The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-10 11:46:44
What is an argumentative essay?
The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Please note: Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.
Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.
The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important (exigence) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis (warrant).
However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph essay
A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.
Longer argumentative essays
Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.
All semester you’ve known you’d have to write an argumentative essay. You figured you had it made because you had what you thought was a surefire plan to rework last semester’s paper about gun control.
Then your prof dropped a bombshell. Along with the assignment guidelines, she included a list of banned topics. All the old standbys—such as abortion, marijuana legalization, and of course, gun control—were on that list.
So there you are, desperately searching to find a new and original topic. Lucky for you, here *I* am, to the rescue!
I can’t guarantee that any one of the topic ideas in this post will be the perfect topic for your paper. But I’ve listed 30 argumentative essay ideas that may inspire you.
A Quick Note About Argument Essay Topics
The key to writing an effective argumentative essay is choosing a debatable topic.
Be careful when selecting a topic. You don’t want to choose a topic that sounds like a debate but really isn’t.
Here’s a quick example. Don’t choose child abuse as your topic and then try to argue that “child abuse is bad.”
While this topic initially sounds argumentative, it really isn’t. Would anyone really argue that child abuse is good? I certainly hope not.
It’s important to find a topic that your readers can either agree or disagree with. If you wanted to write an argumentative essay about child abuse, you might argue that a specific law regarding abuse is ineffective or that not enough is being done to keep children safe.
And while I’m offering topic advice, here’s one more tip. Choose a topic that you can work with.
You’re going to have to do a fair amount of research to write a strong argument essay, so try to pick a topic that you’re at least somewhat interested in. It will make your life a heck of a lot easier!
With that said, here is a list of argumentative essay ideas to get you started.
30 Argumentative Essay Ideas That Will Pick a Good Fight
I’ve organized the list of essay ideas into seven basic categories, including miscellaneous, just in case nothing in the other categories appeals to you.
I’ve also included links to example papers for some of the topics to spark your creativity.
Social media argumentative essay ideas
I’ve used the broad term “social media” in these examples. But if you want to narrow the topic further, you might focus on one specific form of social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. You might also narrow the topic by focusing on a specific age group, such as tweens, teens, or older adults.
- Has social media caused people to lose empathy for others?
- Do social media users give up privacy in order to stay connected?
- Should employers (or potential employers) be allowed to view personal social media accounts?
- Does social media encourage bullying among children and teens?
- Do teens struggle with person-to-person contact due to excessive use of social media?
Parenting/family life argumentative essay ideas
Most people have grown up with parents or parental figures. So if you’re allowed to use first person and personal experiences in your argument paper, consider sharing any first-hand knowledge you may have about the topic.
- Should same-sex couples be allowed to adopt children?
- Are children harmed by parents who push their children too hard to succeed?
- Does helicopter parenting help or harm children?
- Are children permanently psychologically harmed by divorce?
- Are children who suffer domestic abuse more likely to become abusers as adults?
K-12 education argumentative essay ideas
If you’re researching education-related topics, try ERIC. ERIC is an online database devoted exclusively to educational resources. (Not all information is available free online. You may need to log in through your school’s library to access all of ERIC’s resources.)
- Should recess be required in elementary schools?
- Should K-12 education be privatized?
- Will tablets replace textbooks?
- Should K-12 schools have later start times?
- Do schools give out too many trophies to kids?
Higher education argumentative essay ideas
Remember that professors are superb resources (and usually willing to talk about education). If your argument paper is about an issue involving higher education, why not interview one of your professors?
- Is a degree from a more prestigious university worth more than a degree from a lesser-known college?
- Do fraternities promote misogyny?
- Is a university degree necessary in order to achieve the American Dream?
- Is an online degree as good as a traditional degree?
- Should there be limits on student loan debt?
Health & medicine argumentative essay ideas
Information about health and medicine changes quickly. So if you choose to argue any issue related to health and medicine, make sure to use current resources. (Not sure if your sources are worthy? Check out How to Apply the CRAAP Test to Your Essay Sources.)
- Is a gluten-free diet healthy for those without gluten allergies?
- Is unnecessary medical spending causing an increase in insurance premiums?
- Should bariatric surgery be used as a form of weight loss?
- Does a vegetarian or vegan diet help the environment?
- Should children be vaccinated before being allowed to enroll in public schools?
Miscellaneous argumentative essay ideas
In case you don’t particularly care for any of the topics I’ve listed above, here are a few random ideas that may do the trick.
- Has feminism negatively impacted the lives of women?
- Should military service be compulsory?
- Does reality television promote stereotypes?
- Should employers require employees to cover all visible tattoos?
- Does individual recycling help the environment?
Don’t Give Up the Fight
If, by chance, you’re not really into any of the topics I’ve listed here, read 70 Argumentative Essay Topics That Will Put Up a Good Fight for even more topic ideas.
For help turning your ideas into an argument essay, check out these resources:
If you’re not sure what a finished argument essay might look like (and didn’t take advantage of all those links in the topic ideas!), take a look at these example argument essays.
And if there’s absolutely no fight left in you and you don’t know whether your paper can stand on its own, Kibin editors are ready to help you make sure your paper packs a punch!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.