The Persuasive or Argumentative Essay
by Owen Fourie
~ Part Two ~
In the first part of this article, we considered some important requirements for writing a persuasive or argumentative essay, points such as choosing a controversial topic, having a personal commitment to one side of the argument, having a thorough knowledge and understanding of both sides of the argument, and respecting your opponent.
What is stated here about the writing of this type of essay is applicable, too, to a research paper, a term paper, and a thesis or dissertation. They are all fueled by argumentation.
Once you have chosen a relevant topic and thoroughly researched it and completed your outline, you are ready to do the writing. Let’s give attention to what should be done in the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
Depending on your academic level, the length of these papers could be anything from a basic five-paragraph essay to a great number of pages. It is important to discuss the precise requirements of any assignment with your teacher or your professor.
In the opening paragraph or paragraphs of your paper
- Introduce your topic and show that it is an issue that is of concern to many people today. Be aware of today’s talking points, the controversies, and the values that are placed upon them. Even things of the past, historical or archaeological matters, can become relevant in the light of new discoveries, especially if you find in them a connection to current ideas;
- Leave your readers in no doubt about your own keen interest in the subject. Let them detect this in the way you write about it;
- Give some background information. Briefly touch on the history of the topic, the extent of its influence, and its effects;
- State what you intend doing in your paper. If you are writing about the ethical implications of human cloning, say so: “In what follows, the ethical implications of human cloning will be weighed up, and both sides of the issue will be given fair consideration.”
- Refer to the argument of the opposition and briefly state it in the form of a counter-thesis.
- State your thesis. This is the cornerstone of your paper. It must be a clear and strong assertion of your opinion in the matter. It must be perfectly clear that you are on one side of a controversial issue. As you proceed from this point, you will defend it in the body of your essay. Again, if you are dealing with the issue of human cloning, you might have a thesis statement like this: “Human cloning is morally indefensible, for not only does it detract from the uniqueness and individuality of a human being, but it also tampers with the natural order, the consequences of which would be detrimental to the cloned child.” (In my opinion, although this has the form of a thesis statement, it needs to be more specific, perhaps indicating briefly how and why the cloned child would be detrimentally affected.)
- Lead into the body of your paper by stating the major points that will form the substance of your argument. These are the points that you have already listed in your outline.
The Body Paragraphs
Your body paragraphs will reveal the depth and the thoroughness of your research and your grasp of the subject. Although your thesis declares your opinion, you now have to present an argument that makes appropriate use of the evidence contained in
- quotes from scholarly books, journals, and articles;
- personal interviews with experts;
Such evidence must be used not only in supporting your arguments but also in rebutting the counter-arguments.
Since academic argumentation is firmly based in scholarship and reason, it is wise to avoid the biases of talk shows and hate groups, except perhaps to acknowledge that these views exist as an effect of the situation that has given rise to your topic.
Always approach a paper of this sort with a full knowledge of the argument from the other side. Know your opponents’ strong points and be well versed in them. Try to see things from your opponents’ point of view and understand why they think as they do about the matter. In this way, you will be able to anticipate their objections to your argument.
Where you can see some merit in what they are saying, be prepared to make concessions. This is what is involved in respecting your opponents. Respect them and their erudition. By thorough academic reasoning, prove that you have the better and more beneficial argument and solution for all concerned.
Avoid the fallacies that occur all too often in the course of argumentation. Do not oversimplify an issue and avoid hasty generalization. If you wish to learn more about the fallacies, you may find the information at the following link useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies
How to structure the body of your paper
Bearing all the above information in mind, you should follow the clearest and simplest arrangement as you compose the body of your paper. Let’s say that you have three major points and counter-arguments. You could, perhaps, divide the body into two parts. In the first part, you will deal with your three supported points. In the second part, you will deal with the three counter-arguments and your rebuttal of them.
- First point and your documented support;
- Second point and your documented support;
- Third point and your documented support.
- First counter-argument and your documented rebuttal;
- Second counter-argument and your documented rebuttal;
- Third counter-argument and your documented rebuttal.
Within your major points, your documented support and rebuttal will be developed through the various sub-points that you noted in the preparation of your outline.
The outline at http://www.flawhound.com/outlining can be adapted to meet the needs of an argumentative paper. Another good use of your outline is that it can be the springboard for creating a list of contents that might be required for long papers.
Your conclusion should contain the following points:
- A restatement of your thesis. Give a paraphrased version of the original statement;
- A summary of the main points in which you
- favor your argument;
- concede a little to your opponents since you are not arrogating to yourself the final word in the matter;
- A reminder of the solution that you are proposing for the issue;
- An iteration of the assurance that any concerns about the matter are in the scope of the proposed solution;
- A repetition of your prediction of the course of the issue
- if it is left in its present unresolved state;
- if it is to follow the course proposed by your opponents;
- if it is to follow your solution.
Preparing your paper for submission
Earlier articles have dealt with the steps involved in preparing your paper for submission: editing, proofreading, preparing end notes, preparing a works-cited list, and preparing a cover page:
What is your experience with writing argumentative essays? Do you have any useful insights? What are your particular struggles? What do you think of the spreading of scholarship as way to enhance respect and reduce conflict in the issues of our age? Which is more important for the advancement of humankind: respect or conflict? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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