Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper
This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 01:03:40
The following sections outline the generally accepted structure for an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and that your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
You may also use the following Purdue OWL resources to help you with your argument paper:
The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:
- What is this?
- Why am I reading it?
- What do you want me to do?
You should answer these questions by doing the following:
- Set the context –provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the claims you make and support
- State why the main idea is important –tell the reader why he or she should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and convincing essay people will want to read and act upon
- State your thesis/claim –compose a sentence or two stating the position you will support with logos (sound reasoning: induction, deduction), pathos (balanced emotional appeal), and ethos (author credibility).
For exploratory essays, your primary research question would replace your thesis statement so that the audience understands why you began your inquiry. An overview of the types of sources you explored might follow your research question.
If your argument paper is long, you may want to forecast how you will support your thesis by outlining the structure of your paper, the sources you will consider, and the opposition to your position. You can forecast your paper in many different ways depending on the type of paper you are writing. Your forecast could read something like this:
First, I will define key terms for my argument, and then I will provide some background of the situation. Next, I will outline the important positions of the argument and explain why I support one of these positions. Lastly, I will consider opposing positions and discuss why these positions are outdated. I will conclude with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.
When writing a research paper, you may need to use a more formal, less personal tone. Your forecast might read like this:
This paper begins by providing key terms for the argument before providing background of the situation. Next, important positions are outlined and supported. To provide a more thorough explanation of these important positions, opposing positions are discussed. The paper concludes with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.
Ask your instructor about what tone you should use when providing a forecast for your paper.
These are very general examples, but by adding some details on your specific topic, a forecast will effectively outline the structure of your paper so your readers can more easily follow your ideas.
Your thesis is more than a general statement about your main idea. It needs to establish a clear position you will support with balanced proofs (logos, pathos, ethos). Use the checklist below to help you create a thesis.
This section is adapted from Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric Reader by David Skwire and Sarah Skwire:
Make sure you avoid the following when creating your thesis:
- A thesis is not a title: Homes and schools (title) vs. Parents ought to participate more in the education of their children (good thesis).
- A thesis is not an announcement of the subject: My subject is the incompetence of the Supreme Court vs. The Supreme Court made a mistake when it ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
- A thesis is not a statement of absolute fact: Jane Austen is the author of Pride and Prejudice.
- A thesis is not the whole essay: A thesis is your main idea/claim/refutation/problem-solution expressed in a single sentence or a combination of sentences.
- Please note that according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, "A thesis statement is a single sentence that formulates both your topic and your point of view" (Gibaldi 42). However, if your paper is more complex and requires a thesis statement, your thesis may require a combination of sentences.
Make sure you follow these guidelines when creating your thesis:
- A good thesis is unified:
NOT: Detective stories are not a high form of literature, but people have always been fascinated by them, and many fine writers have experimented with them
BETTER: Detective stories appeal to the basic human desire for thrills (concise).
- A good thesis is specific:
NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses is very good. vs.
BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious.
- Try to be as specific as possible (without providing too much detail) when creating your thesis:
NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious. vs.
BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious by utilizing the findings of Freudian psychology and introducing the techniques of literary stream-of-consciousness.
_____ The thesis/claim follows the guidelines outlined above
_____ The thesis/claim matches the requirements and goals of the assignment
_____ The thesis/claim is clear and easily recognizable
_____ The thesis/claim seems supportable by good reasoning/data, emotional appeal
Argumentative essay is defined as a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate the given topic, collect information, generate and evaluate evidence, in a bid to establish a position on the subject in a concise fashion. It’s the type of work where you have to develop an argument based on evidence and elaborate the stand you take. You may love or loathe writing these essays, but you can’t avoid them. There’ll come the time when you are supposed to write a high-quality argumentative essay to show your understanding of some particular essay topic, but you shouldn’t feel nervous. Successful completion of the essay depends on your ability to create the essay outline correctly. Not sure how to do it? Don’t despair; this post will show you how easy it can be!
Structuring the argumentative essay outline
Although it might seem complicated to you now, once you learn how to structure the argumentative essay outline correctly, it’ll become easier. Your work is comprised of different parts with equally important value. These parts or sections have a role in presenting the topic, developing the argument, presenting evidence, and so on. That said, main parts of the argumentative essay are:
If you think this structure is vague, don’t worry. Every section is thoroughly explained below.
Section 1: Introduction
Just like in any other form of writing, the introduction is where you create the foundation or a basis to build the rest of your work upon. If the intro isn’t structured very well, then the rest of the essay will suffer too. An argumentative essay should start with an introduction comprised of the hook, background info, and thesis.
The hook is the first sentence (or two) of your work, and its primary purpose is to catch the reader’s attention, hence the name. When a professor, client, or some other person starts reading the essay, its beginning determines whether they’ll continue reading it or not. Let’s say you’re about to read something, would you continue reading that piece if the beginning were dull and boring? The answer would be no. Hooks aren’t limited to essays only; they are present in all types of writing, which is why you’re highly likely to click on links with the catchy sentence under the headline.
Here are a few tips you can use to form the hook:
- Use a quote from famous people, scientists, writers, artists, etc.
- Anecdote can also be a good way of grabbing someone’s attention
- Pose a question
- Set a scene that reader can relate to Include an interesting fact or definition
- Reveal a common misconception
After creating the hook, you proceed to provide some useful background information about the subject. To make things easier for you, this part of the introduction should answer these questions:
- What is the issue you’re going to discuss?
- Who cares about the topic?
- Where is the subject or issue prevalent?
- Why is the subject or some issue you’re about to discuss importantly?
The thesis statement is the last sentence (or two) that contains the focus of your essay and informs the reader what the essay is going to be about. Your thesis is more than a general statement about the idea or issue that you’re going to elaborate in the essay; it has to establish a clear position you are going to take throughout your argument on a given topic.
Since this is the last part of the introduction and your opportunity to introduce the reader to the subject and your position, you have to ensure it is structured correctly. Your thesis should be:
- Clear, easily recognizable
The thesis should match the requirements and goals of the assignment, but you have to be careful and avoid making some common mistakes. For example:
- Thesis is not a title
- It is not a statement of the absolute fact
- Thesis is not an announcement of the subject
- It’s not the whole essay, but the main idea you’ll discuss
Section 2: Developing the argument
Now that your introduction is well-crafted you’re about to proceeding to the second part of the argumentative essay. In this section, you have to develop the argument using claims and evidence to support them.
When structuring the argumentative essay outline, you should pay special attention to claims. A claim is the central argument of an essay, and it poses as one of the most important parts of academic papers. In fact, the effectiveness, complexity, and the overall quality of the paper depend on the claims you make. The primary purpose of claim in essay writing is to define paper’s goals, direction, scope, and support the argument. Making claims is easy, but the question is: who’s going to believe in them? That’s why the second section of the argumentative essay is invalid without the evidence.
Every claim you make throughout the essay has to be supported by evidence. You have to prove to the reader that claims you make are valid and accurate, the only way to do so is to incorporate reliable, trustworthy evidence based on facts, studies, statistics, and so on. It’s important to bear in mind that evidence is not anecdote or personal knowledge you just happen to possess on a given subject. The evidence is the result of a thorough research on the topic. Once you create the essay outline, you’ll get the idea of claims you’re going to make, then start researching to find enough evidence to support them. Research is one of the most crucial aspects of essay writing, besides giving you material to support your claims it also aims to help you debunk opponents’ arguments.
Section 3: Debunking opponents’ arguments
What most people forget about argumentative essay writing is that you can’t spend the entire time talking about your arguments and piling on evidence one after another. The argumentative essay isn’t about proving you’re right in many different ways. Where’s the argument in that? After making your claims, elaborating them with evidence, you are ready to move on to the third section of the outline where you’ll name the opposing arguments and debunk them.
Regardless of the topic, you have (or choose) and the stand you take, there’s always the opposite side. State the opponents’ views and use the evidence, reliable sources to debunk or refute them. Just like with the previous section, for every opposing argument, you also have to elaborate why it’s wrong and support it with evidence. This way, your reader is more convinced that claims you made are, indeed, correct. The importance of this section is in the fact it shows two sides of the coin while still giving you the opportunity to elaborate why you’re right. Plus, it is considered unethical to exclude arguments that aren’t supportive of the thesis or claims you made.
Instead of using “he said, she said” writing in this section when naming opposing views, you should do it in the formal fashion, with references, reliable sources, and other relevant info, before proceeding to refute them.
Section 4: Conclusion At this point, your essay is almost over.
The introduction is well-structured, you’ve elaborated your claims with evidence as well as opponents’ arguments (with proof of course), and you’re ready to conclude the essay. Unfortunately, the power of well-written conclusion is underestimated in essay writing, but the wrong conclusion can ruin your entire work. This is something you don’t want to happen, right? Your conclusion should be comprised of three different parts:
- Restates the primary premise/argument
- Presents one or two general sentences which accurately summarize your argument or stated premise
- Provides a general warning of the consequences that could happen if the argument or premise isn’t followed or reporting potential benefits to the society or community if your argument or solution proposed is implemented
The conclusion should be about the same length of the introduction; it works best when it’s short, concise, and precise. Avoid wordiness or discussing the same issue again because the reader might assume your work is repetitive. Stick to the point, and you’ll have a strong conclusion that only adds to the overall quality of your essay.
An example of the argumentative essay:
Now that you know how to create the argumentative essay outline correctly, you’re ready to start working on your assignment. The diagram below explains all constituents of this type of work in a simple fashion.
Tips for writing argumentative essay
Here are some tips that will make the essay writing process easier:
- Make sure you understand the title before creating the outline
- Create a plan Research
- Don’t make up information, statistics or other data just to prove the point Include every source you use in the reference section
- Be concise
- Avoid writing complex sentences
- Read, edit, and submit
Argumentative essay isn’t as complicated to write as it sounds, all you have to do is to follow the simple outline provided above. The primary idea behind this kind of essay writing is presenting and developing an argument using solid evidence to back up your point of view. It’s a marvelous opportunity to show the vast knowledge about the subject and demonstrate writing skills. You don’t have to wait for the assignment, choose the topic you care about and start practicing.