Assignment Guide: The Argumentative Essay
Assignment Prompt
For this assignment, you will be writing an argumentative essay–a piece of writing that requires you to take a position, what rhetoricians call a claim, on a debatable topic (that is, a topic with more than one side). Specifically, you will present a policy claim where you argue for or against a change of some kind. This claim should be supported by reliable, credible evidence (i.e. scholarly sources) backed by research. In addition to presenting your claim, you will also need to acknowledge the other side, which is called the counterargument. For this assignment, you may choose your own topic or select one from the list below.
Assignment-Specific Requirements:
Length: This assignment should be at least 750 words.
Thesis: Underline your thesis statement or the main claim of your letter.
Supporting Points: plan to develop at least three strong supporting points to accompany your thesis and at least one counter. Each supporting point should equate to at least one body paragraph.
Sources Needed: The essay should integrate at least four reliable and credible sources, to help prove the argument for or against a policy change. Be sure to use MLA guidelines for all in-text and Works Cited citations.
Page Formatting: See Appendix C – Formatting and Submitting Your Work
MLA Requirements: See Formatting your Essay: MLA 8th Edition
Rhetorical Mode
When we talk about argument writing, we are not talking about an emotional and heated argument, but one that is neutral in tone and uses evidence/facts to convince your readers of a claim. Your argument is your claim, or the point that you want to convince readers of–in this instance, you will be making a claim for or against a policy change. Because everything depends on the strength of this claim (and the supporting points that you use to scaffold it), the organizational structure of an argumentative essay is incredibly important to its success. Every idea, topic sentence, paragraph, and page should always align with your argumentative claim. Be sure that you use scholarly evidence purposefully to support the claim you are making and do not veer too much into exploratory or informative writing, which is trickier than it sounds. You’ll also need to think carefully about how to integrate researched evidence with your own ideas, to build a fully developed and supported stance throughout. Finally, you will want to acknowledge the counterargument in the body paragraphs, even if you cannot refute it entirely.
Rhetorical Considerations
Purpose:
Remember that this is an argumentative essay: that means your goal is to prove your claim for or against a policy change to readers. This piece of writing should be aimed at convincing readers through the inclusion of a strong argumentative thesis, specific supporting points, acknowledgement of the counter, and carefully chosen scholarly evidence.
Audience:
The argumentative essay is written for someone else–a community of readers that is most impacted by the policy you are proposing to change (or keep the same). In this instance, you are writing to argue for or against a change (and thus convince readers that a change should or should not occur). Keep this audience in mind by angling everything in your essay towards a strong argument that can appeal to a more general population.
Form:
This is a formal writing project, written in third-person, relying on strong organizational strategies, integrating researched evidence (the academic sources you choose), and following MLA formatting guidelines.
Additional Resources:
Suggested Topics:
Physician-assisted suicide should/should not be legalized
The drinking age should/should not be lowered to 18
Colleges should/should not use proctoring for exams
Weedkiller should/should not be illegal
Self-driving cars should/should not be legal
College athletes should/should not be paid as employees
The U.S. should/should not switch to a single-payer healthcare system
Drug possession should/should not be decriminalized
The minimum wage should/should not be increased across the U.S.
Mini-Lesson on ETHOS – PATHOS – LOGOS
Plan to use these appeals heavily throughout your Argumentative essay.
Ethos
This is an ethical appeal. It relies on your reliability and credibility as the author.
Includes reliable sources
Is written from an unbiased perspective
Shows the writer’s expertise through the presentation of careful insight and research
Pathos
This is an emotional appeal. It relies on the construction of careful connection between the claims presented and the emotions of the readers.
Includes the writer’s values and beliefs
Uses stories or examples that convey emotion
Contains broader appeal and focus
Logos
This is an appeal to logic and reason. It relies on facts and figures that can convince the reader of the claims.
Relies on fact and opinion
Focuses on reasonable claims and organization of ideas
Only includes relevant material with a narrow focus

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