College advice for writing effective arguments

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Reinventing Research student blogging contest WINNER!
Voters chose Nadine to win the grand prize of $250!

Oh, I don’t know what to write about? How shall I start? What do I do when I get stuck? Where shall I stand from my topic? How shall I convince my audience?

These are some of the questions that could conquer the writer’s mind and prevent her from writing at ease. You may at times try to write and find that you have nothing to say. In fact, good writing is focused, organized, and concrete. Effective essays are written in style and tone that are suited to both the audience and the writer’s purpose. These are sound principles, all well known to you. But how, exactly, do you achieve them when writing an argument? If you accept the notion that you learn about your ideas as you write, then you will accept the notion of writing as a process.

A solid foundation

A writer’s ideas evolve through stages. For many writers it is impossible to achieve an effective final product without going through a series of rambling, confusing drafts. Too often students stop the process short, turning in as a finished product something that is not yet “ready for strangers” but that is nonetheless a good draft on its way to becoming a good argument. One of the best ways to convert this blank writing to thoughtful writing is to read as part of your writing process. Reading while you write will provide you with background information on your subject, new ideas to write about, fresh perspectives on your issue, and supporting details for your paper. It will at the same time suggest ways to solve writing problems as you read to understand how other writers have solved them.

What do you do when you write an argument? First of all, free write about your topic, as prewriting is creative. Still like most writers, you will need to free write from time to time either to help you get started on writing or to help you break through writer’s blocks. In the Toulmin’s model, arguments begin with claim, which are statements of belief or truth. When you make an argument, you take a position that others will find controversial and debatable. The claim of your essay is the position you want your audience to accept. For every claim, there should be a reason or more that offers evidence to support a claim as you have audience to convince.

Always remember when you write an argumentative paper, you must be aware of your audience- the reader; as the purpose of the argumentative essay is to convince the reader that your position is the better one. Once you have selected a topic you feel strongly about, you should make a list of points for both sides of the argument and pick a side (claim). One of your first objectives in your essay will be to present both sides of your issue with an assessment of each. Of course, you will conclude that one side (your side) is the best conclusion. Here’s a tip, try to press hot buttons that would attract the reader’s attention about the topic discussed.

Begin your essay

Once you’ve given yourself a solid foundation to work with, you can begin to draft your essay. An argumentative essay should contain 3 parts:

  1. the introduction
  2. the body
  3. the conclusion

The length of these parts will vary, depending on the length of your essay assignments. As in any essay, the first paragraph of your argumentative essay should contain a brief explanation of your topic, some background information, and a thesis statement. In this case, your thesis will be a statement of your position on a particular controversial topic. The body of your essay will contain the meat of your argument. You should go into more details about the two sides of your controversy and state the strongest points of the counter side of your issue.

After describing the “other” side, you will present your own view point and then provide evidence to show why your position is the correct one. Then select your strongest evidence and present your points one by one. Use a mix of evidence types, from statistics to other studies and anecdotal stories. At the end, restate your position as the most sensible one in your summary paragraphs. Take a day or two off, reread your paper with a fresh mind and a sharp pencil and ask yourself:

  • Does this make sense?
  • Am I convinced?
  • Will this convince a reader?
  • Will they understand my values, and agree with my fact?

Then edit, correct and rewrite as necessary.

Technical tips for your essay

  • Avoid emotional language.
  • Know the difference between a logical conclusion and an emotional point of view.
  • Don’t make up evidence.
  • Cite your sources.
  • Make an outline.
  • Be prepared to defend your side.

Author Bio:
I am Nadine Jaafarawi. I was born on 1 January, 1980 in Beirut, Lebanon. I am interested in research. I developed a passion for writing as it is a mirror that reflects your inner soul. I was selected as a runner-up for a competition conducted by the British Council (in Lebanon) about writing a lesson plan inspired by the British Council. Currently I am an English Instructor at Lebanese University and at Lebanese International University. A substitute teacher at ACS (American Community School). Taught at USJ (Universitẻ Saint – Joseph). Education: Doctorate in English Language (Linguistics) Lebanese University – Hayik ( started in 2012 till present) Masters in English Language and Literature Lebanese University – Dekwenee (2009) Diploma of Higher Studies in English Language and Literature Lebanese University – Dekwenee (2004) Bachelor in English Language and Literature Beirut Arab University – Beirut (1998-2001)

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