Understanding Argumentative Essays

An argumentative essay is a type of essay that explores and presents arguments concerning both sides of an issue. It can either present both sides equally or favor one side more strongly. The essay's structure typically follows this format:

Structure of an Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay generally follows this structure:

  1. Introduction: Begins with an attention-grabbing hook, provides background information on the topic, and states the thesis statement.
  2. Body: Consists of three body paragraphs, each presenting a major argument.
  3. Counterargument: Addresses opposing arguments, refuting them and strengthening the author's position.
  4. Conclusion: Restates the thesis statement, summarizes key points, and may include a call to action or concluding remarks.

Models for Argumentative Essays

There are two additional models for argumentative essays beyond the classical structure mentioned above:

  • Toulmin Model: Comprises an introduction with a claim, followed by data to support the claim, listing warrants for reasons, and including backing and rebuttals.
  • Rogerian Model: Weighs two options, listing their strengths and weaknesses, and provides a recommendation after careful analysis.

Types of Argument Claims in Essay Writing

Argumentative essays can encompass five major types of claims:

  1. A Claim of Definition: Defining and answering questions about a term or concept.
  2. A Claim About Values: Arguing about what is morally right or wrong.
  3. A Claim About Reason: Presenting arguments based on logical reasoning.
  4. A Claim About Comparison: Comparing two or more subjects and making arguments based on their similarities or differences.
  5. A Claim About Policy or Position: Advocating for a specific policy or stance.

These claims are supported by relevant data and evidence.

Three Major Types of Argument and How to Apply Them

Argumentative essays can follow three major types:

  1. Classical Argument: Based on the Aristotelian model, it introduces a claim, discusses both perspectives, provides evidence, and concludes by favoring one perspective.
  2. Toulmin Argument: Developed by Stephen Toulmin, it includes a claim, grounds, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal. It structures an introduction with the main claim, a body with facts and evidence, and a rebuttal with counter-arguments.
  3. Rogerian Argument: Introduced by Carl Rogers, it explores different perspectives, presents evidence for each, and offers a conclusion based on an analysis of all perspectives.

Four Steps to Outline an Argumentative Essay

Outlining an argumentative essay involves these four steps:

  1. Introduction: Includes background information, a claim, and a thesis statement.
  2. Body: Contains sections on facts, definitions, claims, causes and effects, or policies.
  3. The Opposing Point of View: Addresses counter-arguments with supporting evidence.
  4. Conclusion: Summarizes key points and provides a closing statement.

Examples of Argumentative Essays in Literature

Example #1:

"Put a Little Science in Your Life" by Brian Greene

“When we consider the ubiquity of cellphones, iPods, personal computers and the Internet, it’s easy to see how science (and the technology to which it leads) is woven into the fabric of our day-to-day activities. When we benefit from CT scanners, M.R.I. devices, pacemakers and arterial stents, we can immediately appreciate how science affects the quality of our lives. When we assess the state of the world, and identify looming challenges like climate change, global pandemics, security threats and diminishing resources, we don’t hesitate in turning to science to gauge the problems and find solutions.

And when we look at the wealth of opportunities hovering on the horizon—stem cells, genomic sequencing, personalized medicine, longevity research, nanoscience, brain-machine interface, quantum computers, space technology—we realize how crucial it is to cultivate a general public that can engage with scientific issues; there’s simply no other way that as a society we will be prepared to make informed decisions on a range of issues that will shape the future.”

Brian Greene presents an argument about science and technology's impact on everyday life, providing supporting details and examples.

Example #2:

"Boys Here, Girls There: Sure, If Equality’s the Goal" by Karen Stabiner

“The first objections last week came from the National Organization for Women and the New York Civil Liberties Union, both of which opposed the opening of TYWLS in the fall of 1996. The two groups continue to insist—as though it were 1896 and they were arguing Plessy v. Ferguson—that separate can never be equal. I appreciate NOW’s wariness of the Bush administration’s endorsement of single-sex public schools, since I am of the generation that still considers the label “feminist” to be a compliment—and many feminists still fear that any public acknowledgment of differences between the sexes will hinder their fight for equality.”

Karen Stabiner presents an objection to the argument of separating public schools and supports her claim with evidence.

Example #3:

"The Flight from Conversation" by Sherry Turkle

“We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.”

Sherry Turkle discusses societal issues related to technology and its impact on human interaction. While not a complete essay, it presents an argument within a larger context.

Function of Argumentative Essays

The primary function of an argumentative essay is to present a compelling case to readers, exploring both sides of an issue. It aims to convince readers of the author's perspective by providing well-supported arguments and evidence. Argumentative essays serve as a platform for informed decision-making and engaging with complex issues.

Let's Talk About It

Have you encountered any impactful argumentative essays in your reading or studies? How do you perceive the role of argumentative essays in shaping opinions and influencing readers? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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