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Junior Research: Argumentative

How is an Argumentative Paper different than a Research Paper?

A research paper generally informs the reader on a typical topic.  The intention is not to sway a person one way or another but rather, to give the reader an overview of the topic.  

Argumentative papers are written to influence the reader and change their mind on a particular topic by making an argument or proving a point.

Each paper type requires a different view even if the topic is the same. 

Example Thesis Statements:

Research Paper: While the Founding Fathers were part of the educated elite, a majority of Americans received no formal education often relying on homeschooling or ministers for basic literacy skills.

Argumentative Paper: Low literacy rates among colonists in the early United States can be directly linked to a failure to carry over European traditions leaving an achievement gap among lower socioeconomic groups that continue to this day.

Texas State Technical College

Arguments offer sound reasoning and evidence to convince an audience to accept something as truth.   An argument will offer facts that support the reasoning.  It may also offer different perspectives on the issue or may predict and evaluate the consequences of accepting the argument. 

Choosing a Topic _ Idea Lists

50 Argumentative Essay Topics - Homework Tips About.com

Current Issue Topic Ideas - Cape Fear CC Libraries

A-Z Topic List - Rand Research Corp.

ProCon.org"Source for pros and cons of controversial issues."

Argumentative Topics : Front Range Community College

Debatabase  Arguments for /against debating topics.   

Points of View  List current topics covered on first page.

Choose Wisely...

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. 

Aims Community College

Choosing a Position

Choosing a position for your topic is usually the easiest step but it is one that should be considered carefully before continuing.  It is important that you consider all aspects of the topic and are able to choose a strong, defendable argument.  

Your argument should be based on facts and not on feelings.  That means that most moral arguments do not apply.

Examples:
Good: Raising minimum wage will stimulate the economy and increase workplace productivity by giving working class families an opportunity to have a "living wage" with only one job. 
Good:  Raising minimum wage has historically lead to an increase in prices as companies attempt to recoup funds from higher wages, thus leading to a never ending cycle that does not improve the standard of living for working class families.
 

Bad: Raising minimum wage will help working class families but will hurt overall businesses.
Awful: Raising minimum wage means that I get more money which is pretty sweet.

Texas State Technical College

Finding Information for Both Sides

Sometimes it is difficult to find both sides of an argument. Here are some tips to use when you are searching databases. 

Try adding (usually one at a time, or separated by "OR") the words or phrases listed below. Some will be more useful than others depending on your topic. Try to imagine how authors might discuss the concept you are researching.

PRO

CON
proponents opposed OR opponents OR opposition
advocates critics OR criticism
support OR supporters resistance OR resistors
defenders enemies
sponsors damage OR costs OR burden
positive OR "positive effects" negative OR "negative effects"
benefits dangers

Search example using pro/con keywords in a library database:

Tacoma Community College CC BY SA 4.0.

Argumentative Papers

Planning Stage

For an argument paper to be effective, it must contain certain elements. For this reason, you must take a few minutes to plan before you jump into writing an argument essay.

Find a Good Topic

To find good topic for an argument essay you should consider several issues that will have two conflicting points of view or very different conclusions. As you look over national or local topics you should find one that really sparks your interest.

While a strong interest in a topic is important, it's not enough. You next have to consider what position you can back up with reasoning. It's one thing to have a strong belief, but when shaping an argument you'll have to explain why your belief is reasonable and logical.

As you explore the topics, make a mental list of points you could use as evidence for or against an issue.

Consider Both Sides of Your Topic and Take a Position

Once you have selected a topic you feel strongly about, you should make a list of points for both sides of the argument and pick a side. One of your first objectives in your paper will be to present both sides of your issue with an assessment of each. Of course, you will conclude that one side (your side) is the best conclusion.

In the planning stage you will need to consider strong arguments for the "other" side. Then you'll shoot them down!

Gather Evidence

When we think of arguments we might picture two red-faced people speaking quite loudly and making dramatic gestures. But that's because face-to-face arguments often become emotional. In fact, the act of arguing involves providing proof to support your claim, with or without emotions.

In an argument essay you will have to provide evidence without providing too much drama. You'll explore two sides of a topic (briefly) and provide proof as to why one side or position is the best one.

Writing Stage

Once you've given yourself a solid foundation to work with, you can begin to craft your essay. An argument essay should contain three parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The length of these parts (number of paragraphs) will vary, depending on the length of your essay assignment.

1. Introduce your topic and assert your side

As in any essay, the first paragraph of your argument paper should contain a brief explanation of your topic, some background information, and a thesis statement. In this case, your thesis will be a statement of your position on a particular controversial topic.

2. Present both sides of the controversy

The body of your essay will contain the meat of your argument. You should go into more detail about the two sides of your controversy and state the strongest points of the counter-side of your issue.

After describing the "other" side, you will present your own viewpoint and then provide evidence to show why your position is the correct one.

Select your strongest evidence and present your points one by one. Use a mix of evidence types, from statistics, to other studies and anecdotal stories. This part of your paper could be any length, from two paragraphs to two hundred pages.

Re-state your position as the most sensible one in your summary paragraphs.

Tips for Your Paper:

  • Avoid emotional language
  • Know the difference between a logical conclusion and an emotional point of view
  • Don't make up evidence
  • Cite your sources
  • Make an outline
  • Be prepared to defend your side by knowing the strongest arguments for the other side. You might be challenged by the teacher or by another student.

Cape Fear Community College

Signal Phrases for Argument Papers

Signal phrases can...                         

  • Be a word, phrase or sentence
  • Appear before or after your evidence

Note the commas!

These phrases are introductory and we pause after them.

Because

For example,

For instance,

On page ___, the author [verb]

In the study/article/book by [author],

According to [title],

Here are some strong verbs to use when constructing a signal phrase.

mentions

finds

suggests

notes

argues

points out

shows

claims

reports

demonstrates

indicates

adds

reveals

states

implies

A second job of a signal phrase is to prepare your reader for an explanation.  These signal phrases come after your evidence and signal that you are now going to explain what the evidence means.

This proves that

This evidence suggests

It can be concluded

These words indicate

This demonstrates that

This means that

It is clear from this evidence that

Clearly, this tells us that

This points out that

Cummings Graduate Institute

Argument Strategy

Arguments all follow the same basic strategy. A very easy way to remember it is as OREEO:   

O:  State your opinion.  In other words, tell the audience what your point is or what you are going to prove.  This is also called a thesis or a claim.  This typically answers the question"What do I think?

R:  Give a reason.  A reason may be logical or it may be evidence-based.  A reason typically answers the question, "Why do I think this?"

E:  Back up your reason with evidence.   Evidence answers the question, "How do I know this is the case?"  Evidence is also known as data or proof.  It can take many forms:  quotes from experts, statistics, testimonials, interviews, surveys, experimental data, and sometimes even your own experience.

E:  Explain the evidence.  The connection will be clear in your head -- but not necessarily your audience's, especially if your opinion is a controversial or difficult one to comprehend.  As a writer, it is your job to make the connection between your opinion and the evidence clear to the reader.  This can be done with an answer to the question, "Why is the evidence presented relevant to the claim at hand?"   Called a warrant, it tells the reader why your opinion is true.  

Explanation can also take the form of impact, where you explain why the reader should care.  Why is your opinion important?  What is the significance of your opinion and the evidence supporting it?  Impact tells a reader what to do with your argument.

An important distinction needs to be made at this point:  explanations in argumentation are about evidence and not about persuasion. 

O:  Link back to your opinion.  Remind the reader one more time what your point/claim/thesis was in a way that does not sound repetitive, but reinforces the point you were trying to make.

Cummings Graduate Institute

Outline for Argumentative Paper

1. Introduction
     a. Thesis Statement
          i.  Argument 1
          ii. Argument 2
          iii. Argument 3
          iv. Etc.
2. Argument 1
     a. Evidence 1
     b. Evidence 2
     c. etc.
2. Argument 2
     a. Evidence 1
     b. Evidence 2
     c. etc.
4. Argument 3...4...5...etc.
     a. Evidence 1
     b. Evidence 2
     c. etc.
5. Opposing View

     a. View 1

          i. Brief description of view

          ii. Argument against view
     b. View 2

          i. Brief description of view

          ii. Argument against view

     a. View 3...4...5...etc.
          i. Brief description of view

          ii. Argument against view

6. Conclusion
     a. Restate Thesis
     b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Example:

1. Introduction
     a. Thesis Statement
          i. Poverty is more likely to result in poor nutrition as evidenced by the price of healthy food, the amount of time fresh food takes to prepare, and the proximity of low incoming housing to food deserts.  
2. Healthy Food Price
     a. $5.00 cheeseburger meal vs. $8.00 salad.
     b. etc.
3. Time
     a. 1 hour of prep time during a 14 hour work day.
     b. etc

4. Food Deserts 
     a. Fast food restaurants everywhere with no grocery store in sight.
     b. etc.

5. Opposing View

     a. "Laziness" misconception

     b. etc. 

6. Conclusion
    a. Restate Thesis
    b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Texas State Technical School