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English 102: Argument and Research with Professor Williamson

"Argument and Research" focuses on analysis, sythesis and evaulation, logical thinking, the techniques of argument, writing about literature, and preparation of the documented essay.

In a Nutshell...

The argumentative essay is a specific type of writing in which a student chooses a topic (often a controversial topic), researches it extensively, and then uses the evidence gathered in their research process to establish their opinion or position on the topic in an essay designed to persuade others to share that opinion. The argumentative essay is typically composed of:

1.  A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.  Your thesis should be specific, accurate, and arguable.  A thesis statement that is not debatable (or that cannot be seen from at least two different and opposing perspectives) would make for a pretty pointless arugmentative essay. 

2.  Information that places your topic within a social and factual context.  You should provide background information geared toward your specific audience so that they can clearly understand your arguments and the importance of the issue you're exploring.  

3.  Your arguments, organized into body paragraphs that include evidential support.  These are the resons you offer to support and explain the position you take in your thesis statement.  Be sure to include clear and logical transistions between these paragraphs.

4.  Your opponents' arguments, or counter arguments and your response to them.  These are the objections that your opponents would raise against your arguments, and have to be addressed in order for your paper to be truly persuasive.  Responding to your opponents arguments and pointing out why they are invalid is as important as presenting your own!

5.  A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

The Thesis Statement

The thesis statement of an argumentative essay acts as a brief, explicit guide for your reader.  It is a one or two sentence summary of the point that you're trying to make in your paper and acts as the focus around which you will organize your entire essay, so it's important to get that statement nailed early on.  

Remember that the best thesis statement:

  1. Makes a claim or argument.  It is not a statement of fact and is more than a statement of opinion.
  2. Should come early in the paper and be easily identifiable.
  3. Introduces the reader to the topic of the paper AND identifies the specific arguments that will be used to support the writer's argument.  

"Widely ridiculed as escape reading, [Point the author will argue against] romance novels are important [Point the author will argue for] as a proving ground for many never-before-published writers and more significantly, as a showcase for strong heroines." [Evidence the author will offer in support of their argument]

Diagram Explained:

"In the sentence: Widely ridiculed as escape reading, romance novels are important as a proving ground for many never-before-published writers and, more significantly, as a showcase for strong heroines."

The point the author will argue against is: "Widely ridiculed as escape reading,

The point the author will argue for: "romance novels are important as a

The evidence the author will offer in support of his/her argument is: "proving ground for many never-before-published writers and, more significantly, as a  

More evidence the author will offer in support of his/her argument: "showcase for strong heroines."

Structure of the Argumentative essay

Chart showing the structure of the argumentative essay. See transcribed text below the image.

ARGUMENTATIVE - ONE side only

INTRO: 1. general statement (the hook) 2. elaboration or scope (can include a definition)

BODY:  Argument 1 (for or against): topic sentence plus support.  Argument 2 (for or against): topic sentence plus support.   Argument 3 (for or against): topic sentence plus support.

CONCLUSION (summary of position & ideas; link to action): 1. restate thesis statement and opinion 2. summarize ideas 3. closing comments; final thoughts.

Counter Arguments

Because the whole purpose of your argumentative essay is to persuade others to share your opinion, you should pay close attention to counter arguments.  It's not enough to simply say that your opponents are wrong.  You have to understand the opposing arguments so that you can find and point out the flaws in those arguments.  

Distinguishing Between Reasons and Conclusions

Making the logical connections between evidence (or reasons) and conclusions clear is very important. Listed below are some phrases that will help your reader differentiate between evidential statements and the conclusions that you draw from them.

   Conclusion Indicators           Reason Indicators
   
   therefore because
   so due to the fact that
   thus is based on
   which proves that is proved by
   which shows that is shown by
   from which it follows that which follows from
   consequently is a consequence of
   which leads to since
   which is why for

Guides and Info. on the Argumentative Essay