Wanda M. Waller

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the elements of an argumentative essay
  • Create the structure of an argumentative essay
  • Develop an argumentative essay

What Is Argumentation?

Arguments are everywhere, and practically everything is or has been debated at some time. Your ability to develop a point of view on a topic and provide evidence is the process known as Argumentation. Argumentation asserts the reasonableness of a debatable position, belief, or conclusion. This process teaches us how to evaluate conflicting claims and judge evidence and methods of investigation while helping us to clarify our thoughts and articulate them accurately. Arguments also consider the ideas of others in a respectful and critical manner. In argumentative writing, you are typically asked to take a position on an issue or topic and explain and support your position. The purpose of the argument essay is to establish the writer’s opinion or position on a topic and persuade others to share or at least acknowledge the validity of your opinion.

Structure of the Argumentative Essay

An effective argumentative essay introduces a compelling, debatable topic to engage the reader. In an effort to persuade others to share your opinion, the writer should explain and consider all sides of an issue fairly and address counterarguments or opposing perspectives. The following five features make up the structure of an argumentative essay:


The argumentative essay begins with an introduction that provides appropriate background to inform the reader about the topic. Your introduction may start with a quote, a personal story, a surprising statistic, or an interesting question. This strategy engages the reader’s attention while introducing the topic of the essay. The background information is a short description of your topic. In this section, you should include any information that your reader needs to understand your topic.

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is one sentence in your introductory paragraph that concisely summarizes your main point(s) and claim(s) and presents your position on the topic. The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on.

Body Paragraphs and Supporting Details

Your argument must use an organizational structure that is logical and persuasive. There are three types of argumentative essays, each with differing organizational structures: Classical, Toulmin, and Rogerian.

Organization of the Classical Argument

The Classical Argument was developed by a Greek philosopher, Aristotle. It is the most common. The goal of this model is to convince the reader about a particular point of view. The Classical Argument relies on appeals to persuade an audience specifically: ethos (ethical appeal) is an appeal to the writer’s creditability, logos (logical appeal) is an appeal based on logic, and pathos (pathetic appeal) is an appeal based on emotions. The structure of the classical model is as follows:

  • Introductory paragraph includes the thesis statement
  • Background on the topic provides information to the reader about the topic
  • Supporting evidence integrates appeals
  • Counterargument and rebuttal address major opposition
  • Conclusion restates the thesis statement

Organization of the Toulmin Argument

The Toulmin Argument was developed by Stephen Toulmin. The Toulmin method works well when there are no clear truths or solutions to a problem. It considers the complex nature of most situations. There are six basic components:

  • Introduction—thesis statement or the main claim (statement of opinion)
  • Grounds—the facts, data, or reasoning on which the claim is based
  • Warrant—logic and reasoning that connect the ground to the claim
  • Backing—additional support for the claim that addresses different questions related to the claim
  • Qualifier—expressed limits to the claim stating the claim may not be true in all situations
  • Rebuttal—counterargument against the claim

Organization of the Rogerian Argument

The Rogerian Argument was developed by Carl Rogers. Rogerian argument is a negotiating strategy in which common goals are identified and opposing views are described as objectively as possible in an effort to establish common ground and reach an agreement. Whereas the traditional argument focuses on winning, the Rogerian model seeks a mutually satisfactory solution. This argument considers different standpoints and works on collaboration and cooperation. Following is the structure of the Rogerian model:

  • Introduction and Thesis Statement—presents the topic as a problem to solve together, rather than an issue
  • Opposing Position—expressed acknowledgment of counterargument that is fair and accurate
  • Statement of Claim—writer’s perspective
  • Middle Ground—discussion of a compromised solution
  • Conclusion—remarks stating the benefits of a compromised solution

The Following Words and Phrases: Writing an Argument

Using transition words or phrases at the beginning of new paragraphs or within paragraphs helps a reader to follow your writing. Transitions show the reader when you are moving on to a different idea or further developing the same idea. Transitions create a flow, or connection, among all sentences, and that leads to coherence in your writing. The following words and phrases will assist in linking ideas, moving your essay forward, and improving readability:

  • Also, in the same way, just as, likewise, similarly
  • But, however, in spite of, on the one hand, on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still yet
  • First, second, third…, next, then, finally
  • After, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then
  • For example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate
  • Even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly, without question, clearly
  • Above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there
  • Accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus
  • Additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then
  • Finally, in a word, in brief, briefly, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, to sum up, in summary

Professional Writing Example

The following essay, “Universal Health Care Coverage for the United States,” by Scott McLean is an argumentative essay. As you read the essay, determine the author’s major claim and major supporting examples that support his claim.

Universal Health Care Coverage for the United States

By Scott McLean

The United States is the only modernized Western nation that does not offer publicly funded health care to all its citizens; the costs of health care for the uninsured in the United States are prohibitive, and the practices of insurance companies are often more interested in profit margins than providing health care. These conditions are incompatible with US ideals and standards, and it is time for the US government to provide universal health care coverage for all its citizens. Like education, health care should be considered a fundamental right of all US citizens, not simply a privilege for the upper and middle classes.

One of the most common arguments against providing universal health care coverage (UHC) is that it will cost too much money. In other words, UHC would raise taxes too much. While providing health care for all US citizens would cost a lot of money for every tax-paying citizen, citizens need to examine exactly how much money it would cost, and more important, how much money is “too much” when it comes to opening up health care for all. Those who have health insurance already pay too much money, and those without coverage are charged unfathomable amounts. The cost of publicly funded health care versus the cost of current insurance premiums is unclear. In fact, some Americans, especially those in lower income brackets, could stand to pay less than their current premiums.

However, even if UHC would cost Americans a bit more money each year, we ought to reflect on what type of country we would like to live in, and what types of morals we represent if we are more willing to deny health care to others on the basis of saving a couple hundred dollars per year. In a system that privileges capitalism and rugged individualism, little room remains for compassion and love. It is time that Americans realize the amorality of US hospitals forced to turn away the sick and poor. UHC is a health care system that aligns more closely with the core values that so many Americans espouse and respect, and it is time to realize its potential.

Another common argument against UHC in the United States is that other comparable national health care systems, like that of England, France, or Canada, are bankrupt or rife with problems. UHC opponents claim that sick patients in these countries often wait in long lines or long wait lists for basic health care. Opponents also commonly accuse these systems of being unable to pay for themselves, racking up huge deficits year after year. A fair amount of truth lies in these claims, but Americans must remember to put those problems in context with the problems of the current US system as well. It is true that people often wait to see a doctor in countries with UHC, but we in the United States wait as well, and we often schedule appointments weeks in advance, only to have onerous waits in the doctor’s “waiting rooms.”

Critical and urgent care abroad is always treated urgently, much the same as it is treated in the United States. The main difference there, however, is cost. Even health insurance policy holders are not safe from the costs of health care in the United States. Each day an American acquires a form of cancer, and the only effective treatment might be considered “experimental” by an insurance company and thus is not covered. Without medical coverage, the patient must pay for the treatment out of pocket. But these costs may be so prohibitive that the patient will either opt for a less effective, but covered, treatment; opt for no treatment at all; or attempt to pay the costs of treatment and experience unimaginable financial consequences. Medical bills in these cases can easily rise into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is enough to force even wealthy families out of their homes and into perpetual debt. Even though each American could someday face this unfortunate situation, many still choose to take the financial risk. Instead of gambling with health and financial welfare, US citizens should press their representatives to set up UHC, where their coverage will be guaranteed and affordable.

Despite the opponents’ claims against UHC, a universal system will save lives and encourage the health of all Americans. Why has public education been so easily accepted, but not public health care? It is time for Americans to start thinking socially about health in the same ways they think about education and police services: as rights of US citizens.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the author’s main claim in this essay?
  2. Does the author fairly and accurately present counterarguments to this claim? Explain your answer using evidence from the essay.
  3. Does the author provide sufficient background information for his reader about this topic? Point out at least one example in the text where the author provides background on the topic. Is it enough?
  4. Does the author provide a course of action in his argument? Explain your response using specific details from the essay.

Student Writing Example

Salvaging Our Old-Growth Forests

It’s been so long since I’ve been there I can’t clearly remember what it’s like. I can only look at the pictures in my family photo album. I found the pictures of me when I was a little girl standing in front of a towering tree with what seems like endless miles and miles of forest in the background. My mom is standing on one side of me holding my hand, and my older brother is standing on the other side of me, making a strange face. The faded pictures don’t do justice to the real-life magnificence of the forest in which they were taken—the Olympic National Forest—but they capture the awe my parents felt when they took their children to the ancient forest.

Today these forests are threatened by the timber companies that want state and federal governments to open protected old-growth forests to commercial logging. The timber industry’s lobbying attempts must be rejected because the logging of old-growth forests is unnecessary, because it will destroy a delicate and valuable ecosystem, and because these rare forests are a sacred trust.

Those who promote logging of old-growth forests offer several reasons, but when closely examined, none is substantial. First, forest industry spokesmen tell us the forest will regenerate after logging is finished. This argument is flawed. In reality, the logging industry clear-cuts forests on a 50-80 year cycle, so that the ecosystem being destroyed—one built up over more than 250 years—will never be replaced. At most, the replanted trees will reach only one-third the age of the original trees. Because the same ecosystem cannot rebuild if the trees do not develop full maturity, the plants and animals that depend on the complex ecosystem—with its incredibly tall canopies and trees of all sizes and ages—cannot survive. The forest industry brags about replaceable trees but doesn’t mention a thing about the irreplaceable ecosystems.

Another argument used by the timber industry, as forestry engineer D. Alan Rockwood has said in a personal correspondence, is that “an old-growth forest is basically a forest in decline….The biomass is decomposing at a higher rate than tree growth.” According to Rockwood, preserving old-growth forests is “wasting a resource” since the land should be used to grow trees rather than let the old ones slowly rot away, especially when harvesting the trees before they rot would provide valuable lumber. But the timber industry looks only at the trees, not at the incredibly diverse bio-system which the ancient trees create and nourish. The mixture of young and old-growth trees creates a unique habitat that logging would destroy.

Perhaps the main argument used by the logging industry is economic. Using the plight of loggers to their own advantage, the industry claims that logging old-growth forests will provide jobs. They make all of us feel sorry for the loggers by giving us an image of a hardworking man put out of work and unable to support his family. They make us imagine the sad eyes of the logger’s children. We think, “How’s he going to pay the electricity bill? How’s he going to pay the mortgage? Will his family become homeless?” We all see these images in our minds and want to give the logger his job so his family won’t suffer. But in reality giving him his job back is only a temporary solution to a long-term problem. Logging in the old-growth forest couldn’t possibly give the logger his job for long. For example, according to Peter Morrison of the Wilderness Society, all the old-growth forests in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest would be gone in three years if it were opened to logging (vi). What will the loggers do then? Loggers need to worry about finding new jobs now and not wait until there are no old-growth trees left.

Having looked at the views of those who favor logging of old-growth forests, let’s turn to the arguments for preserving all old growth. Three main reasons can be cited.

First, it is simply unnecessary to log these forests to supply the world’s lumber. According to environmentalist Mark Sagoff, we have plenty of new-growth forests from which timber can be taken (89-90). Recently, there have been major reforestation efforts all over the United States, and it is common practice now for loggers to replant every tree that is harvested. These new-growth forests, combined with extensive planting of tree farms, provide more than enough wood for the world’s needs. According to forestry expert Robert Sedjo (qtd. in Sagoff 90), tree farms alone can supply the world’s demand for industrial lumber. Although tree farms are ugly and possess little diversity in their ecology, expanding tree farms is far preferable to destroying old-growth forests.

Moreover, we can reduce the demand for lumber. Recycling, for example, can cut down on the use of trees for paper products. Another way to reduce the amount of trees used for paper is with a promising new innovation, kenaf, a fast-growing, 15-foot-tall, annual herb that is native to Africa. According to Jack Page in Plant Earth, Forest, kenaf has long been used to make rope, and it has been found to work just as well for paper pulp (158).

Another reason to protect old-growth forests is the value of their complex and very delicate ecosystem. The threat of logging to the northern spotted owl is well known. Although loggers say “people before owls,” ecologists consider the owls to be warnings, like canaries in mine shafts that signal the health of the whole ecosystem. Evidence provided by the World Resource Institute shows that continuing logging will endanger other species. Also, Dr. David Brubaker, an environmentalist biologist at Seattle University, has said in a personal interview that the long-term effects of logging will be severe. Loss of the spotted owl, for example, may affect the small rodent population, which at the moment is kept in check by the predator owl. Dr. Brubaker also explained that the old-growth forests also connect to salmon runs. When dead timber falls into the streams, it creates a habitat conducive to spawning. If the dead logs are removed, the habitat is destroyed. These are only two examples in a long list of animals that would be harmed by logging of old-growth forests.

Finally, it is wrong to log in old-growth forests because of their sacred beauty. When you walk in an old-growth forest, you are touched by a feeling that ordinary forests can’t evoke. As you look up to the sky, all you see is branch after branch in a canopy of towering trees. Each of these amazingly tall trees feels inhabited by a spirit; it has its own personality. “For spiritual bliss take a few moments and sit quietly in the Grove of the patriarchs near Mount Rainier or the redwood forests of Northern California,” said Richard Linder, environmental activist and member of the National Wildlife Federation. “Sit silently,” he said, “and look at the giant living organisms you’re surrounded by; you can feel the history of your own species.” Although Linder is obviously biased in favor of preserving the forests, the spiritual awe he feels for ancient trees is shared by millions of other people who recognize that we destroy something of the world’s spirit when we destroy ancient trees, or great whales, or native runs of salmon. According to Al Gore, “We have become so successful at controlling nature that we have lost our connection to it” (qtd. in Sagoff 96). We need to find that connection again, and one place we can find it is in the old-growth forests.

The old-growth forests are part of the web of life. If we cut this delicate strand of the web, we may end up destroying the whole. Once the old trees are gone, they are gone forever. Even if foresters replanted every tree and waited 250 years for the trees to grow to ancient size, the genetic pool would be lost. We’d have a 250-year-old tree farm, not an old-growth forest. If we want to maintain a healthy earth, we must respect the beauty and sacredness of the old-growth forests.


Works Cited

Brubaker, David. Personal interview. 25 Sept. 1998.

Linder, Richard. Personal interview. 12 Sept. 1998.

Morrison, Peter. Old Growth in the Pacific Northwest: A Status Report. Alexandria: Global Printing, 1988.

Page, Jack. Planet Earth, Forest. Alexandria: Time-Life, 1983.

Rockwood, D. Alan. Email to the author. 24 Sept. 1998.

Sagoff, Mark. “Do We Consume Too Much?” Atlantic Monthly June 1997: 80-96.

World Resource Institute. “Old Growth Forests in the United States Pacific Northwest.” 13 Sept. 1998

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the author’s main claim in this essay?
  2. Does the author fairly and accurately present counterarguments to this claim? Explain your answer and describe an example of counterargument in the essay.
  3. Does the author provide sufficient background information for his reader about this topic? Point out at least one example in the text where the author provides background on the topic. Is it enough?
  4. Does the author provide a course of action in his argument? Explain your response using specific details from the essay.

Your Turn

What societal or personal experiences have you observed and considered to be argumentative?

What organizational structure would be best for the topic you consider: Classical, Toulmin, or Rogerian?

Key Terms

  • Appeals
  • Ethos
  • Pathos
  • Logos
  • Warrant
  • Qualifier
  • Counterargument
  • Grounds
  • Classical method
  • Toulmin method
  • Rogerian method
  • Middle Ground
  • Argumentation


In argumentative writing, you are typically asked to take a position on an issue or topic and explain and support your position with research from reliable and credible sources. Argumentation can be used to convince readers to accept or acknowledge the validity of your position or to question or refute a position you consider to be untrue or misguided.

  • The purpose of argument in writing is to convince or move readers toward a certain point of view, or opinion.
  • An argument is a reasoned opinion supported and explained by evidence. To argue, in writing, is to advance knowledge and ideas in a positive way.
  • A thesis that expresses the opinion of the writer in more specific terms is better than one that is vague.
  • It is essential that you not only address counterarguments but also do so respectfully.
  • It is also helpful to establish the limits of your argument and what you are trying to accomplish through a concession statement.
  • To persuade a skeptical audience, you will need to use a wide range of evidence. Scientific studies, opinions from experts, historical precedent, statistics, personal anecdotes, and current events are all types of evidence that you might use in explaining your point.
  • Make sure that your word choice and writing style are appropriate for both your subject and your audience.
  • You should let your reader know your bias, but do not let that bias blind you to the primary components of good argumentation: sound, thoughtful evidence and respectfully and reasonably addressing opposing ideas.
  • You should be mindful of the use of I in your writing because it can make your argument sound more biased than it needs to.
  • Facts are statements that can be proven using objective data.
  • Opinions are personal views, or judgments, that cannot be proven.
  • In writing, you want to strike a balance between credible facts and authoritative opinions.
  • Quantitative visuals present data graphically. The purpose of using quantitative visuals is to make logical appeals to the audience.
  • Qualitative visuals present images that appeal to the audience’s emotions

Reflective Response

Reflect on your writing process for the argumentative essay. What was the most challenging? What was the easiest? Did your position on the topic change as a result of reviewing and evaluating new knowledge or ideas about the topic?



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Argument Copyright © 2022 by Wanda M. Waller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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