There are many ways to write an argumentative essay.
In this post though, I’ve penned out a basic guide I’ve commonly taught my own students sitting for their General Paper or ‘O’-Level English papers. Has it been working? Yes, hence this post. However, do note that written below is merely a “template”. A template works only when filled with usable and logical content.
- Purpose: To set up and state one’s claim
- Structure: 1 paragraph
What background information, if any, do we need to know in order to understand your claim? The common way is to start off with a general statement introducing the topic at hand.
Make your introductory paragraph interesting. How can you draw your readers in? Dish out something controversial you’ve read in the news lately. Touch-upon a hot topic. A safe way I usually recommend my own students to adopt is to challenge their dissidents’ views first.
YOU MUST ALWAYS STATE YOUR STAND IN THE INTRODUCTIONS OF ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAYS, typically at the end of the paragraph. I cannot stress this enough. Some teachers claim that it’s fine if you don’t state your stand, provided you’ve listed out your points to be covered in your body paragraph since they somewhat hint your stand. I disagree. If the question asks you to agree or disagree, you should agree or disagree explictly. Hinting your stand with your points/thesis statements is simply not good enough. You will be starting off on a rocky ground. If you don’t state your stand, you are simply not answering the question. You can have fantastic body paragraphs and examples, but if you don’t answer the question, you are not meeting the very basic requirement of any question in the world– to answer it.
- Purpose: To convince readers/the examiners to adopt your stand
- Structure: min. 3 paragraphs, max. 4 paragraphs
Basic structure of each body paragraph: PEEL
Topic Sentence/ Point (P): What is one point or argument you can tell your readers that will help them better understand your claim/paper topic?
Evidence (E): Statistics? A particular news/event? Quote by a reputable individual? I usually recommend my students to go for citing news/events. Firstly, it’s easier to remember than statistics. Secondly, it is more impactful than quotes in making your point.
Explain Evidence (E): How should we read or interpret the evidence you are providing us? How does this evidence prove the point you are trying to make in this paragraph? Here is your best chance to explain your cited evidence to convince readers to adopt your stand. Yet, don’t be too draggy.
Link (L): End your paragraph with a concluding sentence that reasserts how the topic sentence of this paragraph helps up better understand and/or prove your paper’s overall claim. I also recommend that your link should draw back to the essay question.
- Purpose: To anticipate your reader’s objections; make yourself sound more objective and reasonable.What possible argument might your reader pose against your argument and/or some aspect of your reasoning? Insert one or more of those arguments here and refute them.
- Structure: Usually 1 paragraphs tops (given time constraints).
This paragraph should also assume a PEEL format. Do note, however, that this is not your paragraph. Meaning, this is your opponent’s paragraph, and your opponent’s time to shine. Hence, you don’t want to be too convincing here, if not you’re pushing your examiner to adopt your opponent’s stand instead. Be concise. Your opponent’s paragraph should ideally be shorter than your own paragraphs. Also, don’t raise evidences here that are too strong to refute later.
Also, an important aspect to note is that you should not contradict yourself ever. Hence, please phrase yourself carefully when writing your counter-paragraph.
Keywords: “It may seem like/as if…” / “It is almost as if…”
TURNING THE TABLES
This is very important. Very important. Have I captured your attention yet? Great, because it is indeed important:
To dish out your opponents’ views is one thing. It shows you can consider the other side of the coin. However, you can’t leave your examiner/readers hanging. Remember, the purpose of the essay is to convince your readers you adopt your stand. Hence, when you dish out your opponents’ potential arguments, you have to counter it with your own views.
While doing so, remember respond to your opponents’ views directly. Compare oranges with oranges, not apples with oranges. Try to overturn the evidences you raised earlier in your opponent’s paragraph. This is why I mentioned earlier that you should not raise examples that are too strong to refute in your counter-paragraph.
Keywords: “However, I argue that…” / “Yet, it is imperative/important to note that…”
- Purpose: Remind readers of your argument and supporting evidence + To illustrate to your readers that you have thought critically and analytically about this issue.
- Structure: Honestly, there’s no real fix structure for conclusions. I usually allow my students to free-hand this part if I deem them good enough writers. That being said, if you wrote fantastically in front and rush through this portion, you can still undermine your essay’s overall grade. Hence, aligned with the purpose of this entire post, below are some pointers:
Re-state your paper’s overall claim. However, DO NOT SIMPLE COPY AND PASTE WHAT IS WRITTEN IN YOUR INTRODUCTION. If your conclusion says almost the exact same thing as your introduction, it may indicate that you have not done enough critical thinking during the course of your essay (since you ended up right where you started).
Your conclusion should tell us why we should care about your paper. What is the significance of your claim? Why is it important to you as the writer or to me as the reader? What information should you or I take away from this?
Vivid, concrete language is as important in a conclusion as it is elsewhere– perhaps more essential, since the conclusion determines the reader’s final impression of your essay. Do not leave them with the impression that your argument was vague or unsure.
Leave an impactful and powerful conclusion that leaves your reader with a deep impression if possible.
This is merely a skeleton of what a basic argumentative essay should have. A deeper, chronological explanation of each section will come in future posts.
Like I always remind my students, templates exists to provide guidance. Other than what is essentially important (eg. stating your stand), feel free to innovate and improvise beyond.