Academic Essay


Writing an Essay of Argumentation

“Now this is the way I see it…”

Discussion: First, choose a topic for which you are able to write the following: (a) a proposition or main point that you will argue for, (b) argument(s) supporting your proposition, (c) argument(s) opposing your proposition. Second, look for information (evidence) with which to build arguments for and against your proposition. And third, use the information to write an essay that convinces your readers that your proposition is right. Use the guidelines below and the example that follows to help you develop your essay. (Also see “Thinking Logically” in the index for more.)

Searching and Selecting

1. Searching * Review your texts or class notes for possible topics. Also think of related issues or problems you hear debated locally or nationally. (Focus on subjects that are serious, specific, timely, and debatable.)

2. Selecting * Test a possible topic in the following way: (a) identify a reasonable point or proposition to argue for, (b) list one argument supporting this proposition, and (c) list one argument opposing it.

Generating the Text

3. Collecting * Look in books, magazines, or newspapers for information. Take notes, especially on strong arguments supported by the opinions of authorities and by factual evidence. Label arguments “pro” (for your proposition) or “con” (against).

4. Assessing * Check the best pro and con arguments. If you need to change your main point in order to defend it more effectively, do that now. Then decide on the best arrangement of your ideas. (Consider saving your best pro argument for last.)

Writing and Revising

5. Writing * Develop your argument using your planning as a guide. If you become stuck, ask a classmate to be your ear: read your proposition and talk through your argument.

6. Revising * Review, revise, and refine your argument before presenting it to your readers. Have a classmate review your wiring as well.


Is the proposition reasonable and clearly stated?

Are supporting arguments logical, clear, and convincing?

Are opposing arguments dealt with?

Given the supporting arguments, is the conclusion valid?


Essay of Argumentation

Student writer Jennifer Nanna’s essay presents a well-organized argument about the U.S. government’s decision to intervene in the Persian Gulf Crisis in 1990. (This model first appeared in Moments [1991], a collection of student writing from Badger High School in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin) Note: This essay was written before Desert Storm.

* The writer clearly states her position. Price of War

Throughout history, disease, poverty, crime, and war have plagued Americans. For the most part, these ills of society are difficult to control. Regardless of the precautions Americans take to rid themselves of these misfortunes, they affect (excluding was) every town in every part of America. One of the more serious conflicts that Americans have faced is war. Recently, for example, when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the United States was faced with the choice to ignore it or intervene. On August 3, the United States choose to intervene in the Persian Gulf Crisis. However, it is in the United States” best interest to take a defensive position and avoid an all-out war with Iraq.

* Arguments opposing this position are addressed early. Although America’s reputation would be enhanced as a world power if the Untied States won the war against Iraq, it is not certain by any means that this would actually happen. Iraq has one of the largest armies in the world, numbering over one million soldiers. This compares with the 400,000 U.S. servicemen in the gulf.

* A strong pro argument (the killing) is introduced here. While it may seem that the Iraqi soldiers are tired after fighting Iran for nine years, the truth is that this lengthy war hardened many boys into seasoned soldiers. Also, the Arab nations view death differently than Americans. Americans perceive death with fear and apprehension, whereas the Arabs would go the any length to fight for what they believe. For the Iraqis, death is more of an obstacle than a final outcome. They won’t hesitate to kill. This is a paramount point to remember, considering Iraq is expected to develop the technology for the nuclear bomb in eight to nine months.

Many Americans think the price of oil will continue to escalate if Americans don’t go to war to settle this crisis. This, however, is a narrow viewpoint that is unlikely to happen. As soon as the first shot is fired in the gulf, Hussein has threatened to push a button that will blow up the oil rigs in Kuwait. This catastrophe will lead to an expensive and lengthy operation to rebuild the oil wells.


* The pro arguments continue in this section. Furthermore, if we fail at war, our reputation as one of the top three world powers may deteriorate. In the eyes of the other two world powers, China and Russia, and others, we may appear “soft.” As Americans it is our duty to realize that we cannot successfully be world policemen, which is evident by our past mistakes. In 1950, we felt the need to come to South Korea’s rescue, and, as a result, the United States and South Korea lost 580,000 men. In 1958, again it seemed our responsibility to come to South Vietnam’s aid, and we came out of the war without victory and with 55,000 deaths. In both wars, the question was asked: Why are we here? If we go to war with Iraq, many Americans will be angry at the lack of direction from President Bush and become indifferent towards the war.

In addition to this, we as Americans must think about the financial state of our country. After the rapid growth in the 1980’s, our economy has slumped into a recession that has forced Americans to be more frugal. Meanwhile, millions of dollars are being sent to our soldiers in the Middle East. Already, Operation Desert Shield has cost 17.5 million dollars. While our allies profess their utmost support in stopping madman Hussein, it is the United States that is paying for 90 percent of the effort. This drainage of resources is increasing our high national debt.

* The “loss of life,” the “killing,” is again presented as the author’s strongest argument against all-out war with Iraq.

And most important of all, many innocent men and women will go to war fighting for a cause they can’t understand, striving to put their finger on why they are over there. If the United States engages in war, devoted soldiers will be brutally killed over something that could have been resolved through negotiation. This is the real tragedy of was-the loss of each and every life.

* The author clearly restates her position, along with her three strongest pro

arguments. Thus, it is up to the United States to take a defensive position and avoid an all-out war with Iraq in the upcoming months. Our nation cannot afford to fall as one of the top three world powers. Our nation cannot afford the extreme cost of such an event. And finally, our nation cannot afford to lose thousands of men and women to war, where even they can not see the reason. The trauma and holocaust of a war with Iraq would make the problems of society, such as disease, poverty, and crime, pale in comparison.

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