Point Of View Essay Assignment

Argumentative Essays

Summary:

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.

WRITINGA POSITION PAPER

The following material explains how to produce a position paper (sometimes calleda point of view paper). A template is provided that outlines the major parts ofa good position paper.  Keep inmind, however, that this is just a guide. Talk to your TAs about theirindividual expectations. Your TAs may want you to include some criteria that donot appear in this outline. Make sure you check with them.

Like a debate, a position paper presents one side of an arguable opinionabout an issue. The goal of a position paper is to convince the audience thatyour opinion is valid and defensible. Ideas that you are considering need to becarefully examined in choosing a topic, developing your argument, andorganizing your paper. It is very important to ensure that you are addressingall sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for youraudience to understand. Your job is to take one side of the argument andpersuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic beingpresented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure thevalidity of your claims, as well as to refute the counterclaims to show thatyou are well informed about both sides.


Issue Criteria

To take a side on a subject, you should first establish the arguability of atopic that interests you. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure thatyou will be able to present a strong argument:

  •  Is it a real issue, with genuine controversy and uncertainty?
  •  Can you identify at least two distinctive positions?
  •  Are you personally interested in advocating one of these positions?
  •  Is the scope of the issue narrow enough to be manageable?

In the CMNS 130 courseware thearticle by Fleras begins to set out a range of issues you may choose toaddress. Your tutorial leader will also have a set of suggested paper topics.The suggested paper topics will also be available on the CMNS 130 website.

 

Analyzing an Issue and Developing anArgument

Once your topic is selected, you should do some research on the subjectmatter. While you may already have an opinion on your topic and an idea aboutwhich side of the argument you want to take, you need to ensure that yourposition is well supported. Listing thepro and con sides of the topic will help you examine your ability to supportyour counterclaims, along with a list of supporting evidence for both sides.Supporting evidence includes the following:

 

Type of Information

Type of Source 

 How to find these sources

introductory information and overviews

directories, encyclopedias, handbooks

Use the Library catalogue

in-depth studies

books, government reports

Library catalogue, Canadian Research Index, Government web sites

scholarly articles

academic journals 

Article indexes

current issues

newspapers, magazines 

Article indexes

statistics

government agencies and associations

Statistics Canada, Canadian Research Index, journal articles

position papers and analyses

association and institute reports

Library catalogue, web sites

Many of these sources can be locatedonline through the library catalogue and electronic databases, or on the Web.You may be able to retrieve the actual information electronically or you mayhave to visit a library to find the information in print. The librarian’spresentation on October 10th after your mid-term exam will assist inyour orientation of the SFU library.

** You do not have to useall of the above supporting evidence in your papers. This is simply a list ofthe various options available to you. Consult your separate assignment sheet toclarify the number and type of sources expected.

 

Considering your audience and determining your viewpoint

Once you have made your pro and con lists, compare the information side byside. Considering your audience, as well as your own viewpoint, choose theposition you will take.

Considering your audience does not mean playing up to the professoror the TA. To convince a particular person that your own views are sound, youhave to consider his or her way of thinking. If you are writing a paper for asociology professor/TA obviously your analysis would be different from what itwould be if you were writing for an economics, history, or communicationsprofessor/TA. You will have to make specific decisions about the terms youshould explain, the background information you should supply, and the detailsyou need to convince that particular reader.

In determining your viewpoint, ask yourself the following:

  • Is your topic interesting? Remember that originality counts. Be aware that your professor/TA will probably read a number of essays on the same topic(s), so any paper that is inventive and original will not only stand out but will also be appreciated.
  • Can you manage the material within the specifications set by the instructor?
  • Does your topic assert something specific, prove it, and where applicable, propose a plan of action?
  • Do you have enough material or proof to support your opinion?


Organization 

Sample Outline

I. Introduction
___A. Introduce the topic
___B. Provide background on the topic to explain why it is important
___C. Assert the thesis (your view of the issue). More on thesis statements canbe found below.

Your introduction has a dual purpose: to indicate both the topic and yourapproach to it (your thesis statement), and to arouse your reader’s interest inwhat you have to say. One effective way of introducing a topic is to place itin context – to supply a kind of backdrop that will put it in perspective. Youshould discuss the area into which your topic fits, and then gradually leadinto your specific field of discussion (re: your thesis statement).

II. Counter Argument
___A. Summarize the counterclaims
___B. Provide supporting information for counterclaims
___C. Refute the counterclaims
___D. Give evidence for argument

You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself what someone whodisagrees with you might say about each of the points you've made or about yourposition as a whole. Once you have thought up some counterarguments, considerhow you will respond to them--will you concede that your opponent has a pointbut explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will youreject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you willwant to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger thanopposing arguments.

When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present eachargument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish.You want to show that you have seriously considered the many sides of theissue, and that you are not simply attacking or mocking your opponents.

It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in somedepth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterargumentsand replies.

Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. Ifconsidering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go backand revise your original argument accordingly.

For more on counterarguments visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/argument.html

III. Your Argument
___A. Assert point #1 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
___B. Assert point #2 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)
___C. Assert point #3 of your claims
_____1. Give your educated and informed opinion
_____2. Provide support/proof using more than one source (preferably three)

You may have more than 3 overall points to your argument, but you shouldnot have fewer.

IV. Conclusion
___A. Restate your argument
___B. Provide a plan of action but do not introduce new information

The simplest and most basic conclusion is one that restates the thesis indifferent words and then discusses itsimplications.

 

Stating Your Thesis

A thesis is a one-sentencestatement about your topic. It's an assertion about your topic, something youclaim to be true. Notice that a topic alone makes no such claim; it merelydefines an area to be covered. Tomake your topic into a thesis statement, you need to make a claimabout it, make it into a sentence. Look back over your materials--brainstorms,investigative notes, etc.--and think about what you believe to be true. Thinkabout what your readers want or need to know. Then write a sentence, preferablyat this point, a simple one, stating what will be the central idea of yourpaper. The result should look something like this:

OriginalSubject: an important issue inmy major field 

FocusedTopic:media technologyeducation for communication majors

Thesis:Theories of media technology deserve a more prominent place in thisUniversity’s Communication program

Or if your investigations led you to a different belief:

Thesis: Communication majors at this University receive asolid background in theories of media technology

It's always good to have a thesis you can believe in.

Notice, though, that a sentence stating an obvious and indisputable truthwon't work as a thesis:

Thesis: This University has a Communication major.

That's a complete sentence, and it asserts something to be true, but as athesis it's a dead end. It's a statement of fact, pure and simple, and requireslittle or nothing added. A good thesisasks to have more said about it. It demands some proof. Yourjob is to show your reader that your thesis is true.

Remember, you can't just pluck a thesis out of thin air. Even if you haveremarkable insight concerning a topic, it won't be worth much unless you canlogically and persuasively support it in the body of your essay. A thesis isthe evolutionary result of a thinking process, not a miraculous creation.Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading the essayassignment. Deciding on a thesis does not come first. Before you can come up with an argument on anytopic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possiblerelationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts orsimilarities), and think about the beneath-the-surface significance of theserelationships. After this initial exploration of the question at hand, you canformulate a "working thesis," an argument that you think will makesense of the evidence but that may need adjustment along the way. Inother words, do not show up at your TAs office hours expecting them to help youfigure out your thesis statement and/or help organize your paper unless youhave already done some research.

For more information regarding thesis statements visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

 

Writing with style and clarity

Many students make the mistake of thinking that the content of their paperis all that matters. Although the content is important, it will not mean muchif the reader can’t understand what you are trying to say. You may have somegreat ideas in your paper but if you cannot effectively communicate them, youwill not receive a very good mark. Keep the following in mind when writing yourpaper:

Diction

Diction refers to the choice of words for the expression of ideas; theconstruction, disposition, and application of words in your essay, with regardto clearness, accuracy, variety, etc.; mode of expression; and language. Thereis often a tendency for students to use fancy words and extravagant images inhopes that it will make them sound more intelligent when in fact the result isa confusing mess. Although this approach can sometimes be effective, it isadvisable that you choose clear words and be as precise in the expression ofyour ideas as possible.

 

Paragraphs

Creating clear paragraphs is essential. Paragraphs come in so many sizes andpatterns that no single formula could possibly cover them all. The two basicprinciples to remember are these:

1)  A paragraph is a means of developing and framing an idea orimpression. As a general rule, you should address only one major idea perparagraph.

2)  The divisions between paragraphs aren’t random, but indicate ashift in focus. In other words you must carefully and clearly organize theorder of your paragraphs so that they are logically positioned throughout yourpaper. Transitions will help you with this.

For further information on paragraph development visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/paragraphs.html

 

Transitions

In academic writing your goal is to convey information clearly andconcisely, if not to convert the reader to your way of thinking. Transitionshelp you to achieve these goals by establishing logical connections betweensentences, paragraphs, and sections of your papers. In other words, transitionstell readers what to do with the information you present them. Whether singlewords, quick phrases or full sentences, they function as signs for readers thattell them how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as theyread through what you have written.

Transitions signal relationships between ideas. Basically, transitionsprovide the reader with directions for how to piece together your ideas into alogically coherent argument. They are words with particular meanings that tellthe reader to think and react in a particular way to your ideas. In providingthe reader with these important cues, transitions help readers understand thelogic of how your ideas fit together.

LOGICAL RELATIONSHIP

TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSION

Similarity

also, in the same way, just as ... so too, likewise, similarly

Exception/Contrast

but, however, in spite of, on the one hand ... on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet

Sequence/Order

first, second, third, ... next, then, finally

Time

after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then

Example

for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate

Emphasis

even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly

Place/Position

above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there

Cause and Effect

accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus

Additional Support or Evidence

additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then

Conclusion/Summary

finally, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, in summary 

For more information on transitions visit: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/transitions.html

 

Grammar and Spelling

You must make certain that your paper is free from grammar and spellingmistakes. Mechanical errors are usually the main reason for lack of clarity inessays, so be sure to thoroughly proof read your paper before handing it in. Forhelp with common errors in grammar and usage consult the following websites:

http://www.sfu.ca/~gmccarro/Grammar/Grammar.htmlhttp://ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/index2.htmhttp://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/

 

Plagiarism and academic honesty

Plagiarism is a form of stealing; as with other offences against the law, ignoranceis no excuse. The way to avoid plagiarismis to give credit where credit is due. If you are using someone else’s idea,acknowledge it, even if you have changed the wording or just summarized themain points.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit whenever you use

  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory;
  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings--any pieces of information--that are not common knowledge;
  • quotations of another person's actual spoken or written words; or
  • paraphrase of another person's spoken or written words.

In addition to plagiarism,SFU has policies regarding other forms of academic dishonesty. For moreinformation on SFU’s policies regarding academic honesty consult yourundergraduate calendar or http://www.sfu.ca/policies/teaching/t10-02.htm.If any of the University’s policies are not clear you must ask your professoror TA for clarification. Again, ignorance is no excuse.

 

 

SOURCES

The information included in the document “Writing a Position Paper” wasadapted from the following sources:

Guilford, C.(2001). Occasions forArgumentative Essays. Writing Argumentative Essays. Retrieved August 26, 2002 from the World Wide Web:http://www.powa.org/argufrms.htmPreviously adapted from: Hairston, M. (1982) A Contemporary Rhetoric(3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Northey, M. (1993). Making Sense: a student’s guide to research, writing,and style (3rd ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press.

UHWO Writing Center (1998) Writing a Position Paper. Retrieved August 26,2002 from the World Wide Web: http://homepages.uhwo.hawaii.edu/~writing/position.htm

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000). ConstructingThesis Statements. Writing Center Handouts. Retrieved August 26, 2002 from theWorld Wide Web:http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000). EffectiveAcademic Writing: The Argument. Writing Center Handouts. Retrieved August 26,2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/argument.html

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000).  Paragraph Development. Writing CenterHandouts.Retrieved August 26, 2002 from the World Wide Web:http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

UNC-CH Writing Center(2000).  Transitions. Writing Center Handouts. Retrieved August 26,2002 from the World Wide Web:http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

 

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