How to write an argumentative essay step by step

How to Write an Argumentative Essay – The Definitive Guide

This guide will show you everything you need to know on writing an argumentative essay. With all that is going on today, it’s easy to get confused by the different types of essays.

In fact, these are the exact step that essay writers here at Viselance use to write A + papers.  And today, you are going to see how they do it, step by step with examples.  

What is an argumentative essay?

An argument essay as Purdue Owl defines it, is:

 a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.

If this post is too long for you, you can view the video below, it has everything you need to write your argument essay.

But. You have two sides of the coin; the one you are up against and the one you agree with. Just like arguing with a friend, your argumentative college paper has to make sense for it to stand ground. You need to come up with proven or factual statements when writing an argumentative assignment.

Imagine what it would be like to argue the following topic:

waking up early in the morning is a sign of productivity among people’.

You might disagree with this argument because there is more to productivity than just waking up in the morning. That makes sense, right? When writing an argumentative college essay make sure that your opinion makes sense to the reader.

So what really makes a great argumentative assignment?

Let’s jump in right in!

#1 The topic of the argumentative paper.

The topic you choose must have two opposing sides

It is always a good idea to brainstorm at least three topics and then choose one. You may also begin with a broad topic.

For example,  broad topic such as:

Natural disasters in the United States.

A good more specific topic to create from the broad topic would be:

Is the U.S government prepared to handle hurricane disasters?” The topic has two sides; the government is either prepared to handle hurricanes disaster or it’s not.

In short, the topic has to grab the reader’s attention. A good attention grabber convinces the reader to continue reading your paper. 

Topics you should avoid when writing an argumentative essay:

how do you know if a topic is good or not?


 A topic that has one side of the argument such as the one below  is good, but it does not have the basis for an argument.

‘what you should/shouldn’t carry in case of a hurricane attack’.

 It’s actually more of an informative essay topic. 

Annoying isn’t it? See the difference. A good argumentative essay as noted earlier should allow the writer to address both the opposing and supporting points.

Take for instance:

Production of alcohol should be made illegal

This can actually create a good argument because you have to either oppose or support it. Got it? Good

#2 Thesis statement

Have you wondered what a thesis statement is really?

According to the dictionary, a thesis statement is

a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed,supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence.

what is a thesis statement? Thesis statement definition

For example, remember our topic on natural disasters?

Based on the topic, your thesis statement can be –the U.S government is not prepared to handle natural disasters.

In short, a thesis statement acts as a compass to your readers.

Through the thesis, the readers know your stand on the topic before reading the essay. It also makes the reader ask the why and why not questions. 

A good thesis acts as a guide for you and your audience.

In short, the statement should accurately portray your opinion and be straight to the point. Needless to say, it is not easy to write a thesis statement.

How can you beat that?

You can always consider asking for help from your friends or professional writers.

#3 Background  information 

Do you have your topic? you do right? So what next? Now you need information that is relevant to the topic.

Going through the background information  on your topic will help you to:

  • Get in-depth information on your topic
  • Relate events and occurrences
  • Dates
  • Understand key issues
  • Authors and websites that have tackled the topic
  • Answer questions such how, when, why, and what

why is background information important when writing an essay.png

Let’s assume you are writing about hurricane Katrina, right?

In this scenario, you need to find information on when the hurricane occurred, why, how did it occurred and how it affected the residents of Louisiana.

You also need to know how the government and NGOs were involved in the rescue.

#4 Sources for your argument paper

Remember what we said earlier? The background information has to be sourced from reliable authors and websites.

With the millions of websites on the internet today, you need to know where to get quality and verifiable information.

So how do you identify a reliable site?

i) the name of the website

Many of the authoritative websites have names that are related to what information they provide. For example, history or Harvard or national geographic websites use their names on their website.

ii) The Url

Look at the URL of the website. Extensions such as .edu or .gov are for educational websites and government institutions and they are the most reliable.

iii) Virtual libraries

Virtual libraries are a good source of information too. Most of these libraries are from reputable universities in the world.

Some of the content is only available to their students but there are those that are available to the public.

An example of a virtual library is the California digital library 

Using virtual libraries to write argumentative essay

iv) Google books 

Other good sources include Google books which has a collection of academic books that you can borrow. Google has an excellent article on how to use Google books. 

how to find sources for an argumentative essay

V). Google scholar

According to Google, Google scholar is a search engine that freely indexes  scholarly reviewed articles. 

Using the Google scholar is pretty straight forward and the process begins with a search  Google. 

Here is a step by step guide: 

Step 1: 

How to use google scholar when writing an argument essay

Step 2: how to use google scholar to write an essay

Step 3:

how to use google scholar in college

However,  avoid using Wikipedia because it can be written and edited by anyone.


If you find something interesting on Wikipedia, then you should click on further reading or references to read the original sources.

Sources to avoid in your argumentative college essay:

Frankly, the sources below will do you more harm than good.

Personal blogs– Many people who write blogs are not experts in their fields.

Viral websites –websites that are after clicks rather than content. You can always tell from the title of the article if it’s a viral website. They attract you with extra catchy headings to entice you to click on the link.

For example,

‘10 myths about hurricane Katrina’ may not be a reliable source

#5 The outline

A basic outline will contain an introduction, a few paragraphs for the body and finally the conclusion. It is crucial that you have your goal in mind as you start writing your arguments. 

 Below is an outline of  an argumentative essay based on the prompt:

In the essay Science vs. Hysteria, Norman Borlaug asserts that genetic engineering can be effectively used to address the problems of hunger and starvation in developing countries. His opponents believe that genetically modified (GM) food is harmful to people and should not be consumed by anyone, regardless of where they live, or what their social status is. Write an essay in which you explain your position on the issue of using GM food to defeat the world hunger. To create an argument, you can ask yourself: Is genetically modified (GM) food is harmful? Can GM food help solve the problem of famine?

 Sample argumentative essay outline: Is genetically modified (GM) food is harmful?


Thesis: Biotechnology offers a promising substitute of synthetic food that would contribute to the advancement of convectional plant breeding. The technology would raise farmer’s output hence enabling sufficient production of food thus enhancing food security in the developing nations.


Paragraph 1: Current challenges

  • Foods insecurity
  • Harm related to GM food

Paragraph 2: Contribution of GM in ensuring food security

  • Ability of crops to withstand environmental stress
  • Herbicide tolerance
  • Disease resistance
  • Bio-pharmaceutical
  • Insect resistance

Paragraph 3: Opposing views (Possible effect of GM)

  • Allergic reaction
  • Gene transfer
  • Promotion of mono culture


  • Restate thesis
  • A need for further research

#6 Introduction

Let’s say you are a fan of movies or TV shows. What captures your attention to make you buy a movie? It is the trailers, right?

They give you an overview of what you can expect in the movie. That is what we call an introduction to your paper. It should capture the content of the argumentative college essay in a few lines.

Give the readers a taste of what to expect.

How to write an introduction to your argumentative essay

Throw in facts or a quote to make the reader know that whatever you are writing on has happened somewhere else.

For example, if the essay is about Hurricane Katrina (she is our topic for today) you can start your paper with,

“According to a report by the House Committee, the deaths that occurred during the deadly storm commonly referred us Hurricane Katrina could have been avoided. On the day of 29 August 2015, citizens from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama lost their homes, families, and friends to the storm. The meteorologist department had issued warnings of the storm six days earlier…”

Wouldn’t you want to know more about it?

 #7 The body

This is where you go discuss the topic at length. Plan out how you are going to tackle different angles of the essay in the body.

You should list at least three to four arguments in supporting your thesis.

The list is determined by the number of words that are required for the topic.

A short five paragraph essay will only need three to five arguments but a long one may need up to ten arguments.

Then address each argument separately in their own paragraphs. The first sentence of the paragraph should be the topic sentence followed by a claim, evidence and an example.

Some of the arguments that would suit our Hurricane Katrina topic include:

  • Preparedness by the national and local government
  • Faulty flood walls
  • The military deployed in New Orleans were not suitable for the rescue mission

The last paragraph in the body should be counter-argument of your opinion.

In the counter argument,  you are supposed to presented the opposing views on your chosen topic. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • are there any opposing argument on the topic?
  • If someone opposed the topic, how would they argue?

#8 The conclusion of the argumentative paper

This is the real deal

This is your chance to leave the mark on your readers.

When concluding, begin by restating the thesis statement. Besides, you can give recommendations and suggest a need for further research.

#9 Revise and proofread your essay

There is nothing more boring than reading an essay that has typos or grammatical errors.

Make use of tools that will correct typos and grammar in your essay before submitting.

I would recommend using Grammarly. It has a free and paid version. It will highlight your mistakes and you can be able to correct them.

#10 Plagiarism

You have to give credit where it is due. If you have used somebody’s content make sure that you have cited them correctly.

Plagiarism free essay

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to understand the topic before writing.

This can only be done through extensive reading. Sadly, many students are not willing to commit to research. 

Take it one step at a time and you will be perfect.

Quick fixes won’t get us anywhere in terms of writing.

How do you avoid plagiarism?

  • Use online plagiarism checkers to see if you have used somebody’s work incorrectly.
  • Paraphrase – you need to learn how to paraphrase the information that you get from different sources. Paraphrasing is possible if you read and understand the topic. No shortcut people.
  • Quoting – use quotation marks to show that it is an excerpt from somebody’s work. You can quote a few words to a few sentences. Just don’t overdo it, a whole paragraph? Don’t that.
  • Citation – follow the guidelines that have been requested by your professor. If you are supposed to use MLA please stick to that don’t mix them up.

What to avoid when writing an argumentative essay:

Filler words

When editing your essay find words and sentences that do not add meaning to the essay and delete them. Avoid anything that is not relevant and gets straight to the point.

Here is a list of the common filler words :

    • You know/you see
    • Like
    • Literally
    • seriously
    • I think
    • I mean
    • believe me
    • I guess
    • Well
    • Very

Filler words in a sentence – the government was very concerned about the residents of New Orleans during the hurricane.

First person

Avoid using the first person tense/voice in your paper.

Why does this matter? Because it is an academic essay that has to follow the rules of academic writing. 

Argumentative essay structure

Like many other essays, an argument paper has a unique structure but it follows the same pattern as any other paper.

#1 Introduction

In the introduction, you are required to start with a catchy hook.  A hook is meant to grab the reader’s attention.  If you did not read my previous article on how to write a catchy hook, check it out.

The hook is then followed by a short overview about your subject. For example, you may decide to talk about the history of the subject or throw in a few facts.

The last part of the introduction is the thesis statement.  A thesis statement is meant to summarize the ideas of the entire paper in one or two sentence.

# 2 Body (3 to 5 paragraphs)

The body is the most important part of your argument paper.

i). Begin with your supporting argument

The paragraph should always start with a topic sentence summarizing the paragraph. Do not mix ideas in one paragraph. 

After making your claim, back it up with evidence.  The last sentence should be a conclusion.

Proceed with the same process for the second paragraph

ii). Oppose and Refute your counter-argument.

Consider the opposing side to your argument. What would be the main opposition to your argument? How would it be supported?

iii). Explain why your argument is the best argument

In the fourth or fifth paragraph, explain why your argument is the best. Support your opinion with evidence.

# 3 Conclusion

Restate you thesis but in different words. Do not copy the thesis statement word for word.  Give a small summary of the paper and then conclude with a question or something to think about.

Argumentative essay structure

What is a good argumentative essay topic?

A good argumentative paper topic often sounds like a question.

Here are the 5 tips for a good argumentative essay topic

  1. Debatable
  2. A question
  3. Must be easy to understand
  4. Controversial topics
  5. Must have a yes or no
What is a good argumentative essay topic_

50 Argumentative essay topic ideas

  1. Should prisons be privatized?
  2. Is college useful?
  3. Should education be free for everybody?
  4. Is the US becoming more and more democratic?
  5. Is renting text book worth it?
  6. Does physical education make better students?
  7. Was the US’s 2016 election fair?
  8. Should the society appreciate women more?
  9. Will the war in the Middle East ever end?
  10. Does consumer behavior help in marketing?
  11.  Can girls ask boys out?
  12. Does the government have the right to spy on its citizens?
  13. Is feminism good for the society?
  14. Should teachers be given firearms?
  15. Is homeschooling better than the traditional classrooms?
  16. Does social media allow people to insult, bully and threaten others without the fear of any punishment?
  17. Do you agree with Andrew Carnegie’s view on Capitalism in ‘The Gospel of Wealth”?
  18. Does music affect learning and memorization?
  19.  Should ADHD be medicated?
  20.  Should Florida legalize physician assisted suicide?
  21. If fluoride exposure out of control today?
  22. Is the quality of veteran care at its all-time low?
  23.  Should prisoners vote?
  24.  Should the LGBT community be discriminated?
  25. Is homework helpful to the students?
  26. Does college tuition hinder people from enrolling ?
  27. Does religion cause more harm than good?
  28. Should abortion be allowed?
  29.  Should the government provide free food and health care?
  30. Do rich people pay less taxes?
  31. Is affirmative action unfair?
  32. Did gun control lead to more crime?
  33.  Is carnism a social justice issue ?
  34. Should medical marijuana be banned?
  35. Do rich people pay their way into Harvard?
  36. Should college athletes be paid?
  37. Does making friends in college help a student perform better?
  38. Do video games cause behavioral problems?
  39. Is plagiarism prohibited?
  40. Should everyone learn English?
  41. Is the millennial generation the smartest generation?
  42. Does school kill creativity?
  43. Can my professor change my grade?
  44. Can my roommate sue me for moving out?
  45. Are trees renewable or non-renewable?
  46. Can lighting be caught stored and used?
  47. Are scholarships taxable?
  48. Should internships be capitalized?
  49. Should renting be banned?
  50. Is globalization helpful or not?

Example Argumentative Paper: Should prisons be Privatized?

Debates regarding privatization of prisons have become more intense in recent years. According to Pavić (2016), private organizations housed 19 percent of the total inmate population in the United States in 2014. Arguments in support or against privatization of prisons focus majorly on ethical considerations and cost-efficiency. The option of privatizing government services is explored as a means of increasing the quality and efficiency of service delivery and achieving cost-effectiveness. The administration of justice should not take place within the prism of profit since personal interests may hinder the effectiveness of service delivery. The use of private companies for purposes of correction is a common practice in the United States.

According to Pavić (2016), private firms were responsible for housing a total of 91,244 state inmates and 40,017 federal inmates in the country in 2014, which account for 8 percent of all incarcerations in the country. In addition to housing prisoners on behalf of the state and Federal government, private firms receive government contracts to facilitate the provision of certain services in government correction facilities (Pavić, 2016). For instance, government-run prisons contract private companies to provide services such as educational services, food services, healthcare, drug treatment, and rehabilitation, and commissary services. While privatization of corrections seems to be a viable solution to the problems faced by the prison facilities in theory, but it is not likely to achieve the intended purpose in practice.

Operations of Correctional Organizations

The debate about privatization of prisons revolves around the ability of the private sector to provide similar correctional services as the government facilities and attain similar or better outcomes at lower costs. Proponents of privatization of corrections argue that the competition involved in the business is likely to inspire innovation and the achievement of greater operational efficiency (Mumford et al., 2014). Unlike the state-managed prisons, the organization aim at reducing the operating costs for purposes of improving revenue generation. The facilities are likely to achieve cost effectiveness by lowering the quality or reducing the correctional services provided, which results in poor rather than better or comparable results.

Nonetheless, opponents of prisons privatization argue that relegating correctional duties to private organizations does not improve the cost-effectiveness of running prisons in the United State. According to the critics, privatization is a form of unnecessary expansion of the formal social control web (Pavić, 2016). Unlike the private sector, the government is better placed financially and regarding resources to meet correctional needs more adequately and at relatively lower costs.

However,various studies focusing on the perceived cost-effectiveness of privatization of prisons have not been able to establish significant differences between private and public correctional facilities regarding cost-efficiency (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). Similarly, other research findings could not establish consistency of cost-effectiveness; some found public prisons to be more cost-effective whereas others concluded that privatization encouraged cost effectiveness. Based on various privatization texts, it is not possible to conclude that privatization of prisons will facilitate the achievement of cost-effectiveness in corrections (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). Establishing cost estimates and comparable service delivery and outcomes between private and public prisons is challenging (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). Privatization critics assert that contracting private organizations to carious out correctional services may not be able to reduce the cost of corrections.

Correctional Issues and Practices

Privatized correctional facilities lack accountability and transparency; therefore, are more susceptible to maladministration. There exist several issues surrounding private prisons concerning maladministration, accountability, and transparency. According to Headley and Garcia-Zamor (2014), issues that involve corrupt practice, maltreatment of inmates, and violation of fundamental human rights characterize private prisons. Also, prison violence seems to be more widespread in private correctional facilities compared to public prisons. Maintaining close oversight over private corrections contractors is essential for ensuring accountability, transparency, and service quality insurance (Pavić, 2016).

However, the contractual relationship established between the government and private firms is not capable of accounting for all the likely scenarios that may come up in the process of administration, hence incomplete and vague contracts. Even though the government establishes itself as the oversight authority through the justice department, no policy requires private corrections contractors to disclose their decisions, actions, or rationale for undertaking certain procedures or measures. The lack of government or public authority over the private contractors results in a diminished level of accountability and transparency (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). The decisions made by private correctional contractors are geared towards generating revenue for the investors rather than meeting the social needs or rehabilitating the people. The facilities are comparatively more violent and have poor outcomes concerning rehabilitation of convicted felons.

Correctional Personnel Roles and Functions

Private prison contractors are likely to pursue personal gains and fail to discharge their correctional duties adequately. The lack of a functional oversight authority to ensure efficiency of service delivery encourages self-interested contractors to restrict their activities to those that maximize their utility. Therefore, instead of acting on behalf of the government the private firms are likely to pursue their opportunism drives (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). Also, the information asymmetry that characterizes the contractual relationship between the parties involved creates a communication barrier such that the government does not have complete information regarding the activities of the private correctional forms.

Smith (2016) states that public prison facilities provide more opportunities for inmates such as rehabilitative treatment and educational services compared to privately owned prison facilities. The lack of quality service delivery by private firms is due to the implementation of cost-reduction measures to increase their profits (Mumford et al., 2014). The generation of revenue for the companies is dependent on the number of incarcerations.

Therefore, private corrections may engage in unethical or illegal political lobbying to facilitate the implementation of stringent laws, which will increase the rate of incarcerations (Smith, 2016). The lack of adequate supervision of private corrections creates an opportunity for the organizations to engage in unethical activities in pursuit of self-interest.

Opposing Views

According to the proponents of privatization, privatizing corrections serve as the ultimate solution to the problems faced by public prison institutions. Privatization solves the problem of overcrowding in the public facilities at reduced costs (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). Unlike the public prison institutions, private firms face tight competition from other institutions, which compel them to implement innovative approaches to ensure operational effectiveness. Innovation ensures that the organizations achieve cost-effective operations and consequently improved services for purposes of rehabilitating the convicted felons. That is the institutions maintain relevance by ensuring competitiveness through efficient rehabilitation services.

However, it is important to note that private correctional facilities are for-profit organizations whose activities involve profit maximization (Headley & Garcia-Zamor, 2014). Therefore, there are not likely to invest in improving service delivery at the expense of revenue. Similarly, the facilities reduce the cost of operation by reducing the rehabilitation services offered or the quality of the services. Private correction institutions do not have the incentive to rehabilitate inmates; rather they function as for-profit organizations.


In short, administering justice as a form of business may hinder with the efficiency of service delivery. Compared to public institutions, private correctional firs are less cost-effective. They achieve cost-efficiency by reducing the quality of the services offered to the prisoners. The firms lack adequate oversight authority to monitor their activities. As a result, they tend to engage in unethical practices to maximize personal utilities. The pursuit of personal interests hinders the organizations from fulfilling their roles as rehabilitation facilities. Contrarily, proponents of privatization claim that privatizing prisons solve the problems faced by the prisons at relatively lower costs. However, operating as for-profit organizations do not allow them to achieve efficiency and cost-effectiveness simultaneously.  


Headley, A., & Garcia-Zamor, J. (2014). The Privatization of Prisons and its Impact on Transparency and Accountability in Relation to Maladministration. International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education (IJHSSE), 1(8), 23-34. Retrieved from Mumford, M., Schanzenbach, D., & Nunn, R. (2014). The Economics of Private Prisons. The Hamilton Project. Retrieved from Pavić, I. (2016). Perspectives of Prison Privatization as a Solution to the Prison System Crisis in Croatia. European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, 3(1), 187-199. Retrieved from Smith, C. (24 Aug. 2016). Why the U.S. Is Right to Move Away from Private Prisons. The New Yorker. Retrieved from  

Argumentative Essay Examples

1. Is addiction is a disease or a choice?

2. Are Australians Less Spiritual Than They Used To Be?


Finally, don’t forget to remember your target audience when writing your essay. In this case, your audience is your professor or college instructor, therefore, you should use a serious tone.

Ask yourself if you were the audience, what would you like to know about the topic and how would like it to be addressed.

Argument writing isn’t easy as most people make it sound. It requires lots of research and creativity. Here at Viselance, we have an essay examples database where you can get tons of free samples.

If you found this article helpful, leave a comment below

2 Replies to “How to Write an Argumentative Essay – The Definitive Guide”

  1. My friend told me about this site and I thought of checking it out. I has really helped me to finish my homework. Thank you so much.

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