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How to Write an Argumentative Essay

Published by at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On October 21, 2022

An argumentative essay makes an original argument in response to the subject matter under discussion. In an argumentative essay, the author supports their stance on the topic by presenting evidence.

An argumentative essay is the most popular type of essay at college and university, even though there are several other types of essays that you may be asked to complete during your course of study.

When to write an argumentative essay?

An argumentative essay could be assigned to you as a course assignment. The essay brief will encourage you to choose, defend, explain and document the reasoning behind your position or point of view.

You will find keywords such as “debate”, “argue”, “claim,” and “asset” in the title of an argumentative essay which can be either open or two-sided. Below you will find an example of an “open argumentative essay” title and an example of a “two-sided argumentative essay” title.

Open argumentative essay title

What is the most notable achievement of Donald Trump as the president of the United States of America?

Two-sided argumentative essay title

Did distance education have a positive or negative impact on the education industry of the UK?

Writing an argumentative essay for a college or university assignment?

As indicated previously, most college and university level essays are argumentative in nature. Even rhetorical and literary analysis essays fall in the “argumentative essay” category because they present arguments about the text.

When writing an argumentative essay, keep in mind that your goal as the author of the essay is to take a clear position on the issue you are exploring, present an argument, and back it up with academic evidence material.

Unless advised otherwise by your tutor, you should aim to express evidence-based arguments when approaching any essay writing assignment.

Argumentative essay title examples

Here are some examples of argumentative essay titles to know precisely the type of titles or prompts that would require writing an argumentative essay.

Extensive research on any given topic will enable you to develop a definite and well-informed position. You may also need to slightly tweak your argument to improve your knowledge about the topic.

Present your main argument based on analysis, evidence, and interpretation and convince your readers to agree to your point of view.

Analyse the impact of the conquest of Constantinople in the 15th century on world history.

  • Don’t just discuss a few random characters and events from the conquest of Constantinople.
  • Do present your argument, evidence, and analysis to define the specific impact of the battle of Constantinople on world history.

Assess the effectiveness of anti-racism measures put in place by employers in the UK.

  • Don’t simply present numbers about the anti-racism measures.
  • Make an argument about how effective anti-racism policies and measures have proved to be.

Talk about the impact of climate change on the human population.

  • Don’t just discuss the effects of climate change on the human population.
  • Build an informed argument that states your perspective on the overall effects of climate on the human population and states its significance. Make sure to provide supporting evidence and analysis for your main argument.


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The best approach to an argumentative essay

A well-composed argumentative essay follows logic and rationale. Your approach to writing an argumentative essay should be objectives. Make sure to base your argument and analysis on logic, facts and rational thinking. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you at any writing stage.

You can choose from a variety of argumentative essay writing strategies. However, at the college and university level, the two most commonly followed approaches are the Toulmin and Rogerian.

Toulmin argument building

The Toulmin argument building method is one of the most commonly used ways of arguing for a position taken by the author. It consists of four steps: making a claim, presenting the evidence, providing the warrant, and finally presenting the potential refutations.

Four steps of Toulmin argument building

  1. Make a claim
  2. Provide supporting evidence material
  3. Present the warrant, which discusses how the evidence backs the claim.
  4. Take into account the potential limitations of your argument – also called the refutations to the claim.

For example, if you are arguing for the benefits of distance learning, then you could build your main argument using the following four steps:

  1. Demonstrate that distance learning benefits outweigh its drawbacks, and many students worldwide have benefited from various distance learning programmes.
  2. Present supporting evidence from authentic academic sources to strengthen your claim. You might want to include numbers, graphs, tables, and quotations from other sources to prove your point.
  3. Explain that your research clearly shows the immense benefits of distance education and that existing literature supports this claim.
  4. Regardless of the research topic, you can always expect objections to your argument. Make sure to consider counter data and counter-arguments and provide justification for your argument accordingly.

Rogerian argument building

The Rogerian argument building strategy is a reverse of the Touliman method and also follows four steps:

Four steps of Rogerian argument building

  1. Begin the process by evaluating the strengths of the counter-argument and indicating why some people might be inclined towards it.
  2. Demonstrate why you think the counter-argument isn’t persuasive enough.
  3. Present your main argument and convince the readers that it solves the problem. You will need to present a comparative analysis showing the efficacy of your argument over the opposing argument.
  4. Suggest a middle ground to the opposition – are there any elements of your argument that would satisfy the advocates of the opposing argument?

The Rogerian argument building model is convenient, particularly when people strongly disagree on the issue. It enables the opposing arguments to find the middle ground.

For example, if you need to argue for the benefits of distance education, you can base your argument on the following four steps.

  • Recon that distance education has helped millions of students around the globe complete their education without having to leave the comfort of their homes.
  • Discuss why the opponents consider distance education more unuseful than it is.
  • Present your argument to demonstrate that distance education has helped many students to upgrade their education. Back your argument with evidence and analysis.
  • Finally, suggest a plan for the critics to engage with distance education providers to assess their teaching methods’ quality and improve their knowledge.

Whether you choose the Rogerian or the Toulmin argument building method, your argumentative essay should follow the standard essay structure, including an introduction, main body and conclusion.

Argumentative essay introduction

Like other types of essay, an argumentative essay starts with an introduction that includes a strong claim (also called a hook) in the first sentence to grab readers’ attention, background information, thesis statement, and an essay structure map (required for extended essays only).

Below is an example of writing the introduction for an argumentative essay. The following example of an argumentative essay introduction is taken from the essay arguing for distance education benefits.

Argumentative essay introduction example

For many people looking to change or advance their professional careers, choosing if distance learning is the right choice is a question of critical importance. Distance education programmes rely on information technology and online teaching tools to provide education to students who are not present in the classroom setting due to their personal commitments and limitations. Over the last several years, distance learning has emerged as one of the most popular education trends. It has provided opportunities to many non-traditional students to receive a high-quality education.

Argumentative essay main body

The main body of the argumentative essay explores the issue in detail. It is your chance to present relevant information, analysis, and evidence to support your main argument and convince the readers to accept your opinion.

At the high school level, the main body of the argumentative essays consists of three paragraphs. However, for university and college level essays, you can add as many paragraphs as needed depending on the expected length of the essay.

You can use headings and subheadings to split the information into smaller, more meaningful sections. Use topic sentences for each paragraph of the main body. Each topic sentence should support your main argument.

Here is how the main body paragraph from an essay arguing for the benefits of distance education will look like:

Argumentative essay main body paragraph example

Distance learning is one of the most economical and viable forms of education available to adult students who are juggling many responsibilities due to financial and time constraints in their life. The burden of responsibilities prevents adult students from studying in a foreign country or another city. Distance learning enables them to overcome these challenges and complete their education. Learning in a distant mode, can also mitigate the economic, social, psychological, and cultural difficulties. Distance learning students often achieve better results when compared with on-campus students because the pursuit of knowledge is undertaken for its own sake rather than as an obligation.

Argumentative essay conclusion

End your argumentative essay with a conclusion paragraph summarising the main points discussed in the main body, the significance of your research and analysis, and the strengths and possible limitation of your argument.

You should not introduce any new information in the conclusion section.

Argumentative essay conclusion example

The distance learning programmes offered by various universities worldwide have had a very positive effect on the world of education. Occasional pitfalls aside, this teaching method has enabled underprivileged students and those with personal limitations to receive a high-quality education. Its value is evident in numerous applications. Digital education offers accessibility and flexibility to students, so the popularity of distance education has been rising in recent years. Educators should take advantage of this. The limitations of distance education, such as lack of motivation for students, absence of physical interaction, and employers’ reluctance to embrace distance learning, has been documented extensively by opponents. Still, this new method of teaching is here to say.

Also read: Shortening an essay in academic writing

Also read: How to write a narrative essay

FAQs About Argumentative Essays

No, there is a difference between an argumentative essay and an expository essay. An argumentative essay is perhaps the most popular type of academic essay. It requires the writer to conduct independent research on the topic, make a bold claim in the form of an original argument, and provide analysis and supporting evidence.

On the other hand, an expository essay investigates an idea, topic, or process to provide a logical and clear explanation. Like the argumentative essay, the expository essay is also objective, but it does not express an original argument. Argumentative essays are almost always longer when compared with expository essays.

Yes, all academic papers, including essays, should include a list of references and in-text citations. There are many referencing style guides such as the Harvard referencing style, APA, MLA, Oxford, and Footnotes. Harvard referencing style is the most commonly used style of referencing in the UK.

Check with your tutor to make sure you are following the correct referencing style. Each citation appearing in the text should correspond to the items listed in the references/bibliography section at the end of the paper.

Most university and college essay assignments ask the students to write an argumentative essay. Unless told otherwise, your default approach to writing an essay should be to present an argument. Look for keywords such as “claim”, “explain”, and “argue” to be sure that you have been assigned an argumentative essay.

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