No one structure fits all written arguments. However, most college courses require arguments that
consist of the following elements. Below is a basic outline for an argumentative or persuasive essay.
This is only one possible outline or organization. Always refer to your handbook for specifics.
I. Introductory Paragraph
o Your introductory paragraph sets the stage or the context for the position you are arguing for.
o This introduction should end with a thesis statement that provides your claim (what you are
arguing for) and the reasons for your position on an issue.
A. Your thesis:
o states what your position on an issue is
o usually appears at the end of the introduction in a short essay
o should be clearly stated and often contains emphatic language (should, ought, must)
B. Sample Argumentative Thesis
o The production, sale, and possession of assault weapons for private citizens should be
banned in the U.S.
II. Body of your Argument
A. Background Information
o This section of your paper gives the reader the basic information he or she needs to
understand your position. This could be part of the introduction, but may work as its
B. Reasons or Evidence to Support your Claim
o All evidence you present in this section should support your position. This is the heart of
your essay. Generally, you begin with a general statement that you back up with specific
details or examples. Depending on how long your argument is, you will need to devote
one to two well-developed paragraphs to each reason/claim or type of evidence.
o Types of evidence include:
• first-hand examples and experiential knowledge on your topic (specific examples
help your readers connect to your topic in a way they cannot with abstract ideas)
• Opinions from recognized authorities
• The tipsheet on the three logical appeals covers the types of evidence you can use in
- Claim: Keeping assault weapons out of private citizens’ hands can lower the
increasing occurrences of barbaric public slayings
o Jul 93 Law firm murders
o Columbine School Shootings
o University of Virginia incident
o How did these individuals gain access to weapons?
- Claim: The ban on assault weapons is backed heavily by public opinion, major
organizations, and even law enforcement.
o 12% favor ban (Much 92 Timetable News)
o Organizational endorsements
o Nat’l Sherriff’s Assoc./lntn’l Assoc. of Police Chiefs
- Claim: The monetary and human costs incurred by crimes committed with assault
weapons are too great to ignore.
o 10,561 murders in 1990 by handguns
o Study of 131 injured patients’ medical expenses paid by public funds
III. Addressing the Opposite Side
o Any well-written argument must anticipate and address positions in opposition to the one
o Pointing out what your opposition is likely to say in response to your argument shows that
you have thought critically about your topic. Addressing the opposite side actually makes
your argument stronger!
o Generally, this takes the form of a paragraph that can be placed either after the introduction
or before the conclusion.
A. 1st Opposing View: Strict gun control laws won’t affect crime rate
• Refutation: Low murder rate in Britain, Australia (etc., where strict controls are in
B. 2nd Opposing View: Outlaws would still own guns
• Refutation: Any effort to move trend in opposite direction would benefit future
o The conclusion should bring the essay to a logical end. It should explain what the
importance of your issue is in a larger context. Your conclusion should also reiterate why
your topic is worth caring about.
o Some arguments propose solutions or make prediction on the future of the topic.
o Show your reader what would happen if your argument is or is not believed or acted upon as
you believe it should be.