An argumentative essay is an academic text that requires research (from peer-reviewed journal articles) to argue for or against a particular point of view. An argumentative essay contains an initial claim (or initial argument), and counterclaim (or a counterargument or response), and a rebuttal (or reply or comment). An argument is only as good as its counterargument; that is, a good argument requires evidence that supports both the initial argument as well as the counterargument.
Initial claim: The initial claim contains evidence (from the literature) that supports the thesis statement of the essay.
Counterclaim: The counterclaim contains evidence that supports the opposing viewpoint. The counterclaim explains what's weak or what's wrong with the initial claim.
Rebuttal: The rebuttal contains evidence that supports the weaknesses of the counterclaim.
For context, assume you are writing a five-paragraph essay where the first paragraph is an introduction paragraph, followed by three body paragraphs, and ends with a conclusion paragraph. An argumentative essay that follows a block method would dedicate the first body paragraph to the initial claim, the second body paragraph to the counterclaim, and the third body paragraph to the rebuttal.
An argumentative essay that follows a point-by-point method would establish three key points in the thesis statement whereby each key point is developed in each of the three body paragraphs. When developing each of the three points (in the body paragraphs), the initial claim, counterclaim, and rebuttal would appear throughout as necessary to create a sound argument. With a point-by-point method, there are several options:
- The first body paragraph contains the initial claim only; the second body paragraph includes an initial claim and counterclaim; and the third body paragraph includes an initial claim, counterclaim, and rebuttal.
- The first body paragraph contains the initial claim and counterclaim; the second body paragraph includes an initial claim and counterclaim; and the third body paragraph includes an initial claim, counterclaim, and rebuttal.
There are several options available when writing a point-by-point argumentative essay, but there should be an initial claim to support each of the key points listed in the thesis statement (in each of the three body paragraphs).
Problem vs. Problem-Solution Essay
When narrowing down a topic and developing a thesis statement, consider whether you are writing a problem essay or problem-solution essay.
The Persuasive Essay vs. the Argumentative Essay
An argumentative essay is a type of persuasive essay, but the latter typically only include an initial claim. When writing an argumentative essay, the writer is trying to persuade the reader to take action or change one's mind or perspective, but does so by include strong initial and counterclaims, along with a final rebuttal.
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