Category Archives: Essay Writing

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essays may seem like they’re made to be nothing more than combative – and not a great way to win over the heart and mind of your teacher. However, writing a good argumentative essay has less to do with being combative and more to do with playing to your audience. In fact, with a bit of planning and little grunt work you can easily turn an argumentative essay assignment into your opportunity to become your teacher’s favorite student.

Know Your Audience

If you’ve been lucky enough to get to choose your topic for the essay, choose one you know your teacher feels passionately about. Check out their Facebook profile for starters. Even if they have it set to be pretty restricted from Public view, you should still be able to get a few bit of information. Maybe they show their favorite books, bands or TV shows. Look for patterns in the things they enjoy, the books or movies they mention in class and times when they talk openly abut their own perspective. In other words, simply pay attention to your teacher. Check out the bumper stickers on their car as this is one way many people often express themselves more honestly, even if they tend to be more guarded on their social media pages or within the classroom.

Once you have a topic in mind, don’t automatically assume you’ll need to be on the same side as your teacher. After all, an educator will be able to spot pandering a mile away, so don’t go overboard or the whole thing could backfire on you. Instead, adopt the position your research leads to. An argumentative essay requires writers to do a lot of detailed research in order to fully explain a problem, consider possible solutions, alternatives or positions and then make a definitive statement about it. Your teacher may appreciate the fact that you are in agreement, but unless you’ve done the work to back it up, he or she will see it as brown-nosing which could easily affect your grade.

Do the Work

A well written argumentative essay should have these key characteristics:

A definitive thesis in the first paragraph. Your thesis should explain why the topic is important, how it can affect the larger world and why readers should be interested enough to develop their own opinion. The introduction and thesis of your essay should be outlined or roughly written before you begin the body of your essay, but it is fine to go back and tweak or revise both the thesis and the introduction as you get further into your research and your essay develops more fully.

Well written transitions between paragraphs. Every essay has three basic sections – the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Transitioning between these sections gives you a chance to show off your true writing skills. Transitioning between these sections is often difficult for students but if you can tweak these areas, they can offer the perfect way to showcase your writing skills. Ultimately, teachers want their students to be able to communicate effectively and showcasing these kinds of skills scores big points when it comes to grading.

Evidence, support and a lack of bias. A well written argumentative essay draws conclusions based on evidence, not emotion. Keep your writing calm, cool and collected so that the evidence can speak pretty much for itself. Sticking to this also takes a lot of the pressure off your shoulders as you can simply use studies, anecdotes, research and historical articles in order to build your case. Some research will speak well enough for itself, so be careful not to over-state a point.

A conclusion that offers something new. The conclusion of your essay shouldn’t simply be a rehashing of your introduction. When reviewing your conclusion, compare it to your original thesis. While the spirit should be the same, your conclusion should be a reflection of both the core issue and the evidence reviewed throughout the essay.

Writing an argumentative essay doesn’t have to mean drawing battle lines in your class – or with your instructor. Choosing a topic you know your teacher cares about can give you a leg up in terms of scoring a few extra points, but you’ll still need to do the work to back it up. Ultimately, becoming a teacher’s favorite student is about addressing them on a personal level and showing that you’re able to tackle difficult subjects, complicated research and historical records with a keen eye for observation and a fresh perspective.

How to Improve Your Essay Writing

The composition studies scholar David Bartholomae once wrote, “Every time a student sits down to write for us, (s)he has to invent the university. . .The student has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating. . . and arguing.” Being a successful essay writer in college doesn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t the same as other types of writing (the way you write an email wouldn’t be the way you would approach writing an essay in college). In order to become a skilled writer, you have to learn the rules of academic writing and hit the right tone.

Here are some simple tips to help you hit the right stride:

Write a strong, “controversial” claim or thesis

The heart of your paper will be your claim or thesis (a statement that draws out the main argument of your paper). Your claim/thesis should not only be clear and coherent, but it should also be provocative and interesting. It should be something that you yourself would want to read. Your claim/thesis should not be a fact nor should it be a repetition of the assignment itself (if the assignment asks you to “Discuss the logical structure of the Constitution, particularly the assumptions that the founders of the country made when writing it,” you should not start with something like, “When writing the Constitution, the founders based their argument on assumptions that they deemed logical.”). Rather, your thesis should be wholly arguable, as an interesting claim is one that can also be challenged.

Make an outline:

This might seem like extra work, but in the long run, by giving your argument a clear framework and pathway, you’ll be saving time. Your outline should include: claim/thesis; three sub-arguments that prove your claim (and for each sub-argument, the titles of well-respected texts that you’ll use to “prove” each sub-argument); and a one-sentence summary for your conclusion (which will help keep you on track).

Polished introduction

Remember that an introduction is just a brief statement about the question that you’re trying to answer and address in the paper. The main intention of the introduction is to present an intriguing problem that is often under-addressed when it comes to the paper topic you’re writing on. Keep it concise, and draw your reader in by writing an introduction that suggests and yes, seduces.

Write multiple drafts

It can’t be emphasized enough, but revision is key for writing in college. Professors will often tell me that B- or C+ paper could have easily been an A paper had the student taken the time to finesse a few points and/or strengthen their thesis. After you receive your assignment, take five minutes to map out a schedule for the paper writing. For most assignments, you’ll have the time to go through at least one major revision before submitting your paper. This can make all the difference.

Show a draft to your professor

Professors are frequently under-utilized by students. Most will be happy (and impressed) to review a draft of your paper, and you’ll receive invaluable comments on how to strengthen your paper before having to submit a final draft.

Utilize your writing center

Most, if not all, colleges provide a writing center for their students. Graduate students studying composition, creative writing or English are often the tutors. Make an appointment with a writing tutor at any stage of your paper writing process. If you’re having trouble creating a coherent outline, talking your paper out with a writing tutor will be helpful. After you’ve received comments from your professor regarding your draft is also a good time to visiting the writing center.

Essay Writing Tips – Learn from the Greatest

For many students, writing an essay is a daunting task. Often times, they don’t
know where to begin. If students don’t know where to begin, they definitely don’t
know where they will end up.

Instead of letting them flounder through the writing process, break it down into
manageable steps. Here are eight steps to share with your students.

Essay Writing Tips

Instead of letting them flounder through the writing process, break it down into
manageable steps. Here are eight steps to share with your students.
Since youngster rarely do anything just because we tell them to, let some of the literary greats be the ones to break the news to your students. The success
of these famous authors will (hopefully!) spur your young writers on to equal
greatness.

1. Research

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above
all others: read a lot and write a lot.” For essay writing, this tip is especially
important.

Students need to conduct thorough research until they become an expert on
the topic. They should consult the internet, academic databases, journals,
publications, and any other reputable source they can find.

Encourage students to immerse themselves in the words of great thinkers.

2. Analyze

Once students have a strong and knowledgeable foundation on the topic, they
need to start analyzing the argument of the essay. They should define the claims
they want to make, write out their reasoning for a particular stance, and find the
corresponding evidence to back up that claim.

Students need to sift through the research they accumulated to find the strengths
and weaknesses of the logic. Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts
that people skip.” As such, analysis is one of the most important parts of essay
writing.

3. Brainstorm

In addition to all the mind-blowing evidence students will amass, they also need
to have insight of their own. Encourage students to engage in brainstorming
activities. A simple suggestion could be to make a list of questions related to the
topic and come up with answers for each.

When brainstorming, remind students there is no such thing as a wrong answer
or too much thought. Ray Branbury said, “Quantity produces quality. If you
only write a few things, you’re doomed.” This is especially true when it comes to
brainstorming.

4. Condense

Remind students they need to condense their ideas into a single thesis
statement. Encourage them to take their best idea and run with it. Use a thesis
statement to structure the entire essay. This will tell readers where they are
going and why.

Edgar Allen Poe could have easily substituted “essay” for “short story” when he
stated: “A short story must have a single mood, and every sentence must build
towards it.”

5. Outline

At this stage, students might feel they are no better off than they were before
they started research. Why? Because a pile of evidence is just as intimidating
as a blank piece of paper. Where is a student supposed to go next? According
to Erica Jong, “The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook state. It
is like believing in dreams in the morning.”

Students need to create an outline. This will help them organize their thoughts
and begin to give their essay structure.

Encourage them to write a one sentence description for each paragraph. Then,
list bullet points to express what information each paragraph will contain.

6. Write

Take the information from the outline and start writing. Students should skip the
introduction and go straight for the meat of the essay.

Each paragraph should be focused on a single idea that supports the thesis.
And students need to support each ascertain with evidence. Remind students to
expound on an idea, yet make their paragraphs concise and focused.

Richard Hugo advises writers to “make the subject of the sentence you are
writing different from the subject of the sentence you just wrote.”

7. Introduce and Conclude

Now that students have written the majority of the essay, it is time to focus on the
two most challenging aspects: the introduction and conclusion.

If students try to write the introduction first, they may never make it past the
opening paragraph. John Steinbeck could sympathize. “Abandon the idea that
you are ever going to finish…write just one page for each day, it helps. Then
when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”