Quality argumentative essays don’t happen by accident. It has to form a really convincing argument to grab the marker’s attention, spark their interest and then guide them from start to end.
Even though our argumentative essays are great, I wanted to make them better. Hell, I wanted our argumentative essays to be so good that it is printed, framed and passed down to the next generation!
To do that, I need to understand what makes argumentative essays work. And I mean down to every single sentence. What makes an argumentative essay scores a distinction every single time?
So, we did what I usually do to improve. We got data. Lots of it.
Here was the idea. If we gather enough sample argumentative essays that schools were putting up as a perfect example of how it should be written, I would compare them, contrast them and uncover the secrets to writing an argumentative essay so good that even the schools want it featured on their website.
If we did this, we would have a clear idea of how to write argumentative essays, every single time.
Note: These steps are not your ‘get assignment done easily’ type of steps. It requires time and effort but you will definitely ace your essay. If you are looking for immediate assignment help however, you can contact us on it!
Note 2: The following guide is by no means the only way of writing an argumentative essay. However, we have discovered that this is the best way to score.
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This is the data we used for this experiment
Our favourite source for distinction essays is our writers. Other than that, we love searching through the different Universities’ website for sample argumentative essays they put up from time to time.
It’s not as simple as googling for argumentative essay samples though; we programmed a system to dig out those sneaky, hiding just under the public eye, argumentative essay samples.
Sorting through the data was challenging as well. Many of the essays found are actually not of great quality mainly because they are either student submitted essays that somehow make its way to the website unsecured, or essays put up by school to teach students on what NOT to write for an argumentative essay.
In total, we analysed 374 quality argumentative essays put up by Universities around the world.
Crucial Findings from the Argumentative Essays
What were the crucial findings that we found in the sample essays? Here they are.
I. An introduction is on average 10% of the length of the essay
Of these argumentative essays, all of them contains a proper introduction. These introductions are on average, about 10% of the total word count of the essay.
The most common introduction length is 8%, or about 80 words in a 1,000 words argumentative essay. On the extreme ends, the shortest introduction that we’ve found is a 42 words introduction on a 1,322 argumentative essay and 445 words on a 2493 words argumentative essay.
Takeaway: Have a proper introduction section and keep it ideally between 8-12% of total essay word count
II. Good Introduction Structure
Students often write an introduction that is either too short, too long, or missing altogether. More than just following the rules above, you can use this checklist guide to help you with writing an introduction.
According to the research, there are five points that are included in most of the 374 essays we’ve analysed. These five points are the key to getting a great introduction.
1. Introduce Topic and general background information
Let’s say your argumentative essay topic is:
Is the new PSLE scoring system better for students and parents?
Your general background information should be on PSLE. You can write briefly on what is PSLE and how it has been graded in the past
2. Focus on the research problem
For the same topic, the focus here will be on the new scoring system. So you should talk a little into what the new scoring system is and why the change.
3. Provide evidences on the focus
You will have to cite sources to back up what you have written on the focus. In this case, you will definitely need to cite the sources when explaining the T-score grading system and the reason given by the Ministry of Education for the change. Depending on the amount of words for the essay, you can write either a brief explanation or an in-depth definition and explanation.
4. ‘Problemise’ the focus and thus arriving at the purpose of writing this essay
After providing evidences, you will need to ‘problemise’ it so readers know what is your purpose of writing this essay. Here, the purpose is immediately apparent in the title itself. “Is the new PSLE T-score grading system better for students and parents?”. You can either rewrite this sentence or copy word for word, the title to be used in the introduction.
5. Objective of the argumentative essay
While only 56 of the 374 (14.9%) argumentative essays that we analysed contain an essay objective, we find that the percentage is significant enough for you to include it in your introduction.
An essay objective usually starts with: “This essay therefore seeks to…” or “This paper will first look at…”.
Here is a sample of an argumentative essay introduction:
Takeaway: Follow the 5 key steps in writing an introduction
III. The essays follow a standard argumentative essay template
For me, this was perhaps the least surprising insight from the data. Schools have been preaching on following this standard template since humans invented the wheel.
The template that the argumentative essays follow is the introduction-claims-opposing claim-conclusion template.
Only 3 argumentative essays of the 374 analysed have a different structure. Those 3 argumentative essays don’t seem to have a standard structure but because of some marvelous writing, it makes the piece sensible and easily understandable. We highly recommend not to try it though.
Takeaway: Follow the standard argumentative essay template.
IV. The paragraphs also follow a pretty standard template
Surprise, surprise. Another standard template for paragraphs that is being preached as frequently as the argumentative essay template.
The 374 argumentative essays that we analysed contain a total of 1831 paragraphs. This is not counting in the introductions and conclusions of these essays. Of these 1831 paragraphs, 94% followed the paragraph template.
I don’t know about you but 94% is a high percentage. That is why I strongly, highly, absolutely recommend that you follow the template to writing the paragraphs of your argumentative essays. By paragraphs, we mean the claims paragraphs, opposing claims paragraphs, basically every paragraphs in your argumentative essay other than the introduction and conclusion.
1. The topic sentence
For each claim or opposing claim paragraph that you write, the very first sentence has to explain the very essence of it.
This is what we call a topic sentence. It clearly explains what the paragraph is about, and in this case, what the argument is about.
Using the same topic, perhaps one of the claim that you’ve found out is that the new scoring band places less emphasis on academic results and more on a holistic education.
In this case, the very first sentence of your paragraph should be:
One argument for the implementation of the new scoring band system is its strength in encouraging a holistic education for the students by shifting away an overemphasis on academic results.
* The signposting phrase is bolded
2. Explanation of the topic sentence using sources
After stating the topic sentence (or what the argument should be about), you should seek to explain it with sources you found that support this argument.
You should have at least 2 supporting sources to back up your claim. Each paragraph should have at least 4 sentences.
Takeaway: Always start a paragraph by stating what the paragraph is about. Citations are needed to provide the paragraph with credibility.
V. Opposing claims are then refuted again
What this means is that more than just stating the opposing claim, you need to refute it by explaining why the opposing claim is invalid, incorrect or not strong enough to challenge the arguments that you have put forth earlier. This has to be done with supporting evidence from sources.
Alright, we will have to put the disclaimer here. Only 68% of the argumentative essays that we analysed contain a refute to the opposing claims. Nonetheless, it still represents a significant majority.
Remember to use suitable signposting words or phrases (e.g. Conversely, On the other hand) for the opposing claim paragraph so the entire essay will flow nicely.
Takeaway: Always mention why the opposing claims are invalid
VI. Conclusions mostly follow the same structure
Again, most of the conclusions of the argumentative essays follows a highly identical structure.
The conclusion is where you summarise, and more crucially, state your stand based on the arguments presented.
The structure is as follows:
1. Suitable signposting word or phrase
Some suitable signposting phrases include:
It can be seen from the above. In conclusion. Based on what has been found.
2. Your stand on the topic
Be FIRM on your stand.
Never use weak words like ‘seem, maybe, should be’ that make it seems like you are not firm with your stand.
3. Explain how you reach your stand by summarising what has been found
State all the major claims including the opposing claims written in the argumentative essay.
You should reach a conclusion that even with the opposing claims, they are not good enough to overturn what the claims have agreed on.
Takeaway: Follow the conclusion structure to writing a great conclusion.
VII. Conclusion is about 11% of essay length
Similar to the introduction, we look at the average length of a conclusion. While we usually expect the conclusion to be the same length as introduction, it seems that it is in fact slightly longer from the data.
On average, conclusion length is about 11% of essay. Conclusion with length of 12% occurs the most times. The shortest conclusion in terms of percentage is 54 words on a 1,002 words argumentative essay and longest is a 174 words on a 984 words argumentative essay. While the length differ slightly from introduction, we maintain that the best length for conclusions is still 8-12% of essay.
Takeaway: Keep conclusion to 8-12% of essay length. It will be fine to go above this recommendation but never below.
Some final words…
While the findings reveal certain interesting facts, it otherwise follow what schools have been teaching students on argumentative essays for ages. This research just proves that schools have been putting what they preach into actions and reward students who follow their teachings.