[This article was updated in June, 2020]
Argumentative essays are a common form of academic writing that students and scholars practice in their fields of study. Basically, this guide defines an argumentative essay and explains its purpose as the starting point of the in-depth analysis of elements of an argumentative essay. Next, the manual explains the challenge of avoiding logical fallacies in the creation of arguments. In this case, a step-by-step deconstruction of the structure of the classical persuasive essay presents the sectional content requirements to the reader. Equally important, this article describes the process of developing a topic for an argumentative essay using a sample template, including examples of free argumentative essay topics. In turn, the guide concludes with a discussion on factors that affect the topic selection for an argumentative essay.
General Aspects of Argumentative Essay Topics
In academic writing, an argumentative essay serves to argue a position in the case of debates. Originally, it means that essay topics must be argumentative while people will consider written papers as sources for thinking or debating. In addition, persuasive papers include rhetorical appeals, such as ethos, pathos, and logos, and these techniques affect the reader’s attention positively. However, not all students know about these features of argumentative papers. As a result, such papers do not make sense in formal writing. Therefore, scholars should define good argumentative essay topics (2020) if they want to prove their position on the issue.
Issues on Argumentative Themes
In most cases, when people start writing an argumentative essay, they cannot define their themes clearly. Basically, argumentative essay topics mean a specific field of academic writing where people have to define their positions to prove it to the defined audience. Even if common essay topics are the general representations of themes, arguments must be specific. In other words, essay themes on argumentative writing must represent the question for debating or claim for a defined position.
Definition of an Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay is a form of writing that requires authors to define a claim, present support, and address other competing claims. Basically, any written argument contains two main elements: a claim and support. In this case, the claim refers to the writer’s position on a specific topic. Also, any author’s position on a topic is the result of successful critical thinking where the logical foundation of the claim is viable. Then, the support element of the claim provides authors with the opportunity to provide reasons and complementary evidence and examples. Besides presenting evidence-based reasons, writers should explicitly describe the logical link that binds the reason, evidence, and claim. Mostly, the logical link may manifest in the form of deductive or inductive reasoning. Hence, argumentative essays are a crucial tool for college students in the conception and presentation of complex arguments.
Purpose and Types of an Argumentative Essay
The primary purpose of writing an argumentative essay is to make a decent attempt to persuade the audience that a particular claim is valid or acceptable. Based on the purpose of writing, the classification of arguments yields four main types: definition, evaluation, cause-and-effect, and solution. In this case, a definition argument works to convince the audience that a certain interpretation of a concept or term is more superior than other interpretations. Then, evaluation arguments establish the weight of a claim to illustrate its worth in the discourse of the controversial topic. Further on, cause-and-effect arguments are useful in showing the causal relationship between an action or situation and a specific outcome. In turn, solution arguments propose an ideal way to handle a problem and illustrate its effectiveness efficacy. Seemingly, the type of persuasive claim is dependent on the topic of interest and the nature of the author’s claim.
Before beginning to write an argumentative essay, it is important to analyze the proposed claim to determine its suitability in responding to a topic. For instance, the development of a convincing statement requires authors to identify all the assertions that may be associated with the theme. Basically, the process of looking for claims allows authors to broaden their knowledge regarding the topic and familiarises them with existing points of view on the controversial matter. Once writers build a knowledge base, they engage in research to find and evaluate any supporting data. In this case, the available data informs writers on the strength of individual claims surrounding the topic. Finally, authors identify warrants in each claim, which reveals assumptions that connect claims and evidence. At this point, writers can create a claim and defend it successfully.
Logical Fallacies in Arguments
Faulty reasoning causes the emergence of logical fallacies in the proposed claim. For example, hasty generalization, false cause, bandwagon effect, and circular reasoning are the common logical fallacies that students face, although there are numerous logical fallacies. Basically, hasty generalization occurs when authors make claims that lack adequate support to justify the broad application of the claim to a specific population. Then, the false cause fallacy arises in cases where writers assert causation, yet events may only share a loose or coincidental association. Further on, the fallacy of the bandwagon effect emerges when authors develop a claim based on popular opinion rather than evidence. In turn, circular reasoning may present if the support for the author’s claim is merely restatements of the claim. Therefore, writers should avoid logical fallacies that introduce irrationality into the argument at all costs.
Structure of the Classical Argumentative essay
The introduction paragraph of an argumentative essay plays an identical role to the standard first paragraph of an essay. Basically, the introductory paragraph has three primary elements: hook, contextual statements, and a thesis statement. For instance, the first statement of an argumentative essay is a hook, which authors use to capture the audience’s interest in the topic. In this case, at least two contextual statements follow the hook. Then, contextual statements provide readers with adequate information to understand the thesis statement and develop an accurate picture of the content of the essay. In turn, the thesis statement is the final statement of the introductory paragraph. Also, this sentence announces the author’s claim concerning the controversial topic and summarises the logic behind his or her argument. In consequence, the thesis statement the most critical element of the entire argumentative essay.
All paragraphs in the body of an argumentative essay have identical paragraph structure. Basically, each paragraph has a topic sentence, evidence or fact, evaluation, and a transition statement. In this case, the topic sentence is the first statement. Also, it informs the audience of the minor argument that the author focuses on in a given paragraph. Then, writers provide a piece of evidence, which serves as the starting point of the examination of the topic sentence. Mostly, a citation accompanies the evidence to direct the reader to the source. In turn, the evaluation of the evidence consists of two or more sentences, which illustrate the relevance of the evidence to the minor claim. Moreover, the transition statement reminds the reader of the connection of the minor claim to the thesis statement. In some cases, authors may use the transition statement to link subsequent paragraphs.
A. Background Information
Typically, the background section of the body appears immediately after the second paragraph. For instance, authors use this paragraph to inform the reader of specific details concerning the controversial topic, which is necessary to ensure that the audience understands the nature of the controversy. In turn, the background information does not discuss any minor arguments. Nonetheless, it has a topic statement that links it to the thesis statement.
B. Support for the Claim
This section of the body comprises of multiple paragraphs, which discuss minor arguments that contribute to the justification of the main argument. Basically, each paragraph in the support section begins with a topic sentence that defines one minor aspect of the main argument. In this case, authors continue the paragraph by providing some evidence and discussing its relevance to the minor argument. Moreover, writers illustrate the logical link between the minor aspect and the thesis statement. Then, the number of paragraphs in this section is heavily dependent on the complexity of the main argument because authors must break down the primary argument into minor arguments that readers can easily recognize. Besides the segmentation of the main argument, the arrangement of minor arguments should be systematic to ensure that readers can follow the author’s line of reasoning.
The rebuttal section is an essential section of an argumentative essay because it allows authors to demonstrate the strength of their arguments through comparison with competing positions. In this section, writers identify alternative lines of thought on the topic and discuss them to illustrate their weaknesses. Additionally, authors show the capability of their arguments to overcome flaws presented in competing positions, which acts as evidence of its superiority. In this case, each critique against the author’s main argument occupies a paragraph for clarity. During the analysis of counterarguments, writers must maintain a high level of objectivity to deliver a fair assessment because subjectivity in the handling of criticism undermines the strength of the author’s main argument.
The concluding paragraph has two main features: a restatement of the main claim and a summary of minor arguments. Firstly, the restatement of the main argument emphasizes the author’s position. In turn, the summary of the minor arguments identifies building blocks of the main claim and explains their interconnection. Also, it highlights the counterarguments and their flaws in addressing the controversial topic. In turn, the final statements of the concluding paragraph are a well-crafted closing, which illustrates that the author’s central claim is the preferred position on the debatable topic.
Mechanics of Arguments
1. Emotional Appeals
Writers should refrain from the utilization of emotional appeals in the presentation of arguments. Basically, emotional appeals may rely on fear, pity, and traditions, which have an innate influence over the readers. As a result, the statements below demonstrate the effect of emotional appeal on the arguments concerning the punishment of female offenders that have children:
Emotional appeal: Female offenders that live in poverty and support their children should not be punished through imprisonment because they committed crimes to provide for their young children.
Logical appeal: Female offenders with parental responsibilities should be eligible for parole upon completing a third of their sentence because it will relieve the pressure on the poorly funded foster care system.
Accordingly, the persuasive quality of an argument must stem from its appeal as a logical argument rather than its ability to prey on the audience’s emotions.
2. Slanted Language
The use of slanted language in the presentation of an argument complicates the interpretation of an argument due to the blurring effect of word connotations. Basically, there are words that people tend to associate with positive or negative connotations due to the regular use of the words in everyday communication. In this case, an author may decide to refer to the people that participate in rallies as “concerned citizens” or “mob” in debating the use of violence as a means of rebellion to government oppression. The latter label can cause the audience to develop a negative perception of the rally participants. In contrast, the former label has a positive view of the people engaged in the rally. Consequently, words selected in composing an argument may influence the readers’ first impression through triggering connotations. Hence, authors should steer clear of slanted language.
Developing an Argumentative Essay Topic
The first step in developing an argumentative essay is the identification of a controversial issue. Basically, controversial issues are readily identifiable because they are dominant in discourse within a discipline or social environment. Based on the controversial issue, an individual develops a tentative topic, which broadly defines an aspect of the controversial issue. Then, writers develop a debatable question and provide at least two answers to the question. After confirming that the question may have more than one answer, authors use the preferred answer to create the theme for their argumentative essay.
Sample Template for Creating an Argumentative Topic
Controversial issue: Racism
Tentative topic: Racial discrimination in policing
Debatable question: Do police officers take advantage of the stop and frisk law to advance racial profiling?
First answer: Police officers take advantage of the stop and frisk law to advance racial profiling.
Second answer: Police officers do not take advantage of the stop and frisk law to advance racial profiling.
Topic (first answer): Racial Profiling: A Reality of Modern Policing
Comparison Between Argument Essay Topics and Standard Essay Topics
The primary difference between the topic of an argumentative essay and conventional essay topics is the debatable feature. Basically, topics of a standard essay are not debatable, for instance, “Reduction in Fossil Fuel Reserves.” In this case, it is a certainty that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource. Therefore, “Reduction in Fossil Fuel Reserves” is not a suitable topic for an argumentative essay because the decrease in the deposits of fossil fuels is not a controversial issue. Also, authors employ a summary of the content of a standard essay to generate a topic. In turn, the theme of an argumentative essay is not a summary of its content. Instead, the author’s main claim is the source of the topic, which implies that ideas in the rebuttal section do not contribute to the formation of a topic despite being a crucial segment of the essay.
Understanding Content and Topic Selection
Authors should adhere to two general principles in the selection of content for an argumentative essay. Firstly, the distortion of evidence should never occur at any point in the essay. Basically, persuasive essays must present evidence holistically to ensure that the audience does not reach an incorrect conclusion. In this case, an author arguing that repeat offending has decreased cannot simply identify the percentages from 2000 and 2020 only. Instead, writers should demonstrate the trend in repeat offending by pointing out the average percentage of repeat offending cases over shorter periods, for example, three years. Secondly, an accurate reporting of the outcome of the research process is a mandatory expectation in argumentative essay writing. In turn, authors should not ignore any strong evidence opposing their central claim. Also, an argument for stringent gun regulation is incomplete without addressing the possible violation of the Second Amendment.
Dominant Factors in Topic Selection
Individuals’ approach to an argumentative essay relies heavily on their current knowledge, which accumulates as students advance their studies in a particular field. For example, a psychology major’s argument regarding the most preferred exercise among young adults will focus on research that demonstrates an increase in brain chemicals that show ‘happiness’ after completion of the exercise. Conversely, a sociology major’s argument on the same theme may prioritize self-reported feelings of enjoyment and the frequency of participation in an exercise. Also, these students’ main claim may be dissimilar, yet correct based on the evidence. In turn, the subconscious decision for an individual to research along a specific line of knowledge is a consequence of their academic discipline. Similarly, the topics of interest in the two disciplines differ because sociology concentrates on human behavior while psychology centers on brain functioning, although they analyze one theme.
2. Personal Interests
Topic selection occurs in a socio-cultural context, which is unique to each individual because of personal life experiences. Basically, the hierarchy of controversial topics may vary depending on an individual’s beliefs and previous experiences. For instance, an immigrant student may consider issues surrounding immigration policy to be relevant to their past. At the same time, a student with full citizenship identifies with the suppression of the First Amendment, which raises a debate concerning the extents of the freedom of speech. Moreover, these two students may be classmates, but their socio-cultural contexts have made them sensitive to different controversial topics. Consequently, if students have the choice to select a topic for an argumentative essay, there is a high possibility that they will identify topics from issues of relevance in their unique socio-cultural contexts.
3. Education level
The critical thinking and logical reasoning skills improve simultaneously with an individual’s move from one education level to the next. Basically, the following sample high school and postgraduate students’ arguments to illustrate the effect of education level are:
High school: Globalisation is beneficial to economies of developing countries through the increment of jobs, purchasing power, and opportunities for specialization.
Postgraduate: Capital openness in developing countries places them at higher risk of experiencing financial crushes after an influx of foreign direct investment, which reduces globalization’s attractiveness.
The high school student’s claim is relatively simple, while the postgraduate student’s argument is quite complicated and has a narrow scope. In this case, a higher level of critical thinking and logical reasoning skills are evident in the specificity of the postgraduate student’s claim. As a result, the scope of the topic selected at specific education levels differs extensively.
The needs of an expert audience and a non-expert audience are non-identical despite the similarity in the theme that the author addresses in the argumentative essay. For example, the interests of an expert audience prioritize analytical aspects of an argument rather than the mere presentation of information. If the main theme is corporal punishment, the author may design an argument for an expert audience that quantifies the adverse effect of increased tolerance for violence as a child grows and provide in-depth explanations concerning the evidence, for instance, study designs, participants, level of significance, confidence intervals, and limitations. Alternatively, arguments regarding corporal punishment designed for a non-expert audience discusses all the adverse impacts of corporal punishment as a sign of its inefficiency but does not analyze the experimental techniques. Therefore, the topic selection occurs based on the audience’s expectations.
5. Nature of Evidence
An author may utilize four primary forms of evidence: facts, statistics, case examples, and expert opinions. In some cases, the author’s research can fail to yield all the four types of evidence. For example, an author arguing that racial discrimination is still a problem at educational institutions may compose an essay based purely on expert opinions. Conversely, the author may decide to compose an essay using statistics as the only type of evidence. The latter approach is likely to create a more persuasive argument because mentioning the number of racial discrimination complaints filed and racial tension riots or strikes is more convincing than providing only expert opinions that may be subject to critique. In turn, the nature of the available evidence places some limitations on the author’s freedom of topic selection because of the non-negotiable requirement that an argumentative essay must be persuasive.
Samples of Persuasive Essay Topics for High School Papers
High school is the place where young persons get a basic knowledge of the concepts of the world. In this case, argumentative essay topics should cover basic concepts to expand knowledge. Therefore, themes can be:
- What does high school education bring?
- Why should marijuana be legalized for recreational purposes?
- What changed my life?
- Do people need a college education or no?
- Technology makes human life easier.
- A healthy environment, what is it?
- People should not smoke in public places.
- Why should people respect the elderly generation?
- How does culture affect the nation?
- What is the best system of government?
Example Themes for College or University Argumentation
College or University is a place where people not only get higher education but also advance their skills. Basically, students at colleges and universities learn specific professions, but they need to know how to prove their positions too. As a result, argumentative essay topics should cover more specific information in comparison to high school papers, including credible sources, like:
- Why must people have a higher education?
- What are the roles of artificial intelligence in modern business?
- How do Maslow’s five forces affect organizations?
- Freud’s theory and societal patterns.
- Social corporate responsibility and business.
- What are the causes of social inequality?
- High school versus college education.
- What are the roles of elections?
- Using a smartphone while driving should be banned.
- Digital devices make people lazy.
Sample Argumentative Essay Topics on Controversial Issues
Consequently, essay topics on controversial issues mean arguments that define the writer’s position. In other words, the specific issue may include one or more sides with their arguments to the debate. Basically, all of the arguments can be right because of different evidence and other facts. However, the role of the writer is to argue one position. Therefore, the possible topics are:
- The government should spend more taxpayers’ money on a poor social layer.
- Why is prostitution illegal?
- Higher education should be free?
- All people should not have firearms.
- Marijuana should be legal.
- Facebook and other social media organizations should pay more taxes.
- Students should not use digital devices during education.
- Smoking in public places is harmful to non-smokers.
- What is the role of Trump in regulating conflicts in the Middle East?
- Social media is used to manipulate citizens.
Other Samples of Argumentative Essay Ideas
- Regulation of the use of animals as test subjects in medical research.
- Racial bias in the sentencing of juvenile offenders.
- The role of gun control in reducing violent crime.
- Online freedom of speech and social media platform moderation practices.
- Monetary compensation in college athletics.
- Recognition and regulation of cryptocurrencies.
- Fair treatment of undocumented minor immigrants.
- The other side of a black hole.
- Justification for unregulated monitoring of private communication using spyware.
- The true version of the creation story.
Despite this guide’s focus on an argumentative essay, students must not forget the basics of academic writing. In this case, they should take adequate time to plan the writing process for an argumentative essay. Basically, scheduling different activities in the writing process is essential because it ensures that authors complete all the steps, especially for activities that students usually overlook when under the pressure of submission deadlines, for example, revising and proofreading. In turn, proper documentation of resources is a vital aspect of an argumentative essay writing that students should not take lightly. Incorrect information concerning the source of a piece of evidence is equivalent to an attempt to deceive readers, which weakens the author’s claim. Also, students must adhere to the technical requirements that accompany argumentative essay prompts.
- The selected topic and proposed claim should be debatable.
- Argumentative essays conform to the standard essay structure: introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Each paragraph in the body of an argumentative essay presents one idea to the audience.
- After composing an argument, the author must evaluate it to ascertain that there are no logical fallacies.
- The four segments of body paragraphs should be apparent to the readers: topic sentence, evidence, evaluation of evidence, and transition statement.
- Writers must include an appropriate number of rebuttal paragraphs, which contain an objective critique of competing arguments.
- Argumentative essays do not contain any emotional appeals and slanted language.
- Authors should avoid the distortion of evidence and any other form of irresponsible handling and reporting of evidence.