How To Write A Great Argumentative Essay
Sure, you’re a lover not a fighter. I am too. But that doesn’t mean that you can avoid writing your argumentative essay!
Since you have to write an argumentative essay, you might as well learn how to write it well, right?
I’ve said it time and time again—there’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page. Putting together an argumentative essay outline is the perfect way to turn your blank document into a ready-to-use template. All you have to do is fill in the blanks!
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you how to create an argumentative essay outline. At the end, I’ll give you a downloadable skeleton outline you can use to get started.
Structure of the Argumentative Essay OutlineIf you distill your argumentative essay outline down to its basics, you’ll find that it’s made of four main sections:
- Developing Your Argument
- Refuting Opponents’ Arguments
That’s not so bad! There’s really nothing to be afraid of.
Here’s how your argumentative essay outline would look if you turned it into a pretty picture:
Each of these four sections requires some important elements. Let’s break those down now.
Argumentative Essay Outline Section 1: Your Intro
Your introduction is where you lay the foundation for your impenetrable argument. It’s made up of a hook, background information, and a thesis statement.
1. Hook. Your first sentence is comprised of a “hook.” Don’t know what a hook is? A hook is a sentence that grabs your reader’s attention just like a good Jackie Chan movie grabs the attention of a martial arts fan.
Let’s say I’m writing an argumentative essay about why American people should start eating insects.
My hook could be, “For those interested in improving their diets and the environment, say ‘goodbye’ to eating chicken, fish, and beef and ‘hello’ to eating silk worms, crickets, and caterpillars.”
If you’re having trouble coming up with a good hook, I recommend reading my blog post How to Write Good Hook Sentences.
2. Background information. The next part of your intro is dedicated to offering some detailed background information on your topic.
Try answering the following questions:
What is the issue at hand? Who cares? Where is this issue prevalent? Why is it important?
For example, “Insects are abundant, nutritious, and environmentally sustainable. Currently, people in the United States shun the idea of eating insects as part of their diets, favoring instead less nutritious and environmentally destructive food options, such as beef and pork. The UN recently issued a statement calling for more world citizens to embrace the many benefits of eating insects.”
3. Thesis. Your thesis typically makes up the last sentence of your intro paragraph. This is where you clearly state your position on the topic and give a reason for your stance.
For example, “A diet of insects can help fix problems related to starvation, obesity, and climate change, and therefore, United States citizens should learn to rely on a variety of insects over chicken, beef, and fish as their main source of protein and nutrition.”
Notice the word “should” in my thesis statement? Using this word makes it clear I’m taking a stance on the argument.
You’ll also notice that my thesis statement sets up the three claims I’m going to expand on later: a diet of insects can help fix problems related to starvation, obesity, and climate change.
Here are even more example argumentative thesis statements.
Let’s talk about adding those claims to our argumentative essay outline now.
Argumentative Essay Outline Section 2: Developing Your Argument
Now that you have filled in the general points of your topic and outlined your stance in the introduction, it’s time to develop your argument.
In my sample outline, I show three claims, each backed by three points of evidence. Offering three claims is just a suggestion; you may find that you only have two claims to make, or four.
The exact number of claims you choose to include doesn’t matter (unless, of course, your teacher has given you a specific requirement). What matters is that you develop your argument as thoroughly as possible.
1. What is a claim? A claim is a statement you make to support your argument.
For example, “Bugs are highly nutritious and eating them can fix the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the United States.”
Great! So I’ve made my claim. But who’s going to believe me? This is where evidence comes into play.
2. What is evidence? For each claim you make, you need to provide supporting evidence. Evidence is factual information from reliable sources.
It is not personal knowledge or anecdotal.
For example, “Researchers at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States state that ‘Termites are rich in protein, fatty acids, and other micronutrients. Fried or dried termites contain 32–38 percent proteins.’“
My outline shows three pieces of evidence to support each claim, but you may find that each claim doesn’t necessarily have three pieces of evidence to back it. Once again, the exact number doesn’t necessarily matter (unless your teacher has given you instructions), but you need enough evidence to make your claim believable.
Once you have gathered your evidence to support your claims, it’s time to add the next important element of your argumentative essay outline: refuting your opponents’ arguments.
Let’s talk about that now.
Argumentative Essay Outline Section 3: Refuting Opponents’ Arguments
In this section, you state your opponents’ views and then offer a rebuttal.
For example, “Opponents of insect eating from the Beef Council of America say that it is too difficult and time consuming to catch crickets, so it is not easy to gather enough food for a meal, whereas a cow is large and contains a lot of meat for many meals.”
Oh diss! We know the Beef Council just wants us to keep eating McD’s hamburgers and skip the cricket soup. (By the way—I just made that up. The Beef Council did not say that. In your essay, make sure to use real facts.)
Now it’s time to set the opponents straight with a refutation that is full of hard evidence and that will bring them to their knees.
For example, “According to researchers Cerritos and Cano-Santana, the best time to harvest crickets is to catch them in the hour just before sunrise when they are least active. What’s more, it is easy to develop the infrastructure to farm crickets in a way that is more sustainable than cattle farming.”
Booyah! The Beef Council has been served (crickets).
Once you have refuted your opponents’ viewpoints, it’s time to sail to the finish line with your conclusion.
Argumentative Essay Outline Section 4: Conclusion
In your conclusion, you are going to accomplish two important tasks.
1. Restate the importance of your issue. Similar to what you did in your introduction, you want to restate why this topic is critical.
For example, “Simply by incorporating insects into their diets, U.S. citizens can improve the sustainability and nutrition of the American diet.”
2. Paint a picture of the world if your argument is (or is not) implemented. In the final part of your conclusion, make your audience think about the ramifications of your argument. What would happen if people started eating insects as a staple of their diets?
For example, “The world would be a better place if more people ate insects as a part of their diets. Fewer people would go hungry, more people would get the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients they need to live healthy lifestyles, and our planet would be relieved of the burden of an unsustainable food system.
Closing with a clear picture of the world as you would like it to be can leave your reader convinced that your argument is valid.
Download the Argumentative Essay Outline TemplateOnce you break it down, writing an argumentative essay outline isn’t that daunting.
Download this skeleton Argumentative Essay Outline to get started.
Before you go off into the sunset and use my outline template, make sure that you are following the guidelines specific to your course. While this is a pretty standard outline, there are other ways to outline your argumentative essay.
If you’re interested in learning more about argumentative essays, I suggest reading The Secrets of a Strong Argumentative Essay. Want even more knowledge? Check out this argumentative essay infographic!
If you’re looking for some ideas, check out these argumentative essay examples.
When you have your argumentative essay and outline ready to go, you can always have one of our awesome editors give it a second look.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
Starting Off With An Argumentation
In the early days of television, there was a show called “Dragnet.” It was a cop show featuring two detectives in the 50’s out to solve crime and keep the community safe. Today, it would be a bit laughable, but one phrase always sticks in my mind about this show. Whenever Detective Jack Webb was interviewing witnesses and they began to insert their opinions and emotions, he would always say, “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” And this really could be the mantra for an argumentative essay – you have to deal only with facts.
What an Argumentative Essay is and What It is Not
If you are struggling with trying to understand how to write an argumentative essay that will impress and get a good grade, you first have to understand what it is.
- It is a piece of writing where you get to give your opinion on an issue
- It is not a piece of writing where you get to go into an emotional tirade. We have plenty of that from crazy politicians.
- It is a piece of writing where you get to present facts that support your opinion
- It is not a piece of writing where you just spout your opinions and expect others to simply accept them
- It is a piece of writing where you do have to give the opposing side’s arguments too
- It is not a piece of writing where you can just dismiss the opposing side with personal insults and attacks – again, we get plenty of that from politicians.
By now, you should have figured out that an argumentative essay is easily defined. You take a stand on a controversial issue, you get the research done so that you have real facts in front of you, on both sides, and you write an essay that proves your opinion is the stronger one. If you don’t do this right, you are going to defeat your arguments, and other side “wins.” You don’t want to lose, do you?
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The Step-by-Step Process
Yes, you are waiting for your 10 killer tips, and they are coming. But first, let’s just take a quick look at the process for crafting an argumentative essay.
- Pick a Topic: You will never be at a loss for argumentative essay writing ideas. They are all around you – just turn on TV and watch one show on MSNBC and one on FOX cable. These pundits scream and yell about issues all the time – politics, climate change, evolution, gay rights, abortion, religion, etc. Choose one that interests you or “hits close to home.”
- Craft a Thesis Statement: You already have an opinion and that is your thesis statement – couldn’t be much simpler. But you may not know exactly why you have that opinion or how you can convince somebody else to agree with you. That’s for the next step.
- Do the Research: You won’t have any problem finding information on your topic. The challenge will be to use reliable sources that actually give factual information you can use. It is fine to read an editorial in a newspaper that has been written by someone who believes as you do, but then you will need to find one written by someone who disagrees, so that you can know that facts that the other side is presenting too.
- Make a List: Actually, make two lists, one for the evidence that supports your opinion and one for the evidence that supports the opposing opinion. Try to line them up.
- Choose 3 Strong Arguments: Pick the 3 strongest arguments that support your opinion and make sure you have the facts to back them up. Then, look at your opponent’s list and find those arguments that relate to yours. Look at the evidence for those arguments and see how your evidence can outweigh it.
- Structuring the Essay: It is usually acceptable to use a full paragraph on each of your 3 points, and then to provide one paragraph with the opposing side’s points. This gives your argument more weight, of course, but, in that paragraph, you can refer back to points you made in your argument to refute these.
- Your Introduction: This should be easy. You introduce your topic and make your thesis statement. We’ll talk about it in the “tips” so you can make it brilliant.
- Your Conclusion: Re-state your points and the belief that you have definitely “won” this argument.
Finally – the 10 Killer Tips
These should make writing you essay a bit easier and also a bit “crafty like a fox.”
- Only choose a topic you are passionate about – you’ll have more fun finding the facts and smashing the other side.
- No emotions on your part. Now, this does not mean that you can’t stir some emotions in your readers, but you have to do it subtly, by presenting facts that will make them respond emotionally. So, be sure you have some facts that will do that.
- Don’t slam the other side with dis-respectful terms such as “stupid,” “uninformed,” “evil,” or “crazy.” You may be able to show this with your evidence, but don’t call it out. Let the reader come to those conclusions.
- Try presenting the opposing side first. This will be really different and may impress you instructor – those “brownie points” never hurt.
- Don’t ever make up evidence – it’s too easy to check these days. If you can’t find strong enough evidence for one of your points, choose another point to use.
- Get a stunner of an opening. You are going for shock value here, or to get a strong emotional response. Here’s an example:
Suppose you are opposed to the continued cuts that are being made to the Food Stamp program – a program that is less than 1/10 of 1% of the total federal budget (that’s a pretty surprising statement in itself). You may want to start with a short anecdote about a family of 4, in which both parents are working minimum-wage jobs and yet don’t make enough to meet all of their expenses. They rely on food stamps to supplement their budget so they can feed their kids. Here’s another fact: 86% of the people on food stamps today are disabled veterans and civilians, unemployed veterans, enlisted servicemen with families to feed, and senior citizens. Another 12% are single working moms or working parents who don’t make enough. Any of these beginnings would be great to use.
- Cite your sources within your essay so the reader (your instructor) knows you used credible ones.
- Let the evidence tell your story, not your opinion statements.
- Find really respected people who agree with you and quote them. Did you know, for example, that the Department of Defense has produced a report that says income inequality and poverty present a national security threat?
- Get a friend to read the essay and tell you if s/he was persuaded by your argument.
Some Argumentative Essay Ideas
Some of the big issues are commonly taken by your classmates, and your instructor may get a bit bored reading the same thing over and. If you are really passionate about a less used topic, go for it. Here are a few that may be a bit more unique:
- Drug companies are suppressing important information about natural substances that may prevent and/or cure some diseases.
- The average campaign for Senator is $2-3 million; for President it is close to $500 million. We need to get money out of politics.
- We have, in the last 50 years, eliminated half the animal species on this planet. We have to put severe restrictions in place world-wide.
- General education requirements in college are “dinosaurs” and need to go.
You can probably think of others. The more unique, the better it will be received.
Don’t let an argumentative essay assignment intimidate you. Follow the steps outlined above, use the 10 tips to make it pop, and you’ll have a great experience and a great grade.