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Argumentation or Persuasion Guidelines

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 equal time.

    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 testimony.

    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.

    2. If you have not already done so, summarize the opposition viewpoint in order to reinforce the strength of your viewpoint--and show clearly the connection.

    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 structures.

    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 write.

    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 default.

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    Student Models
    English 111

    Argumentation Essay

    Source unknown

    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.

Tim Cole

English 112-01

Jan. 22, 1987

Argumentation Essay

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 better themselves.

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 field.

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."

Last revision: August 4, 2003