Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper
This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 01:03:40
The following sections outline the generally accepted structure for an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and that your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
You may also use the following Purdue OWL resources to help you with your argument paper:
The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:
- What is this?
- Why am I reading it?
- What do you want me to do?
You should answer these questions by doing the following:
- Set the context –provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the claims you make and support
- State why the main idea is important –tell the reader why he or she should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and convincing essay people will want to read and act upon
- State your thesis/claim –compose a sentence or two stating the position you will support with logos (sound reasoning: induction, deduction), pathos (balanced emotional appeal), and ethos (author credibility).
For exploratory essays, your primary research question would replace your thesis statement so that the audience understands why you began your inquiry. An overview of the types of sources you explored might follow your research question.
If your argument paper is long, you may want to forecast how you will support your thesis by outlining the structure of your paper, the sources you will consider, and the opposition to your position. You can forecast your paper in many different ways depending on the type of paper you are writing. Your forecast could read something like this:
First, I will define key terms for my argument, and then I will provide some background of the situation. Next, I will outline the important positions of the argument and explain why I support one of these positions. Lastly, I will consider opposing positions and discuss why these positions are outdated. I will conclude with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.
When writing a research paper, you may need to use a more formal, less personal tone. Your forecast might read like this:
This paper begins by providing key terms for the argument before providing background of the situation. Next, important positions are outlined and supported. To provide a more thorough explanation of these important positions, opposing positions are discussed. The paper concludes with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.
Ask your instructor about what tone you should use when providing a forecast for your paper.
These are very general examples, but by adding some details on your specific topic, a forecast will effectively outline the structure of your paper so your readers can more easily follow your ideas.
Your thesis is more than a general statement about your main idea. It needs to establish a clear position you will support with balanced proofs (logos, pathos, ethos). Use the checklist below to help you create a thesis.
This section is adapted from Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric Reader by David Skwire and Sarah Skwire:
Make sure you avoid the following when creating your thesis:
- A thesis is not a title: Homes and schools (title) vs. Parents ought to participate more in the education of their children (good thesis).
- A thesis is not an announcement of the subject: My subject is the incompetence of the Supreme Court vs. The Supreme Court made a mistake when it ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
- A thesis is not a statement of absolute fact: Jane Austen is the author of Pride and Prejudice.
- A thesis is not the whole essay: A thesis is your main idea/claim/refutation/problem-solution expressed in a single sentence or a combination of sentences.
- Please note that according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, "A thesis statement is a single sentence that formulates both your topic and your point of view" (Gibaldi 42). However, if your paper is more complex and requires a thesis statement, your thesis may require a combination of sentences.
Make sure you follow these guidelines when creating your thesis:
- A good thesis is unified:
NOT: Detective stories are not a high form of literature, but people have always been fascinated by them, and many fine writers have experimented with them
BETTER: Detective stories appeal to the basic human desire for thrills (concise).
- A good thesis is specific:
NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses is very good. vs.
BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious.
- Try to be as specific as possible (without providing too much detail) when creating your thesis:
NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious. vs.
BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious by utilizing the findings of Freudian psychology and introducing the techniques of literary stream-of-consciousness.
_____ The thesis/claim follows the guidelines outlined above
_____ The thesis/claim matches the requirements and goals of the assignment
_____ The thesis/claim is clear and easily recognizable
_____ The thesis/claim seems supportable by good reasoning/data, emotional appeal
Have you ever watched a great film trailer and thought, “I have to see that movie!”? A good trailer gives you the basic premise of the movie, shows you the highlights, and encourages you to want to see more.
A good thesis statement will accomplish the same thing. It gives readers an idea of the most important points of an essay, shows the highlights, and makes them want to read more.
A well-constructed thesis serves as a lighthouse for your readers, offering them a guiding light in the stormy sea of claims and evidence that make up your argumentative essay.
It will also help keep you, the writer, from getting lost in a convoluted and directionless argument.
Most importantly, a good thesis statement makes a statement. After all, it’s called a thesis statement for a reason!
“This is an interesting statement!” you want your reader to think, “Let’s see if this author can convince me.”
This blog post will dissect the components of a good thesis statement and will give you 10 thesis statement examples that you can use to inspire your next argumentative essay.
The Thesis Statement Dissected
Before I give you a blanket list of thesis statement examples, let’s run through what makes for a good thesis statement. I’ve distilled it down to four main components.
1. A good argumentative thesis is focused and not too broad.
It’s important to stay focused! Don’t try to argue an overly broad topic in your essay, or you’re going to feel confused and unsure about your direction and purpose.
Don’t write, “Eating fast food is bad and should be avoided.”
This statement is too general and would be nearly impossible for you to defend. It leaves a lot of big questions to answer. Is all fast food bad? Why is it bad? Who should avoid it? Why should anyone care?
Do write, “Americans should eliminate the regular consumption of fast food because the fast food diet leads to preventable and expensive health issues, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.”
In this example, I’ve narrowed my argument to the health consequences related to a diet of fast food. I’ve also chosen to focus on Americans rather than everyone in the universe. (Because, as we all know, inhabitants of the faraway planet Doublepatty 5 require the starches and fats inherent in fast food to survive).
2. A good argumentative thesis is centered on a debatable topic.
Back in the ‘80s, teens loved to say “that’s debatable” about claims they didn’t agree with (such as “you should clean your room” and “you shouldn’t go to that movie”). This age-old, neon-colored, bangle-wearing, peg-legged wisdom holds true today—in your thesis statement.
Don’t write, “There are high numbers of homeless people living in Berkeley, California.”
No one can argue for or against this statement. It’s not debatable. It’s just a fact.
An argument over this non-debatable statement would go something like this:
“There are lots of homeless people in Berkeley.”
“Yes, there sure are a bunch of them out there.”
As you can see, that’s not much of an argument.
Do write, “Homeless people in Berkeley should be given access to services, such as regular food donations, public restrooms, and camping facilities, because it would improve life for all inhabitants of the city.”
Opponents could easily argue that homeless people in Berkeley already receive adequate services (“just look at all those luxurious sidewalks!”), or perhaps that they shouldn’t be entitled to services at all (“get a job, ya lazy loafers!”).
3. A good argumentative thesis picks a side.
I went into a lot of detail about the importance of picking sides in my post The Secrets of a Strong Argumentative Essay. Picking a side is pretty much the whole entire point of an argumentative essay.
Just as you can’t root for both the Yankees and the Mets, you can’t argue both sides of a topic in your thesis statement.
Don’t write, “Secondhand smoke is bad and can cause heart disease and cancer; therefore, smoking should be outlawed in public places, but outlawing smoking is unfair to smokers so maybe non-smokers can just hold their breath or wear masks around smokers instead.”
A wishy-washy statement like this will make your reader scratch his head in puzzlement. Are you for smoking laws or against them? Yankees or Mets? Mets or Yankees?
Pick a side, and stick with it!
Then stick up for it.
Do write, “Secondhand smoke is just as harmful as smoking and leads to a higher prevalence of cancer and heart disease. What’s worse, people who inhale secondhand smoke are doing so without consent. For this reason, smoking in any public place should be banned.”
4. A good thesis makes claims that will be supported later in the paper.
As I explained in my blog post How to Create a Powerful Argumentative Essay Outline, Your claims make up a critical part of building the roadmap to your argument.
It’s important to first include a summary of your claims in your thesis statement. During the course of your essay, you will back each of your claims with well-researched evidence.
Don’t write, “Humans should relocate to Mars.”
This statement doesn’t include any supporting claims. Why should humans move to Mars? What are the benefits of moving to a planet without oxygen or trees?
Do write, “It is too late to save earth; therefore, humans should immediately set a date for their relocation to Mars where, with proper planning, they can avoid issues of famine, war, and global warming.”
This statement includes some thought-provoking claims. The reader will wonder how the author plans to defend them. (“Famine, war, and global warming can be easily avoided on Mars? Go on…”)
Now that you understand the four main components of a good thesis statement, let me give you more thesis statement examples.
10 Thesis Statement ExamplesFinally, I’ve come up with 10 debatable, supportable, and focused thesis statements for you to learn from. Feel free to copy these and customize them for use in your own argumentative essays.
There are a couple of things to be aware of about the following examples:
- I have not done the research needed to support these claims. So some of the claims may not be useable once you dig into them.
- Be careful not to use these thesis statements word-for-word; I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble if your teacher did a copy/find Google maneuver on you!
#1. Why Vaccinations Should Be Mandatory
Inspired by this sample essay on vaccinations.
Today, nearly 40% of American parents refuse to vaccinate their children due to a variety of unfounded fears. Vaccinations against diseases such as polio, rubella, and mumps, should be mandatory, without exception, for all children of the U.S. who wish to attend school. These vaccinations are critical to the control and eradication of deadly infectious diseases.
#2. Government Surveillance Is Harmful
Inspired by this sample essay on government surveillance.
Government surveillance programs do more harm than good because they invade civil liberties, lead innocent people to suffer unfair punishments, and ultimately fail to protect the citizens that they are designed to safeguard. For these reasons, programs such as PRISM operated by the NSA should be discontinued.
#3 Financial Compensation for Organ Donors
Inspired by this sample essay on organ donation.
People who sign up for organ donation freely give their hearts and other organs, but this free system limits the number of available donors and makes it difficult for recipients to access lifesaving transplants. Thus, organ donors should be financially compensated to produce more available organs and, at the same time, to decrease profitable, illegal organ harvesting activities in the black market.
#4. Our School Is Too Dependent on Technology
Inspired by this sample essay on technology dependence.
Our school’s dependence on technology has caused students to lose the ability to think independently. This dependence has caused a greater prevalence of mood disorders, memory loss, and loneliness. Educators should combat these issues by requiring students to participate in regular technology detoxes.
#5 School Officials’ Should Fight Cyberbullying
Inspired by this sample essay on cyberbullying.
Bullying has extended far beyond school and into cyberspace. Even though these acts of aggression take place outside of school boundaries, school officials should have the authority to discipline students who engage in cyberbullying without fear of reprisal. Doing so will help improve the online behavior of students and decrease incidences of cyberbully-related suicide attempts.
#6 The U.S. Media Should Update the Depiction of Traditional Families
Inspired by this sample essay on families.
The U.S. media depicts the traditional family as being comprised of a mother, father, and children; however, this notion of the traditional family is outdated and can be harmful to children who look to this as the gold standard. The U.S. media should, therefore, expand and redefine the definition of the traditional American family to include divorced and remarried parents, extended families living together, and families with same-gender parents. This will increase the overall sense of happiness and well-being among children whose families don’t necessarily fit the mold.
#7 Student Loans Should Be Forgiven
Inspired by this sample essay on student loans.
Crippling student debt is stifling the growth of the U.S. economy because it inhibits graduates from being able to spend money on consumer goods and home purchases. To alleviate this, lenders should be required to forgive student loans in cases where students are unable to repay their debts. Doing so would benefit the growth of the economy by increasing tax revenues, unfreezing credit markets, and creating jobs.
#8 Marijuana Should Be Legalized
Inspired by this sample essay on legalizing marijuana.
Marijuana has numerous medical applications, such as treating symptoms of epilepsy, cancer, and glaucoma. Legalizing the use of marijuana in the U.S. will greatly benefit the medical sector by giving physicians access to this lifesaving drug.
#9 Foreign Aid to Africa Does Not Work
Inspired by this sample essay on foreign aid to Africa.
Sending foreign aid to African countries is doing more harm than good, and it should be discontinued; the practice has caused African countries to become vulnerable to inflation, currency fluctuations, corruption, and civil unrest.
#10 China’s One-Child Policy Should Be Reversed
Inspired by this sample essay on China’s one-child policy.
China’s one-child policy was intended to help control population growth. Instead, it has led to unintended and negative consequences, such as a diminishing labor force, an aging population, the neglect of basic human rights, and an unbalanced gender population. To improve China’s situation, the policy should be reversed.
Any one of these thesis statement examples will get you started on the road to writing an awesome argumentative essay. Once your essay is finished, feel free to send it to a Kibin editor who can check it for grammar, sentence structure, and the strength of your thesis.
Good luck with your essay!
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