Argumentation or Persuasion
Note: Always check with your teacher to make sure you
understand the specific requirements of any assignment. This handout contains
general guidelines for writing argumentative or persuasive essays.
An argumentative essay requires careful planning and revision. Writers
must take a stand on an issue for which there is opposition and must
present the opposing viewpoint fairly. The major strength of a formal
argument lies in the selection and presentation of logical evidence
to support a controversial position. In addition, writing with a tone
of moderation reinforces the credibility of the writer and the writer's
position. For example, a paper about birth control might be informative;
however, a paper about why birth control research tends to be oriented
to women and not men would be argumentative..
1. Write an opening (motivator) to attract the attention and interest
of readers. Make readers feel that the topic is important and establish
clearly the context for the issue.
2. Include, where appropriate, a paragraph or more to define unfamiliar
terms, to give background, to state the case under question, to summarize
the opposition viewpoint, and/or to indicate weaknesses in the opposition
viewpoint. Remember, however, that your presentation of the opposition
view should be brief-after all, you want to be fair but not to give
3. In a clear thesis statement at the end of the paragraph, present
the subject and precise viewpoint you intend to argue.
4. Indicate a plan of development for the essay (blueprint/summary
of major points to be discussed).
1. Provide enough reasons or points to fully support your thesis. Although
the number of points varies with the topic, you should try to develop
more than two in order to be convincing.
2. Be sure to illustrate each point fully with reasons, specific
examples, names, numbers, facts, cases, and (when appropriate) expert
3. Unless another system of documentation or a research paper has
been assigned, give full credit in parentheses for all information
taken from outside sources, both quotations, summaries, and paraphrases.
(Example is in MLA format.)
Example: According to Dr. Jane Jones of Eastern Virginia Medical
School, tight hats cause permanent neurological damage (14).
4. Make sure that each central paragraph has a clear topic sentence
that provides a transition from the previous paragraph, identifies the
topic and purpose of the new paragraph, and contains a reminder of the
opinion expressed in your thesis statement. This reminder reinforces
your position and thereby strengthens your argument.
5. You may wish to use your points to refute specific aspects of
the opposition view. This method works well when you are able to respond
to several specific reasons presented by opponents.
1. If appropriate, concede points about which the opposition is correct.
EDITING AND PROOFREADING
2. If you have not already done so, summarize the opposition viewpoint
in order to reinforce the strength of your viewpoint--and show clearly
3. Summarize your own major points.
4. Draw any appropriate conclusions.
5. Make any appropriate recommendations.
6. Reinforce your original thesis statement by repeating the ideas
(but not the exact wording).
7. Provide an interesting closing-a striking statement or a dramatic
example or a reference back to your opening-and include an appeal
for support for the view expressed in your thesis.
1. Evaluate and revise your first draft for clear expression, adequate
support, logical thought, logical organization, unity, and coherence.
Do not be too concerned about grammar, punctuation, and spelling until
you have fully developed your ideas.
2. Proofread your revision for mechanical and grammatical accuracy.
Be especially attentive to sentence structure elements such as completeness,
proper connections, logical coordination and subordination, and parallel
3. An old proof readers trick is to read from the end of the paper
to the beginning which prevents you from seeing what you meant to
4. Prepare a final paper in an appropriate format, and then proofread
the finished paper carefully, making minor corrections neatly with
ink (white-out fluid helps you make neat corrections). If you find
many errors, rewrite or retype the page.
1. Unless a title page is assigned, type your name, the course, the
assignment, and the due date in the upper left corner of the first page.
In the upper right corner, 1/2 inch from the top, of the
second and subsequent pages, write your last name and the page number.
Staple the pages in order. Do not use a folder or binder unless your
teacher has requested one.
2. Provide a title that clearly reveals the content and focus of
your essay. Center your title on the top rule of notebook paper, 1
inch from the top on typed work. Use correct capitalization for your
title; do not underline it or place it in quotation marks.
3. Use one side of standard 8 1/2-by-11 paper, using blue or black
ink if handwriting, black ribbon if typing. Computer printing should
be letter quality or near-letter quality. Double space all typed work.
Teachers prefer typed work.
4. Leave margins of 1 inch on all sides (on notebook paper, use the
margin guides provided). If using a computer, this is the standard
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Student Models English 111
Keep Basic Studies
A college degree is no longer the meal ticket it once was, which
is probably one reason that so much criticism is being directed at
higher education in America. Colleges and universities across the
nation are evaluating their programs with the stated intent of making
higher education more practical and more relevant. From the point
of view of many students, the least relevant and least useful component
of their college education is the segment of courses variously labeled
as core courses, basic studies, or general education. This set of
courses typically includes composition, humanities, history, and social
and physical sciences. In most American colleges and universities,
students complete courses in all these subjects, usually during their
first two years of college, before officially selecting a major. Many
students feel that these first two years could be better spent taking
courses in their majors. However, this segment of courses from various
areas of learning is valuable and should therefore be kept in the
college and university curriculum.
Opponents of basic education argue that these courses repeat high
school courses. Valid college-level basic studies courses, however,
explore subjects in greater depth and on a more mature intellectual
level than their high school counterparts. For example, college history
professors, usually less restricted by outside pressures than high
school teachers, may present a more accurate view of such topics as
America's treatment of Indians or the role of blacks in American history.
In addition, most teachers and textbooks scarcely keep up with the
new scientific discoveries and the rapidly changing social, economic,
and political scene, so these courses at the college level are not
mere repetition of high school material. In fact, college basic studies
courses often give students an up-to-date version of material studied
in high school.
In addition, these core courses are valuable even when they do repeat
high school material. All but the college students who were fortunate
enough to attend exceptional high schools can benefit from review.
The fact that students have been previously exposed to material does
not mean that they have learned the information and concepts. Falling
Scholastic Aptitude Test scores in English and math seem to bear this
out. Furthermore, most colleges and universities provide testing procedures
by which those students with exceptional aptitude or superior high
school preparation may be exempted from subjects they have already
mastered. Most of today's entering college students, however, can
benefit from basic studies. Virtually every college freshman has had
some form of high school English, for example, but some have never
written an essay. Even students who have written essays may not have
had the benefit of careful marking and extensive feedback by their
overworked high school English teachers. Considering the wide range
of motivation and abilities and the overload of students and extracurricular
duties which high school teachers have to contend with, teachers of
other subjects also may be unable to give students sufficient time
and attention. Therefore, college basic studies courses are needed
to compensate for inadequacies in high school education.
Another reason for including basic studies in the college curriculum
is the helpful period of time for adjustment. Most college freshmen
are just out of high school and living away from home for the first
time. Taking courses to which they have had some prior exposure eases
the shock of transition from high school to college and provides time
to adapt both socially and academically. Furthermore, many students
come to college because of parental pressure or because they have
been told that they need a college degree in order to survive in a
competitive world. Many of these students have only the dimmest notion
of what they want to major in. A sampling of various courses can help
them locate their interest and aptitude. Students returning to school
after several years also find reassurance in the familiarity of general
education courses, and many returning students welcome the opportunity
to brush up on fundamentals.
Yet another justification for basic studies courses is that they
broaden a person's education. Many people value things according to
their usefulness in a material sense. Nothing is more frustrating
to an English teacher than the student who complains, "I'm going to
be a computer programmer. What good will literature ever be to me?"
Science teachers probably experience the same frustration when a humanities
student questions the need to study physical science. This all-too-common
attitude is based on the assumption that the only function of higher
education is to teach a marketable skill. The great nineteenth century
educator John Henry Newman wrote in The Idea of a University that
"cultivation of mind is surely worth seeking for its own sake . .
. ; there is a knowledge which is desirable, though nothing come of
it, as being of itself a treasure, and a sufficient remuneration of
years of labor." Newman meant that learning is worthwhile in itself,
whether you can buy a hamburger with it or not. General education
courses support this commendable philosophy.
Admittedly, the subjects being taught in basic studies courses in
colleges and universities probably should be taught in high school.
But it is futile to discuss what should be done in American high schools
as long as teachers are burdened by so many nonteaching duties and
by an overload of students of widely divergent ability and motivation.
It is unlikely that these problems in public education will be remedied
in the near future. In the meantime, basic studies courses might be
accelerated so that students could complete them during the first
year of college, and students could be given a wider choice of basic
studies courses. However, this important component of higher education
should not be eliminated at the present time. In fact, general education
courses are the heart of life-long learning.
Jan. 22, 1987
A Chance For An Education
At a time when the cost of attending a college or university is at
its highest, the United States government plans to cut federally funded
student financial aid. Many government officials believe that since
only a small portion of student aid money is used each year that this
is a logical place to cut back in government spending. However, many
parents and students in the Virginia Beach area are unaware of what
financial aid is available. In most high schools, information regarding
financial aid for institutes of higher education is anything but common
knowledge. These federally funded student aid loans affect many people
in many ways, such as incentive for high school students to continue
their education, a means by which people already in the work force may
return to school, help to educate minorities, and offer students a wider
variety of colleges or universities to choose from. Therefore, federally
funded student aid should not be reduced, and information about such
aid should be provided for Virginia Beach residents in a better manner.
One of the major advantages of federally funded student financial aid
is that it offers incentive for high school students to continue their
educations. For example, a student who knows he or she is eligible for
financial aid may try harder in school. While a student who is not aware
that financial aid is available, and whose parents cannot afford to
send him to college, may see no reason to do well in high school. Sadly,
this is not the worst case. Many financially distraught students give
up all hope of a higher education and drop out of high school in order
to get a job. Moreover, if high school students know financial aid is
available, this knowledge can provide the incentive many financially
distressed students need to stay in school. Thus, federally funded student
aid should not be reduced.
Not only does federally funded student financial aid provide incentive
for high school students in Virginia Beach, but it provides a means
by which adults who are already in the work force can attend local colleges
and universities. The fact that many of these people have families to
support makes affording college nearly impossible without federal aid.
Furthermore, without federal aid many local businesses which pay employees'
college tuition to schools such as ODU and TCC would be forced to withdraw
this service. For example, Stihl Incorporated, a local chain saw manufacturer,
offers college tuition aid to any employee who wishes to attend a local
college or university. Without federal aid, Stihl could not offer this
program. Therefore, without federally funded student aid many working
adults would be trapped in their current job status with no means to
In addition, federal aid assists minorities in integrating many school
systems. For example, many black students are currently attending ODU,
TCC, and other predominately white colleges and universities on federally
funded minority scholarships. Furthermore, many white students are attending
Hampton Institute and Norfolk State on minority scholarships. Many of
these federally funded minority scholarships not only help to educate
minorities, but they also aid the integration of schools. Thus, federally
funded student aid for minorities is a means by which local residents
can help put an end to racial tensions. Therefore, federally funded
financial aid should not be reduced.
Finally, federally student financial aid offers a student a wider selection
of schools he or she may attend. Through federally funded student aid,
a student may be able to afford the school he or she would really like
to attend. Without this aid many Tidewater students could not afford
schools such as ODU or Virginia Tech. Also, many federally funded student
aid programs help students to continue their education after leaving
a two-year college. For example, many students who can afford TCC cannot
afford the extra expense of a four year college without federal aid.
And lastly, students with a strong desire for a particular field can
choose the college they feel will give them the best education in this
Admittedly, the responsibility to inquire about financial aid lies
with the individual. Although most people currently look upon federally
funded student financial aid an unattainable pot of gold, it doesn't
have to be if they take the time to inquire. Meanwhile, however, federally
funded student aid continues to offer incentive for high school students
who know government funds are available. It provides a means for people
to change careers by attending college. It also enables minorities a
chance for a better education. And it offers a student a wide selection
of colleges and universities to choose from. In a society where education
is so important, can we afford to cut back on programs which help educate
thousands every year? As the Greek Philosopher Plato said, "The direction
in which education starts a man will determine his future life."
August 4, 2003