How to Structure an Argument

Based on the article, “Argumentative Essays” from the Purdue Owl

Argumentative essay assignments tend to require in-depth research of literature; some reading response assignments may also call for the student to present an argument or contention regarding assigned reading. Additionally, some assignments may require a collection of data via interview, survey, observation or some other methodology. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.

An argument consists of several parts, a thesis statement, transitions between introduction, body and conclusion, paragraphs that provide evidence supporting the argument, evidence and a conclusion.

1st paragraph: Thesis Statement

  • Review of the topic
  • Explanation of why the topic is important (exigence)
  • Thesis statement, appropriately narrowed to meet assignment specifications

Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion

  • Transitions hold an essay together
  • Readers need a logical progression of thought to follow the argument
  • Transitions summarize the ideas from a previous section and introduce the next section

Body paragraphs that include evidential support

  • Limit each paragraph to the discussion of one general idea
  • Provide a logical connection to the thesis statement
  • Explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis
  • Provide differing points of view on the topic and why these points of view do not support the thesis

Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal)

  • Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis as well as collecting evidence related to multiple points of view
  • NOTE:  It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis.
  • The writer has an obligation to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic

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

  • Conclusions are often the most challenging part of an argumentative essay
  • Conclusions provide the most recent impression
  • Do Not introduce any new information into the conclusion
  • Synthesis of the previous information comprises a conclusion
  • Restate why the topic is important, review the main points and review the thesis
  • A short discussion of more research that should or could be done given the findings is also appropriate in a conclusion

A complete argument is similar to a written version of a competitive debate, one that requires an obvious purpose. At the very least, the debate contains a premise, evidentiary support and persuasive content as to why the premise should be accepted. The argument needs to be complete and logical so that there is no doubt as to the intention.

One of the more common formats for an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph format. But this method is by no means the only acceptable construction for an argument. The five-paragraph essay consists of:

  • an introductory paragraph
  • three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and
  • a conclusion.

Longer argumentative essays are appropriate when addressing complicated issues and detailed research. Most argumentative works are longer than five paragraphs. Depending on the assignment, students may need to discuss the topic’s content, sources of information and authority, varying opinions and implications of the research before concluding the essay. The key is to follow the assignment specifications when creating an outline for the essay or research paper.