Midterm Essay: Write Your Own Argumentative Essay
You are asked to write a short essay that clearly argues a point. The objective of this assignment is to introduce you to core argumentative techniques and to help you use these in your own writing. Once you have discovered and practiced these basic argumentative moves, you will be able to re-use them in your future academic work. This task will also strengthen your critical thinking skills because you’ll be better able to grasp the arguments of others and assess how persuasive their claims truly are.
Please format your essay according to MLA or APA style.
Your essay should be about 3.5 to 4.5 pages, or 1050-1350 words.
Required Essay Structure
For the sake of practice, your essay must follow the outline below (but please note, it is NOT a formula for all future arguments you write; rather, having mastered the skills required below, you can use them with flexibility in the future).
Paragraph 1: Introduction. Ease your reader into the topic, pique their interest, and use a clear thesis statement like “In this essay, I will argue that—–”
Paragraph 2: Helpful background. Add any who-what-when-where-why context your reader needs to know. Recommended: provide some numbers, statistics, or data that help us grasp the scope of the issue at hand.
Paragraph 3: Example/Evidence. Illustrate the issue for your reader with a good example or important piece of evidence that supports your view.
Paragraph 4: Appeal to authority. Bring in an expert point of view that confirms your own position on the issue. It could be a credible academic study, or a quotation from an expert in the field.
Paragraph 5: Anticipate objections. What would an opponent of your argument say? Explain their view, and answer the objections persuasively.
Optional paragraph 6: Make an analogy. Remember how John Warner said the five-paragraph essay was like the training wheels on a bike? That’s an analogy. You compare your concept to something more accessible or colorful.
Last paragraph: Conclusion with the statement of significance. Emphasize the importance of your topic and argument.
Choose a topic
Canada’s education system needs to focus on student engagement and well-being, not tests. Canada and Finland both score highly on global education indexes. But Finland does it with fewer tests and more well-being. Argue whether Canada should take a similar approach.
Argumentative Strategies: What they are and how to use them
Now that you know in brief what you have to do, let’s look at these argumentative strategies in more detail. We will start with the ones you have to use in your essay, but we will also discuss a few more, to give you a broader understanding of these techniques among others.
There are three main parts that form the skeleton of an argument:
The claim, or the proposition and thesis put forward
The evidence to support and show reasons for the claim
The conclusion, underlining the logical link between evidence and claim.
The various strategies below help to strengthen this basic skeleton, sometimes by enhancing the evidence, sometimes by negotiating the conflict between an arguer and their opponents, and sometimes by just sounding eloquent.
How to write good background paragraphs:
• Orient your reader with any need-to-know facts, definitions, or theories
• Answer any relevant who-what-when-where-why questions
• Outline the scope of the issue or problem (how many people does it affect? Is it local or global? How long has it been going on for?)
• Supply reliable data from a trustworthy source
Anticipating objections is a two-part process.
First, acknowledge what the opposition says:
Of course, some will probably disagree on the grounds that______.
Yet some readers may challenge my view by insisting that______.
Second, follow the objections by responding to them fairly and persuasively. Sometimes, agreeing with part of an objection makes you appear reasonable and fair-minded. But ultimately you need to stand your ground.
My opponents claim that______. And I would agree that______. However, the fact remains that_______.
Although I grant that______, I still maintain that______
Different from thought-provoking questions, the rhetorical question has a more insistent tone that suggests the answer is obvious. For example,
In Canada, we tend to think that every child deserves a good education, and why shouldn’t we?
Both rhetorical and thought-provoking questions lend a degree of emphasis that a regular sentence does not have. The question form itself draws our attention to a key aspect of the argument.
Getting Started on Your Essay
Now that you have the information you need to start the essay, you will want to pick a topic and gather the materials you’ll need.
Do Some Research
I don’t expect you to have a long list of sources, but you will need to do some research on your topic to write a well-informed argument, with some background, an appeal to authority, an example and some data. Obviously you cannot make up information like data or quotations from experts, so you will need some credible sources. There is no set number of sources required; just use sources as necessary to help you do the task in each paragraph. Please aim for articles that have named authors and come from reliable sources.
For articles from news-media outlets, I would suggest The Globe and Mail (Canada), the CBC (Canada), The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (US), and The Washington Post (US).
For academic articles, I would suggest the Library’s E-Resources database called Academic Search Premiere (it has a “cite” button to help you create a Works-Cited or References entry).
Go Step by Step
This essay assignment is easily broken down into small steps, as you focus on each task:
Helpful background, with data if possible
Example / Evidence
Appeal to authority
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