Composing an Argumentative Essay

Composing an Argumentative Essay
Instructor: Dr. Jason Swedene
Explain the question you will address in your paper. In your introduction, give
background information about the problem that you address. Why is it important? What
have been past trends/ways of dealing with the problem?
Make a definite claim or proposal. How will you answer the problem? You may use
first-person language here. (“In this essay, I will show that…”, “I contend that…”) Or,
you need not use such language. (“Plato’s treatment of x neglects considerations most
essential to x: thus, his treatment is misguided”, “It is more than plausible that…”)
-You should not need more than a third of a page to present your introduction. Your
introduction should NOT contain “fluff” statements like: “Since the beginning of time
people have believed in God.” Get right to the point.
Now, in the body of your essay, create mini-arguments that back-up your main proposal.
This is perhaps the most important step: Make sure the reader can see the connections
between your mini-arguments and your main proposal. After 5 hours of writing the
connections might seem clear to you, but to your reader, who has not “lived and
breathed” the paper, those connections may not be evident.
After you EXPLICITELY link your mini-arguments up with your proposal, proceed to
bring up a few potential objections to your arguments. Why might someone disagree?
Then, explain how your theory overcomes those objections or how those objections are
themselves irrelevant to your theory. Think of good objections, not ones that are
obviously problematic and easy to evade! Make it hard on yourself!
Conclude with humility. That is, do not over-express or overemphasize what you have
done. Simply restate your proposal and explain briefly why your argument is a good one.
(What have you accomplished?) Great papers often also suggest further research projects
that might build on your discoveries. E.g., “In looking at the problem in x way, perhaps
future investigations will dissolve many of the apparent paradoxes between God and
Philosophical essays should be rigorous, but can be life-changing as well. Your topic
should be interesting to you and worthy of personal expression, so long as it is an
argument and not just an unsupported opinion.