Research paper topics assigned by your instructor often require you to argue an issue that you personally support. When writing a research paper that presents an argument you believe in you will want to know how to debate and present both sides, including the opposing viewpoints. That can be a real challenge. Here are a few pointers to help you make your case.
The argument research paper
Writing your paper involves the same process no matter what your personal opinion is.
- Know your reader: what does your reader know and think about the issue?
- Research: use several different sources to gather your supporting facts.
- Focus: decide on the best three to five points of evidence to make your argument.
The flow of your research paper
The opening of your paper sets the tone and lets your reader know where you are going. The opening includes:
- a “hook” to gain the readers’ attention
- an overview of the argument
- a thesis statement that reveals your position on the issue
The body of your paper includes a paragraph relating to each of the main points of evidence that you decided to use in making your case. Each point may include supporting paragraphs that provide more detail.
Be sure to include at least one paragraph that acknowledges the opposing viewpoint to your argument and then refutes it. In your conclusion, restate and reinforce your thesis, summarizing your supporting evidence.
Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli discussed the effect of argumentative essays on Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), March 10, 2013, in “Argumentative essays.” They noted that an argumentative essay can be thought of “in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate … 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.”
Your opening argument
When opening your argument there are two types of assumptions that can be made: inductive and deductive. Inductive assumptions tend to be general, such as, “The death penalty should be abolished.” Because there are many who disagree with this assumption, your ability to persuade is limited.
To avoid that problem, open with a deductive assumption. This assumption begins with specifics, cites evidence and then leads to the conclusion based on evidence. For example, “The death penalty should be abolished because statistics show that it has no effect on the level of crime.”
David R. Williams described how this process works in his book, Sin Boldly! Dr. Dave’s Guide to Writing the College Paper. According to Dr. Williams, “Do not assume that a mere stating of the case is sufficient. Evidence that seems clear to you may seem irrelevant to your reader. You must explain logically how that evidence supports your claim.”
When presenting your evidence, stick to the facts, not your opinion. Facts can be verified by outside observers. Present your facts in a logical manner. Use language that your audience will understand.
How do you choose your evidence? The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill put together a guide to help you create an Argument. Choose evidence that matches your subject; accordingly, “Pay attention to your textbooks and your instructor’s lectures. What types of argument and evidence are they using? … Is it statistics, a logical development of points, something from the object being discussed (art work, text, culture, or atom), the way something works, or some combination of more than one of these things?”
Counterargument and rebuttal
Any persuasive paper must include a counterargument that presents a view that is opposite of the paper’s thesis. When presenting your counterargument, be sure the let the reader know that this is the opposing view. Strategies for doing this include asking a question or using phrases such as:
- on the other hand
- John Doe takes the position that
After taking a paragraph or two for the counterargument, you’ll follow with your rebuttal. To signal the switch from counterargument to rebuttal use phrases such as:
- this view fails to acknowledge that
- although this claim is valid, its flaw is that
- what this argument overlooks is
When presenting an argument that you agree with, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using emotion to make your case. Bolster your case with evidence and discuss both sides and you’ll be sure to do a good job.
How do you go about writing your research papers? Do you have any tips that have been helpful to you?