Writing an Argumentative Essay

So, you just receive a task to write an argumentative essay. Well, in that case, congratulations, because that’s the most thrilling type of essay, especially if done right. You read argumentative essays every day - on the news, blogs, and social media. So yeah, just in case you were wondering, you will use this knowledge in daily life.

The structure of a good argumentative essay

A powerful argumentative essay is composed of introduction, background, supporting paragraph, conclusions. Let’s take a look at DONTs for each section and try to understand the format.

CONS of writing an argumentative essay

Watery introductions. Let’s say; your topic is ‘Are standardized tests like SATs and ACTs?’.

The majority of students would make a huge mistake, starting their text somewhat like this: In my opinion, standardized tests like SATs and ACTs are not the most efficient way of evaluating one’s knowledge although this matter is, at no doubt, controversial.

This beginning immediately sends a message of an average essay where the author doesn’t have a strong point to make — granted, in some other types of essays you have to start the boring way. For the argumentative essay, however, it would be a death sentence - and it’s true for all topics, no exception.

Wikipedia-like background. Background IS NOT a list of facts and numbers. It’s also not a boring overview of last-year tendencies which is the most often made mistake. In an argumentative essay, you are free to pick facts to make your work emotional and exciting.

The thesis is not firm. Students don’t want to be criticized by a professor for making a radical point and they prefer to stay in a safe grey zone. On writing, it looks like this: After analyzing the background, it would be correct to question SATs and ACTs efficiency.

Questioning efficiency is not a winning position. Neither is ‘taking a look at both sides of this controversial question’. You need to find your ground and stand on it.

The argumentation lacks specificity. Sometimes students make a mistake thinking that the answer to the problem is obvious. Of course, ACTs and SATs are not efficient - what’s there to talk about it? They don’t prove a point, just list their (often subjective reasons).

Argumentation is a debate. You have to imagine yourself being a person with the opposite opinion and question every argument. That’s why students often argument better the topics they don’t agree with - every argument is subconsciously challenged and doubted, which leads to better research and explanation.

A conclusion is not decisive. Why have you put the reader through all the trouble if, in the end, we are exactly where we started? You owe your reader a specific conclusion. In our example, you could, for instance, say: A good educational system should be flexible and it starts with agile tests. ACTs and SATs absolutely do not satisfy this requirement and therefore, should be substituted by a better-adapted solution

How to write an argumentative essay step by step

Step #1 - Start your introduction with a hook. A surprising fact, a quote, or rare statistics will do the trick. For our SATs topic, a fun fact for a beginner would be: The SAT started in 1926 as a military IQ test.

You didn’t show your attitude yet but the fact itself already calls the relevance of such test into a question. We all know that IQ is not a relevant measure of knowledge - why should SAT be? The word ‘military’ adds to the spectrum of association - it’s not flexible and adaptable.

Step #2 - Select the facts that you will present in the background. Our military fact is a great starting point for that. We already discussed for what purposes SATs were initially designed and now it’s logical to keep the same direction.

Notice how it’s done in the New York Times article - they start with a personal story (also works as a hook) and keep adding facts in chronological order - from the origins of the test to the demonstration why it was comfortable for rich students.

Step #3 - Define where you stand. But not right away. Your introduction and background should aim for objectivity which means balancing negative facts about SATs that work in your favor with positive tendencies.

After you are done with the introduction and background, you need to finally spill the beans. Define a clear thesis. For instance, you can say that SATs and ACTs is an old-fashioned form of evaluation.

Step #4 - Spice your argumentation with facts and stories. Essay writing is storytelling, too. To make your story compelling, prove every point you make. We advise combining different templates in one essay: in one argument, tell a documented story, in another - use a one-sentence fact.

Look for stories in credible news sources. In your background, you already made the point about rich people profiting from the system. Let’s derive our argument from that.

You can say that SATs are supposed to equal all students but it’s not the case at all. Not only tutoring and preparation are all done for money (and not everyone can afford that) but also, monitoring the conditions in every center is a complicated task.

A proof - a story about rich kids having more time to finish the test on ABC news.


Before we see you off, let’s go through the main points, shall we?

An argumentative essay is different from other types of academic writing. Here you have more creative freedom - it’s more similar to articles in national magazines than to scientific research. Use this possibility and tell a compelling story.