Academic writing is not just about the technical accuracy of your language and formatting of your text, it is about the idea that you are conveying and its importance to your reader. The effectiveness of an argumentative essay is secured in its balanced and well-informed argument. It’s not new that before you put pen to paper, you must first research your topic but this is so much more important when discussing two sides of an argument. You need to ensure that you have factual information from reliable sources. Once you can honestly say this, you have the perfect foundation for a good and ambitious argumentative essay.
Learn the difference between argumentative and compare and contrast essay
Good argument topics
When writing academically, you are often given your topic to write on. However, most tutors and professors will accept small revisions to these topics for you to play to your strengths, this may be in the simplest form a more focused title rewrite. Your topic is key to the success of your paper; it needs to be current, relevant and has enough material around it for you to research. Attempting this type of writing on a previously unaddressed topic is more of a Master’s Degree/Ph.D. paper due to the fact you will need to facilitate the exploration into both sides of the argument. I’m not saying don’t be ambitious, but you must be realistic.
The next thing to do when choosing a good argument topic is to find out what has already been written. There is no point going head first into a high profile topic that has already been argued to death. That doesn’t mean to say you cannot address the topic, merely that you need to be original in the way that you address it. So, for example; let’s take the topic of Brexit. It ticks all of your boxes – it is current, relevant and there is an abundance of material out there to work with. But what is going to make your paper stand out? You have to find an angle that either no one else has, or that has not been explored extensively. How about:
“Do leave campaigners regret their decision now the realities of Brexit are becoming clearer?”
Here you have a “stand by my decision” versus “ regretting my decision” argument. The material is out there and is starting to be written about, but it is in its early stages, so the opportunity for you to write an original piece on it is more likely. It is now that we must differentiate whether this is a good argument essay topic, or a topic for debate.
Argumentative essay topics
Finding a topic to write about can seem straightforward, especially if you are given your topic by your assessor. However, creating a good paper is understanding how this translates onto the page. It’s about having the right ideas, building a solid thesis and writing words that give meaning to your argument, it’s using your voice and not leaving any room for a rebuttal.
Sounds easy right?
The best way to determine if your topic is best suited to debate or paper is to try it out. Let’s take our previous topic for example:
“Do leave campaigners regret their decision now the realities of Brexit are becoming clearer?”
It has been discussed recently that a number of leave campaigners have started to regret their vote, admitting they did not expect to win, or they did not expect to see the crisis in the economy hit so fast. At this point it is important to understand whether someone could interject, but at the moment it just provokes further investigation.
Further political topics to explore might be:
- “Will immigration in Britain see a drastic change as a result of Brexit?”
- “How will the final candidates for presidency in America shapes the united states future?”
It may be that you are looking more at moral questions such as “Should it be considered a breach of human rights to take young girls out of the country to perform FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)?” These are all interesting ideas that require the need for further exploration rather than debate. Once you have determined this, you need to know how to begin and the best way is to understand that research is the key.
In order to write coherently, argue your point with conviction your need to:
One – define your topic;
Two – outline your intentions;
And three – support your writing with clear and reputable sources.
The internet is a fantastic tool and holds a vast amount of relevant and accurate information, but it can also present you with false information that is persuasive enough to make you believe it to be true. This is where you need to remember the rule of three. Always verify your findings from three different sources and never trust Wikipedia!
Controversial essay topics
All over the world, different cultures have different meanings for the same symbols, terms and signs. When talking of controversy, it is no different. Take the cosplay phenomenon in Japan – it is the practice of dressing authentically like film, games, comic and anime characters. Often these characters are depicted as young school girls – sexualising girls this young in many western countries is seen as inappropriate and indecent, but why do we see this as controversial when it was less than 100 years ago that in Britain girls average marrying age was 12 years old? So, it is important to note the general views of the reader when writing about a controversial topic but also that it may be more important to write about it than to sweep it under the table. Before you decide to write about a controversial topic, you must understand the following questions: “What is the purpose of your paper?” and “What is your position on it?” Once you have the answers to these two questions you can start to think about how to write it.
How to write an argumentative essay
Throughout your educational career you will have been taught very formulaic ways to structure your essays. This is usually in a 5-part split. With an introduction, three paragraph points and a conclusion. This is not a bad structure but can be quite restrictive when addressing argumentative topics.
In this case, you have two options:
One – discuss each side of your argument independently only drawing them together in your conclusion; Two – discuss the through a line of ideas of your paper from both sides, showing a balanced and interactive exchange between the two, then drawing your own conclusion at the end.
I, personally, favor the latter as it shows a thorough understanding not only of the topic but of the argumentative nature of the paper – moving back and forth between the two side ensuring balanced and informed research. Knowing how to write an essay is also about knowing what content is relevant. No doubt you will have found a vast amount of information for your topic, but you have been tasked with writing an essay, not a book. You will need to cut back your research material to the most important points. If you are writing about FGM, for example, you will most likely need to give a short overview of what it is as it is still not a widely known topic like the sex slave trade for instance. But this doesn’t mean give a full history or just a definition. You need to format your writing in between the two, for example:
“Female Genital Mutilation is an old tradition of many cultures that involves removing parts or all of the soft tissue surrounding the vagina. In some extreme cases, it means completely sealing the vaginal opening. This is considered a violation of the girl’s human rights and a form of serious abuse.” This opening gives enough information to the reader to understand the topic but also provokes them to want to know more.
It is important to note at this point that different subject areas will require different structural elements. It is common for a law or politics course to require a clear intention statement such as:
“I will be arguing that FGM is a breach of human rights and should be punishable by law, using the latest statistics from the police and medical experts to determine the act as serious abuse and non-consensual. Concluding that this practice needs to be monitored, intercepted and stopped globally.”
Whereas a humanities based subject may require a more exploratory introduction as previously stated.
Here's an example of argumentative essay put up by out writers!
How to start an argumentative essay
When presenting two sides of an argument you must make your essay balanced all the way to the end - it is only in your conclusion that you express your position on the topic. To start with you need to find a unique opening – nobody wants to reread the title in your first sentence. For example:
Why has the £1 billion raised by Comic Relief not solved the majority of poverty in Africa?
DON’T: “In this exploration of charity work I will discuss why there is still poverty in Africa.”
DO: “Poverty is a fatal disease known to humanity killingapproximately 900,000 people a year (2011 data). I will be arguing that the charity drives implemented throughout the last 30 years have had little effect on poverty of third world countries as too much of the money raised is swallowed by the organization’s administration needs, and are funding the arms trade, alcohol and tobacco industry.”
Starting your essay in the most vital part of your work, making a clear and bold statement about what you are going to address. Once you achieve this the body of the essay comes more easily, you just need to use the right transition words.
How to end an argumentative essay
Concluding your essay is much more about proving your thesis than summarizing your body. Students often make the mistake that they must restate their points their points in their conclusion – this is a waste of time and words. Your conclusion should be a declaration of the proof of your thesis drawing on your found information, it should be concise and to the point demonstrating the knowledge that you have acquired through your study.
In an argumentative essay the conclusion must show your position on the argument given the evidence that you have presented if you have not already done so earlier in your paper; and explain the limitations that you study may have had. All this together will nicely round up your essay.
In everything, you write as an academic the key is to ensure your sources are reputable and that you cite them correctly so as not to be mistaken for plagiarism. Each department will ask for specific citation formatting, the most popular being the hazard referencing system, an example of this can be seen below:
In text: "After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe…"(Fitzgerald, 2004).
Reference list at the end of the paper: Fitzgerald, F. (2004). The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner.
Do this for all of your direct references and also list all the sources you used as indirect reference before you hand in your paper.
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