57 Introduction to Argumentative Writing

Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini


by Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini

Argumentative writing, also referred to as persuasive writing, is a cornerstone of any first-year writing course. We encounter arguments on daily basis, in both formal and informal contexts. Most of the time, however, we don’t realize how the arguments are actually working. This example developed by Ohio State’s University Library shows how a relatively informal argument may unfold. The dialogue has been annotated to show what kinds of rhetorical elements tend to appear in casual arguments.

Jerald: Where should we have my parents take us for dinner when they’re here on Sunday? [He asks the question about something that’s unsettled.]
Cathy: We should go to The Cascades! [She makes her main claim to answer the question.] It’s the nicest place around. [Another claim, which functions as a reason for the main claim.]
Jerald: How so? [He asks for a reason to believe her claims.]
Cathy: White table cloths. [She gives a reason.]
Jerald: What’s that have to do with how good the food is? [He doesn’t see how her reason is relevant to the claim.]
Cathy: Table cloths make restaurants seem upscale. [She relates her reason for the claims.] And I’ve read a survey in Columbus Metro that says the Cascades is one of the most popular restaurants in town. [She offers evidence.]
Jerald: I never read the Metro. And Dino’s has table cloths. [He offers a point that contradicts her reason.]
Cathy: I know, but those are checkered! I’m talking about heavy white ones. [She acknowledges his point and responds to it.]
Jerald: My dad loves Italian food. I guess he’s kind of a checkered-table-cloth kind of guy? [He raises another reservation or objection.]
Cathy: Yeah, but? Well, I know The Cascades has some Italian things on the menu. I mean, it’s not known for its Italian food but you can order it there. Given how nice the place is, it will probably be gourmet Italian food. [She acknowledges his point and responds to it. There’s another claim in there.]
Jerald: Ha! My dad, the gourmet? Hey, maybe this place is too expensive. [He raises another reservation.]
Cathy: More than someplace like Dino’s. [She concedes his point.]
Jerald: Yeah. [He agrees.]
Cathy: But everybody eats at The Cascades with their parents while they’re students here, so it can’t be outlandishly expensive. [She now puts limits on how much she’s conceding.]

As the example above shows, a number of elements typically play a role in most well-developed arguments:

  • a question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer
  • a claim that responds to the question
  • one or more reasons for accepting the claim
  • evidence that backs each reason
  • objections & response to objections

We often employ many or all of these elements in everyday life, when debating current issues with friends and family. It just unfolds in a messier way than your academic essay will need to structure the conversation. However, even though academic persuasive essays rely on some techniques you’re already familiar with, certain strategies are less well-known, and even certain obvious elements, such as using “evidence” to back a claim, has a certain flavor in more formal environments that some students may not find obvious.

Different models have been proposed for how to best package the elements above. The three models most commonly employed in academic writing are the Aristotelian (classical), Toulmin, and Rogerian, covered in this chapter. The proposal method is also included though this strategy focuses on solutions rather than problems.

Key Characteristics:

Argumentative writing generally exhibits the following:

  • Presents a particular position/side of an issue
  • Attempts to persuade the reader to the writer’s side
  • Uses elements of rhetoric and strategies that include the integration of logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos in intentional and meaningful ways
  • Presents information, data, and research as part of the evidence/support (logos)
  • Relies on real-world stories and examples to nurture empathy (pathos)
  • Leans on experts in their fields to cultivate credibility (ethos)
  • Enlists or elicits a call to action (kairos)
  • Presents and acknowledges opposing views

Contents within this Chapter:

  • Elements of an Argument Essay
  • Aristotelian (Classical) Argument Model
  • Rogerian Argument Model
  • Toulmin Argument Model
  • Proposal Argument Model
  • Counterargument and Response
  • Generating Antithetical Points in Five Easy Steps
  • Tips for Writing Argument Essays
“Overview” by Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Introduction to Argumentative Writing Copyright © 2020 by Joel Gladd and Amy Minervini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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