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How To Create Rock Solid Arguments In Your Dissertation, Thesis Or Assignments

The 6 essential ingredients (with examples).

By: Derek Jansen | August 2017

Arguments happen all the time and that’s okay.

Whether we realise it or not, we have arguments every day. We may quarrel with a significant other over dirty dishes, disagree with an acquaintance over a political hot topic, or even argue with ourselves over the fact that we procrastinate too much. On a more serious note, we also face arguments in our professional and academic lives. For example:

  • We debate in class or write assignments on how a company should resolve a particular crisis
  • We propose and defend our theses, both orally and written
  • We give a presentation to our boss(es) on how best to target a specific market segment

The point with arguments is that we try to convince someone (or ourselves) that we are right . So why don’t we always win our arguments? The art of persuasion is not a natural gift to all of us (it definitely isn’t for me). I’ve learned that I can’t stand on my passion and beliefs alone; I need cold hard facts to back me up.

This blog post will not make you an expert (and I do not claim to be an expert) at argument, but it will provide you with a framework and checklist to help you build strong arguments within your assignments, exams and dissertation or thesis. After all, strong, rigorous arguments are a mainstay of mark-earning work.

argument development

So, what do you need in an argument?

A strong argument has six essential ingredients:

  • A clear, well-communicated objective/conclusion
  • Premise(s) backed by relevant evidence
  • Sound logic
  • Clear qualifications
  • Acknowledgement of counter-arguments
  • Emotion and energy

Ingredient #1:

A clearly stated objective or conclusion.

First, an argument, just like any other assignment or research project, will go nowhere without an objective or conclusion. If you do not have a clear focus, you risk confusing yourself, your audience, and your marker. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are very clear about the point you are trying to make (your conclusion or objective). Sounds simple, but you’d be amazed just how many students are unclear about what their point is and, consequently, end up going nowhere slowly.

Throughout this post, I’ll use the example of Company X and its Product Z:

  • Company X’s Product Z had great success in the UK, with over 100% ROI within the first two quarters.
  • Strong demand for a product like Product Z exists in Germany, France, and Spain.
  • Market competition Product Z is relatively low in the targeted European countries.
  • Therefore, Company X will most likely launch product Z in Germany, France, and Spain.

The objective of my argument is to convince you that Company X will most likely successfully launch product Z in the targeted European countries. With this conclusion in focus, I will be able to identify and weigh my strategic options, and then articulate the best way to achieve the objective.

So, the ultimate goal of the argument is to convince someone to agree with your conclusion… but why? Why are you trying to change someone’s mind? It’s not just to get great marks. You must have reasons for your conclusion – these reasons are called premises .

Ingredient #2:

Well-grounded premises.

Once you have your objective, you need to clearly communicate your premises. Premises are the building blocks that underpin your conclusion (objective); they provide evidence to lead the audience to agree with your conclusion (Side note: I use proof and premise as synonyms so that I remember the importance of including premises in my arguments). While there can only be one conclusion in an argument, there can be one or (ideally) many premises to support the conclusion. For example, in the case of Company X and Product Z: the two premises are that demand exists in these target countries, and market competition is relatively low.

Great premises have (at least) two requirements:

  • They must be backed by credible, verifiable data; and
  • They must be relevant to the conclusion.

Data trumps gut

Strong arguments are not based on gut instinct. An argument without data-backed premises is, by definition, baseless. Let’s return to the above example: Demand exists in these target countries, and market competition is relatively low. To make these great premises, I need to add credible data points.

For example:

  • An independent consulting firm conducted a market research study of 6,000 people in the targeted countries, and results revealed that high demand exists for a product like Product Z.
  • The data collected from an independent consulting firm is a verifiable, citable source. Always double check your sources to make sure you understand and defend them.

Remember, data may not always come from an independent source – it may be outsourced/sponsored by a company, or a company may have an internal research arm. Be ready to ensure the credibility of the information if/when you are asked.

  • IBISWorld’s latest industry report shows that market competition Product Z is relatively low in the targeted European countries.
  • IBISWorld is a well-recognized provider of industry information and may be a source that your marker recommended. Similar to the point above, this data point is credible and can easily be verified.

To gather information, I suggest you prioritize using class- or school-prescribed sources first; use additional sources to complement, not replace, the class recommended sources.

Relevance is essential

While your premises must be data-backed, they must also be relevant to your conclusion. In other words, relevant premises have evidence that is clearly and logically linked to your conclusion. Be wary of following into the “my premise is true so it must be relevant” trap. If a premise is deemed irrelevant, your argument loses weight because you appear to lose focus.

For example: Company X recently built a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in the United States.

Your marker will ask: how is this a manufacturing facility in the US connected to your conclusion? The answer is, that premise does not connect. Yes, it is true, but it does not seem logical that a manufacturing facility is strategically linked to a product launch in Europe. Use logic to make sure that your premises are relevant.

Need a helping hand?

technique dissertation argument

Ingredient #3:

Ensuring that your arguments are underpinned by firm logic is… logical. You want to convince your audience, so you need to make sense when building and stating your argument. When making your argument, select your line of reasoning: deductive or inductive.

When making your argument, select your line of reasoning: deductive or inductive. Logically (pun intended), sound deductive reasoning means that your conclusion can be deducted from your valid premises; cogent inductive reasoning means that your conclusion can be inferred from your strong premises.

Deductive reasoning

In deductive reasoning, the premises are a series of consequential statements that lead to the conclusion. To form a conclusion through deduction, you use general premises to point to a specific conclusion. Deductive reasoning is typically focused on the past or present: the general premises have been tested and lead to a specific past or present conclusion.

To identify if an argument is sound, you first check whether the argument is valid. Then, assess if the premises are true or false. Here is an example of deductive reasoning:

  • Premise : Most tech companies have a Chief Innovation Officer.
  • Premise : Company X is a tech company.
  • Conclusion : We may conclude that Company X has a Chief Innovation Officer.

In the above example, the premises start general and then get more specific as they get to the conclusion. Deductive arguments are classified as valid or invalid and deemed to be sound or unsound. To check the validity of the argument, ask this question:

Assuming that the premises are true, does it logically follow that this conclusion is also true?

If the answer is yes, like with the example above, then the argument is valid. It is important to note that the premises do not actually have to be true in order for an argument to be valid. For example, Company X could actually be a healthcare company. However, the argument is still valid because it makes sense that if Company X were hypothetically a tech company, it makes sense that it would have a CIO.

To see if the argument is sound, next check to see if the premises are actually true. An argument is not sound if it is based on false premises. Since in our example we have maintained that Company X is a tech company, we know that premise to be true. Based on other information, we also know that most tech companies have a Chief Innovation Officer. We have two true premises, so we have a sound argument. If Company X actually turned out to be a healthcare company, then we would have one false premise. The argument is therefore unsound because it is based on a false premise.

Inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning: specific premises infer a general conclusion. Inductive reasoning is typically geared towards conclusions that will happen in the future. In other words, the conclusion is a prediction that will be tested through future observation. The example we have been using throughout this post is an example of inductive reasoning:

  • Premise : Company X’s Product Z had great success in the UK, with over 100% ROI within the first two quarters.
  • Premise : An independent consulting firm conducted a survey of 6,000 people in Germany, France, and Spain, revealing a strong demand for Product Z.
  • Premise : IBISWorld’s latest industry report shows that market competition Product Z is relatively low in the targeted European countries.
  • Conclusion : Therefore, Company X will most likely successfully launch product Z in Germany, France, and Spain.

Inductive arguments are classified as strong or weak and deemed to be cogent or uncogent. In terms of the strength of an inductive argument, there is a little more grey area than when gauging the validity of a deductive argument. The validity of a deductive argument is pretty clear-cut: you assess if a conclusion from the past or present is either true or false. However, in an inductive argument, the conclusion is a prediction, so you cannot be 100% sure if it is actually true or false. Therefore, you ask:

Assuming that the premises are true, is there more than a 50% chance that the conclusion will actually happen?

If the answer is yes, like in the example above, then the argument is strong.

Just as with deductive arguments, the next step in assessing an inductive argument is evaluating the truth of its premises. A true premise is backed up with data. For example, in the above argument, the premises contain data. If, after verification that the data is true, then the argument is cogent. If it turns out that the data is false – for example, if market research reveals that there is not much demand for Product Z, then the argument is not cogent.

Pro tip: Look at the argument’s premise and conclusion indicator words to identify if or inductive reasoning was used. Words that refer to the past or present are used in deductive reasoning; words that refer to the future, or form a hypothesis , are used in inductive reasoning.

That was a lot of information to throw at you. Here are the main points to take away:

  • In deductive reasoning, validity and soundness are different concepts. Validity refers to the feasibility of the conclusion; soundness refers to the truthfulness of the premises.
  • In inductive reasoning, strength and cogency are different concepts. Strength refers to the feasibility of the conclusion; cogency refers to the truthfulness of the premises.

technique dissertation argument

Ingredient #4:

The conclusions you draw in your argument are not universally applicable (surprise!); there will typically be limitations to the generalisability of your argument – in other words, it will not necessarily be a sound argument in all contexts (in fact, very little is every universally true or relevant). For example, it may only be true in a certain country, for certain people, in a specific organisation, at a certain time of year, etc.

Before finalising your assignment or dissertation and concluding that you have solved the world’s problems, consider the situations in which your arguments might not work. In doing so, you identify your argument’s qualifications.

Remember to use qualifying indicator words (such as “in many cases”, “most”, “predictably”) to help explain your conclusion. For example:

  • Premise: Company X’s Product Z had great success in the UK, with over 100% ROI within the first two quarters.
  • Premise: An independent consulting firm conducted a survey of 6,000 people in Germany, France, and Spain, revealing a strong demand for Product Z.
  • Premise: IBISWorld’s latest industry report shows that market competition Product Z is relatively low in the targeted European countries.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, Company X will most likely successfully launch product Z in Germany, France, and Spain.
  • Qualification: However, Company X must consider cultural and importation barriers that can hinder the success of Product Z’s expansion.

Ingredient #5:

Acknowledgement of the counter-arguments.

Similarly to qualifying your argument, a good argument needs to anticipate the opposition. There will almost always be counter-arguments to any argument – very little is cut and dry. Therefore, analysing and addressing counter-arguments shows the marker that you have put in considerable time and thought to develop the best scenario.

Additionally, if you have a strong defence against an opposing view, you may very well be likely to turn naysayers into advocates. Potential challenges you can anticipate and address are:

  • A different conclusion may be drawn using your own premises
  • A question of the importance or validity of your premises
  • There may be significant drawbacks to your conclusion

You have some options in addressing counter-arguments:

  • Point out and prove errors in the counter-argument.
  • Acknowledge the strength or validity of the counter-argument, but show why it is not as strong or valid as your original argument, or within your particular context (i.e. a specific industry or country)
  • If the counter-argument points a flaw in one aspect of your conclusion, rewrite your conclusion in a more detailed manner.

Here’s an example:

  • Counter argument: Product Z will face tremendous cultural and financial barriers if launched across Europe.
  • Response to counter-argument: The launch will occur in phases. Company X will first beta test Product Z in order to understand how to tailor the product and better understand how to import and market the product.

Ingredient #6: Emotion and energy

Lastly, arguments need to do demonstrate a level of emotion in order to be convincing. This might seem contradictory to my previous point about arguments needing to be built on data-backed premises, but it’s not. Simply put, your argument needs to be fueled by data and demonstrated and communicated with emotion and energy.

 Imagine standing up in front of your class and just saying, “We need to implement strategy X because we will increase our market share.” without intonation. No matter how great your prepared argument is, you will lose the attention of your audience if you do not exhibit emotion and energy. We’ve all had that one lecturer who drones on and on, and we quickly lose interest in the subject. Don’t be like that lecturer. Be you. I’m not saying to gesticulate wildly and shout at top volume; it is possible to be poised and passionate at the same time.

Remember: emotion can also be felt in writing. Think of your favorite author, journalist, or researcher. How does she write? She must show emotion in her writing in order to keep you engaged. Try to channel that passion/emulate her writing to make sure that your voice can be heard in your writing.

Wrapping up

In this post, I have discussed six elements of a good argument. Build your arguments using these ingredients and you will no doubt improve the quality of your academic work.

Here’s the checklist for quick reference – a good argument should have:

These elements will help you convey to your marker an articulate, sensible argument that was created after the consideration of several scenarios.

technique dissertation argument

Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101

I’ve never come across a much simpler explanation of the Inductive and Deductive concept. Thanks for this.

Eileen Douglas

I concur. I love it when things are written in understandable language.

Georgios Varoutsos

I enjoyed this article! Easily understandable.

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Georgios!

Lizzy Zhang

This article is so helpful for me who is ready to write my postgrad dissertation! Thank you!

Great to hear that, Lizzy. Good luck with your dissertation!

Dwight Merrick

Straightforward and to the point! I like that, especially since I don’t have time to beat around the bush.

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Planning your dissertation: Constructing an argument

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Identifying an argument

Ultimately, you are aiming to produce a series of propositions in relation to your material: usually a main proposition (thesis or argument) with some sub-propositions.

Asking yourself the following questions may help you think critically about your material and identify some potential arguments:

  • How can I bring together the various different ideas that interest me about my topic?
  • What difficulties am I experiencing in organising my material, comparing texts or coming to conclusions about them? Are these difficulties significant, i.e. do they tell me something interesting about the nature of the material I am dealing with?
  • Did my reading and research throw up anything unexpected?
  • What are the polemical aspects of this topic? How can I bring out those contradictions, account for them or investigate them further?
  • How do my interpretations converge or diverge from analysis that has already been published on the topic?
  • Does my analysis support one or more viewpoints in an existing critical or theoretical debate in the wider field?

Writing summary statements

You need to reach the stage at which you can reduce your argument(s) down to one or more full sentences. Imagine explaining the central idea of your dissertation to a supervisor or fellow student. Try to express your main argument in a couple of summary sentences, and then expand these into four or five sentences, giving greater detail or including sub-points. It is best to have a draft of your summary sentences ready before you start writing, as this will dictate how you should organize your material. But it is entirely normal (and very healthy!) for your ideas to change as you start writing. If that happens, simply go back to your summary and your plan and make sure they reflect your current thinking. It is also very common (and again, a good sign) for your argument to change or develop quite radically after you have composed your first draft. Think of it as a continual, circular process: of refining your summary argument(s), which leads to changes in your written draft, which lead to further refinements of your argument(s), which lead to more alterations to the draft, etc.

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Writing a Paper: Academic Arguments

Definition of academic arguments, what is an academic argument.

An academic argument is your stance, your claim, or your take on your topic.

This stance, claim, or take is your contribution to the current conversation on your topic and provides your readers with a position, perspective, and/or point of view on your topic.

An academic argument is also based in the research, what we often call "evidence-based." This means you must support your argument with findings from sources you read.

An academic argument is not....

An academic argument is not a fight, a battle, or a negative confrontation. An academic argument is also not emotional nor focused on one person's opinion.

Academic Arguments Overview

Although reflection and summary play a role in academic writing, your papers need to be founded in analysis and critique. Learning to spot a strong argument in what you read can help you become better at constructing your own arguments when you write. The following subpages will help you learn how to understand and develop a strong argument in a paper and move beyond basic summary.

  • Understanding Arguments
  • Developing Arguments
  • Comparing & Contrasting
  • Avoiding Logical Fallacies
  • Addressing Assumptions
  • Responding to Counterarguments

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Other frequently assigned papers, explore more of umgc.

  • Online Guide to Writing

Writing Arguments

Steps to Writing an Argument

Develop your argument.

When you develop your argument, you are confirming your own position, and building your case for the readers. Use empirical evidence—facts and statistics—to support your claims. Appeal to your audience’s rational and logical thinking. Argue your case from the authority of your evidence and research.

Your list of strengths and weaknesses can help you develop your argument. Here is how to do that:

First, prioritize the strengths and weaknesses of each position and then decide on the top three to five strengths and weaknesses. 

Then, using a technique for developing content ideas, begin to expand your understanding of each item on your list (see the section in chapter 2 titled “ Techniques to Get Started ”). 

Evaluate each one in terms of how you can support it—by reasoning, providing details, adding an example, or offering evidence. 

Again, prioritize your list of strengths and weaknesses, this time noting the supporting comments that need more work, call for more evidence, or may be irrelevant to your argument. At this stage, it is better to overlook nothing and keep extensive notes for later reference.

As you develop your ideas, remember that you are presenting them in a fair-minded and rational way, counting on your readers’ intelligence, experience, and insight to evaluate your argument and see your point of view.

Techniques for Appealing to Your Readers

The success of your argument depends on your skill in convincing your readers—through sound reasoning, persuasion, and evidence—of the strength of your point of view. But how can you do that in the most effective way? There are three fundamental types of appeal in presenting an argument: reason, ethics, and emotion. As a writer, use all three of these techniques in your writing. 

But let’s learn more about these types of appeal:

Clear thinking requires that you state your claim and support it with concrete, specific facts. This approach appeals to our common sense and rational thinking. 

Formal reasoning involves following certain established logical methods to arrive at certain pieces of information or conclusions. Generally, these logical methods are known as inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning.

What is inductive reasoning? Inductive thinking is when our logical thinking states specific facts (called premises) and then draws a conclusion, or generalization. Inductive reasoning lets us examine the specific details, considering how well they add up to the generalization. When we think inductively, we are asking whether the evidence clearly supports the conclusions.

Example of Inductive Reasoning

Premise: Swans nest near this pond every summer.

Hypothesis: This summer, swans will probably nest near this pond.

What is deductive reasoning? In deductive reasoning, you take two premises to create a conclusion based on reasoning and evidence. When we think logically, we start with the generalization. As we apply our generalization to a specific situation, we examine the individual premises that make that generalization reasonable or unreasonable. When our logical thinking starts with the generalization, or conclusion, we may then apply the generalization to a particular situation to see if that generalization follows from the premises. Our deductive thinking can be expressed as a  syllogism  or an  enthymeme —a shortened form of the syllogism.

Syllogisms can be written like this:

All A are B.

All C are A.

Therefore, all C are B.

Example of Deductive Reasoning Using a Syllogism:

Major premise: All birds have feathers.

Minor premise: A parrot is a bird.

Conclusion: A parrot has feathers.

Enthymemes can be written like this:

If A=B and B=C, then A=C. 

But with enthymemes, B=C is implied.

Example of Deductive Reasoning Using an Enthymeme:

Conclusion: A parrot is a bird.

(We assume that a parrot has feathers)

Think of ethics as the force of a speaker’s character as it is represented in writing. If you misrepresent the evidence of one of your sources, your readers will question your ethics. 

In any situation in which you must rely on your readers’ goodwill and common sense, you will lose their open-minded stance toward your argument if you support it by using unethical methods. This can happen intentionally, by misrepresenting evidence and experts and by seeking to hurt individuals or groups. It can also happen unintentionally—you may undermine your argument by inadvertently misunderstanding the evidence and the implications of your position. This can occur if you don’t research the evidence responsibly, preferring instead to express your own and others’ unfounded opinions.

Using emotions as a support for argument can be tricky. Attempts to play on your readers’ emotions can seem manipulative and are often mistrusted. To use emotional appeal successfully, you must apply discretion and restraint. Choose examples that represent and illustrate your ideas fairly, and then present your arguments as objectively as possible. The writer must carefully draw the connections between the ideas and illustrations, choosing diction in such a way that readers don’t question motives as manipulative. Strong evidence accumulated by careful research often addresses this potential problem well.

Example of an Appeal to Emotion

Rather than continuing these tax-and-spend policies, we plan to return your hard-earned tax money to you.

Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783 This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License . © 2022 UMGC. All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.

Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing

Chapter 1: College Writing

How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

What Is College Writing?

Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?

Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Doing Exploratory Research

Getting from Notes to Your Draft


Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition

Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience

Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started

Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment

Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic

Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy

Rewriting: Getting Feedback

Rewriting: The Final Draft

Techniques to Get Started - Outlining

Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques

Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas

Writing: Outlining What You Will Write

Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction

Critical Strategies and Writing

Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis

Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation

Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion

Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis

Developing a Paper Using Strategies

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

Patterns for Presenting Information

Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques

Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data

Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts

Supporting with Research and Examples

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete

Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing

Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question

Chapter 4: The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources

Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources

Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure

The Nature of Research

The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?

The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?

Chapter 5: Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Giving Credit to Sources

Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws

Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation

Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides

Integrating Sources

Practicing Academic Integrity

Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources

Types of Documentation

Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists

Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style

Types of Documentation: Note Citations

Chapter 6: Using Library Resources

Finding Library Resources

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

How Is Writing Graded?

How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool

The Draft Stage

The Draft Stage: The First Draft

The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft

The Draft Stage: Using Feedback

The Research Stage

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers

Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure

Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument

Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion

Writing Arguments: Types of Argument

Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing


General Style Manuals

Researching on the Internet

Special Style Manuals

Writing Handbooks

Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report

Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve

Collaborative Writing: Methodology

Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation

Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members

Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan

General Introduction

Peer Reviewing

Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan

Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades

Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule

Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule

Reviewing Your Plan with Others

By using our website you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more about how we use cookies by reading our  Privacy Policy .

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  • Writing Tips

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

4-minute read

  • 30th April 2022

An argumentative essay is a structured, compelling piece of writing where an author clearly defines their stance on a specific topic. This is a very popular style of writing assigned to students at schools, colleges, and universities. Learn the steps to researching, structuring, and writing an effective argumentative essay below.

Requirements of an Argumentative Essay

To effectively achieve its purpose, an argumentative essay must contain:

●  A concise thesis statement that introduces readers to the central argument of the essay

●  A clear, logical, argument that engages readers

●  Ample research and evidence that supports your argument

Approaches to Use in Your Argumentative Essay

1.   classical.

●  Clearly present the central argument.

●  Outline your opinion.

●  Provide enough evidence to support your theory.

2.   Toulmin

●  State your claim.

●  Supply the evidence for your stance.

●  Explain how these findings support the argument.

●  Include and discuss any limitations of your belief.

3.   Rogerian

●  Explain the opposing stance of your argument.

●  Discuss the problems with adopting this viewpoint.

●  Offer your position on the matter.

●  Provide reasons for why yours is the more beneficial stance.

●  Include a potential compromise for the topic at hand.

Tips for Writing a Well-Written Argumentative Essay

●  Introduce your topic in a bold, direct, and engaging manner to captivate your readers and encourage them to keep reading.

●  Provide sufficient evidence to justify your argument and convince readers to adopt this point of view.

●  Consider, include, and fairly present all sides of the topic.

●  Structure your argument in a clear, logical manner that helps your readers to understand your thought process.

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●  Discuss any counterarguments that might be posed.

●  Use persuasive writing that’s appropriate for your target audience and motivates them to agree with you.

Steps to Write an Argumentative Essay

Follow these basic steps to write a powerful and meaningful argumentative essay :

Step 1: Choose a topic that you’re passionate about

If you’ve already been given a topic to write about, pick a stance that resonates deeply with you. This will shine through in your writing, make the research process easier, and positively influence the outcome of your argument.

Step 2: Conduct ample research to prove the validity of your argument

To write an emotive argumentative essay , finding enough research to support your theory is a must. You’ll need solid evidence to convince readers to agree with your take on the matter. You’ll also need to logically organize the research so that it naturally convinces readers of your viewpoint and leaves no room for questioning.

Step 3: Follow a simple, easy-to-follow structure and compile your essay

A good structure to ensure a well-written and effective argumentative essay includes:


●  Introduce your topic.

●  Offer background information on the claim.

●  Discuss the evidence you’ll present to support your argument.

●  State your thesis statement, a one-to-two sentence summary of your claim.

●  This is the section where you’ll develop and expand on your argument.

●  It should be split into three or four coherent paragraphs, with each one presenting its own idea.

●  Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that indicates why readers should adopt your belief or stance.

●  Include your research, statistics, citations, and other supporting evidence.

●  Discuss opposing viewpoints and why they’re invalid.

●  This part typically consists of one paragraph.

●  Summarize your research and the findings that were presented.

●  Emphasize your initial thesis statement.

●  Persuade readers to agree with your stance.

We certainly hope that you feel inspired to use these tips when writing your next argumentative essay . And, if you’re currently elbow-deep in writing one, consider submitting a free sample to us once it’s completed. Our expert team of editors can help ensure that it’s concise, error-free, and effective!

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout will define what an argument is and explain why you need one in most of your academic essays.

Arguments are everywhere

You may be surprised to hear that the word “argument” does not have to be written anywhere in your assignment for it to be an important part of your task. In fact, making an argument—expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with evidence—is often the aim of academic writing. Your instructors may assume that you know this and thus may not explain the importance of arguments in class.

Most material you learn in college is or has been debated by someone, somewhere, at some time. Even when the material you read or hear is presented as a simple fact, it may actually be one person’s interpretation of a set of information. Instructors may call on you to examine that interpretation and defend it, refute it, or offer some new view of your own. In writing assignments, you will almost always need to do more than just summarize information that you have gathered or regurgitate facts that have been discussed in class. You will need to develop a point of view on or interpretation of that material and provide evidence for your position.

Consider an example. For nearly 2000 years, educated people in many Western cultures believed that bloodletting—deliberately causing a sick person to lose blood—was the most effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. The claim that bloodletting is beneficial to human health was not widely questioned until the 1800s, and some physicians continued to recommend bloodletting as late as the 1920s. Medical practices have now changed because some people began to doubt the effectiveness of bloodletting; these people argued against it and provided convincing evidence. Human knowledge grows out of such differences of opinion, and scholars like your instructors spend their lives engaged in debate over what claims may be counted as accurate in their fields. In their courses, they want you to engage in similar kinds of critical thinking and debate.

Argumentation is not just what your instructors do. We all use argumentation on a daily basis, and you probably already have some skill at crafting an argument. The more you improve your skills in this area, the better you will be at thinking critically, reasoning, making choices, and weighing evidence.

Making a claim

What is an argument? In academic writing, an argument is usually a main idea, often called a “claim” or “thesis statement,” backed up with evidence that supports the idea. In the majority of college papers, you will need to make some sort of claim and use evidence to support it, and your ability to do this well will separate your papers from those of students who see assignments as mere accumulations of fact and detail. In other words, gone are the happy days of being given a “topic” about which you can write anything. It is time to stake out a position and prove why it is a good position for a thinking person to hold. See our handout on thesis statements .

Claims can be as simple as “Protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged,” with evidence such as, “In this experiment, protons and electrons acted in such and such a way.” Claims can also be as complex as “Genre is the most important element to the contract of expectations between filmmaker and audience,” using reasoning and evidence such as, “defying genre expectations can create a complete apocalypse of story form and content, leaving us stranded in a sort of genre-less abyss.” In either case, the rest of your paper will detail the reasoning and evidence that have led you to believe that your position is best.

When beginning to write a paper, ask yourself, “What is my point?” For example, the point of this handout is to help you become a better writer, and we are arguing that an important step in the process of writing effective arguments is understanding the concept of argumentation. If your papers do not have a main point, they cannot be arguing for anything. Asking yourself what your point is can help you avoid a mere “information dump.” Consider this: your instructors probably know a lot more than you do about your subject matter. Why, then, would you want to provide them with material they already know? Instructors are usually looking for two things:

  • Proof that you understand the material
  • A demonstration of your ability to use or apply the material in ways that go beyond what you have read or heard.

This second part can be done in many ways: you can critique the material, apply it to something else, or even just explain it in a different way. In order to succeed at this second step, though, you must have a particular point to argue.

Arguments in academic writing are usually complex and take time to develop. Your argument will need to be more than a simple or obvious statement such as “Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect.” Such a statement might capture your initial impressions of Wright as you have studied him in class; however, you need to look deeper and express specifically what caused that “greatness.” Your instructor will probably expect something more complicated, such as “Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture combines elements of European modernism, Asian aesthetic form, and locally found materials to create a unique new style,” or “There are many strong similarities between Wright’s building designs and those of his mother, which suggests that he may have borrowed some of her ideas.” To develop your argument, you would then define your terms and prove your claim with evidence from Wright’s drawings and buildings and those of the other architects you mentioned.

Do not stop with having a point. You have to back up your point with evidence. The strength of your evidence, and your use of it, can make or break your argument. See our handout on evidence . You already have the natural inclination for this type of thinking, if not in an academic setting. Think about how you talked your parents into letting you borrow the family car. Did you present them with lots of instances of your past trustworthiness? Did you make them feel guilty because your friends’ parents all let them drive? Did you whine until they just wanted you to shut up? Did you look up statistics on teen driving and use them to show how you didn’t fit the dangerous-driver profile? These are all types of argumentation, and they exist in academia in similar forms.

Every field has slightly different requirements for acceptable evidence, so familiarize yourself with some arguments from within that field instead of just applying whatever evidence you like best. Pay attention to your textbooks and your instructor’s lectures. What types of argument and evidence are they using? The type of evidence that sways an English instructor may not work to convince a sociology instructor. Find out what counts as proof that something is true in that field. Is it statistics, a logical development of points, something from the object being discussed (art work, text, culture, or atom), the way something works, or some combination of more than one of these things?

Be consistent with your evidence. Unlike negotiating for the use of your parents’ car, a college paper is not the place for an all-out blitz of every type of argument. You can often use more than one type of evidence within a paper, but make sure that within each section you are providing the reader with evidence appropriate to each claim. So, if you start a paragraph or section with a statement like “Putting the student seating area closer to the basketball court will raise player performance,” do not follow with your evidence on how much more money the university could raise by letting more students go to games for free. Information about how fan support raises player morale, which then results in better play, would be a better follow-up. Your next section could offer clear reasons why undergraduates have as much or more right to attend an undergraduate event as wealthy alumni—but this information would not go in the same section as the fan support stuff. You cannot convince a confused person, so keep things tidy and ordered.


One way to strengthen your argument and show that you have a deep understanding of the issue you are discussing is to anticipate and address counterarguments or objections. By considering what someone who disagrees with your position might have to say about your argument, you show that you have thought things through, and you dispose of some of the reasons your audience might have for not accepting your argument. Recall our discussion of student seating in the Dean Dome. To make the most effective argument possible, you should consider not only what students would say about seating but also what alumni who have paid a lot to get good seats might say.

You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself how someone who disagrees with you might respond to each of the points you’ve made or your position as a whole. If you can’t immediately imagine another position, here are some strategies to try:

  • Do some research. It may seem to you that no one could possibly disagree with the position you are arguing, but someone probably has. For example, some people argue that a hotdog is a sandwich. If you are making an argument concerning, for example, the characteristics of an exceptional sandwich, you might want to see what some of these people have to say.
  • Talk with a friend or with your teacher. Another person may be able to imagine counterarguments that haven’t occurred to you.
  • Consider your conclusion or claim and the premises of your argument and imagine someone who denies each of them. For example, if you argued, “Cats make the best pets. This is because they are clean and independent,” you might imagine someone saying, “Cats do not make the best pets. They are dirty and needy.”

Once you have thought up some counterarguments, consider how you will respond to them—will you concede that your opponent has a point but explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing arguments.

When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have considered the many sides of the issue. If you simply attack or caricature your opponent (also referred to as presenting a “straw man”), you suggest that your argument is only capable of defeating an extremely weak adversary, which may undermine your argument rather than enhance it.

It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies.

Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly.

Audience is a very important consideration in argument. Take a look at our handout on audience . A lifetime of dealing with your family members has helped you figure out which arguments work best to persuade each of them. Maybe whining works with one parent, but the other will only accept cold, hard statistics. Your kid brother may listen only to the sound of money in his palm. It’s usually wise to think of your audience in an academic setting as someone who is perfectly smart but who doesn’t necessarily agree with you. You are not just expressing your opinion in an argument (“It’s true because I said so”), and in most cases your audience will know something about the subject at hand—so you will need sturdy proof. At the same time, do not think of your audience as capable of reading your mind. You have to come out and state both your claim and your evidence clearly. Do not assume that because the instructor knows the material, he or she understands what part of it you are using, what you think about it, and why you have taken the position you’ve chosen.

Critical reading

Critical reading is a big part of understanding argument. Although some of the material you read will be very persuasive, do not fall under the spell of the printed word as authority. Very few of your instructors think of the texts they assign as the last word on the subject. Remember that the author of every text has an agenda, something that he or she wants you to believe. This is OK—everything is written from someone’s perspective—but it’s a good thing to be aware of. For more information on objectivity and bias and on reading sources carefully, read our handouts on evaluating print sources and reading to write .

Take notes either in the margins of your source (if you are using a photocopy or your own book) or on a separate sheet as you read. Put away that highlighter! Simply highlighting a text is good for memorizing the main ideas in that text—it does not encourage critical reading. Part of your goal as a reader should be to put the author’s ideas in your own words. Then you can stop thinking of these ideas as facts and start thinking of them as arguments.

When you read, ask yourself questions like “What is the author trying to prove?” and “What is the author assuming I will agree with?” Do you agree with the author? Does the author adequately defend her argument? What kind of proof does she use? Is there something she leaves out that you would put in? Does putting it in hurt her argument? As you get used to reading critically, you will start to see the sometimes hidden agendas of other writers, and you can use this skill to improve your own ability to craft effective arguments.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ede, Lisa. 2004. Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising , 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Gage, John T. 2005. The Shape of Reason: Argumentative Writing in College , 4th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruszkiewicz. 2016. Everything’s an Argument , 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Dissertation Preparation

  • Creating a Research Plan
  • Collecting Data
  • Writing a Dissertation
  • Function of Structures
  • Detailed Structures

Developing an Argument

  • Finding Dissertations
  • Additional Sources
  • Citation Management

An important aspect running through your dissertation will be your argument for:

  • why this specific topic is worth researching;
  • why this is a good way to research it;
  • why this method of analysis is appropriate; and
  • why your interpretations and conclusions are reasonable.

You will refer to the work of others as you make your argument. This may involve critiquing the work of established leaders in the field. While it is important to be respectful in the way that you discuss others’ ideas and research, you are expected to engage directly, and even openly disagree with existing writing.

In Taylor’s (1989) book on writing in the arts and social sciences, he suggests that the following different approaches offer a range of academically legitimate ways to engage with published work.

  • Agree with, accede to, defend, or confirm a particular point of view.
  • Propose a new point of view.
  • Concede that an existing point of view has certain merits but that it needs to be qualified in certain important respects.
  • Reformulate an existing point of view or statement of it, such that the new version makes a better explanation.
  • Dismiss a point of view or another person’s work on account of its inadequacy, irrelevance, incoherence, or by recourse to other appropriate criteria.
  • Reject, rebut or refute another’s argument on various reasoned grounds.
  • Reconcile two positions that may seem at variance by appealing to some ‘higher’ or ‘deeper’ principal.
  • Develop an existing point of view, perhaps by utilizing it on larger or more complex datasets, or applying a theory to a new context

(Adapted from Taylor 1989:67)

It is important that you are assertive about what you are arguing, but it is unlikely that, in a dissertation project, you will be able to be definitive in closing an established academic debate. You should be open about where the gaps are in your research, and cautious about overstating what you have found.  Aim to be modest but realistic in relating your own research to the broader context.

Improving Structure and Content

Once you have the dissertation in draft form it becomes easier to see where you can improve it. To make it easier to read you can use clear signposting at the beginning of chapters, and write links between sections to show how they relate to each other. Another technique to improve academic writing style is to ensure that each individual paragraph justifies its inclusion. More ideas will be presented in the Study Guide The art of editing.

You may choose to review your draft from the standpoint of a dissertation examiner, which might involve preparing a list of questions that you want to see answered, then reading through your dissertation scribbling comments, suggestions, criticisms, and ideas in the margin. If you have a marking guide then apply it to your dissertation and see if there are aspects that you can improve.

While you do this, be aware of whether you need to increase the number of words, or decrease it to reach your target. As you read you can then cross through material that appears unnecessary, and mark points that could be expanded. This will then form the basis for your next, improved, draft.

When to Stop

Just as it can be difficult to begin writing, it can also be difficult to know when to stop. You may begin to feel that your dissertation will never be good enough and that you need to revise it again and again. It may be helpful to divert your attention for a while to the finishing off activities you need to attend to:

  • writing the abstract and the introduction;
  • checking the reference list;
  • finalizing the appendices; and
  • checking your contents page.

Coming back afresh to look critically at the main text may then enable you to complete it to your satisfaction. Remember the dissertation needs to demonstrate your ability to undertake and report research rather than to answer every question on a topic.

It is important to allow yourself enough time for the final checking and proofreading of the finished document.

  • Devote time to planning the structure of the dissertation.
  • Plan a structure that will enable you to present your argument effectively.
  • Fill in the detail, concentrating on getting everything recorded rather than sticking to the word limit at this stage.
  • Regard writing as part of the research process, not an after-thought.
  • Expect to edit and re-edit your material several times as it moves towards its final form.
  • Leave time to check and proofread thoroughly.

Barrass R. (1979) Scientists must write. A guide to better writing for scientists, engineers and students. London:Chapman and Hall.

Taylor G. (1989) The Student’s Writing Guide for the Arts and Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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  • Next: Finding Dissertations >>

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10.2: Introduction to Argumentative Thesis Statements

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What you’ll learn to do: evaluate argumentative thesis statements

An academic argument asserts a claim and supports that claim with evidence. The goal of an argument is to convince readers that the writer’s position is reasonable, valid, and worthy of consideration. Therefore, an argumentative thesis statement needs to be not only clear and focused, but also debatable, assertive, and reasoned. Additionally, an argumentative thesis must be able to be supported with evidence.

  • Outcome: Argumentative Thesis Statements. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY: Attribution

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12 Constructing the Thesis and Argument from the Ground Up

Amy Guptill; Liz Delf; Rob Drummond; and Kristy Kelly

Amy Guptill Adapted by Liz Delf, Rob Drummond, and Kristy Kelly

Moving beyond the five-paragraph theme.

As an instructor, I’ve noted that a number of new (and sometimes not-so-new) students are skilled wordsmiths and generally clear thinkers but are nevertheless stuck in a high school style of writing. They struggle to let go of certain assumptions about how an academic paper should be. Some students who have mastered that form, and enjoyed a lot of success from doing so, assume that college writing is simply more of the same. The skills that go into a very basic kind of essay—often called the five-paragraph theme —are indispensable. If you’re good at the five-paragraph theme, then you’re good at identifying a clearfl and consistent thesis, arranging cohesive paragraphs, organizing evidence for key points, and situating an argument within a broader context through the intro and conclusion.

In college you need to build on those essential skills. The five-paragraph theme, as such, is bland and formulaic; it doesn’t compel deep thinking. Your instructors are looking for a more ambitious and arguable thesis, a nuanced and compelling argument, and real-life evidence for all key points, all in an organically structured paper.

Figures 12.1 and 12.2 contrast the standard five-paragraph theme and the organic college paper. The five-paragraph theme (outlined in figure 12.1 ) is probably what you’re used to: the introductory paragraph starts broad and gradually narrows to a thesis, which readers expect to find at the very end of that paragraph. In this idealized format, the thesis invokes the magic number of three: three reasons why a statement is true. Each of those reasons is explained and justified in the three body paragraphs, and then the final paragraph restates the thesis before gradually getting broader. This format is easy for readers to follow, and it helps writers organize their points and the evidence that goes with them. That’s why you learned this format.


In contrast, figure 12.2 represents a paper on the same topic that has the more organic form expected in college. The first key difference is the thesis. Rather than simply positing a number of reasons to think that something is true, it puts forward an arguable statement: one with which a reasonable person might disagree. An arguable thesis gives the paper purpose. It surprises readers and draws them in. You hope your reader thinks, “Huh. Why would they come to that conclusion?” and then feels compelled to read on. The body paragraphs, then, build on one another to carry out this ambitious argument. In the classic five-paragraph theme ( figure 12.1 ), it hardly matters which of the three reasons you explain first or second. In the more organic structure ( figure 12.2 ), each paragraph specifically leads to the next.

The last key difference is seen in the conclusion. Because the organic essay is driven by an ambitious, nonobvious argument, the reader comes to the concluding section thinking, “OK, I’m convinced by the argument. What do you, author, make of it? Why does it matter?” The conclusion of an organically structured paper has a real job to do. It doesn’t just reiterate the thesis; it explains why the thesis matters.


The substantial time you spent mastering the five-paragraph form in figure 12.1 was time well spent; it’s hard to imagine anyone succeeding with the more organic form without the organizational skills and habits of mind inherent in the simpler form. (And it is worth noting that there are limited moments in college where the five-paragraph structure is still useful—in-class essay exams, for example.) But if you assume that you must adhere rigidly to the simpler form, you’re blunting your intellectual ambition. Your instructors will not be impressed by obvious theses, loosely related body paragraphs, and repetitive conclusions. They want you to undertake an ambitious independent analysis, one that will yield a thesis that is somewhat surprising and challenging to explain.

The Three-Story Thesis

From the ground up.

You have no doubt been drilled on the need for a thesis statement and its proper location at the end of the introduction. And you also know that all of the key points of the paper should clearly support the central driving thesis. Indeed, the whole model of the five-paragraph theme hinges on a clearly stated and consistent thesis. However, some students are surprised—and dismayed—when some of their early college papers are criticized for not having a good thesis. Their instructor might even claim that the paper doesn’t have a thesis when, in the author’s view, it clearly does. So what makes a good thesis in college?

  • Version A: Linen served as a form of currency in the ancient Mediterranean world, connecting rival empires through circuits of trade.
  • Version B: Linen served as a form of currency in the ancient Mediterranean world, connecting rival empires through circuits of trade. The economic role of linen raises important questions about how shifting environmental conditions can influence economic relationships and, by extension, political conflicts.

How do you produce a good, strong thesis? And how do you know when you’ve gotten there? Many instructors and writers embrace a metaphor based on this passage by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809–1894). He compares a good thesis to a three-story building:

There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors who have no aim beyond their facts are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalize using the labor of fact collectors as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, predict—their best illumination comes from above the skylight. (50)

In other words,

  • One-story theses state inarguable facts. What’s the background?
  • Two-story theses bring in an arguable (interpretive or analytical) point . What is your argument?
  • Three-story theses nest that point within its larger, compelling implications . Why does it matter?
Thesis: that’s the word that pops at me whenever I write an essay. Seeing this word in the prompt scared me and made me think to myself, “Oh great, what are they really looking for?” or “How am I going to make a thesis for a college paper?” When rehearing that I would be focusing on theses again in a class, I said to myself, “Here we go again!” But after learning about the three-story thesis, I never had a problem with writing another thesis. In fact, I look forward to being asked on a paper to create a thesis.

Timothée Pizarro

writing student

The biggest benefit of the three-story metaphor is that it describes a process for building a thesis. To build the first story or level, you first have to get familiar with the complex, relevant facts surrounding the problem or question. You have to be able to describe the situation thoroughly and accurately. Then with that first story built, you can layer on the second story by formulating the insightful, arguable point that animates the analysis. That’s often the most effortful part: brainstorming, elaborating and comparing alternative ideas, finalizing your point. With that specified, you can frame up the third story by articulating why the point you make matters beyond its particular topic or case.

The concept of a three-story thesis framework was the most helpful piece of information I gained from the writing component of DCC 100. The first time I utilized it in a college paper, my professor included “good thesis” and “excellent introduction” in her notes and graded it significantly higher than my previous papers. You can expect similar results if you dig deeper to form three-story theses. More importantly, doing so will make the actual writing of your paper more straightforward as well. Arguing something specific makes the structure of your paper much easier to design.

Peter Farrell

For example, imagine you have been assigned a paper about the impact of online learning in higher education. You would first construct an account of the origins and multiple forms of online learning and assess research findings on its use and effectiveness. If you’ve done that well, you’ll probably come up with a well-considered opinion that wouldn’t be obvious to readers who haven’t looked at the issue in depth. Maybe you’ll want to argue that online learning is a threat to the academic community. Or perhaps you’ll want to make the case that online learning opens up pathways to college degrees that traditional campus-based learning does not.

In the course of developing your central, argumentative point, you’ll come to recognize its larger context; in this example, you may claim that online learning can serve to better integrate higher education with the rest of society, as online learners bring their educational and career experiences together. Here is an example:

The final thesis would be all three of these pieces together. These stories build on one another; they don’t replace the previous story. Here’s another example of a three-story thesis:

Here’s one more example:

A thesis statement that stops at the first story isn’t usually considered a thesis . A two-story thesis is usually considered competent, though some two-story theses are more intriguing and ambitious than others. A thoughtfully crafted and well-informed three-story thesis puts the author on a smooth path toward an excellent paper.

Three-Story Theses and the Organically Structured Argument

The three-story thesis is a beautiful thing. For one, it gives a paper authentic momentum. The first paragraph doesn’t just start with some broad, vague statement; every sentence is crucial for setting up the thesis. The body paragraphs build on one another, moving through each step of the logical chain. Each paragraph leads inevitably to the next, making the transitions from paragraph to paragraph feel wholly natural. The conclusion, instead of being a mirror-image paraphrase of the introduction, builds out the third story by explaining the broader implications of the argument. It offers new insight without departing from the flow of the analysis.

I should note here that a paper with this kind of momentum often reads like it was knocked out in one inspired sitting. But in reality, just like accomplished athletes, artists, and musicians, masterful writers make the difficult thing look easy. As writer Anne Lamott notes, reading a well-written piece feels like its author sat down and typed it out, “bounding along like huskies across the snow.” However, she continues,

This is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. (21)

Experienced writers don’t figure out what they want to say and then write it. They write in order to figure out what they want to say.

Experienced writers develop theses in dialogue with the body of the essay. An initial characterization of the problem leads to a tentative thesis, and then drafting the body of the paper reveals thorny contradictions or critical areas of ambiguity, prompting the writer to revisit or expand the body of evidence and then refine the thesis based on that fresh look. The revised thesis may require that body paragraphs be reordered and reshaped to fit the emerging three-story thesis. Throughout the process, the thesis serves as an anchor point while the author wades through the morass of facts and ideas. The dialogue between thesis and body continues until the author is satisfied or the due date arrives, whatever comes first. It’s an effortful and sometimes tedious process.

Novice writers, in contrast, usually oversimplify the writing process. They formulate some first-impression thesis, produce a reasonably organized outline, and then flesh it out with text, never taking the time to reflect or truly revise their work. They assume that revision is a step backward when, in reality, it is a major step forward.

Everyone has a different way that they like to write. For instance, I like to pop my earbuds in, blast dubstep music, and write on a whiteboard. I like using the whiteboard because it is a lot easier to revise and edit while you write. After I finish writing a paragraph that I am completely satisfied with on the whiteboard, I sit in front of it with my laptop and just type it up.

Kaethe Leonard

Another benefit of the three-story thesis framework is that it demystifies what a “strong” argument is in academic culture . In an era of political polarization, many students may think that a strong argument is based on a simple, bold, combative statement that is promoted in the most forceful way possible. “Gun control is a travesty!” “Shakespeare is the best writer who ever lived!” When students are encouraged to consider contrasting perspectives in their papers, they fear that doing so will make their own thesis seem mushy and weak.

However, in academics a “strong” argument is comprehensive and nuanced, not simple and polemical. The purpose of the argument is to explain to readers why the author—through the course of his or her in-depth study—has arrived at a somewhat surprising point. On that basis, it has to consider plausible counterarguments and contradictory information. Academic argumentation exemplifies the popular adage about all writing: show, don’t tell. In crafting and carrying out the three-story thesis, you are showing your reader the work you have done.

The model of the organically structured paper and the three-story thesis framework explained here is the very foundation of the paper itself and the process that produces it. Your instructors assume that you have the self-motivation and organizational skills to pursue your analysis with both rigor and flexibility; that is, they envision you developing, testing, refining, and sometimes discarding your own ideas based on a clear-eyed and open-minded assessment of the evidence before you.

The original chapter, Constructing the Thesis and Argument—from the Ground Up by Amy Guptill, is from Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence

Discussion Questions

  • What writing “rules” were you taught in the past? This might be about essay structure, style, or something else. Which of these rules seem to be true in college writing? Which ones are not true in college?
  • In what contexts is the five-paragraph essay a useful structure? Why is it not helpful in other contexts—what’s the problem?
  • Despite their appeal to patients, robotic pets should not be used widely, since they cause more problems than they solve.
  • In recent years, robotic pets have been used in medical settings to help children and elderly patients feel emotionally supported and loved.
  • Shifting affection to robotic pets rather than live animals suggests a major change in empathy and humanity and could have long-term costs that have not been fully considered.
  • Television programming includes content that some find objectionable.
  • The percentage of children and youth who are overweight or obese has risen in recent decades.
  • First-year college students must learn how to independently manage their time.
  • The things we surround ourselves with symbolize who we are.
  • Find a scholarly article or book that is interesting to you. Focusing on the abstract and introduction, outline the first, second, and third stories of its thesis.
  • Find an example of a five-paragraph theme (online essay mills, your own high school work), produce an alternative three-story thesis, and outline an organically structured paper to carry that thesis out.

Additional Resources

  • The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers an excellent, readable rundown on the five-paragraph theme, why most college writing assignments want you to go beyond it, and those times when the simpler structure is actually a better choice.
  • There are many useful websites that describe good thesis statements and provide examples. Those from the writing centers at Hamilton College  and Purdue University are especially helpful.

Works Cited

Holmes, Oliver Wendell. The Poet at the Breakfast-Table: His Talks with His Fellow-Boarders and the Reader. James R. Osgood, 1872.

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Pantheon, 1994.

Media Attributions

  • 12.1 five-paragraph theme © Amy Guptill is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike) license
  • 12.2 organic college paper © Amy Guptill is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike) license

Constructing the Thesis and Argument from the Ground Up Copyright © 2022 by Amy Guptill; Liz Delf; Rob Drummond; and Kristy Kelly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

  • Writing Worksheets and Other Writing Resources
  • Thesis, Analysis, & Structure

Suggestions for Developing Argumentative Essays

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technique dissertation argument

1. Select an arguable topic, preferably one which interests, puzzles, or appeals to you.

Make sure your topic is neither too broad--something which warrants a dissertation--nor too limited. Decide what your goals are for the paper. What is your purpose? What opinion, view, or idea do you want to prove? Try to articulate your purpose clearly  before  you begin writing. If you cannot state your purpose clearly, try to freewrite about your topic.

2. Take a position on your topic, and form a thesis statement.

Your thesis must be arguable; it must assert or deny something about your topic. To be arguable, a thesis must have some probability of being true. It should not, however, be generally accepted as true; it must be a statement with which people may disagree. Keep in mind that a thesis contains both an observation and an opinion:

A good way to test the strength of your thesis is to see if it yields a strong antithesis.

Common thesis pitfalls:

  • A thesis expressed as a fragment.
  • A thesis which is too broad.
  • A thesis worded as a question. (Usually the answer to the question yields the thesis)
  • A thesis which includes extraneous information.
  • A thesis which begins with I think or in my opinion.
  • A thesis which deals with a stale or trite issue.
  • A thesis which contains words which lead to faulty generalizations (all, none, always, only, everyone, etc.)

Thesis writing tips:

  • A thesis evolves as you work with your topic. Brainstorm, research, talk, and think about your topic before settling on a thesis. If you are having trouble formulating a thesis, begin freewriting about your topic. Your freewrite may suggest a workable thesis.
  • During the writing process, consider your thesis a  working thesis  and be willing to modify and re-focus it as you draft and revise your paper.
  • Copy your working thesis on an index card and keep it in front of you as you research and write. Having your thesis in plain view may help focus your writing.

3. Consider your audience.

Plan your paper with a specific audience in mind. Who are your readers? Are they a definable group--disinterested observers, opponents of your point of view, etc.? Perhaps you are writing to your classmates. Ask your professor or GSI who you should consider your target audience. If you are not certain of your audience, direct your argument to a general audience.

4. Present clear and convincing evidence.

Strong essays consist of  reasons  supported by  evidence .  Reasons  can be thought of as the main points supporting your claim or thesis. Often they are the answers to the question, "Why do you make that claim?" An easy way to think of  reasons  is to see them as "because phrases." In order to validate your reasons and make your argument successful, support your reasons with ample evidence.

The St. Martin's Guide to Writing  (Axelrod & Cooper, 2nd ed., New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988) lists the following forms of evidence:

  • authorities
  • textual evidence

For most college papers, you will include evidence you have gathered from various sources and texts. Make sure you document your evidence properly. When using evidence, make sure you (1) introduce it properly, and (2) explain its significance. Do not assume that your evidence will speak for itself--that your readers will glean from your evidence that which you want them to glean. Explain the importance of each piece of evidence-- how  it elucidates or supports your point,  why  it is significant. Build evidence into your text, and use it strategically to prove your points.

In addition to using evidence, thoughtful writers anticipate their readers'  counterarguments  Counterarguments include objections, alternatives, challenges, or questions to your argument. Imagine readers responding to your argument as it unfolds. How might they react? A savvy writer will anticipate and address counterarguments. A writer can address counterarguments by  acknowledging ,  accommodating , and/or  refuting  them.

5. Draft your essay.

As is the case with any piece of writing, you should take your argumentative essay through multiple drafts. When writing and revising your drafts, make sure you:

  • provide ample  evidence , presented logically and fairly
  • deal with the  opposing point of view
  • pay particular attention to the organization of your essay. Make sure its structure suits your topic and audience
  • address and correct any  fallacies  of logic
  • include proper  transitions  to allow your reader to follow your argument

6. Edit your draft.

After you have written a developed draft, take off your writer's hat and put on your reader's hat. Evaluate your essay carefully and critically. Exchange a draft of your essay with classmates to get their feedback. Carefully revise your draft based on your assessment of it and suggestions from your peers. For self-assessment and peer response to your draft, you may want to use a peer editing sheet. A peer editing sheet will guide you and your peers by asking specific questions about your text (i.e., What is the thesis of this essay? Is it arguable? Does the writer include ample evidence? Is the structure suitable for the topic and the audience?).

You may also want to avail yourself of the Writing  Drop-In Tutoring  or  By-Appointment Tutoring  at the  Student Learning Center .

Luisa Giulianetti 
Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©1996 UC Regents

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 3 strong argumentative essay examples, analyzed.

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Need to defend your opinion on an issue? Argumentative essays are one of the most popular types of essays you’ll write in school. They combine persuasive arguments with fact-based research, and, when done well, can be powerful tools for making someone agree with your point of view. If you’re struggling to write an argumentative essay or just want to learn more about them, seeing examples can be a big help.

After giving an overview of this type of essay, we provide three argumentative essay examples. After each essay, we explain in-depth how the essay was structured, what worked, and where the essay could be improved. We end with tips for making your own argumentative essay as strong as possible.

What Is an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is an essay that uses evidence and facts to support the claim it’s making. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to agree with the argument being made.

A good argumentative essay will use facts and evidence to support the argument, rather than just the author’s thoughts and opinions. For example, say you wanted to write an argumentative essay stating that Charleston, SC is a great destination for families. You couldn’t just say that it’s a great place because you took your family there and enjoyed it. For it to be an argumentative essay, you need to have facts and data to support your argument, such as the number of child-friendly attractions in Charleston, special deals you can get with kids, and surveys of people who visited Charleston as a family and enjoyed it. The first argument is based entirely on feelings, whereas the second is based on evidence that can be proven.

The standard five paragraph format is common, but not required, for argumentative essays. These essays typically follow one of two formats: the Toulmin model or the Rogerian model.

  • The Toulmin model is the most common. It begins with an introduction, follows with a thesis/claim, and gives data and evidence to support that claim. This style of essay also includes rebuttals of counterarguments.
  • The Rogerian model analyzes two sides of an argument and reaches a conclusion after weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each.

3 Good Argumentative Essay Examples + Analysis

Below are three examples of argumentative essays, written by yours truly in my school days, as well as analysis of what each did well and where it could be improved.

Argumentative Essay Example 1

Proponents of this idea state that it will save local cities and towns money because libraries are expensive to maintain. They also believe it will encourage more people to read because they won’t have to travel to a library to get a book; they can simply click on what they want to read and read it from wherever they are. They could also access more materials because libraries won’t have to buy physical copies of books; they can simply rent out as many digital copies as they need.

However, it would be a serious mistake to replace libraries with tablets. First, digital books and resources are associated with less learning and more problems than print resources. A study done on tablet vs book reading found that people read 20-30% slower on tablets, retain 20% less information, and understand 10% less of what they read compared to people who read the same information in print. Additionally, staring too long at a screen has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including blurred vision, dizziness, dry eyes, headaches, and eye strain, at much higher instances than reading print does. People who use tablets and mobile devices excessively also have a higher incidence of more serious health issues such as fibromyalgia, shoulder and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and muscle strain. I know that whenever I read from my e-reader for too long, my eyes begin to feel tired and my neck hurts. We should not add to these problems by giving people, especially young people, more reasons to look at screens.

Second, it is incredibly narrow-minded to assume that the only service libraries offer is book lending. Libraries have a multitude of benefits, and many are only available if the library has a physical location. Some of these benefits include acting as a quiet study space, giving people a way to converse with their neighbors, holding classes on a variety of topics, providing jobs, answering patron questions, and keeping the community connected. One neighborhood found that, after a local library instituted community events such as play times for toddlers and parents, job fairs for teenagers, and meeting spaces for senior citizens, over a third of residents reported feeling more connected to their community. Similarly, a Pew survey conducted in 2015 found that nearly two-thirds of American adults feel that closing their local library would have a major impact on their community. People see libraries as a way to connect with others and get their questions answered, benefits tablets can’t offer nearly as well or as easily.

While replacing libraries with tablets may seem like a simple solution, it would encourage people to spend even more time looking at digital screens, despite the myriad issues surrounding them. It would also end access to many of the benefits of libraries that people have come to rely on. In many areas, libraries are such an important part of the community network that they could never be replaced by a simple object.

The author begins by giving an overview of the counter-argument, then the thesis appears as the first sentence in the third paragraph. The essay then spends the rest of the paper dismantling the counter argument and showing why readers should believe the other side.

What this essay does well:

  • Although it’s a bit unusual to have the thesis appear fairly far into the essay, it works because, once the thesis is stated, the rest of the essay focuses on supporting it since the counter-argument has already been discussed earlier in the paper.
  • This essay includes numerous facts and cites studies to support its case. By having specific data to rely on, the author’s argument is stronger and readers will be more inclined to agree with it.
  • For every argument the other side makes, the author makes sure to refute it and follow up with why her opinion is the stronger one. In order to make a strong argument, it’s important to dismantle the other side, which this essay does this by making the author's view appear stronger.
  • This is a shorter paper, and if it needed to be expanded to meet length requirements, it could include more examples and go more into depth with them, such as by explaining specific cases where people benefited from local libraries.
  • Additionally, while the paper uses lots of data, the author also mentions their own experience with using tablets. This should be removed since argumentative essays focus on facts and data to support an argument, not the author’s own opinion or experiences. Replacing that with more data on health issues associated with screen time would strengthen the essay.
  • Some of the points made aren't completely accurate , particularly the one about digital books being cheaper. It actually often costs a library more money to rent out numerous digital copies of a book compared to buying a single physical copy. Make sure in your own essay you thoroughly research each of the points and rebuttals you make, otherwise you'll look like you don't know the issue that well.


Argumentative Essay Example 2

There are multiple drugs available to treat malaria, and many of them work well and save lives, but malaria eradication programs that focus too much on them and not enough on prevention haven’t seen long-term success in Sub-Saharan Africa. A major program to combat malaria was WHO’s Global Malaria Eradication Programme. Started in 1955, it had a goal of eliminating malaria in Africa within the next ten years. Based upon previously successful programs in Brazil and the United States, the program focused mainly on vector control. This included widely distributing chloroquine and spraying large amounts of DDT. More than one billion dollars was spent trying to abolish malaria. However, the program suffered from many problems and in 1969, WHO was forced to admit that the program had not succeeded in eradicating malaria. The number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa who contracted malaria as well as the number of malaria deaths had actually increased over 10% during the time the program was active.

One of the major reasons for the failure of the project was that it set uniform strategies and policies. By failing to consider variations between governments, geography, and infrastructure, the program was not nearly as successful as it could have been. Sub-Saharan Africa has neither the money nor the infrastructure to support such an elaborate program, and it couldn’t be run the way it was meant to. Most African countries don't have the resources to send all their people to doctors and get shots, nor can they afford to clear wetlands or other malaria prone areas. The continent’s spending per person for eradicating malaria was just a quarter of what Brazil spent. Sub-Saharan Africa simply can’t rely on a plan that requires more money, infrastructure, and expertise than they have to spare.

Additionally, the widespread use of chloroquine has created drug resistant parasites which are now plaguing Sub-Saharan Africa. Because chloroquine was used widely but inconsistently, mosquitoes developed resistance, and chloroquine is now nearly completely ineffective in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 95% of mosquitoes resistant to it. As a result, newer, more expensive drugs need to be used to prevent and treat malaria, which further drives up the cost of malaria treatment for a region that can ill afford it.

Instead of developing plans to treat malaria after the infection has incurred, programs should focus on preventing infection from occurring in the first place. Not only is this plan cheaper and more effective, reducing the number of people who contract malaria also reduces loss of work/school days which can further bring down the productivity of the region.

One of the cheapest and most effective ways of preventing malaria is to implement insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs).  These nets provide a protective barrier around the person or people using them. While untreated bed nets are still helpful, those treated with insecticides are much more useful because they stop mosquitoes from biting people through the nets, and they help reduce mosquito populations in a community, thus helping people who don’t even own bed nets.  Bed nets are also very effective because most mosquito bites occur while the person is sleeping, so bed nets would be able to drastically reduce the number of transmissions during the night. In fact, transmission of malaria can be reduced by as much as 90% in areas where the use of ITNs is widespread. Because money is so scarce in Sub-Saharan Africa, the low cost is a great benefit and a major reason why the program is so successful. Bed nets cost roughly 2 USD to make, last several years, and can protect two adults. Studies have shown that, for every 100-1000 more nets are being used, one less child dies of malaria. With an estimated 300 million people in Africa not being protected by mosquito nets, there’s the potential to save three million lives by spending just a few dollars per person.

Reducing the number of people who contract malaria would also reduce poverty levels in Africa significantly, thus improving other aspects of society like education levels and the economy. Vector control is more effective than treatment strategies because it means fewer people are getting sick. When fewer people get sick, the working population is stronger as a whole because people are not put out of work from malaria, nor are they caring for sick relatives. Malaria-afflicted families can typically only harvest 40% of the crops that healthy families can harvest. Additionally, a family with members who have malaria spends roughly a quarter of its income treatment, not including the loss of work they also must deal with due to the illness. It’s estimated that malaria costs Africa 12 billion USD in lost income every year. A strong working population creates a stronger economy, which Sub-Saharan Africa is in desperate need of.  

This essay begins with an introduction, which ends with the thesis (that malaria eradication plans in Sub-Saharan Africa should focus on prevention rather than treatment). The first part of the essay lays out why the counter argument (treatment rather than prevention) is not as effective, and the second part of the essay focuses on why prevention of malaria is the better path to take.

  • The thesis appears early, is stated clearly, and is supported throughout the rest of the essay. This makes the argument clear for readers to understand and follow throughout the essay.
  • There’s lots of solid research in this essay, including specific programs that were conducted and how successful they were, as well as specific data mentioned throughout. This evidence helps strengthen the author’s argument.
  • The author makes a case for using expanding bed net use over waiting until malaria occurs and beginning treatment, but not much of a plan is given for how the bed nets would be distributed or how to ensure they’re being used properly. By going more into detail of what she believes should be done, the author would be making a stronger argument.
  • The introduction of the essay does a good job of laying out the seriousness of the problem, but the conclusion is short and abrupt. Expanding it into its own paragraph would give the author a final way to convince readers of her side of the argument.


Argumentative Essay Example 3

There are many ways payments could work. They could be in the form of a free-market approach, where athletes are able to earn whatever the market is willing to pay them, it could be a set amount of money per athlete, or student athletes could earn income from endorsements, autographs, and control of their likeness, similar to the way top Olympians earn money.

Proponents of the idea believe that, because college athletes are the ones who are training, participating in games, and bringing in audiences, they should receive some sort of compensation for their work. If there were no college athletes, the NCAA wouldn’t exist, college coaches wouldn’t receive there (sometimes very high) salaries, and brands like Nike couldn’t profit from college sports. In fact, the NCAA brings in roughly $1 billion in revenue a year, but college athletes don’t receive any of that money in the form of a paycheck. Additionally, people who believe college athletes should be paid state that paying college athletes will actually encourage them to remain in college longer and not turn pro as quickly, either by giving them a way to begin earning money in college or requiring them to sign a contract stating they’ll stay at the university for a certain number of years while making an agreed-upon salary.  

Supporters of this idea point to Zion Williamson, the Duke basketball superstar, who, during his freshman year, sustained a serious knee injury. Many argued that, even if he enjoyed playing for Duke, it wasn’t worth risking another injury and ending his professional career before it even began for a program that wasn’t paying him. Williamson seems to have agreed with them and declared his eligibility for the NCAA draft later that year. If he was being paid, he may have stayed at Duke longer. In fact, roughly a third of student athletes surveyed stated that receiving a salary while in college would make them “strongly consider” remaining collegiate athletes longer before turning pro.

Paying athletes could also stop the recruitment scandals that have plagued the NCAA. In 2018, the NCAA stripped the University of Louisville's men's basketball team of its 2013 national championship title because it was discovered coaches were using sex workers to entice recruits to join the team. There have been dozens of other recruitment scandals where college athletes and recruits have been bribed with anything from having their grades changed, to getting free cars, to being straight out bribed. By paying college athletes and putting their salaries out in the open, the NCAA could end the illegal and underhanded ways some schools and coaches try to entice athletes to join.

People who argue against the idea of paying college athletes believe the practice could be disastrous for college sports. By paying athletes, they argue, they’d turn college sports into a bidding war, where only the richest schools could afford top athletes, and the majority of schools would be shut out from developing a talented team (though some argue this already happens because the best players often go to the most established college sports programs, who typically pay their coaches millions of dollars per year). It could also ruin the tight camaraderie of many college teams if players become jealous that certain teammates are making more money than they are.

They also argue that paying college athletes actually means only a small fraction would make significant money. Out of the 350 Division I athletic departments, fewer than a dozen earn any money. Nearly all the money the NCAA makes comes from men’s football and basketball, so paying college athletes would make a small group of men--who likely will be signed to pro teams and begin making millions immediately out of college--rich at the expense of other players.

Those against paying college athletes also believe that the athletes are receiving enough benefits already. The top athletes already receive scholarships that are worth tens of thousands per year, they receive free food/housing/textbooks, have access to top medical care if they are injured, receive top coaching, get travel perks and free gear, and can use their time in college as a way to capture the attention of professional recruiters. No other college students receive anywhere near as much from their schools.

People on this side also point out that, while the NCAA brings in a massive amount of money each year, it is still a non-profit organization. How? Because over 95% of those profits are redistributed to its members’ institutions in the form of scholarships, grants, conferences, support for Division II and Division III teams, and educational programs. Taking away a significant part of that revenue would hurt smaller programs that rely on that money to keep running.

While both sides have good points, it’s clear that the negatives of paying college athletes far outweigh the positives. College athletes spend a significant amount of time and energy playing for their school, but they are compensated for it by the scholarships and perks they receive. Adding a salary to that would result in a college athletic system where only a small handful of athletes (those likely to become millionaires in the professional leagues) are paid by a handful of schools who enter bidding wars to recruit them, while the majority of student athletics and college athletic programs suffer or even shut down for lack of money. Continuing to offer the current level of benefits to student athletes makes it possible for as many people to benefit from and enjoy college sports as possible.

This argumentative essay follows the Rogerian model. It discusses each side, first laying out multiple reasons people believe student athletes should be paid, then discussing reasons why the athletes shouldn’t be paid. It ends by stating that college athletes shouldn’t be paid by arguing that paying them would destroy college athletics programs and cause them to have many of the issues professional sports leagues have.

  • Both sides of the argument are well developed, with multiple reasons why people agree with each side. It allows readers to get a full view of the argument and its nuances.
  • Certain statements on both sides are directly rebuffed in order to show where the strengths and weaknesses of each side lie and give a more complete and sophisticated look at the argument.
  • Using the Rogerian model can be tricky because oftentimes you don’t explicitly state your argument until the end of the paper. Here, the thesis doesn’t appear until the first sentence of the final paragraph. That doesn’t give readers a lot of time to be convinced that your argument is the right one, compared to a paper where the thesis is stated in the beginning and then supported throughout the paper. This paper could be strengthened if the final paragraph was expanded to more fully explain why the author supports the view, or if the paper had made it clearer that paying athletes was the weaker argument throughout.


3 Tips for Writing a Good Argumentative Essay

Now that you’ve seen examples of what good argumentative essay samples look like, follow these three tips when crafting your own essay.

#1: Make Your Thesis Crystal Clear

The thesis is the key to your argumentative essay; if it isn’t clear or readers can’t find it easily, your entire essay will be weak as a result. Always make sure that your thesis statement is easy to find. The typical spot for it is the final sentence of the introduction paragraph, but if it doesn’t fit in that spot for your essay, try to at least put it as the first or last sentence of a different paragraph so it stands out more.

Also make sure that your thesis makes clear what side of the argument you’re on. After you’ve written it, it’s a great idea to show your thesis to a couple different people--classmates are great for this. Just by reading your thesis they should be able to understand what point you’ll be trying to make with the rest of your essay.

#2: Show Why the Other Side Is Weak

When writing your essay, you may be tempted to ignore the other side of the argument and just focus on your side, but don’t do this. The best argumentative essays really tear apart the other side to show why readers shouldn’t believe it. Before you begin writing your essay, research what the other side believes, and what their strongest points are. Then, in your essay, be sure to mention each of these and use evidence to explain why they’re incorrect/weak arguments. That’ll make your essay much more effective than if you only focused on your side of the argument.

#3: Use Evidence to Support Your Side

Remember, an essay can’t be an argumentative essay if it doesn’t support its argument with evidence. For every point you make, make sure you have facts to back it up. Some examples are previous studies done on the topic, surveys of large groups of people, data points, etc. There should be lots of numbers in your argumentative essay that support your side of the argument. This will make your essay much stronger compared to only relying on your own opinions to support your argument.

Summary: Argumentative Essay Sample

Argumentative essays are persuasive essays that use facts and evidence to support their side of the argument. Most argumentative essays follow either the Toulmin model or the Rogerian model. By reading good argumentative essay examples, you can learn how to develop your essay and provide enough support to make readers agree with your opinion. When writing your essay, remember to always make your thesis clear, show where the other side is weak, and back up your opinion with data and evidence.

What's Next?

Do you need to write an argumentative essay as well? Check out our guide on the best argumentative essay topics for ideas!

You'll probably also need to write research papers for school. We've got you covered with 113 potential topics for research papers.

Your college admissions essay may end up being one of the most important essays you write. Follow our step-by-step guide on writing a personal statement to have an essay that'll impress colleges.

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Paragraph Organization & Flow

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This vidcast talks about major components of paragraph-level writing such as unity, coherence, and development. Solid, clear paragraphs that are well-connected create a foundation for an argument and contribute to what writers often call "flow." The handouts on patterns of paragraph organization, flow in scholarly writing, and transition words examine various aspects of a document that contribute to a sense of flow and share detailed information about patterns of paragraph organization. They should be used in conjunction with this vidcast. 

Note: Closed-captioning and a full transcript are available for this vidcast. 

Patterns of Paragraph Organization

There is no one perfect way to organize your paragraphs. However, depending on the genre and size of the document you're working on, there are a number of logical ways to organize your text. Here you'll find a number of possible options. Note that while this resource talks specifically about writing a rhetorical analysis, the information is applicable beyond this genre. 

Flow in Scholarly Writing (PDF)

Flow in writing refers to how easily readers move past the text itself and into a reading experience where they are connecting with the ideas presented within the text. This handout talks about the notion of flow and explains what well-flowing writing looks like at the sentence, paragraph, and textual levels.  

Transition Words & Devices

Good transitions can connect paragraphs and turn disconnected writing into a unified whole. Instead of treating paragraphs as separate ideas, transitions can help readers understand how paragraphs work together, reference one another, and build to a larger point. The key to producing good transitions is highlighting connections between corresponding paragraphs. This resource offers  a list of some common transitional devices.

When you write an academic essay, you make an argument: you propose a thesis and offer some reasoning, using evidence, that suggests why the thesis is true. When you counter-argue, you consider a possible argument  against  your thesis or some aspect of your reasoning. This is a good way to test your ideas when drafting, while you still have time to revise them. And in the finished essay, it can be a persuasive and (in both senses of the word) disarming tactic. It allows you to anticipate doubts and pre-empt objections that a skeptical reader might have; it presents you as the kind of person who weighs alternatives before arguing for one, who confronts difficulties instead of sweeping them under the rug, who is more interested in discovering the truth than winning a point.

Not every objection is worth entertaining, of course, and you shouldn't include one just to include one. But some imagining of other views, or of resistance to one's own, occurs in most good essays. And instructors are glad to encounter counterargument in student papers, even if they haven't specifically asked for it.

The Turn Against

Counterargument in an essay has two stages: you turn against your argument to challenge it and then you turn back to re-affirm it. You first imagine a skeptical reader, or cite an actual source, who might resist your argument by pointing out

  • a problem with your demonstration, e.g., that a different conclusion could be drawn from the same facts, a key assumption is unwarranted, a key term is used unfairly, certain evidence is ignored or played down;
  • one or more disadvantages or practical drawbacks to what you propose;
  • an alternative explanation or proposal that makes more sense.

You introduce this turn against with a phrase like  One might object here that...  or  It might seem that...  or  It's true that...  or  Admittedly,...  or  Of course,...  or with an anticipated challenging question:  But how...?  or  But why...?  or  But isn't this just...?  or  But if this is so, what about...?  Then you state the case against yourself as briefly but as clearly and forcefully as you can, pointing to evidence where possible. (An obviously feeble or perfunctory counterargument does more harm than good.)

The Turn Back

Your return to your own argument—which you announce with a  but, yet, however, nevertheless or still —must likewise involve careful reasoning, not a flippant (or nervous) dismissal. In reasoning about the proposed counterargument, you may

  • refute it, showing why it is mistaken—an apparent but not real problem;
  • acknowledge its validity or plausibility, but suggest why on balance it's relatively less important or less likely than what you propose, and thus doesn't overturn it;
  • concede its force and complicate your idea accordingly—restate your thesis in a more exact, qualified, or nuanced way that takes account of the objection, or start a new section in which you consider your topic in light of it. This will work if the counterargument concerns only an aspect of your argument; if it undermines your whole case, you need a new thesis.

Where to Put a Counterargument

Counterargument can appear anywhere in the essay, but it most commonly appears

  • as part of your introduction—before you propose your thesis—where the existence of a different view is the motive for your essay, the reason it needs writing;
  • as a section or paragraph just after your introduction, in which you lay out the expected reaction or standard position before turning away to develop your own;
  • as a quick move within a paragraph, where you imagine a counterargument not to your main idea but to the sub-idea that the paragraph is arguing or is about to argue;
  • as a section or paragraph just before the conclusion of your essay, in which you imagine what someone might object to what you have argued.

But watch that you don't overdo it. A turn into counterargument here and there will sharpen and energize your essay, but too many such turns will have the reverse effect by obscuring your main idea or suggesting that you're ambivalent.

Counterargument in Pre-Writing and Revising

Good thinking constantly questions itself, as Socrates observed long ago. But at some point in the process of composing an essay, you need to switch off the questioning in your head and make a case. Having such an inner conversation during the drafting stage, however, can help you settle on a case worth making. As you consider possible theses and begin to work on your draft, ask yourself how an intelligent person might plausibly disagree with you or see matters differently. When you can imagine an intelligent disagreement, you have an arguable idea.

And, of course, the disagreeing reader doesn't need to be in your head: if, as you're starting work on an essay, you ask a few people around you what  they  think of topic X (or of your idea about X) and keep alert for uncongenial remarks in class discussion and in assigned readings, you'll encounter a useful disagreement somewhere. Awareness of this disagreement, however you use it in your essay, will force you to sharpen your own thinking as you compose. If you come to find the counterargument truer than your thesis, consider making  it  your thesis and turning your original thesis into a counterargument. If you manage to draft an essay  without  imagining a counterargument, make yourself imagine one before you revise and see if you can integrate it.

Gordon Harvey (adapted from The Academic Essay: A Brief Anatomy), for the Writing Center at Harvard University

Cel Welch wins prestigious Joukowsky Dissertation Award for groundbreaking advances in diagnostic engineering

The Joukowsky dissertation award in the Life Sciences goes to Cel Welch, who completed their Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering this spring. Through their dissertation, titled Novel Devices, Physical Mechanisms, and Analytical Techniques for Use in Next Generation Cellular Diagnostics, Welch developed novel electrical and acoustic methods to process tissue into single cells for direct sequencing.

Cel Welch headshot

The bulk of Welch’s thesis is focused on electronic and microfluidic devices for cellular manipulation and enrichment, as well as cellular biosensors. Welch also developed a mathematical model and invented two new physical mechanisms for expedited, enzyme-free tissue dissociation. Finally, Welch concluded with additional work using artificial intelligence and machine learning-based cellular diagnostics for cancer, focusing on cervical cancer diagnosis. Welch worked with a multidisciplinary team to create two separate models, as well as a publicly accessible database that will be instrumental in advancing the field by creating a touchstone resource. 

Welch has an impressive portfolio of first-author scientific publications in leading journals, patents, conference proceedings and other contributions. Each of the 13 chapters of their dissertation is a first-author scientific paper that is either already published, under review, or in revision. Welch also submitted five patents from their thesis work. One of these patents was a finalist in the Engineering & Technology Innovation Awards, the largest global recognition for engineering inventors, for the Most Innovative Solution for Digital Health and Social Care.

Welch has garnered numerous recognitions both inside and outside of academia. At Brown, they have been awarded the Graduate Contribution to Community Life Award, School of Engineering Outstanding Thesis Award, and Biomedical Innovations to Impact Grant. Internationally, Welch has received recognition through the  Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science, STAT Wunderkinds, Chemical Abstracts Service Future Leaders,  and the  Institute of Engineering and Technology 95 Inspiring Engineers and Technologists .

Welch shares, “I am deeply moved to have my work, which I care so much about, recognized by a community that has been so instrumental in launching my scientific journey. I have my advisor to thank, as well as the other professors who have served as my mentors and the students who have served as my collaborators and mentees.” 

In February, Welch began a position at Stanford University’s Department of Chemical Engineering as a Baker and NIH NHLBI T32 Postdoctoral Fellow in Zhenan Bao’s Lab. They are currently working on creating a flexible electronic pacemaker to integrate with a fully 3-D printed artificial heart for the ARPA-H HEART project.

Brown is proud to recognize and honor Welch’s dedication to science and engineering with the Joukowsky dissertation award, as their profound scientific journey and strong efforts to promote inclusivity in engineering thus far is indicative of the incredible impact they will continue to make in the field. 

Doctoral candidates and graduates, Mariajosé Rodríguez-Pliego, Cel Welch, Laura Heuman Lark, and Giulia Buccione were selected for the Graduate School's  Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award . Prizes are awarded at the Doctoral Ceremony on May 26, 2024.


  1. How To Make Strong Arguments In A Dissertation

    Sound logic. Ensuring that your arguments are underpinned by firm logic is… logical. You want to convince your audience, so you need to make sense when building and stating your argument. When making your argument, select your line of reasoning: deductive or inductive.

  2. Organizing Your Argument

    Three argumentative methods —the Toulmin Method, Classical Method, and Rogerian Method— give guidance for how to organize the points in an argument. Note that these are only three of the most popular models for organizing an argument. Alternatives exist. Be sure to consult your instructor and/or defer to your assignment's directions if ...

  3. How to Write an Argumentative Essay

    The body: Developing your argument. The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you'll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true. In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs.

  4. Planning your dissertation: Constructing an argument

    Identifying an argument. Ultimately, you are aiming to produce a series of propositions in relation to your material: usually a main proposition (thesis or argument) with some sub-propositions. Asking yourself the following questions may help you think critically about your material and identify some potential arguments:

  5. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  6. Academic Guides: Writing a Paper: Academic Arguments

    An academic argument is your stance, your claim, or your take on your topic. This stance, claim, or take is your contribution to the current conversation on your topic and provides your readers with a position, perspective, and/or point of view on your topic. An academic argument is also based in the research, what we often call "evidence-based."

  7. Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument

    When you develop your argument, you are confirming your own position, and building your case for the readers. Use empirical evidence—facts and statistics—to support your claims. Appeal to your audience's rational and logical thinking. Argue your case from the authority of your evidence and research. Your list of strengths and weaknesses ...

  8. How to Write an Argumentative Essay

    Tips for Writing a Well-Written Argumentative Essay. Introduce your topic in a bold, direct, and engaging manner to captivate your readers and encourage them to keep reading. Provide sufficient evidence to justify your argument and convince readers to adopt this point of view. Consider, include, and fairly present all sides of the topic.

  9. Argument

    In order to succeed at this second step, though, you must have a particular point to argue. Arguments in academic writing are usually complex and take time to develop. Your argument will need to be more than a simple or obvious statement such as "Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect.". Such a statement might capture your initial ...

  10. LibGuides: Dissertation Preparation: Developing an Argument

    Developing an Argument. An important aspect running through your dissertation will be your argument for: why your interpretations and conclusions are reasonable. You will refer to the work of others as you make your argument. This may involve critiquing the work of established leaders in the field. While it is important to be respectful in the ...

  11. 10.2: Introduction to Argumentative Thesis Statements

    An academic argument asserts a claim and supports that claim with evidence. The goal of an argument is to convince readers that the writer's position is reasonable, valid, and worthy of consideration. Therefore, an argumentative thesis statement needs to be not only clear and focused, but also debatable, assertive, and reasoned.

  12. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  13. 12 Constructing the Thesis and Argument from the Ground Up

    A two-story thesis is usually considered competent, though some two-story theses are more intriguing and ambitious than others. A thoughtfully crafted and well-informed three-story thesis puts the author on a smooth path toward an excellent paper. Three-Story Theses and the Organically Structured Argument. The three-story thesis is a beautiful ...

  14. Suggestions for Developing Argumentative Essays

    Common thesis pitfalls: A thesis expressed as a fragment. A thesis which is too broad. A thesis worded as a question. (Usually the answer to the question yields the thesis) A thesis which includes extraneous information. A thesis which begins with I think or in my opinion. A thesis which deals with a stale or trite issue.

  15. Rhetorical Strategies

    There are three types of rhetorical appeals, or persuasive strategies, used in arguments to support claims and respond to opposing arguments. A good argument will generally use a combination of all three appeals to make its case. Logos. Logos or the appeal to reason relies on logic or reason. Logos often depends on the use of inductive or ...

  16. How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

    When you're writing a persuasive essay, you need more than just an opinion to make your voice heard. Even the strongest stance won't be compelling if it's not structured properly and reinforced with solid reasoning and evidence. Learn what elements every argumentative essay should include and how to structure it depending on your audience ...

  17. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  18. Argumentative Essay

    Techniques. When your professor asks you to write an argumentative essay, you'll often be given something specific to write about. For example, you may be asked to take a stand on an issue you have been discussing in class. Perhaps, in your education class, you would be asked to write about standardized testing in public schools.

  19. 3 Strong Argumentative Essay Examples, Analyzed

    Here, the thesis doesn't appear until the first sentence of the final paragraph. That doesn't give readers a lot of time to be convinced that your argument is the right one, compared to a paper where the thesis is stated in the beginning and then supported throughout the paper. This paper could be strengthened if the final paragraph was ...

  20. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

    A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience. A rhetorical analysis is structured similarly to other essays: an introduction presenting the thesis, a body analyzing ...

  21. Paragraph Organization & Flow

    Paragraph Organization & Flow. This vidcast talks about major components of paragraph-level writing such as unity, coherence, and development. Solid, clear paragraphs that are well-connected create a foundation for an argument and contribute to what writers often call "flow." The handouts on patterns of paragraph organization, flow in scholarly ...

  22. Counterargument

    Counterargument. When you write an academic essay, you make an argument: you propose a thesis and offer some reasoning, using evidence, that suggests why the thesis is true. When you counter-argue, you consider a possible argument against your thesis or some aspect of your reasoning. This is a good way to test your ideas when drafting, while ...

  23. Cel Welch wins prestigious Joukowsky Dissertation Award for

    The Joukowsky dissertation award in the Life Sciences goes to Cel Welch, who completed their Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering this spring. Through their dissertation, titled Novel Devices, Physical Mechanisms, and Analytical Techniques for Use in Next Generation Cellular Diagnostics, Welch developed novel electrical and acoustic methods to process tissue into single cells for direct sequencing.

  24. PDF A Student Guide for Academic Writing in University Transfer Courses

    This statement of what your paper is about is your THESIS statement. You need more than a rough idea If you arent clear about your position, your audience wont understand your argument. A thesis statement should be: Direct ~focussed : It should tell the reader exactly what you are setting out to prove.