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What is an Argumentative Essay?


Argumentative essays are a common assignment given by educators and are an exciting opportunity for you to practice the valuable skill of persuasion. Argumentative essays are, at their core, pieces of writing that aim to convince the reader of the writer’s own opinion. Let’s look at the elements that form argumentative essays, and some tips on how to write the best one possible.

Example thesis: Tobacco products should be made illegal, as they present severe and well-documented health risks to the public.

Elements of an Argumentative Essay

Position: This is the side of the argument that the author is taking. In this case, the author is arguing that tobacco products should be made illegal.

Reasons: These facts or points make up the why of the position. Without reasons, a position is baseless and a weak argument. In this example, the reasons for the position are that tobacco products are known to be damaging to people’s health.

Evidence: This is the opportunity for the writer to cement their claim or position by providing factual substantiation from outside resources. In this element, it is critical for the writer to provide citations and references on where they gathered their evidence. Without this, there is no proof that the evidence is factual or indeed evidence at all.

For the provided example, the writer may choose to cite health studies or scientific papers related to the effects of tobacco products on peoples’ health.

Counterarguments: The most effective argumentative essays display the counterargument, or the opposite argument from the author’s own point of view. After stating the counterarguments, a persuasive writer would state why that counterargument is false or ineffective, using further evidence.

How to Format an Argumentative Essay

To construct an effective argumentative essay, you need to follow several important steps. These are vital to ensuring that the reader is convinced of your argument and understands your topic.

Almost all essays should be broken into four parts:

Introduction, Body, Conclusion, and Citations.


  • Your introductory paragraph should serve to frame the rest of your paper in the reader’s mind. Think of it like a preview; you want them to move forward from here with a clear understanding of what the central argument of your paper is.
  • In order to frame the central idea, many essays contain a thesis statement, which is a one or two sentence phrase that captures the theme of the paper. These should be as specific as possible, and should be included as the last part of your intro paragraph.


  • The body of your essay is where your evidence is presented and tied in to your argument. Each body paragraph should seek to further prove the central theme you put forth in your thesis statement.
  • The body paragraphs should each begin with a topic sentence that drives the rest of the paragraph, and relates back to the thesis statement.
  • Be sure to include transition sentences between paragraphs to ensure a nice flow to your writing.
  • Within each paragraph on a specific idea, present any outside evidence that you have used to formulate your idea. Here is where you should be sure to include any necessary in-text citations, whether they be in APA format, MLA format, etc.


  • Your conclusion paragraph should neatly wrap up your argument and evidence, calling the reader back to your original thesis statement.
  • A good way to conclude your writing is to restate your thesis statement or central idea in a different way, making sure to include the main points you made in your paper.
  • If you are having trouble formulating your essay’s conclusion, read through your paper and then say to yourself “So what?” This helps to summarize the main idea of your paper in your mind.
  • Make sure that your reader is left with an impression or something to think about in relation to your topic. This a sign of a very strong argumentative essay.


  • Depending on what citation format your teacher prefers (APA citation style, Chicago citation style, etc.), you should include a reference list at the end of your essay, which lists the outside sources where you attained information while creating your paper.
  • The citations in your reference list should include any sources that you have referenced within the body of your essay using in-text or parenthetical citations.
    For help with creating citations, check out the citation guides on BibMe.org.

Finally, always remember to proofread your essay before handing it in to your teacher! If you’re looking for help, BibMe has a grammar check service you can try.

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