Researched Argument Essay – Description and Guidelines
Overview and Objectives
Your final essay will be a researched argument. An “argument,” in an academic sense,
means taking a stand on an issue and offering reasons and evidence in support of your
viewpoint (ideally in a context of acknowledging and addressing the value of opposing
The goal of an academic argument is not to debate pro and con but to try to solve
problems through truth seeking and persuasion. A good academic argument attempts to
encompass all of the available information and views and take into consideration that the
truth may lie somewhere between two established positions, or within a third
Writing an effective academic argument will involve everything that you have learned so
far this semester: invention, planning, research, drafting, peer editing, rewriting and
employing effective appeals.
This essay should be approximately 4 to 5 pages long (1000 - 1300 words); it should
take a position on a controversial, arguable issue. “Arguable,” in terms of this
assignment, means the issue can be supported factually and rationally with research
Moral issues that do not lend themselves to empirical research and analysis, such as
whether abortion, euthanasia or homosexuality are right or wrong, will not be accepted
for this assignment.
Your introduction should get your readers’ attention by identifying the issue that the
essay will address and expanding on its relevance.
Your introduction also should express the central claim that you intend to support – in
other words, your main argument or thesis.
The rest of your essay – i.e. the thesis support or “body” – should present and respond
to opposing views whenever they are relevant, and present cogent evidence and
reasons in support of your position. (More information about organizing the essay – the
essential parts and their functions – will be given in class.)
Your argument should have one or more of the following aims:
1. Change the current opinion of an audience that holds a different view.
2. Persuade an uninformed audience to adopt your view.
3. Persuade an agreeing and informed audience to act.
This essay will require research. You should approach the research and writing process
with a clear research question and/or a problem-solving goal. Be open-minded and think
critically about the facts, information and perspectives that you encounter through your
research. Also, be critical of your own views and assumptions.
You should use no fewer than 4 or 5 secondary sources in your essay and list them
professionally on your works cited page. You may use up to three internet sources,
excluding sources like Wikipedia or Encarta. Make sure to evaluate your sources. You
should concentrate on quality. Use the research first and foremost to educate yourself
on the issue, so that you can develop a viewpoint with discrimination and authority. Your
research also can help you discover, present and address relevant counterarguments
and background information that readers might need in order to fully evaluate the issue
and the viewpoint that you will present.
You also may consider using one or more relevant primary sources (e.g. interviews).
Issue and Ideas (Topics)
We will spend the first class or two on ideas and invention, but to get you started, you
might think about the following issues to address in the essay:
• An issue raised in one of the “For Writing and Discussion” sections of Chapter 11
– especially, on pages 314, 315 and 322.
• An issue related to your lifestyle and identity – e.g. an activity or choice that you
feel needs defending or justifying, as Ross Taylor does in his essay about
paintball on page 330. Some examples of other lifestyle and identity issues that
can lend themselves to a researched argument are: body art (tattoos); body
piercing; smoking marijuana; interracial dating/marriage/relationships; musical
tastes (e.g. hip-hop, hardcore); street racing; veganism or Vegetarianism, etc.
• Proposal due (TBA in class and posted under “Dates and Announcements”)
See the “Proposal” file for detailed guidelines. Bring two copies of the proposal to
class on the due date – one copy for the instructor and one for a classmate to
• Final Essay due (TBA)
Important notes on submitting the final essay:
• A late penalty of 5% per-day late will be applied to all essays submitted after the
• No essays will be accepted after the last class day of the semester.
• Essays must be submitted in person to the instructor. Essays submitted by email
or in the instructor's faculty mail box will not be accepted.
Summary of Grading Criteria
The instructor will be looking for:
• A good introduction – i.e. an effective presentation of the central issue, and a
clear and arguable thesis that reflects the writer’s own critical thinking
• An honest and intelligent presentation of opposing views, if applicable
• Convincing thesis support – persuasive reasons and evidence
• Credible and relevant sources
• Professional editing and good readability
• Evidence of an effective writing process
• Correct documentation of sources in MLA format (your “Everyday Writer”
handbook will be an essential resource; you may also obtain help from the
English Department’s Online Writing Lab, and the University Writing Center in
• Chapter 11 – (307-362) Writing a Classical Argument. It will be helpful to read
and reflect on the essays in this chapter: “Paintball” (330), “Surveillance State”
(342), “Spare the Rod” (349), and “The Case for Gay Marriage” (351).
• The Everyday Writer – (pp. 139-173 & 367-412) Conducting Research and MLA
Documentation. Pay special attention to pp. 170 and 171 (“lead in” phrases and
“signal verbs”), page 370 (parenthetical, in-text citations) and page 374 (the
“Works Cited” format).
• Chapter 2 (pp. 38-41 only) Creating a Thesis with Tension
• Chapter 4 – (pp. 82-89 only) Rhetorical Appeals, Angle of Vision