Module: Academic Argument
Argumentative thesis statements, learning objective.
- Recognize an arguable thesis
Below are some of the key features of an argumentative thesis statement.
An argumentative thesis is . . .
An argumentative thesis must make a claim about which reasonable people can disagree. Statements of fact or areas of general agreement cannot be argumentative theses because few people disagree about them.
Junk food is bad for your health is not a debatable thesis. Most people would agree that junk food is bad for your health.
Because junk food is bad for your health, the size of sodas offered at fast-food restaurants should be regulated by the federal government is a debatable thesis. Reasonable people could agree or disagree with the statement.
An argumentative thesis takes a position, asserting the writer’s stance. Questions, vague statements, or quotations from others are not an argumentative thesis because they do not assert the writer’s viewpoint.
Federal immigration law is a tough issue about which many people disagree is not an arguable thesis because it does not assert a position.
Federal immigration enforcement law needs to be overhauled because it puts undue constraints on state and local police is an argumentative thesis because it asserts a position that immigration enforcement law needs to be changed.
An argumentative thesis must make a claim that is logical and possible. Claims that are outrageous or impossible are not argumentative thesis.
City council members stink and should be thrown in jail is not an argumentative thesis. City council members’ ineffectiveness is not a reason to send them to jail.
City council members should be term limited to prevent one group or party from maintaining control indefinitely is an arguable thesis because term limits are possible, and shared political control is a reasonable goal.
An argumentative thesis must be able to be supported by evidence. Claims that presuppose value systems, morals, or religious beliefs cannot be supported with evidence and therefore are not argumentative theses.
Individuals convicted of murder will go to hell when they die is not an argumentative thesis because its support rests on religious beliefs or values rather than evidence.
Rehabilitation programs for individuals serving life sentences should be funded because these programs reduce violence within prisons is an argumentative thesis because evidence such as case studies and statistics can be used to support it.
An argumentative thesis must be focused and narrow. A focused, narrow claim is clearer, more able to be supported with evidence, and more persuasive than a broad, general claim.
The federal government should overhaul the U.S. tax code is not an effective argumentative thesis because it is too general (What part of the government? Which tax codes? What sections of those tax codes?) and would require an overwhelming amount of evidence to be fully supported.
The U.S. House of Representative should vote to repeal the federal estate tax because the revenue generated by that tax is negligible is an effective argumentative thesis because it identifies a specific actor and action and can be fully supported with evidence about the amount of revenue the estate tax generates.
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25 Thesis Statement Examples That Will Make Writing a Breeze
Understanding what makes a good thesis statement is one of the major keys to writing a great research paper or argumentative essay. The thesis statement is where you make a claim that will guide you through your entire paper. If you find yourself struggling to make sense of your paper or your topic, then it's likely due to a weak thesis statement.
Let's take a minute to first understand what makes a solid thesis statement, and what key components you need to write one of your own.
A thesis statement always goes at the beginning of the paper. It will typically be in the first couple of paragraphs of the paper so that it can introduce the body paragraphs, which are the supporting evidence for your thesis statement.
Your thesis statement should clearly identify an argument. You need to have a statement that is not only easy to understand, but one that is debatable. What that means is that you can't just put any statement of fact and have it be your thesis. For example, everyone knows that puppies are cute . An ineffective thesis statement would be, "Puppies are adorable and everyone knows it." This isn't really something that's a debatable topic.
Something that would be more debatable would be, "A puppy's cuteness is derived from its floppy ears, small body, and playfulness." These are three things that can be debated on. Some people might think that the cutest thing about puppies is the fact that they follow you around or that they're really soft and fuzzy.
All cuteness aside, you want to make sure that your thesis statement is not only debatable, but that it also actually thoroughly answers the research question that was posed. You always want to make sure that your evidence is supporting a claim that you made (and not the other way around). This is why it's crucial to read and research about a topic first and come to a conclusion later. If you try to get your research to fit your thesis statement, then it may not work out as neatly as you think. As you learn more, you discover more (and the outcome may not be what you originally thought).
Additionally, your thesis statement shouldn't be too big or too grand. It'll be hard to cover everything in a thesis statement like, "The federal government should act now on climate change." The topic is just too large to actually say something new and meaningful. Instead, a more effective thesis statement might be, "Local governments can combat climate change by providing citizens with larger recycling bins and offering local classes about composting and conservation." This is easier to work with because it's a smaller idea, but you can also discuss the overall topic that you might be interested in, which is climate change.
So, now that we know what makes a good, solid thesis statement, you can start to write your own. If you find that you're getting stuck or you are the type of person who needs to look at examples before you start something, then check out our list of thesis statement examples below.
Thesis statement examples
A quick note that these thesis statements have not been fully researched. These are merely examples to show you what a thesis statement might look like and how you can implement your own ideas into one that you think of independently. As such, you should not use these thesis statements for your own research paper purposes. They are meant to be used as examples only.
- Vaccinations Because many children are unable to vaccinate due to illness, we must require that all healthy and able children be vaccinated in order to have herd immunity.
- Educational Resources for Low-Income Students Schools should provide educational resources for low-income students during the summers so that they don't forget what they've learned throughout the school year.
- School Uniforms School uniforms may be an upfront cost for families, but they eradicate the visual differences in income between students and provide a more egalitarian atmosphere at school.
- Populism The rise in populism on the 2016 political stage was in reaction to increasing globalization, the decline of manufacturing jobs, and the Syrian refugee crisis.
- Public Libraries Libraries are essential resources for communities and should be funded more heavily by local municipalities.
- Cyber Bullying With more and more teens using smartphones and social media, cyber bullying is on the rise. Cyber bullying puts a lot of stress on many teens, and can cause depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Parents should limit the usage of smart phones, monitor their children's online activity, and report any cyber bullying to school officials in order to combat this problem.
- Medical Marijuana for Veterans Studies have shown that the use of medicinal marijuana has been helpful to veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Medicinal marijuana prescriptions should be legal in all states and provided to these veterans. Additional medical or therapy services should also be researched and implemented in order to help them re-integrate back into civilian life.
- Work-Life Balance Corporations should provide more work from home opportunities and six-hour workdays so that office workers have a better work-life balance and are more likely to be productive when they are in the office.
- Teaching Youths about Consensual Sex Although sex education that includes a discussion of consensual sex would likely lead to less sexual assault, parents need to teach their children the meaning of consent from a young age with age appropriate lessons.
- Whether or Not to Attend University A degree from a university provides invaluable lessons on life and a future career, but not every high school student should be encouraged to attend a university directly after graduation. Some students may benefit from a trade school or a "gap year" where they can think more intensely about what it is they want to do for a career and how they can accomplish this.
- Studying Abroad Studying abroad is one of the most culturally valuable experiences you can have in college. It is the only way to get completely immersed in another language and learn how other cultures and countries are different from your own.
- Women's Body Image Magazines have done a lot in the last five years to include a more diverse group of models, but there is still a long way to go to promote a healthy woman's body image collectively as a culture.
- Cigarette Tax Heavily taxing and increasing the price of cigarettes is essentially a tax on the poorest Americans, and it doesn't deter them from purchasing. Instead, the state and federal governments should target those economically disenfranchised with early education about the dangers of smoking.
- Veganism A vegan diet, while a healthy and ethical way to consume food, indicates a position of privilege. It also limits you to other cultural food experiences if you travel around the world.
- University Athletes Should be Compensated University athletes should be compensated for their service to the university, as it is difficult for these students to procure and hold a job with busy academic and athletic schedules. Many student athletes on scholarship also come from low-income neighborhoods and it is a struggle to make ends meet when they are participating in athletics.
- Women in the Workforce Sheryl Sandberg makes a lot of interesting points in her best-selling book, Lean In , but she only addressed the very privileged working woman and failed to speak to those in lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs.
- Assisted Suicide Assisted suicide should be legal and doctors should have the ability to make sure their patients have the end-of-life care that they want to receive.
- Celebrity and Political Activism Although Taylor Swift's lyrics are indicative of a feminist perspective, she should be more politically active and vocal to use her position of power for the betterment of society.
- The Civil War The insistence from many Southerners that the South seceded from the Union for states' rights versus the fact that they seceded for the purposes of continuing slavery is a harmful myth that still affects race relations today.
- Blue Collar Workers Coal miners and other blue-collar workers whose jobs are slowly disappearing from the workforce should be re-trained in jobs in the technology sector or in renewable energy. A program to re-train these workers would not only improve local economies where jobs have been displaced, but would also lead to lower unemployment nationally.
- Diversity in the Workforce Having a diverse group of people in an office setting leads to richer ideas, more cooperation, and more empathy between people with different skin colors or backgrounds.
- Re-Imagining the Nuclear Family The nuclear family was traditionally defined as one mother, one father, and 2.5 children. This outdated depiction of family life doesn't quite fit with modern society. The definition of normal family life shouldn't be limited to two-parent households.
- Digital Literacy Skills With more information readily available than ever before, it's crucial that students are prepared to examine the material they're reading and determine whether or not it's a good source or if it has misleading information. Teaching students digital literacy and helping them to understand the difference between opinion or propaganda from legitimate, real information is integral.
- Beauty Pageants Beauty pageants are presented with the angle that they empower women. However, putting women in a swimsuit on a stage while simultaneously judging them on how well they answer an impossible question in a short period of time is cruel and purely for the amusement of men. Therefore, we should stop televising beauty pageants.
- Supporting More Women to Run for a Political Position In order to get more women into political positions, more women must run for office. There must be a grassroots effort to educate women on how to run for office, who among them should run, and support for a future candidate for getting started on a political career.
Still stuck? Need some help with your thesis statement?
If you are still uncertain about how to write a thesis statement or what a good thesis statement is, be sure to consult with your teacher or professor to make sure you're on the right track. It's always a good idea to check in and make sure that your thesis statement is making a solid argument and that it can be supported by your research.
After you're done writing, it's important to have someone take a second look at your paper so that you can ensure there are no mistakes or errors. It's difficult to spot your own mistakes, which is why it's always recommended to have someone help you with the revision process, whether that's a teacher, the writing center at school, or a professional editor such as one from ServiceScape .
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Developing Strong Thesis Statements
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These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.
The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable
An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.
Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:
This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.
Example of a debatable thesis statement:
This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.
Another example of a debatable thesis statement:
In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.
The thesis needs to be narrow
Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.
Example of a thesis that is too broad:
There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.
Example of a narrow or focused thesis:
In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.
We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:
Narrowed debatable thesis 1:
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.
Narrowed debatable thesis 2:
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.
Qualifiers such as " typically ," " generally ," " usually ," or " on average " also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.
Types of claims
Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, or, in other words, what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.
Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:
Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:
Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:
Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:
Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.
The Study Blog : Guides
15+ examples of thesis statements to guide you in your next essay.
The debate on how to write a good thesis statement has been there probably since thesis statements were invented. How can you write a brief and detailed statement that forms the basis on which your whole paper is written? Is it possible? Is it practical?
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A thesis statement is a sentence that is normally found in the first paragraph of most academic papers including essays and research papers. Before we start looking at examples of thesis statements that you can use in your next essay, it is important to understand the different types because thesis statements are categoized according to the type of paper they are used in. Therefore, they can be divided into:
Argumantative Thesis Statements
In this case, ensure that your thesis statement expresses the stance you have made without the chance of confusion. Your reader should have a hint of the evidence you will present from this sentence.
Examples of argumentative thesis statements are:
“By issuing stricter regulations when it comes to ownership of guns in the US, stating that only security personnel can carry them, the country will turn out safer for it.”
“Abortion should be legalized in every country as it will work as a tool for population control in the word.”
“The rights of the LGBTQ community will be better improved if gay marriages are legalized worldwide.”
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More examples of Argumentative Thesis Statements
- Gun control is a policy that should have been long implemented already as the current regulations have made guns dispensable to criminals who have used them to do robberies and kill innocents, leading to the loss of lives and property.
- Even though gun control is likely to decrease the level of violence in a few regions in the country, it is bound to have a number of detrimental effects to the economy as a lot of small businesses that sell licensed arms might go out of business hence more untaxed revenue for illegal gun dealers.
- Aid to Africa should be stopped as instead of developing these countries, it has led to excessive dependency to the west. Instead, these African countries should be given only a limited amount of aid for which they should account for.
- The amount of aid that is given to African countries is not enough and should be increased as the amount of money they get is dedicated to solving their problems rather than towards developing their infrastructure and institutions.
- While some may argue that the legalization of abortion devalues human life, its free practice ensures that women get to choose what they want to do with their bodies and it eliminates the health risk that is associated with illegal procedures.
- Abortions should not be legalized for three simple reasons: they devalue human life, have risks to the life of the mother and doesn’t give the fetus a chance to decide whether it wants to live or not.
- The death penalty should be done away with as it runs the risk of having an innocent man convicted and lose his life for something he didn’t do. Its replacement with life imprisonment is a better alternative as it gives the innocent a chance to fight for justice where they are wrongly convicted.
- For crimes such as premeditated murder, rape, terrorism, cannibalism, or any other crime of such a heinous nature, the best punishment would be the death penalty.
- Countries in the East and ones in the African continent should be encouraged by any means possible to legalize gay marriages as it is the right of every human being to enjoy their sexuality, regardless of their society’s culture.
- On gay marriages, each country and state should be allowed to formulate their own policies and rules as suits their religion and culture.
- Even though they embody the ultimate template for a relationship – “Till death do us part”, “Romeo and Juliet” is a bad example of a love story because they died and they serve as a bad example for kids, who overly romanticize relationships at a young age.
The examples of thesis statements that have been shown above are all argumentative, and an academic paper on the same issue can take any two directions as shown above.
As you can see in the thesis statements above, there is a controversial issue in play. Each of the statements has taken a side in the debate at hand, clearly indicating to the reader what side the writer is going to take. These thesis statements are the most common.
Read the article: 50+ common argumentative essay topics to find some of the interesting argumentative essay topics that you can use
Expository Thesis Statements
An expository is derived from the word explanation. Expository essays and academic papers aim to inform, discuss and explain different phenomena in the world. The thesis statements from such essays are this referred to as expository.
The thesis statement in your expository essay should hint at what the reader is going to learn in the essay. Below are a few examples to better your understanding:
“Termites make a good alternative for animal proteins and would go a long way in managing food shortages in the world.”
“Africa is a misunderstood continent, especially when it comes to the native cultures and traditions.”
“Student loans are crippling the US economy as the students are unable to spend their income on home purchases and consumer goods.”
Analytical Thesis Statements
Again, analytical thesis statements are used whereby the academic paper that you are working on is of an analytical nature. Analysis of data or a particular concept is the process of breaking down a particular concept in order to examine it piece by piece.
When writing a thesis statement for an analytical thesis, ensure that you break down the concepts that you will discuss in the paper. This clarifies the object of your discussion.
Examples of such thesis statements are:
“Cleaning up, taking breakfast and packing lunches are all activities that have to take place before one leaves for school, hence the reason why school mornings are so chaotic.”
“The effects of tobacco, which includes teeth discoloration, breathing problems, and lung cancer are all reason why its legality should be contested.”
It is best to write the thesis statement of such a paper after completing your paper. This is because you have a better chance of writing an accurate sentence that defines all the concepts that you have broken down after completing the said paper.
As mentioned above, learning how to write a good thesis statement is first aided by knowing the types. Now that you have learned them, the question becomes, what are things to keep in mind when attempting to compose your thesis statement? They are as discussed below:
This article on the examples of thesis statements would be incomplete if we haven’t given a few examples of analytical thesis statements. These thesis statements are used where your academic paper is of an analytical nature, that is, where it breaks down a particular concept in order for its different pieces to be discussed.
The examples include:
- The book “Hamlet” takes us through a rollercoaster of emotions through the different themes that have been explored which include love, war, power and the struggle to balance good and evil.
- Every country should place measures in place in order to deal with global warming and prevent its negative effects that include the melting of ice in the polar regions, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the change of seasons and the climate in general.
- The problem of human trafficking can be dealt with by dealing with the source and distribution of funds that make this possible. This should be done by doing a crackdown on money-laundering businesses and chocking the illegal activities that make this possible including the trade in illegal guns.
- The effects of tobacco, which includes teeth discolouration, breathing problems, and lung cancer are all reason why its legality should be contested.
- Cleaning up, taking breakfast and packing lunches are all activities that have to take place before one leaves for school, hence the reason why school mornings are so chaotic.
- Domestic violence, especially gender-based violence against women in third-world countries, can be solved through education, increased job opportunities and women empowerment to give them the willpower to walk out of abusive marriages.
- The causes of poverty can be broadly summarized into three: the lack of education, the lack of appropriate infrastructure for the creation of job opportunities and good old laziness by the said poor persons.
- The solution for bullying in school lies in counselling and psychiatry. By counselling the bullies, we will be able to determine why the bully other people and how we can help them get over the behaviour.
What to Note When Writing Your Thesis Statements
A) the thesis statement should be debatable.
See, the thesis statement is one that forms the basis on which your paper is written. It is impractical to write a thesis statement cannot be discussed, because then, what will your paper be expounding on?
This is especially important where your essay is an argumentative one. A thesis statement stating that “ 90% of African countries have a third-world economy ” is a fact and cannot be argued against. However, one that says “African aid does more harm than good to the continent” is actually debatable.
b) The Thesis Statement Should Be Focused
Another mistake most people make when writing a thesis statement is that they write one that is too broad. A broad thesis statement makes for a paper that is flinty at best, with no particular direction. However, a focused one gives your paper a singular purpose, and this gives you a better chance at writing a quality job.
For example, a thesis statement saying, “Not taking care of yourself when pregnant is bad” has no particular stand. What does “taking care of yourself” in this case entails?
The preferred alternative could be, “Habits such as drinking alcohol, over exercising and smoking cigarettes by an expectant woman could prove harmful to her unborn child.”
c) The Thesis Statement Should Give Claims To Be Supported In The Paper
A summary of the claims that are to be discussed in the paper should be indicated in the thesis statement. Therefore, rather than write one that says, “Tobacco is harmful to your health,” you could write “The effects of tobacco, which includes teeth discoloration, breathing problems, and lung cancer are all reason why its legality should be contested”
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Argumentative Essay Examples & Analysis
July 20, 2023
Writing successful argumentative or persuasive essays is a sort of academic rite of passage: every student, at some point in their academic career, will have to do it. And not without reason—writing a good argumentative essay requires the ability to organize one’s thoughts, reason logically, and present evidence in support of claims. They even require empathy, as authors are forced to inhabit and then respond to viewpoints that run counter to their own. Here, we’ll look at some argumentative essay examples and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
What is an argumentative essay?
Before we turn to those argumentative essay examples, let’s get precise about what an argumentative essay is. An argumentative essay is an essay that advances a central point, thesis, or claim using evidence and facts. In other words, argumentative essays are essays that argue on behalf of a particular viewpoint. The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince the reader that the essay’s core idea is correct.
Good argumentative essays rely on facts and evidence. Personal anecdotes, appeals to emotion , and opinions that aren’t grounded in evidence just won’t fly. Let’s say I wanted to write an essay arguing that cats are the best pets. It wouldn’t be enough to say that I love having a cat as a pet. That’s just my opinion. Nor would it be enough to cite my downstairs neighbor Claudia, who also has a cat and who also prefers cats to dogs. That’s just an anecdote.
For the essay to have a chance at succeeding, I’d have to use evidence to support my argument. Maybe there are studies that compare the cost of cat ownership to dog ownership and conclude that cat ownership is less expensive. Perhaps there’s medical data that shows that more people are allergic to dogs than they are to cats. And maybe there are surveys that show that cat owners are more satisfied with their pets than are dog owners. I have no idea if any of that is true. The point is that successful argumentative essays use evidence from credible sources to back up their points.
Argumentative essay structure
Important to note before we examine a few argumentative essay examples: most argumentative essays will follow a standard 5-paragraph format. This format entails an introductory paragraph that lays out the essay’s central claim. Next, there are three body paragraphs that each advance sub-claims and evidence to support the central claim. Lastly, there is a conclusion that summarizes the points made. That’s not to say that every good argumentative essay will adhere strictly to the 5-paragraph format. And there is plenty of room for flexibility and creativity within the 5-paragraph format. For example, a good argumentative essay that follows the 5-paragraph template will also generally include counterarguments and rebuttals.
Now let’s move on to those argumentative essay examples, and examine in particular a couple of introductions. The first takes on a common argumentative essay topic —capital punishment.
The death penalty has long been a divisive issue in the United States. 24 states allow the death penalty, while the other 26 have either banned the death penalty outright or issued moratoriums halting the practice. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it’s an effective deterrent against crime. Time and time again, however, this argument has been shown to be false. Capital punishment does not deter crime. But not only that—the death penalty is irreversible, which allows our imperfect justice system no room for error. Finally, the application of the death penalty is racially biased—the population of death row is over 41% Black , despite Black Americans making up just 13% of the U.S. population. For all these reasons, the death penalty should be outlawed across the board in the United States.
Why this introduction works: First, it’s clear. It lays out the essay’s thesis: that the death penalty should be outlawed in the United States. It also names the sub-arguments the author is going to use to support the thesis: (1), capital punishment does not deter crime, (2), it’s irreversible, and (3), it’s a racially biased practice. In laying out these three points, the author is also laying out the structure of the essay to follow. Each of the body paragraphs will take on one of the three sub-arguments presented in the introduction.
Argumentative Essay Examples (Continued)
Something else I like about this introduction is that it acknowledges and then refutes a common counterargument—the idea that the death penalty is a crime deterrent. Notice also the flow of the first two sentences. The first flags the essay’s topic. But it also makes a claim—that the issue of capital punishment is politically divisive. The following sentence backs this claim up. Essentially half of the country allows the practice; the other half has banned it. This is a feature not just of solid introductions but of good argumentative essays in general—all the essay’s claims will be backed up with evidence.
How it could be improved: Okay, I know I just got through singing the praises of the first pair of sentences, but if I were really nitpicking, I might take issue with them. Why? The first sentence is a bit of a placeholder. It’s a platitude, a way for the author to get a foothold in the piece. The essay isn’t about how divisive the death penalty is; it’s about why it ought to be abolished. When it comes to writing an argumentative essay, I always like to err on the side of blunt. There’s nothing wrong with starting an argumentative essay with the main idea: Capital punishment is an immoral and ineffective form of punishment, and the practice should be abolished .
Let’s move on to another argumentative essay example. Here’s an introduction that deals with the effects of technology on the brain:
Much of the critical discussion around technology today revolves around social media. Critics argue that social media has cut us off from our fellow citizens, trapping us in “information silos” and contributing to political polarization. Social media also promotes unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards, which can lead to anxiety and depression. What’s more, the social media apps themselves are designed to addict their users. These are all legitimate critiques of social media, and they ought to be taken seriously. But the problem of technology today goes deeper than social media. The internet itself is the problem. Whether it’s on our phones or our laptops, on a social media app, or doing a Google search, the internet promotes distracted thinking and superficial learning. The internet is, quite literally, rewiring our brains.
Why this introduction works: This introduction hooks the reader by tying a topical debate about social media to the essay’s main subject—the problem of the internet itself. The introduction makes it clear what the essay is going to be about; the sentence, “But the problem of technology…” signals to the reader that the main idea is coming. I like the clarity with which the main idea is stated, and, as in the previous introduction, the main idea sets up the essay to follow.
How it could be improved: I like how direct this introduction is, but it might be improved by being a little more specific. Without getting too technical, the introduction might tell the reader what it means to “promote distracted thinking and superficial learning.” It might also hint as to why these are good arguments. For example, are there neurological or psychological studies that back this claim up? A simple fix might be: Whether it’s on our phones or our laptops, on a social media app, or doing a Google search, countless studies have shown that the internet promotes distracted thinking and superficial learning . The body paragraphs would then elaborate on those points. And the last sentence, while catchy, is a bit vague.
Body Paragraph Example
Let’s stick with our essay on capital punishment and continue on to the first body paragraph.
Proponents of the death penalty have long claimed that the practice is an effective deterrent to crime. It might not be pretty, they say, but its deterrent effects prevent further crime. Therefore, its continued use is justified. The problem is that this is just not borne out in the data. There is simply no evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment, like long prison sentences. States, where the death penalty is still carried out, do not have lower crime rates than states where the practice has been abolished. States that have abandoned the death penalty likewise show no increase in crime or murder rates.
Body Paragraph (Continued)
For example, the state of Louisiana, where the death penalty is legal, has a murder rate of 21.3 per 100,000 residents. In Iowa, where the death penalty was abolished in 1965, the murder rate is 3.2 per 100,000. In Kentucky the death penalty is legal and the murder rate is 9.6; in Michigan where it’s illegal, the murder rate is 8.7. The death penalty simply has no bearing on murder rates. If it did, we’d see markedly lower murder rates in states that maintain the practice. But that’s not the case. Capital punishment does not deter crime. Therefore, it should be abolished.
Why this paragraph works: This body paragraph is successful because it coheres with the main idea set out in the introduction. It supports the essay’s first sub-argument—that capital punishment does not deter crime—and in so doing, it supports the essay’s main idea—that capital punishment should be abolished. How does it do that? By appealing to the data. A nice feature of this paragraph is that it simultaneously debunks a common counterargument and advances the essay’s thesis. It also supplies a few direct examples (murder rates in states like Kentucky, Michigan, etc.) without getting too technical. Importantly, the last few sentences tie the data back to the main idea of the essay. It’s not enough to pepper your essay with statistics. A good argumentative essay will unpack the statistics, tell the reader why the statistics matter, and how they support or confirm the essay’s main idea.
How it could be improved: The author is missing one logical connection at the end of the paragraph. The author shows that capital punishment doesn’t deter crime, but then just jumps to their conclusion. They needed to establish a logical bridge to get from the sub-argument to the conclusion. That bridge might be: if the deterrent effect is being used as a justification to maintain the practice, but the deterrent effect doesn’t really exist, then , in the absence of some other justification, the death penalty should be abolished. The author almost got there, but just needed to make that one final logical connection.
Once we’ve supported each of our sub-arguments with a corresponding body paragraph, it’s time to move on to the conclusion.
It might be nice to think that executing murderers prevents future murders from happening, that our justice system is infallible and no one is ever wrongly put to death, and that the application of the death penalty is free of bias. But as we have seen, each of those thoughts are just comforting fictions. The death penalty does not prevent future crime—if it did, we’d see higher crime rates in states that’ve done away with capital punishment. The death penalty is an irreversible punishment meted out by an imperfect justice system—as a result, wrongful executions are unavoidable. And the death penalty disproportionately affects people of color. The death penalty is an unjustifiable practice—both practically and morally. Therefore, the United States should do away with the practice and join the more than 85 world nations that have already done so.
Why this conclusion works: It concisely summarizes the points made throughout the essay. But notice that it’s not identical to the introduction. The conclusion makes it clear that our understanding of the issue has changed with the essay. It not only revisits the sub-arguments, it expounds upon them. And to put a bow on everything, it restates the thesis—this time, though, with a little more emotional oomph.
How it could be improved: I’d love to see a little more specificity with regard to the sub-arguments. Instead of just rehashing the second sub-argument—that wrongful executions are unavoidable—the author could’ve included a quick statistic to give the argument more weight. For example: The death penalty is an irreversible punishment meted out by an imperfect justice system—as a result, wrongful executions are unavoidable. Since 1973, at least 190 people have been put to death who were later found to be innocent.
An argumentative essay is a powerful way to convey one’s ideas. As an academic exercise, mastering the art of the argumentative essay requires students to hone their skills of critical thinking, rhetoric, and logical reasoning. The best argumentative essays communicate their ideas clearly and back up their claims with evidence.
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Dane Gebauer is a writer and teacher living in Miami, FL. He received his MFA in fiction from Columbia University, and his writing has appeared in Complex Magazine and Sinking City Review .
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