What’s the Argument?
A debate paper, sometimes called an argument essay, expresses a point of view about a topic and supports it with evidence. Writing a debate paper requires the author to go beyond summarizing material. The writer must read the material critically, question it, and either defend, refute, or offer a personal or new view of it. Most academic writing, in fact, requires this work to develop and illustrate your thesis or point of view.
Since developing and illustrating your thesis is the main goal of the paper, this statement should appear at the beginning, most often in the introduction. You should begin by introducing the topic, then follow by clearly stating your thesis. The thesis statement must be a complete sentence and should be as concise as possible. Below is an example of a thesis that is too broad, followed by one that is more specific:
Too broad: An increase in student fees on campus should be prohibited.
More specific: An increase in student fees on campus should not exceed the national rate of inflation unless students vote in a public referendum to approve higher fees.
After the thesis is clearly stated, the body of the paper should be used to make your argument and use evidence to support it. The question you should be asking yourself in writing this part of the paper is, “What is my point?” To answer this question, you should critique the material, apply it to something else, or simply explain it differently. The main purpose of the paper is to demonstrate to your instructor that you understand the information and that you can apply it beyond what you have read or heard.
Organizing your evidence and support is critical in forming a solid argument. Some of the ways to organize your claim include:
- Logical order – presents material in a coherent manner. You can present information inductively, or from particular cases to general principles, or deductively, from general principles to particular cases
- Order of importance or significance – presents information according to priority. Sometimes, you should make your best points last so the reader remembers them.
- Order of interest – presents information in an appealing or thought-provoking manner.
A final hint about how to write a debate paper is to strengthen your argument by addressing counterarguments. When you consider what someone who disagrees with your position might say about your argument, you demonstrate that you have critically thought your topic through, and you set out reasons your reader might have for not accepting your claim. If you decide to take this approach, you should consider how you will respond to the opponent. Will you validate your opponent’s point, yet explain why your argument should be accepted nonetheless? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is incorrect? Whichever way you choose to address the counterarguments, you should end the paper with the notion that your argument is stronger than any opposing arguments.
“Argument.” www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/argument.html, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2010
Ruszkiewicz, John, Maxine Hairston, and Daniel E. Seward. SF Writer. New York: Addison-Wesley, 2002. Print.