Transition Words useful for Argument Writing
Transitional Words/Expressions to Use in Writing
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- 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays
To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.
Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.
This article is suitable for native English speakers and those who are learning English at Oxford Royale Academy and are just taking their first steps into essay writing.
Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.
1. In order to
Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”
2. In other words
Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”
3. To put it another way
Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”
4. That is to say
Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”
5. To that end
Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”
Adding additional information to support a point
Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.
Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”
Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”
8. What’s more
Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”
Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”
Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”
11. Another key thing to remember
Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”
12. As well as
Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”
13. Not only… but also
Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”
14. Coupled with
Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”
15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…
Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.
16. Not to mention/to say nothing of
Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”
Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast
When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.
Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”
18. On the other hand
Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”
19. Having said that
Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”
20. By contrast/in comparison
Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”
21. Then again
Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”
22. That said
Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”
Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”
Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations
Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.
24. Despite this
Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”
25. With this in mind
Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”
26. Provided that
Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”
27. In view of/in light of
Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”
Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”
Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”
Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”
Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.
31. For instance
Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”
32. To give an illustration
Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”
When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.
Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”
Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”
Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”
You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.
36. In conclusion
Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”
37. Above all
Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”
Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”
Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”
40. All things considered
Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”
How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.
At Oxford Royale Academy, we offer a number of summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , politics , business , medicine and engineering .
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Choose the Right Words in an Argument
How to approach six tricky workplace scenarios.
When addressing a conflict with a colleague, the words matter. Sometimes, regardless of how good your intentions are, what you say can further upset your coworker and just make the issue worse. Other times you might say the exact thing that helps the person go from boiling mad to cool as a cucumber.
So, when things start to heat up with a colleague — you don’t see eye-to-eye on a project or you aren’t happy with the way you were treated in a meeting, for example — how can you choose your words carefully? To help answer this question, I talked with Linda Hill, the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative. She is also the co-author of Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation and Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader .
Hill explained that the words we use in confrontations can get us into trouble for three reasons:
First, the stakes are usually high when emotions are. “With conflict, there are typically negative emotions involved, and most of us aren’t comfortable with those kinds of feelings,” she says. Our discomfort can make us fumble over our words or say things we don’t mean.
The second reason that we often say the wrong thing is because our first instincts are usually off. In fact, it’s often the words we lead with that get us into so much trouble. “That’s because too often we end up framing the issue as who’s right or who’s wrong,” she says. Instead of trying to understand what’s really happening in a disagreement, we advocate for our position. Hill admits that it’s normal to be defensive and even to blame the other person, but saying “You’re wrong” or “Let me tell you how I’m right” will make matters worse. “We’re often building a case for why we’re right. Let that go and focus on trying to resolve the conflict,” she says.
Third, there’s often misalignment between what we mean when we say something and what the other person hears. “It doesn’t matter if your intent is honorable if your impact is not,” Hill says. Most people are very aware of what they meant to say but are less tuned into what the other person heard or how they interpreted it.
So how do you avoid these traps? Hill says it’s not always easy but by following a few rules of thumb, you’ll have a better chance of resolving the conflict instead of inciting it:
Say nothing. “If the emotional level is high, your first task is to take some of the emotion out,” she says. “Often that means sitting back and letting someone vent.”
The trouble is, Hill says, that we often stop people before they’ve gotten enough of the emotion out. “Hold back and let them say their piece. You don’t have to agree with it, but listen,” she says. While you’re doing this, you might be completely quiet or you might indicate you’re listening by using phrases like, “I get that” or “I understand.” Avoid saying anything that assigns feeling or blame, like “Calm down” or “What you need to understand is.” If you can do this effectively, without judging, you’ll soon be able to have a productive conversation.
Ask questions. Hill says that it’s better to ask questions than make statements. Instead of thinking about what you want to say, consider what you want to learn. This will help you get to the root cause of the conflict and set you up to resolve it. You can ask questions like, “Why did that upset you?” or “How are you seeing this situation?” Use phrases that make you appear more receptive to a genuine dialogue. Once you’ve heard the other person’s perspective, Hill suggests you paraphrase and ask, “I think you said X, did I get that right?”
Own your part . Don’t act like there is only one view of the problem at hand. “You need to own your perception. Start sentences with ‘I’ not ‘you,'” Hill says. This will help the other person see your perspective and understand that you’re not trying to blame them for the problem. Instead of saying “You must be uncomfortable”, try “I’m feeling pretty uncomfortable.” Don’t attribute emotions to other people. That just makes them mad.
So, how do you choose the right words to use in a conflict? Of course, every situation is different and what you say will depend on the content of what you’re discussing, your relationship with the other person, and the culture of your organization, but these suggestions may help you get started:
Scenario #1: You have a criticism or dissent to offer. Perhaps you disagree with the popular perspective or perhaps you’re talking to someone more powerful than you.
Hill suggests you get to the underlying reason for the initiative, policy, or approach that you’re disagreeing with. Figure out why the person thinks this is a reasonable proposal. You can say something like, “Sam, I want to understand what we’re trying to accomplish with this initiative. Can you go back and explain the reasoning behind it?” or “What are we trying to get done here?” Get Sam to talk more about what he’s up to and why. Then you can present a few options for how to accomplish the same goal using a different approach: “If I understand you correctly, you’re trying to accomplish x, y, and z. I’m wondering if there’s a different way to approach this. Perhaps we can…”
In a situation like this, you also want to consider the venue. “You may be able to have a more candid discussion with someone if it’s one-on-one meeting rather than in front of a group,” she says.
Scenario #2: You have bad news to deliver to your boss or another coworker. You missed a deadline, made a mistake, or otherwise screwed up.
Hills says the best approach here is to get to the point: “I have some news to share that I’m not proud of. I should’ve told you sooner, but here’s where we are.” Then describe the situation. If you have a few solutions, offer them up: “These are my ideas about how we might address this. What are your thoughts?” It’s important to own up that you made a mistake and not try to point out all the reasons you did what you did.
Scenario #3: You approach a coworker about something he or she messed up.
Here you don’t want to launch in right away, Hill says, but ask permission to speak to the person about what happened: “Mary, can I have a moment to talk to you about something?” Then describe what happened. You can say: “I’m a little confused about what occurred and why it occurred. I want to discuss it with you to see how we can move this forward.” Use phrases like “I understand that X happened…” so that if Mary sees the situation differently, she can disagree with your perspective. But don’t harp too long on what happened. Focus on figuring out a solution by engaging her with something like: “What can we do about this?”
Scenario #4: You approach a colleague about feeling mistreated or you’re upset about something he or she said.
Hill points out that this is a good place to talk about the difference in intent versus impact. After all, you don’t know what your coworker’s intent was; you only know that you’re upset. You can start off with something like: “Carl, It’s a little bit awkward for me to approach you about this, but I heard that you said X. I don’t know whether it’s true or not. Regardless, I thought I should come to you because I’m pretty upset and I thought we should talk about it.” The focus shouldn’t be on blaming the person but airing your feelings and trying to get to a resolution: “I want to understand what happened so that we can have a conversation about it.”
If Carl gets defensive, you can point out that you aren’t questioning his intent. “I’m not talking about what you intended. I thought it was better to clear the air, rather than stewing about it. Would you agree?”
Scenario #5: A colleague yells at you because of something you said or did .
This is where you might stay quiet at first and let them vent. People usually run out of steam pretty quickly if you don’t reciprocate. Keep in mind though, Hill says, that you never deserve to be yelled at. You might say: “I realize that I’ve done something to upset you. I don’t respond well to being yelled at. Can we sit down when I can be better prepared to have a conversation about this?”
Scenario #6: You’re managing someone who engages in conflict regularly and is annoying or upsetting the other people on your team.
Sometimes you have a hothead on your team — someone who seems to even enjoy conflict. Of course disagreements aren’t always a bad thing, but you need to help the person explore how he might be damaging his reputation and relationships. You can try something like: “I like having you around because from where I sit, you raise important issues and feel strongly about them. I also know you’re well-intentioned. I’d like to talk you about whether you’re having the impact you want to have.” Get him to think through the consequences of his regular battles.
Of course, even if you follow this advice, sometimes there just aren’t the right words and it’s not possible to have a constructive discussion. “Occasionally, you need to let it go and come back to it another time when you can both have the conversation,” says Hill. It’s OK to walk away and return to the discussion later, when you’re ready to make a smart and thoughtful choice about the words you want to use.
- Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, cohost of the Women at Work podcast , and the author of two books: Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict . She writes and speaks about workplace dynamics. Watch her TEDx talk on conflict and follow her on LinkedIn . amyegallo
What this handout is about
This handout will define what an argument is and explain why you need one in most of your academic essays.
Arguments are everywhere
You may be surprised to hear that the word “argument” does not have to be written anywhere in your assignment for it to be an important part of your task. In fact, making an argument—expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with evidence—is often the aim of academic writing. Your instructors may assume that you know this and thus may not explain the importance of arguments in class.
Most material you learn in college is or has been debated by someone, somewhere, at some time. Even when the material you read or hear is presented as a simple fact, it may actually be one person’s interpretation of a set of information. Instructors may call on you to examine that interpretation and defend it, refute it, or offer some new view of your own. In writing assignments, you will almost always need to do more than just summarize information that you have gathered or regurgitate facts that have been discussed in class. You will need to develop a point of view on or interpretation of that material and provide evidence for your position.
Consider an example. For nearly 2000 years, educated people in many Western cultures believed that bloodletting—deliberately causing a sick person to lose blood—was the most effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. The claim that bloodletting is beneficial to human health was not widely questioned until the 1800s, and some physicians continued to recommend bloodletting as late as the 1920s. Medical practices have now changed because some people began to doubt the effectiveness of bloodletting; these people argued against it and provided convincing evidence. Human knowledge grows out of such differences of opinion, and scholars like your instructors spend their lives engaged in debate over what claims may be counted as accurate in their fields. In their courses, they want you to engage in similar kinds of critical thinking and debate.
Argumentation is not just what your instructors do. We all use argumentation on a daily basis, and you probably already have some skill at crafting an argument. The more you improve your skills in this area, the better you will be at thinking critically, reasoning, making choices, and weighing evidence.
Making a claim
What is an argument? In academic writing, an argument is usually a main idea, often called a “claim” or “thesis statement,” backed up with evidence that supports the idea. In the majority of college papers, you will need to make some sort of claim and use evidence to support it, and your ability to do this well will separate your papers from those of students who see assignments as mere accumulations of fact and detail. In other words, gone are the happy days of being given a “topic” about which you can write anything. It is time to stake out a position and prove why it is a good position for a thinking person to hold. See our handout on thesis statements .
Claims can be as simple as “Protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged,” with evidence such as, “In this experiment, protons and electrons acted in such and such a way.” Claims can also be as complex as “Genre is the most important element to the contract of expectations between filmmaker and audience,” using reasoning and evidence such as, “defying genre expectations can create a complete apocalypse of story form and content, leaving us stranded in a sort of genre-less abyss.” In either case, the rest of your paper will detail the reasoning and evidence that have led you to believe that your position is best.
When beginning to write a paper, ask yourself, “What is my point?” For example, the point of this handout is to help you become a better writer, and we are arguing that an important step in the process of writing effective arguments is understanding the concept of argumentation. If your papers do not have a main point, they cannot be arguing for anything. Asking yourself what your point is can help you avoid a mere “information dump.” Consider this: your instructors probably know a lot more than you do about your subject matter. Why, then, would you want to provide them with material they already know? Instructors are usually looking for two things:
- Proof that you understand the material
- A demonstration of your ability to use or apply the material in ways that go beyond what you have read or heard.
This second part can be done in many ways: you can critique the material, apply it to something else, or even just explain it in a different way. In order to succeed at this second step, though, you must have a particular point to argue.
Arguments in academic writing are usually complex and take time to develop. Your argument will need to be more than a simple or obvious statement such as “Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect.” Such a statement might capture your initial impressions of Wright as you have studied him in class; however, you need to look deeper and express specifically what caused that “greatness.” Your instructor will probably expect something more complicated, such as “Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture combines elements of European modernism, Asian aesthetic form, and locally found materials to create a unique new style,” or “There are many strong similarities between Wright’s building designs and those of his mother, which suggests that he may have borrowed some of her ideas.” To develop your argument, you would then define your terms and prove your claim with evidence from Wright’s drawings and buildings and those of the other architects you mentioned.
Do not stop with having a point. You have to back up your point with evidence. The strength of your evidence, and your use of it, can make or break your argument. See our handout on evidence . You already have the natural inclination for this type of thinking, if not in an academic setting. Think about how you talked your parents into letting you borrow the family car. Did you present them with lots of instances of your past trustworthiness? Did you make them feel guilty because your friends’ parents all let them drive? Did you whine until they just wanted you to shut up? Did you look up statistics on teen driving and use them to show how you didn’t fit the dangerous-driver profile? These are all types of argumentation, and they exist in academia in similar forms.
Every field has slightly different requirements for acceptable evidence, so familiarize yourself with some arguments from within that field instead of just applying whatever evidence you like best. Pay attention to your textbooks and your instructor’s lectures. What types of argument and evidence are they using? The type of evidence that sways an English instructor may not work to convince a sociology instructor. Find out what counts as proof that something is true in that field. 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?
Be consistent with your evidence. Unlike negotiating for the use of your parents’ car, a college paper is not the place for an all-out blitz of every type of argument. You can often use more than one type of evidence within a paper, but make sure that within each section you are providing the reader with evidence appropriate to each claim. So, if you start a paragraph or section with a statement like “Putting the student seating area closer to the basketball court will raise player performance,” do not follow with your evidence on how much more money the university could raise by letting more students go to games for free. Information about how fan support raises player morale, which then results in better play, would be a better follow-up. Your next section could offer clear reasons why undergraduates have as much or more right to attend an undergraduate event as wealthy alumni—but this information would not go in the same section as the fan support stuff. You cannot convince a confused person, so keep things tidy and ordered.
One way to strengthen your argument and show that you have a deep understanding of the issue you are discussing is to anticipate and address counterarguments or objections. By considering what someone who disagrees with your position might have to say about your argument, you show that you have thought things through, and you dispose of some of the reasons your audience might have for not accepting your argument. Recall our discussion of student seating in the Dean Dome. To make the most effective argument possible, you should consider not only what students would say about seating but also what alumni who have paid a lot to get good seats might say.
You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself how someone who disagrees with you might respond to each of the points you’ve made or your position as a whole. If you can’t immediately imagine another position, here are some strategies to try:
- Do some research. It may seem to you that no one could possibly disagree with the position you are arguing, but someone probably has. For example, some people argue that a hotdog is a sandwich. If you are making an argument concerning, for example, the characteristics of an exceptional sandwich, you might want to see what some of these people have to say.
- Talk with a friend or with your teacher. Another person may be able to imagine counterarguments that haven’t occurred to you.
- Consider your conclusion or claim and the premises of your argument and imagine someone who denies each of them. For example, if you argued, “Cats make the best pets. This is because they are clean and independent,” you might imagine someone saying, “Cats do not make the best pets. They are dirty and needy.”
Once you have thought up some counterarguments, consider how you will respond to them—will you concede that your opponent has a point but explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing arguments.
When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have considered the many sides of the issue. If you simply attack or caricature your opponent (also referred to as presenting a “straw man”), you suggest that your argument is only capable of defeating an extremely weak adversary, which may undermine your argument rather than enhance it.
It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies.
Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly.
Audience is a very important consideration in argument. Take a look at our handout on audience . A lifetime of dealing with your family members has helped you figure out which arguments work best to persuade each of them. Maybe whining works with one parent, but the other will only accept cold, hard statistics. Your kid brother may listen only to the sound of money in his palm. It’s usually wise to think of your audience in an academic setting as someone who is perfectly smart but who doesn’t necessarily agree with you. You are not just expressing your opinion in an argument (“It’s true because I said so”), and in most cases your audience will know something about the subject at hand—so you will need sturdy proof. At the same time, do not think of your audience as capable of reading your mind. You have to come out and state both your claim and your evidence clearly. Do not assume that because the instructor knows the material, he or she understands what part of it you are using, what you think about it, and why you have taken the position you’ve chosen.
Critical reading is a big part of understanding argument. Although some of the material you read will be very persuasive, do not fall under the spell of the printed word as authority. Very few of your instructors think of the texts they assign as the last word on the subject. Remember that the author of every text has an agenda, something that he or she wants you to believe. This is OK—everything is written from someone’s perspective—but it’s a good thing to be aware of. For more information on objectivity and bias and on reading sources carefully, read our handouts on evaluating print sources and reading to write .
Take notes either in the margins of your source (if you are using a photocopy or your own book) or on a separate sheet as you read. Put away that highlighter! Simply highlighting a text is good for memorizing the main ideas in that text—it does not encourage critical reading. Part of your goal as a reader should be to put the author’s ideas in your own words. Then you can stop thinking of these ideas as facts and start thinking of them as arguments.
When you read, ask yourself questions like “What is the author trying to prove?” and “What is the author assuming I will agree with?” Do you agree with the author? Does the author adequately defend her argument? What kind of proof does she use? Is there something she leaves out that you would put in? Does putting it in hurt her argument? As you get used to reading critically, you will start to see the sometimes hidden agendas of other writers, and you can use this skill to improve your own ability to craft effective arguments.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ede, Lisa. 2004. Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising , 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Gage, John T. 2005. The Shape of Reason: Argumentative Writing in College , 4th ed. New York: Longman.
Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruszkiewicz. 2016. Everything’s an Argument , 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.
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Home » Literacy Lines » Teaching Basic Argument Writing Components
Teaching Basic Argument Writing Components
Over the past two years since Keys to Literacy published my Keys to Argument Writing professional development module and the associated training book Keys to Content Writing I am often asked by teachers advice for how to teach argument writing (and opinion for elementary grades). The place to start is to introduce students to the structure of argument/opinion writing.
The first standard of the Common Core Writing Standards is devoted to argument writing. Here is the anchor standard from which Standard #1 for grades K through 12 are based:
WS #1: Write opinions/arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Sometimes argument writing seems very similar to informational writing (Common Core Writing Standard #2). They both incorporate information, and they have similar basic text structures: They must begin with an introduction that states the topic and end with a conclusion. However, their aims are different and the body of an argument organizes information in a different way.
The purpose of informational writing is to examine and explain previously learned information or new information, and this information is typically organized into paragraphs of main ideas that are “chunked” into topics and sub-topics. That is, the information is presented in categories/sections. The purpose of argument writing is to convince a reader that a point of view is valid or to persuade the reader to take a specific action. Information is used, but it is organized based on these major components of an argument: claim, reason, evidence, counter-claim, and rebuttal.
Here are simple descriptions of these components to share with your students:
- Claim: the position taken by the writer; what the writer is trying to prove or argue
- Reason: provided to support a claim; reasons are supported by evidence
- Evidence: use to support or prove a reason; statistics, facts, quotations, surveys, etc.
- Counterclaim: opposing position, counterargument
- Rebuttal: refutes or disproves the counterclaim; addresses the criticism of the claim
And here’s an even simpler set of questions students can ask themselves to help remember each component:
- Claim: What do I think?
- Reason: Why do I think it?
- Evidence: How do I know (proof)?
- Counterclaim: What is the other side?
- Rebuttal: My response to the other side?
The claim is typically stated in the introduction, and restated again in the conclusion. The information in the body paragraphs is organized as a series of reasons supported by evidence. For arguments that include a counter-claim and rebuttal (a requirement for students in grade seven and beyond), there will be additional paragraphs that represent the counter-claim and rebuttal.
Keys to Literacy has posted a nine-minute video recorded during a teacher training in which I explain the major components of an argument and offer suggestions for teaching them to students. The video, along with several other training video clips is available to the public for free at the Free Resources section of the Keys to Literacy website.
At the same resource site you will find a teacher’s checklist and rubric for giving feedback to students about their argument writing that include items related to the text structure of an argument writing piece.
- Joan Sedita
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I have found your lectures and instructions very helpful. Do you have any guidelines on Exposition?
Visit our free videos and webinars where you will find several items related to writing.
What components are there into the claim and evidence rubric?
Some of the things to look for in student argument writing are: Is the claim (position taken) supported with logical reasons and relevant evidence? Are the reasons and evidence presented in an organized way? Is the evidence from sources integrated effectively? Is the rebuttal supported with logical reasons and evidence? Are transitions used to link and to create cohesion among claim, reasons and evidence? Is there a formal style and an objective tone established and maintained throughout the piece?
That was a super helpful resource! I used it to write a paragraph essay on “Elements of Argument”.
Thank you for explaining an argumentive essay. and supportive of me getting started on this essay.
Thanks for the tips..really helpful in writing my assignment in Academic English.
May you send me an example of an argumentative essay and other essay and their example please.
This site has examples of argument essays: https://www.collegeessay.org/blog/argumentative-essay-examples
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How to Write a Standout Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay is a piece of writing that uses factual evidence and logical support to convince the reader of a certain way of thinking. Although many types of essays aim at persuading the reader to believe a specific point of view, argumentative essays rely heavily on hard evidence, drawing on other studies and sources to prove their argument is best.
Don’t let the name fool you: Argumentative essays don’t have to be aggressive or combative. Rather, it gets its name from the style of arguing, whereby the writer presents sufficient research to both support their own claim and invalidate opposing perspectives. When you’re writing an argumentative essay, remember that the goal is to show that your thesis is the only logical conclusion.
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Argumentative essays are only as good as their argument, and structuring good arguments requires a little more than just being stubborn (even if it helps!). Below, we run through the most useful techniques for writing the perfect argumentative essay. But don’t take our word for it—our evidence speaks for itself!
What is an argumentative essay?
Like persuasive essays and other types of essays , the point of argumentative essays is to convince the reader of a particular point of view. What makes an essay argumentative is the method of convincing: An argumentative essay uses fact-based evidence and unquestionable logic to prove that its thesis is true.
Persuasive essays do this, too, but tend to be more emotional and less formal . Argumentative essays focus more on concrete empirical data, whereas persuasive essays appeal more to the reader’s emotions. In other words, argumentative essays favor quantitative support, while persuasive essays favor qualitative support.
Likewise, it’s easy to confuse argumentative essays with expository essays , which rely heavily on fact-based evidence and copious research. The main difference is bias : Argumentative essays presume one point of view is correct, whereas expository essays usually present all sides of the argument and leave it to the reader to make up their own mind.
Another distinction of argumentative essays is that the thesis is not obvious . It usually has strong enough opposition to necessitate an explanation of why it’s wrong. For example, “the sky is blue on a sunny day” would be an awful thesis for an argumentative essay. Not only would it be redundant, but also far too simplistic: Your evidence may be “look outside,” and that’d be the end of it!
The idea is that an argumentative essay leaves no doubt that its thesis is accurate, usually by disproving or invalidating opposing theories. That’s why argumentative essays don’t just talk about the writer’s own thesis but discuss other contradicting points of view as well. It’s hard to name one perspective as “true” if you’re ignoring all the others.
Basic argumentative essay structure
Because your entire argumentative essay depends on how well you present your case, your essay structure is crucial. To make matters worse, the structure of argumentative essays is a little more involved than those of other essay types because you also have to address other points of view. This alone leads to even more considerations, like whose argument to address first, and at what point to introduce key evidence.
Let’s start with the most basic argumentative essay structure: the simple five-paragraph format that suits most short essays.
- Your first paragraph is your introduction , which clearly presents your thesis, sets up the rest of the essay, and maybe even adds a little intrigue.
- Your second, third, and fourth paragraphs are your body, where you present your arguments and evidence, as well as refute opposing arguments. Each paragraph should focus on either showcasing one piece of supporting evidence or disproving one contradictory opinion.
- Your fifth and final paragraph is your conclusion , where you revisit your thesis in the context of all preceding evidence and succinctly wrap up everything.
This simple structure serves you well in a pinch, especially for timed essays that are part of a test. However, advanced essays require more detailed structures, especially if they have a length requirement of over five paragraphs.
Advanced argumentative essay structure
Some essays need to support more complicated arguments and more definitive rebuttals than normal. In these cases, the three major formats below should serve your argumentative essay for a variety of needs.
When to use it: making straightforward arguments
The Aristotelian or classic argument is a default structure for a clear argument, more like an extension of the simple five-paragraph structure above. It draws on credibility ( ethos ), emotion ( pathos ), and reasoning ( logos ) to prove its points, all of which can be adapted for virtually any argument. In form, it follows a direct and logical path:
1 Introduce the problem.
2 Explain your perspective.
3 Explain your opponent’s perspective. Refute their points one-by-one as you go.
4 Present your evidence.
5 Conclude your argument.
When to use it: presenting complex issues with no clear truths or when your thesis is a rebuttal or counterargument.
The Toulmin method was developed to analyze arguments themselves, so it makes sense to use it for essays. Because it’s steeped in logic and deep analysis, this approach best suits complicated issues that need unraveling, but also works well for refuting an opposing point of view piece by piece.
In form, it includes six main areas, but you’re free to organize them in whatever order works best for your essay. Keep in mind that your claim can itself be a rebuttal of another argument, so your entire essay could be disproving another thesis rather than presenting your own.
1 Claim: your thesis or argument, stated clearly
2 Reasons: your evidence, including data or generally accepted facts
3 Warrant: the connection between your claim and reasons (requiring you to state assumptions explicitly so there’s no confusion)
4 Backing: additional evidence to support your claim
5 Qualifier: the limits to your own claim, including concessions
6 Rebuttal: addressing opposing viewpoints and criticisms of your claim
When to use it: showing both sides of an argument as valid or when presenting to a mixed audience.
The Rogerian method is simply a middle-ground approach, where you acknowledge the validity of both your thesis and the opposition’s viewpoint. It’s the least confrontational and most respectful, which helps in convincing readers who are naturally biased against your main claim. In form, it follows a five-step structure:
2 Explain your opponent’s perspective first. Validate their points when correct.
3 Explain your perspective.
4 Bring both sides together. Present a middle ground where both viewpoints coexist.
5 Conclude your (balanced) argument.
How to write a good thesis
The thesis, or argument, is the cornerstone of any good essay. If your thesis is weak or full of holes, not even a perfect essay structure can save you.
The thesis itself should be the one takeaway you want your readers to leave with. What are you trying to convince them of, or what do you want them to remember after reading? Knowing this informs all other aspects of writing your essay, including the best structure and format, not to mention which evidence to collect.
For starters, choose a topic you feel strongly about (if it’s not already assigned). It helps if your argument is specific; having a broad or general argument means more facets to examine, which can make for a wordy essay.
It also helps to consider your audience. You don’t always have to tell readers what they want to hear, but their biases should influence how you write your essay, including your wording and how much credit to give the opposition.
Above all, choose a thesis with sufficient evidence. Argumentative essays thrive on factual proof from credible sources, and you don’t want to waste time searching for data that doesn’t exist. If you can’t find enough facts to back up your thesis, maybe you shouldn’t argue that point in the first place.
How to write an argumentative essay: the writing process
Argumentative essays follow the same recommended writing process as other kinds of writing, albeit with more emphasis on researching and preparing. Here’s a brief overview of how to adapt the process for argumentative essays:
1 Brainstorming: If your argument is not provided in the assignment, take some time to think up a good thesis based on our guidelines above.
2 Preparing: This phase is for collecting all the evidence going into your essay, as well as writing an outline . Because proof is key to argumentative essays, set aside ample time for research until you have all the support you need. It’s also a good time to outline your essay, answering questions like when and how to discuss opposing viewpoints.
3 Drafting: Write a rough draft of your essay. It helps to include any data and direct quotes as early as possible, especially with argumentative essays that often cite outside sources.
4 Revising: Polish your rough draft, optimize word choice, and restructure your arguments if necessary. Make sure your language is clear and appropriate for the reader, and double-check that you effectively made all your points and rebuttals.
5 Proofreading : Go through your draft and focus exclusively on fixing mistakes. If you’re not confident in your grammar skills or diction, use Grammarly .
Although optional, it always helps to have a fresh set of eyes on your essays before finalizing it. See if your argument is strong enough to convince your friends!
Argumentative essay writing tips
Our tips for writing better essays apply just as well to argumentative essays as any others, so that’s the best place to start if you’re looking for additional guidance. For tips specific to argumentative essays, try these:
Support your argument with concrete facts
Although similar to persuasive essays, argumentative essays are in some ways the exact opposite. While persuasive essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, argumentative essays appeal to the reader’s reason. That’s why hard facts work best.
Do plenty of research until you have enough data to support each of your main points. Feel free to cite other sources or studies to improve your credibility as well. Try to withhold your personal opinions and feelings as much as possible—let your evidence speak for you.
Be proactive about language
In an argumentative essay, tone and style are more important than you may think, especially if you’re criticizing another person’s perspective. Be respectful when choosing your words and phrasing. Using an aggressive tone reflects worse on the writer than the target, even if rebutting a despicable point of view.
Use aids for style and grammar
Even the smallest typo can derail the most carefully planned argument. The problem is, it’s hard to formulate the best possible argument if you’re distracted by spelling and grammar.
Grammarly finds all of your writing mistakes for you so you can stay focused on what’s important. It even checks your tone and clarity to make sure your true argument always shines through and comes across as intended. See how Grammarly can help your next writing project by downloading it now.
Below are examples of signposts that are used in argumentative essays. Signposts enable the reader to follow our arguments easily. When pointing out opposing
Transition Words useful for Argument Writing ; Emphasis, Even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly, without question, clearly, ; Place/Position
Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you're to write outstanding essays every time.
Actually, making an argument in writing is basically the sort of essays that students write in German. In English these essays are either called.
Use transition words in argumentative writingIn this lesson you will learn how to strengthen your argument by creating flow throughout the
You can try something like: “I like having you around because from where I sit, you raise important issues and feel strongly about them. I also
Making a claim ... What is an argument? In academic writing, an argument is usually a main idea, often called a “claim” or “thesis statement,” backed up with
Word List on Linking Arguments :: Learn English online - free exercises, explanations, games, teaching materials and plenty of information on English
The purpose of argument writing is to convince a reader that a point of view is valid or to persuade the reader to take a specific action.
Advanced argumentative essay structure · 1 Claim: your thesis or argument, stated clearly · 2 Reasons: your evidence, including data or generally