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OnlineWriting Lab

The Argument Essay

The argument essay is the most common type of writing assignment that college students will encounter throughout their academic careers. While there are different variations of the argument essay, the overall foundation is always the same: the writer is tasked with investigating an issue, taking a stand on the issue, and finding and incorporating a multitude of evidence in a logical manner to support the overall claim.

Most of us have experience with arguing, but an argumentative essay is quite different than a verbal argument that arises out of the blue. Verbal arguments often become heated and unreasonable, while the goal of an argumentative essay is the opposite: the argument must be specific, reasoned, detailed and supported with a variety of evidence. Furthermore, a verbal argument often focuses on who is right regarding a specific issue, while a well-written, researched argument essay focuses on what is the right side of a particular issue. In short, an argument essay must be logical from beginning to end.

The following are important elements of a good argument essay:

Topic Selection

Topic selection is of the utmost importance in an argument essay. The writer should focus on picking a topic that is current and relevant to society and can be argued logically. It is best to avoid moral topics because they do not always support logical discussion. Additionally, any potential topic for an argument essay should be current, debatable, researchable and manageable. 

A current topic is one that has not been overdebated and is still being decided by society. Most writers and readers are sick of topics that have been debated for years: abortion, the death penalty, the legalization of marijuana, etc. 

A debatable topic is one that has differing viewpoints. In other words, it is a controversial issue. Writing about how child abuse has consequences for society is not debatable since no one would disagree with this thesis. On the other hand, debating whether the common punishments for child abusers are effective or not in deterring crime is debatable and can make for an interesting and well-supported essay. 

A researchable topic is one in which the writer can find a variety of credible and current sources. In other words, the writer needs to be able to find a multitude of research performed by qualified individuals to support the overall argument.  

A manageable topic is one that can be successfully performed within the page requirements of the essay. Writing about widespread issues such as national or global problems is often unmanageable in just a few pages. To avoid this, most writers should begin with a basic subject and then try to narrow the subject down to a more appropriate level. For example, if a writer is passionate about arguing for or against the Health Care Reform Act that was passed by Congress in 2010, it would be wise to narrow this topic. It isn’t possible to argue for or against the entire law (the bill itself is more than 2,000 pages long). It may be possible to argue for or against one portion of the law. 

Using the above criteria as a basic guideline should allow a writer to find a suitable topic.