Create a conversation with your group by answering the questions below. If one of your group mates has a question or concern, be sure to address it. You will be graded on your interaction with each other. Try to have a conversation about the course material.
1. What did you learn in this unit?
2. How did you learn it? What techniques or strategies did you find most helpful? Have those techniques changed from previous units?
3. What else would you like to learn related to the topics covered in this unit?
4. Do you have any questions or concerns about anything related to the course?
What we learned in unit 5:
In this final unit of the course, you will learn how to write a persuasive research essay. The skills involved in writing such an essay will be valuable to you as you move throughout college and even after, as you pursue your career. In the lessons that follow, we will practice conducting research, evaluating sources, integrating quotations, and making arguments.
In the final essay that concludes this unit (and this course), you should demonstrate all of the skills that you have learned this semester. As you are drafting the essay, I strongly recommend reviewing your previous essays and revisiting any lessons or concepts that you find challenging.
Student Learning Outcomes addressed in this unit:
Write in a style appropriate to audience and purpose
Demonstrate knowledge of indivdual and collaborative writing processes
Develop ideas with appropriate support and attribution
Use Edited American English in academic essays
Read, reflect and respond critically to a variety of texts
What is an Argument?
When you hear the word “argument,” what do you think of? Maybe you think of a shouting match or a fist fight? Well, when instructors use the word “argument,” they’re typically thinking about something else. What they’re actually referring to is a written or spoken form of defense.
More to the point, they’re talking about defending a certain point of view through writing or speech. Usually called a “claim” or a “thesis,” this point of view is concerned with an issue that doesn’t have a clear right or wrong answer (e.g., four and two make six). Also, this argument should not only be concerned with personal opinion (e.g., I really like carrots). Instead, an argument might tackle issues like abortion, capital punishment, stem cell research, or gun control. However, what distinguishes an argument from a descriptive essay or “report” is that the argument must take a stance; if you’re merely summarizing “both sides” of an issue or pointing out the “pro’s and con’s,” you’re not really writing an argument. “Stricter gun control laws will likely result in a decrease in gun related violence” is an argument. Note that people can and will disagree with this argument, which is precisely why so many instructors find these types of assignment so useful — they make you think!
Academic arguments usually “articulate an opinion.” This opinion is always carefully defended with good reasoning and supported by plenty of research. Research? Yes, research! Indeed, part of learning to write effective arguments is finding reliable sources (or other documents) that lend credibility to your position. It’s not enough to say “capital punishment is wrong because that’s the way I feel.”
Instead, you need to adequately support your claim by finding:
quotations from recognized authorities, and
other types of evidence
You won’t always win, and that’s fine. The goal of an argument is simply to:
make a claim
support your claim with the most credible reasoning and evidence you can muster
help the reader to understand your position
make sure that your claim is taken seriously
If you defend your argument’s position with good reasoning and evidence, you should achieve your writing goal, even if your instructor personally disagrees with the views you are defending.
Basic Argument Essay Structure
Part One: Background
The first paragraph of your argument is used to introduce your topic and the issues surrounding it. This needs to be in clear, easily understandable language. Your readers need to know what you’re writing about before they can decide if they believe you or not.
Once your position is stated you should establish your credibility. There are two sides to every argument. This means not everyone will agree with your viewpoint. So try to form a common ground with the audience. Think about who may be undecided or opposed to your viewpoint. Take the audience’s age, education, values, gender, culture, ethnicity, and all other variables into consideration as you introduce your topic. These variables will affect your word choice, and your audience may be more likely to listen to your argument with an open mind if you do.
Part Two: Thesis
Once you have introduced your general subject, it’s time to state your claim. Your claim will serve as the thesis for your essay. Make sure that you use clear and precise language. Your reader needs to understand exactly where you stand on the issue. The clarity of your claim affects your readers’ understanding of your views. It is important that you develop a complex thesis statement that serves as a roadmap for your entire argument.
Developing Your Argument
Back up your thesis with logical and persuasive arguments. During your pre-writing phase, outline the main points you might use to support your claim, and decide which are the strongest and most logical. Eliminate those which are based on emotion rather than fact. Your corroborating evidence should be well-researched, such as statistics, examples, and expert opinions. You can also reference personal experience. It’s a good idea to have a mixture. However, you should avoid leaning too heavily on personal experience, as you want to present an argument that appears objective as you are using it to persuade your reader. There are a couple different methods of developing your argument.
Dealing with the Opposition
When writing an argument, expect that you will have opposition. Skeptical readers will have their own beliefs and points of view. When conducting your research, make sure to review the opposing side of the argument that you are presenting. You need to be prepared to counter those ideas. Remember, in order for people to give up their position, they must see how your position is more reasonable than their own. When you address the opposing point of view in your essay and demonstrate how your own claim is stronger, you neutralize their argument. By failing to address a non-coinciding view, you leave a reason for your reader to disagree with you, and therefore weaken your persuasive power. Methods of addressing the opposing side of the argument vary. You may choose to state your main points, then address and refute the opposition, and then conclude. Conversely, you might summarize the opposition’s views early in your argument, and then revisit them after you’ve presented your side of the argument. This will show how your information is more reasonable than their own.
You have introduced your topic, stated your claim, supported that claim with logical and reasonable evidence, and refuted your opposition’s viewpoint. The hard work is done. Now it’s time to wrap things up. Restate your thesis, briefly summarize your support, and you’re done. One word of caution: avoid introducing any new information in your conclusion. If you find that there’s another point that you wanted to include, revise your essay. Include this new information into the body of your essay. The conclusion should only review what the rest of your essay has offered.
Strengthening Your Argument
It is important to clearly state and support your position. However, it is just as important to present all of the information that you’ve gathered in an objective manner. Using language that is demeaning or non-objective will undermine the strength of your argument. This destroys your credibility and will reduce your audience on the spot. For example, a student writing an argument about why a particular football team has a good chance of “going all the way” is making a strategic error by stating that “anyone who doesn’t think that the Minnesota Vikings deserve to win the Super Bowl is a total idiot.” Not only has the writer risked alienating any number of her readers, she has also made her argument seem shallow and poorly researched. In addition, she has committed a third mistake: making a sweeping generalization that cannot be supported. Use phrasing that does not:
Alienate any part of your audience
Make an argument that is poorly researched or shallow
Make an unsupported generalization
These are mistakes that could ruin your argument.
Why integrate sources? In academic writing, you will often present claims based on your own research and analysis. In order to prove or advance these claims, you may need to use evidence from sources. Evidence are those things outside of our own mind (facts, figures, reports, books, etc.) that support the reasons we present to make our claim. Integrating information from sources helps you to:
Strengthen your own argument / claim / position,
Identify others’ ideas, and
Establish your ethos / credibility.
When selecting information to use as evidence, it is important to:
Utilize the latest, most significant and credible sources that engage with the topic at hand.
Use sources to show your readers where you fit in with other writers in the larger conversation about your topic.
Use sources that show your readers you are up to date and knowledgeable about your topic.
Ways to Integrate Sources
It is important to know how to effectively integrate sources into your own writing. Generally speaking, there are three ways to integrate sources into your writing.
Whenever you integrate sourced information it is important to frame it, which means, you should introduce the information in your own words, insert the sourced information, and follow it with your own interpretation or analysis. A common approach is regularly referred to as the “sandwich approach.”
Be sure that your reader understands why you have integrated the sourced information. To help the reader follow your logic, you should make connections.
Point the reader back to the thesis
Point the reader back to the paragraph’s main point
Point the reader back to your purpose
Revising and Editing Your Text
When you are revising/editing your paper, answer the following questions to ensure that you have effectively integrated your sourced information.
Did you use a direct quote? If so, did you place it within quotation marks?
Did you place your parenthetical/in-text citation immediately after your sourced information?
Does your citation include all of the required elements?
Does the ending punctuation follow the parenthetical/in-text citation?
Citing Integrated Sources
Whenever you integrate sources, you must document the source. Doing so helps to establish credibility and avoid plagiarism.
Generally, parenthetical/in-text citations require the following components:
Author’s last name and
Example: (Green 210)
Just as with most things, there are exceptions.
Signal Phrase – A signal phrase is an introductory clause that introduces information from sources. It alerts the reader that you are shifting from your own point of view to someone else’s. When the author’s name is included in the signal phrase, you only need to include the page number in the parenthetical/in-text citation.
Example: According to Charles Green, “televisions are going to have a significant impact on the way people experience the world” (210).
Second consecutive use of same source – When using the same source consecutively, you only need to include the page number in the parenthetical/in-text citation.
There are three main ways to integrate sources into your paper:
All three methods require citations
When integrating sources, it is important to “frame” the information
Sourced information should be used as evidence, not to replace your own thoughts or ideas
Thesis Statements for Argument EssaysThesis Statements for Argument Essays
The thesis statement for your argument essay holds your essay together. Everything in your essay must tie back to that thesis statement (the last sentence of your introduction). Thus, you should include 3 things in that thesis statement:
Your position or the point you’re making
A roadmap of your main point paragraphs (these are your reasons)
A basic formula for making an argumentative thesis statement would be:
Topic + Point + Roadmap
In this example, we see that the topic is genetically modifying foods. The point is that it should be banned in America. And the 3 reasons which will be the topics for the main point paragraphs are: it risks human health, destroys the environment, and leads to monopolies within the food industry. This thesis statement gives the reader a clear roadmap of where the essay is going, and now the reader can expect that there will be a main point about the risks to human health, a main point about destruction to the environment, and a main point about the monopolies in the food industry.
Once you have your thesis statement written, you can write your topic sentence for each of your main point paragraphs. Here is a basic formula for a topic sentence:
Point + Topic of the paragraph (found in the Roadmap)
Notice that the student also used a transition to start the topic sentence: “One reason why.” The topic sentence is the first sentence of the paragraph, so it is a good idea to start with a transitional phrase that will lead into the topic of that paragraph.
Note: As long as you include all the necessary information in the topic sentences, you can vary the wording so that you’re not repeating the same phrases from your thesis statement.
What does the whole paragraph include?
• Topic Sentence
– Topic of the paragraph
– Point from the thesis statement
• Examples/Supporting Evidence
– Use specific examples to prove your point
– Give your own explanation of how the examples prove your point
• Wrap-up sentence
– Like a mini-conclusion for your paragraph that ties everything back to the point in the thesis statement.
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