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A Brief Guide to the Art of Persuasion and Argument

14.1 Basic Argument Essay Structure

14.1.1 Introduction

The first paragraph of your argument is used to introduce your topic and the issues surrounding it. This needs to be in clear, easily understandable language. Your readers need to know what you’re writing about before they can decide if they believe you or not.

Once you have introduced your general subject, it’s time to state your claim. Your claim will serve as the thesis for your essay. Make sure that you use clear and precise language. Your reader needs to understand exactly where you stand on the issue. The clarity of your claim affects your readers’ understanding of your views. Also, it’s a good idea to highlight what you plan to cover. Highlights allow your reader to know what direction you will be taking with your argument.

You can also mention the points or arguments in support of your claim, which you will be further discussing in the body. This part comes at the end of the thesis and can be named as the guide. The guide is a useful tool for you as well as the readers. It is useful for you, because this way you will be more organized. In addition, your audience will have a clear cut idea as to what will be discussed in the body.

14.1.2 Body

Background Information

Once your position is stated you should establish your credibility. There are two sides to every argument. This means not everyone will agree with your viewpoint. So try to form a common ground with the audience. Think about who may be undecided or opposed to your viewpoint. Take the audience’s age, education, values, gender, culture, ethnicity, and all other variables into consideration as you introduce your topic. These variables will affect your word choice, and your audience may be more likely to listen to your argument with an open mind if you do.

Developing Your Argument

Back up your thesis with logical and persuasive arguments. During your pre-writing phase, outline the main points you might use to support your claim, and decide which are the strongest and most logical. Eliminate those which are based on emotion rather than fact. Your corroborating evidence should be well-researched, such as statistics, examples, and expert opinions. You can also reference personal experience. It’s a good idea to have a mixture. However, you should avoid leaning too heavily on personal experience, as you want to present an argument that appears objective as you are using it to persuade your reader.

There are a couple different methods of developing your argument. Two variations of the basic argument structure are the Position Method and the Proposal Method.

14.1.3 The Position Method

The Position Method is used to try to convince your audience that you are in the right, and the other view of your argument is wrong.

  1. Introduce and define your topic. Never assume that your reader is familiar with the issues surrounding your topic. This is your chance to set up the premise (point of view) you want to use. This is also a good time to present your thesis statement.
  2. Background information. Do your research! The more knowledgeable you are, the more concise an argument you will be able to give. You will now be able to provide your reader with the best information possible. This will allow your audience to read your paper with the same knowledge you possess on the topic. Information is the backbone to a solid argument.
  3. Development. You have your argument, and you may have even stated your thesis. Now, start developing your ideas. Provide evidence and reasoning.
  4. Be prepared to deal with the “Other Side.” There will be those who oppose your argument. Be prepared to answer those opinions or points of view with knowledgeable responses. If you have done your homework and know your material, you will be able to address any opposing arguments with ease and authority.
  5. In conclusion… Now is the time to drive home your point. Re-emphasize your main arguments and thesis statement.

The Proposal Method of argument is used when there is a problematic situation, and you would like to offer a solution to the situation. The structure of the Proposal method is very similar to the above Position method, but there are slight differences.

  1. Introduce and define the nature of the problematic situation. Make sure to focus on the actual problem and what is causing the problem. This may seem simple, but many people focus solely on the effects of a problematic situation. By focusing on the actual problem, your readers will see your proposal as a solution to the problem. If you don’t, your readers might see your solution as a mere complaint.
  2. Propose a solution, or a number of solutions, to the problem. Be specific about these solutions. If you have one solution, you may choose to break it into parts and spend a paragraph or so describing each part. If you have several solutions, you may instead choose to spend a paragraph on each scenario. Each additional solution will add both depth and length to your argument. But remember to stay focused. Added length does not always equal a better argument.
  3. Describe the workability of the various solutions. There are a variety of ways that this could be done. With a single-solution paper you could break the feasibility down into short and long term goals and plans. With a multiple-solution essay, you may instead highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the individual solutions, and establish which would be the most successful, based on your original statement of the problem and its causes.
  4. Summarize and conclude your proposal. Summarize your solutions, re-state how the solution or solutions would work to remedy the problematic situation, and you’re done.

Dealing with the Opposition

When writing an argument, expect that you will have opposition. Skeptical readers will have their own beliefs and points of view. When conducting your research, make sure to review the opposing side of the argument that you are presenting. You need to be prepared to counter those ideas. Remember, in order for people to give up their position, they must see how your position is more reasonable than their own. When you address the opposing point of view in your essay and demonstrate how your own claim is stronger, you neutralize their argument. By failing to address a non-coinciding view, you leave a reason for your reader to disagree with you, and therefore weaken your persuasive power. Methods of addressing the opposing side of the argument vary. You may choose to state your main points, then address and refute the opposition, and then conclude. Conversely, you might summarize the opposition’s views early in your argument, and then revisit them after you’ve presented your side or the argument. This will show how your information is more reasonable than their own.

14.1.5 Conclusion

You have introduced your topic, stated your claim, supported that claim with logical and reasonable evidence, and refuted your opposition’s viewpoint. The hard work is done. Now it’s time to wrap things up. By the time readers get to the end of your paper, they should have learned something. You should have learned something, too. Give readers an idea to take away with them. Conclude = to come together or to end (not restate what has already been said in your paper). One word of caution: avoid introducing any new information in your conclusion. If you find that there’s another point that you wanted to include, revise your essay. Include this new information into the body of your essay. The conclusion should only review what the rest of your essay has offered.


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Expression and Inquiry by Chris Manning, Sally Pierce, and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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