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How to Write an Argumentative Research Paper

Last Updated: December 9, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 366,331 times.

An argumentative essay requires you to make an argument about something and support your point of view using evidence in the form of primary and secondary sources. The argumentative essay is a common assignment, but teachers may present it in a variety of different ways. You can learn how to write an argumentative essay by following some standard steps for writing an essay as well as by doing some things that are required for argumentative essays, such as citing your sources.

Sample Outlines

how to write an argumentative research paper outline

Getting Started

Step 1 Learn the basic features of an argumentative essay.

  • a thesis statement that makes a clear argument (provided in the first paragraph)
  • claims that help prove your overall argument
  • logical transitions that connect paragraphs and sentences
  • support for your claims from your sources
  • a conclusion that considers the evidence you have presented
  • in-text citations throughout your essay to indicate where you have used sources (ask your teacher about what citation style to use)
  • a works cited page with an entry for each of your sources (ask your teacher about what citation style to use)

Step 2 Ask for clarification.

  • Make sure that you understand how to cite your sources for the paper and how to use the documentation style your teacher prefers. If you’re not sure, just ask.
  • Don’t feel bad if you have questions. It is better to ask and make sure that you understand than to do the assignment wrong and get a bad grade.

Step 3 Generate ideas for your argumentative essay.

  • Listing List all of the ideas that you have for your essay (good or bad) and then look over the list you have made and group similar ideas together. Expand those lists by adding more ideas or by using another prewriting activity. [3] X Research source
  • Freewriting Write nonstop for about 10 minutes. Write whatever comes to mind and don’t edit yourself. When you are done, review what you have written and highlight or underline the most useful information. Repeat the freewriting exercise using the passages you underlined as a starting point. You can repeat this exercise multiple times to continue to refine and develop your ideas. [4] X Research source
  • Clustering Write a brief explanation (phrase or short sentence) of the subject of your argumentative essay on the center of a piece of paper and circle it. Then draw three or more lines extending from the circle. Write a corresponding idea at the end of each of these lines. Continue developing your cluster until you have explored as many connections as you can. [5] X Research source
  • Questioning On a piece of paper, write out “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?” Space the questions about two or three lines apart on the paper so that you can write your answers on these lines. Respond to each question in as much detail as you can. [6] X Research source

Step 4 Think about how you will incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos.

  • Ethos refers to a writer’s credibility or trustworthiness. To convince your readers that your argument is valid, you need to convince them that you are trustworthy. You can accomplish this goal by presenting yourself as confident, fair, and approachable. You can achieve these objectives by avoiding wishy-washy statements, presenting information in an unbiased manner, and identifying common ground between yourself and your readers(including the ones that may disagree with you). You can also show your authority, another aspect of ethos, by demonstrating that you’ve done thorough research on the topic.
  • Pathos refers to your use of emotional appeals. Emotional appeals have a place in argumentative writing, but overuse of them may lead a reader to reject your argument. Make sure that your use of emotional appeals is minimal and appropriate. Some ways that you can incorporate pathos into your paper without turning off your readers includes using descriptive language that evokes the desired reaction (positive or negative) to your subject, especially when you use other people’s language—such as quotes—to do so (which avoids damaging your ethos with overly emotional language). You can also invoke pathos by providing relevant examples that evoke an emotional response in your readers and using figurative language (such as metaphors) to help your readers understand and sympathize with your point of view.
  • Logos refers to your use of logic, reasoning, and sequencing. This means setting up your argument in a way that uses logic to achieve your desired endpoint or reaction, often through inductive and deductive reasoning. For example, you can appeal to your readers’ desire for logic by organizing your examples in a way that shows your argument in the best light and is easy to follow, such as chronologically, by cause and effect, or by problem and solution.

Step 5 Develop your tentative thesis.

  • Place your thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph unless your instructor tells you to place it elsewhere. The end of the first paragraph is the traditional place to provide your thesis in an academic essay.

Step 6 Make sure your thesis is arguable.

  • For example, an arguable thesis statement might be something like, “The drinking age should be reduced to 18 in the United States.” This statement is arguable because it presents a position that others might debate by saying “The drinking age should not be reduced to 18 in the US.” Or, others might argue that the drinking age should be abolished altogether or even raised. There are many possibilities for a counter argument, which makes this topic arguable.

Step 7 Make sure your thesis provides enough detail.

  • For example, a detailed thesis statement might be something like, “Because youth are more drawn to drinking as a way to rebel, lowering the drinking age to 18 in the United States would help to reduce binge drinking among teenagers and college students.” This thesis still provides a position that could be debated, but it also explains the reasoning behind the position. Providing this detail gives readers a good sense of what the rest of the paper will discuss.
  • Your thesis should tell your reader why your argument matters, and for whom.

Step 8 Develop a rough...

  • Organize your outline by essay part and then break those parts into subsections. For example, part 1 might be your introduction, which could then be broken into three sub-parts: a)Opening sentence, b)context/background information c)thesis statement.

Research Your Topic

Step 1 Generate key terms and phrases to help you with your research.

  • For example, some relevant key terms and phrases for a paper on lowering the drinking age to 18 might be: “drinking”, “underage”, “minors”, “binge”, “rebellion”, “drinking age”, “binge drinking culture”, “countries with low drinking age”, “drinking and rebellion”, etc.

Step 2 Find appropriate secondary sources for your argumentative essay.

  • Use your library’s databases rather than a general internet search. University libraries subscribe to many databases, such as EBSCO and JSTOR. These databases provide you with free access to articles and other resources that you cannot usually gain access to by using a search engine. Schedule an appointment with a librarian at your school’s library if you are not sure about how to use the library databases.
  • If your university doesn’t subscribe to any databases, use Google Scholar.

Step 3 Evaluate your sources...

  • Author's credentials Choose sources that include an author’s name and that provide credentials for that author. The credentials should indicate something about why this person is qualified to speak as an authority on the subject. For example, an article about a medical condition will be more trustworthy if the author is a medical doctor. If you find a source where no author is listed or the author does not have any credentials, then this source may not be trustworthy.
  • Citations Think about whether or not this author has adequately researched the topic. Check the author’s bibliography or works cited page. If the author has provided few or no sources, then this source may not be trustworthy.
  • Bias Think about whether or not this author has presented an objective, well-reasoned account of the topic. How often does the tone indicate a strong preference for one side of the argument? How often does the argument dismiss or disregard the opposition’s concerns or valid arguments? If these are regular occurrences in the source, then it may not be a good choice.
  • Publication date Think about whether or not this source presents the most up to date information on the subject. Noting the publication date is especially important for scientific subjects, since new technologies and techniques have made some earlier findings irrelevant.
  • Information provided in the source If you are still questioning the trustworthiness of this source, cross check some of the information provided against a trustworthy source. If the information that this author presents contradicts one of your trustworthy sources, then it might not be a good source to use in your paper.

Step 4 Read your research.

  • To be certain that you understand your sources and that you are capable of responding to each of them, try writing a paragraph summary and response after you finish each one. Some people find keeping notecards on their sources to be a helpful way of organizing their ideas about each one. [15] X Research source
  • Misunderstanding and misrepresenting your sources can damage your credibility as an author and also have a negative effect on your grade. Give yourself plenty of time to read your sources and understand what they are saying.

Step 5 Take notes while you read your sources.

  • Be careful to properly cite your sources when taking notes. Even accidental plagiarism may result in a failing grade on a paper.

Drafting Your Essay

Step 1 Begin your essay with an engaging sentence that gets right into your topic.

  • For example, an argumentative essay about lowering the drinking age might begin with something like, “Binge drinking culture is killing teens in the United States, but it hasn’t always been this way.” This sentence offers a compelling statement and it also acts as a launch pad for you to provide some background on your topic.

Step 2 Provide background information to help guide your readers.

  • For example, if you are arguing that lowering the drinking age would help to counter binge drinking among teens and young adults, your introduction should talk about the damage that is being done by binge drinking. Tell your readers about this problem in more detail so that they will begin to see why something needs to change.
  • Keep in mind that your background information in the first paragraph should lead up to your thesis statement. Explain everything the reader needs to know to understand what your topic is about, then narrow it down until you reach the topic itself.

Step 3 Provide your thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph.

  • For example, a thesis statement for a paper on lowering the drinking age might look something like, “Because the current drinking age of 21 in the United States does more harm than good by proliferating binge drinking culture among teens, the drinking age should be lowered to 18.” This thesis provides a straightforward position and reason for that position that readers can easily identify as the author’s main argument.
  • In your thesis, you should also address how you’ll support your argument and why your argument matters.

Step 4 Use your body paragraphs to discuss specific parts of your argument.

  • For example, one of your body paragraphs might begin with something like, “Teens are more likely to engage in binge drinking in the United States than in countries where the drinking age is lower or non-existent.”
  • You might then follow up this claim with evidence from your sources. For example, you could provide statistics on teen drinking in other countries where the drinking age is lower, or you could summarize an interview with an authority of the subject, or cite an article that explains the psychological basis of this phenomenon. Whatever source(s) you choose, make sure that they are relevant that they offer convincing support for your claim.

Step 5 Develop a conclusion for your essay.

  • Rephrase your thesis. It is often helpful to remind your readers of the initial argument, but don’t simply restate your thesis if you do this. Rephrase it so that it sounds different but has the same meaning. Summarize some of the most important evidence you have offered in your essay and say remind readers of how that evidence has contributed to supporting your thesis.
  • Synthesize what you have discussed. Put everything together for your readers and explain what other lessons might be gained from your argument. How might this discussion change the way others view your subject?
  • Explain why your topic matters. Help your readers to see why this topic deserve their attention. How does this topic affect your readers? What are the broader implications of this topic? Why does your topic matter?
  • Return to your opening discussion. If you offered an anecdote or a quote early in your paper, it might be helpful to revisit that opening discussion and explore how the information you have gathered implicates that discussion.

Step 6 Make sure that you have cited all of your sources.

  • Ask your teacher what documentation style he or she prefers that you use if it is not mentioned in the assignment guidelines.
  • Visit your school’s writing center for additional help with your works cited page and in-text citations.

Revising Your Essay

Step 1 Put aside your paper for a few days before revising.

  • What is your main point? How might you clarify your main point?
  • Who is your audience? Have you considered their needs and expectations?
  • What is your purpose? Have you accomplished your purpose with this paper?
  • How effective is your evidence? How might your strengthen your evidence?
  • Does every part of your paper relate back to your thesis? How might you improve these connections?
  • Is anything confusing about your language or organization? How might your clarify your language or organization?
  • Have you made any errors with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? How can you correct these errors?
  • What might someone who disagrees with you say about your paper? How can you address these opposing arguments in your paper? [25] X Research source

Step 4 Proofread a printed version of your final draft.

Community Q&A

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  • If you're still stumped, ask your teacher for help. He or she will most likely be more than happy to help you AND you'll get on his or her good side for "taking the initiative." Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write an argumentative research paper outline

  • Plagiarism is a serious offense in the academic world. If you plagiarize your paper you may fail the assignment and even the course altogether. Make sure that you fully understand what is and is not considered plagiarism before you write your paper. Ask your teacher if you have any concerns or questions about your school’s plagiarism policy. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/argumentative_essays.html
  • ↑ http://writing.ku.edu/prewriting-strategies
  • ↑ https://stlcc.edu/student-support/academic-success-and-tutoring/writing-center/writing-resources/pathos-logos-and-ethos.aspx
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/673/1/
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/outlining
  • ↑ https://apus.libanswers.com/faq/2316
  • ↑ https://libguides.schoolcraft.edu/c.php?g=430555&p=3011200
  • ↑ http://guides.jwcc.edu/content.php?pid=65900&sid=538553
  • ↑ http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/reading-and-researching/notes-from-research
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/argumentative-essay/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/process/revisingargument/
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/561/05/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write an argumentative research paper, choose a topic that can be argued from one or more perspectives, then pick a side. Start your paper with a thesis statement summing up your position, then support your statement with facts and arguments gathered from reputable sources. Use background information or context to help guide your readers through your essay, telling them what they need to know to understand the rest of your argument. For different approaches you can use while revising your paper, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example

Published on August 7, 2022 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on August 15, 2023.

How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process , providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized.

A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to:

  • Organize your thoughts
  • Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related
  • Ensure nothing is forgotten

A research paper outline can also give your teacher an early idea of the final product.

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Table of contents

Research paper outline example, how to write a research paper outline, formatting your research paper outline, language in research paper outlines.

  • Definition of measles
  • Rise in cases in recent years in places the disease was previously eliminated or had very low rates of infection
  • Figures: Number of cases per year on average, number in recent years. Relate to immunization
  • Symptoms and timeframes of disease
  • Risk of fatality, including statistics
  • How measles is spread
  • Immunization procedures in different regions
  • Different regions, focusing on the arguments from those against immunization
  • Immunization figures in affected regions
  • High number of cases in non-immunizing regions
  • Illnesses that can result from measles virus
  • Fatal cases of other illnesses after patient contracted measles
  • Summary of arguments of different groups
  • Summary of figures and relationship with recent immunization debate
  • Which side of the argument appears to be correct?

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Follow these steps to start your research paper outline:

  • Decide on the subject of the paper
  • Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss
  • Organize related ideas into sub-groups
  • Arrange your ideas into a hierarchy: What should the reader learn first? What is most important? Which idea will help end your paper most effectively?
  • Create headings and subheadings that are effective
  • Format the outline in either alphanumeric, full-sentence or decimal format

There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines. The differences relate to formatting and style of writing.

  • Alphanumeric
  • Full-sentence

An alphanumeric outline is most commonly used. It uses Roman numerals, capitalized letters, arabic numerals, lowercase letters to organize the flow of information. Text is written with short notes rather than full sentences.

  • Sub-point of sub-point 1

Essentially the same as the alphanumeric outline, but with the text written in full sentences rather than short points.

  • Additional sub-point to conclude discussion of point of evidence introduced in point A

A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences.

  • 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point
  • 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point
  • 1.2 Second point

To write an effective research paper outline, it is important to pay attention to language. This is especially important if it is one you will show to your teacher or be assessed on.

There are four main considerations: parallelism, coordination, subordination and division.

Parallelism: Be consistent with grammatical form

Parallel structure or parallelism is the repetition of a particular grammatical form within a sentence, or in this case, between points and sub-points. This simply means that if the first point is a verb , the sub-point should also be a verb.

Example of parallelism:

  • Include different regions, focusing on the different arguments from those against immunization

Coordination: Be aware of each point’s weight

Your chosen subheadings should hold the same significance as each other, as should all first sub-points, secondary sub-points, and so on.

Example of coordination:

  • Include immunization figures in affected regions
  • Illnesses that can result from the measles virus

Subordination: Work from general to specific

Subordination refers to the separation of general points from specific. Your main headings should be quite general, and each level of sub-point should become more specific.

Example of subordination:

Division: break information into sub-points.

Your headings should be divided into two or more subsections. There is no limit to how many subsections you can include under each heading, but keep in mind that the information will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage, so you should not go overboard with the number of sub-points.

Ready to start writing or looking for guidance on a different step in the process? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper .

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Argumentative Essays

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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.

What is an argumentative essay?

The argumentative essay 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.

Please note : Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.

Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.

The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.

  • A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.

In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important ( exigence ) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.

  • Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.

  • Body paragraphs that include evidential support.

Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis ( warrant ).

However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.

  • Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).

The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.

  • A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.

A complete argument

Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.

The five-paragraph essay

A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.

Longer argumentative essays

Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.

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  1. How to Write an Argumentative Research Paper (with Pictures)

    1 Learn the basic features of an argumentative essay. Argumentative essays have some basic features that you should include in your essay. In general, argumentative essays require you to support the argument you are making using logic and support from your research. You should also be sure to include in your argumentative essay: [1]

  2. How to Write an Essay Outline

    Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay. Argumentative essay outline. This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

  3. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process, providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized. A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to: Organize your thoughts Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related

  4. Argumentative Essays

    The argumentative essay 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. Please note : Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay.

  5. How to Create a Powerful Argumentative Essay Outline

    Argumentative Essay Outline Section 1: Introduction The introduction is where you lay the foundation for your impenetrable argument. It’s made up of a hook, background information, and a thesis statement. Hook sentence