand on the subject

II DEVELOPMENT
A. Indicate one or two of the more important arguments against your position
B. Refute the positions you have just stated
C. Present additional arguments in support of your position

III CONCLUSION
A. Restate your position on the issue
B. Present an emotional appeal for your position, perhaps warning what might

happen if your position is not accepted

EXAMPLE ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY

A good way to help you learn how to write an argumentative essay is to study an

example.

Activity 1: Studying an Example Essay

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Read and study the following argumentative essay. Work with a partner to answer the

questions before and after the essay. These questions will help you understand the

content and the organization of the essay.

In this essay, the writer argues for the use of school uniforms. Do the arguments convince

you of the writer’s point of view?

1. Did you wear a uniform when you went to school?

2. Some people believe that children are too materialistic these days. For example,

they may be too interested in wearing brand-name clothes and shoes. What is your

opinion?

The School Uniform Question

1 Individualism is a fundamental value in the United States. All Americans

believe in the right to express their own opinion without fear of punishment. This

value, however, is coming under fire in an unlikely place-the public school classroom.

The issue is school uniforms. Should public school students be allowed to make

individual decisions about clothing, or should all students be required to wear a

uniform? School uniforms are the better choice for three reasons.
2 First, wearing school uniform would help make students’ lives simpler. They

would no longer have to decide what to wear every morning, sometimes trying outfit

after outfit in an effort to choose. Uniforms would not only save time but also would

eliminate the stress often associated with this chore.

3 Second, school uniforms influence students to act responsibly in groups and as

individuals. Uniforms give students the message that school is a special place for

learning. In addition, uniforms create a feeling of unity among students. For example,

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when students do something as a group, such as attend meetings in the auditorium or

eat lunch in the cafeteria, the fact they all wear the same uniform would create a sense

of community. Even more important, statistics show the positive effects that school

uniforms have on violence and truancy. According to a recent survey in Hillsborough

County, Florida, incidents of school violence dropped by 50 percent, attendance and

test scores improved, and student suspensions declined approximately 30 percent after

school uniforms were introduced.


4 Finally, school uniforms would help make all students feel equal. People’s

standards of living differ greatly, and some people are well-off while others are not.

People sometimes forget that school is a place to get an education, not to promote a

“fashion show.” Implementing mandatory school uniforms would make all the

students look the same regardless of their financial status. School uniforms would

promote pride and help to raise the self-esteem of students who cannot afford to wear

stylish clothing.
5 Opponents of mandatory uniforms say that students who wear school uniforms

cannot express their individuality. This point has some merit on the surface. However,

as stated previously, school is a place to learn, not to flaunt wealth and fashion.

Society must decide if individual expression through clothing is more valuable than

improved educational performance. It is important to remember that school uniforms

would be worn only during school hours. Students can express individuality in the way

they dress outside of the classroom.


6 In conclusion, there are many well-documented benefits to implementing

mandatory school uniforms for students. Studies show that students learn better and act

more responsibly when they wear uniforms. Public schools should require uniforms in

order to benefit both the students and society as a whole.

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Adapted from Great Essays by Keith S. Folse, April Muchmore-Vokoun and Elena

Vestri Solomon, 1999

fundamental: essential; basic implementing: putting into effect


truancy: absence without permission flaunt: to show off; to display
well-off: wealthy

3. The topic of this essay is school uniforms. What is the hook in the first paragraph?
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

4. What is the thesis statement?


____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

5. Topic sentence: Paragraph 2, 3, and 4 each give a reason for requiring school

uniforms. These reasons can be found in the topic sentence of each paragraph. What

are the reasons?


Paragraph 2:_________________________________________________________
Paragraph 3:_________________________________________________________
Paragraph 4:_________________________________________________________

6. Supporting sentences: In paragraph 4, what supporting information does the writer

give to show that uniforms make students equal?


____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

7. Which paragraph presents a counterargument (an argument that is contrary to, or the

opposite of, the writer’s opinion)? What is the counterargument?


____________________________________________________________________

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____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

8. The writer gives a refutation of the counterargument (shows that it is wrong). What

is the writer’s refutation?


____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

9. Write the sentence from the concluding paragraph of the “the School Uniform

Question” that restates the thesis.


____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

10 Reread the concluding paragraph. What is the writer’s opinion about this issue?

.
___________________________________________________________________

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___________________________________________________________________

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___________________________________________________________________

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