Writing an essay is, fundamentally, a case of arguing a point. But unlike when two feuding wrestlers meet in the ring, ‘arguing’ here doesn’t mean shouting at someone you disagree with. Rather, you need to develop a clear and coherent argument step by step.
1. The Basic Structure of an Argument
At its most basic, an argument is a conclusion that follows logically from a set of premises. A premise is an idea or fact, while the conclusion is a claim that follows from a set of facts:
Premise One:Dwayne Johnson is a man.
Premise Two:All men are mortal.
Conclusion:Dwayne Johnson is mortal.
Here, for instance, we have to accept the conclusion as long as we accept the premises as true. Not all arguments are this simple, but the important thing is that your conclusion should clearly follow from the argument that precedes it.
2. Identify Your Claim
When developing an argument, your first step should be clearly identifying what you are arguing. This may require setting out a research question and/or hypotheses to be tested, but in shorter essays it will usually just involve explaining what you hope to prove.
3. Know the Main Points in Your Argument
Once you’ve set out what you’re arguing, the next step is to break it down into steps.
For instance, if your main claim is that Dwayne Johson revolutionised professional wrestling, you might want to focus on several different things: Johnson being part of the Anoa’i family, the popularity of the ‘People’s Elbow’, and the enduring influence of The Rock.
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4. Structure Your Argument Carefully
The next step is linking the points in your argument. This means that you should discuss them in a logical order, drawing connections between them wherever possible.
For instance, in our essay about The Rock, we’d want to address each point in the order set out above, since Johnson’s connection to an established wrestling dynasty led to his career. His popularity then drew new people to wrestling, influencing the modern industry.
5. Use Evidence
Simply claiming that Dwayne Johnson revolutionised the world of professional wrestling isn’t enough. To argue convincingly, we’d need to provide evidence of how this happened.
In an academic essay, this usually means drawing upon past research (e.g. existing studies about wrestling) or experimental data (e.g. a questionnaire about the popularity of The Rock) to support each point we make. Without evidence, all we have is an unsupported claim.
6. Consider Counterarguments
Another aspect of developing your argument is considering possible counterarguments. This allows you to address potential objections to the point you’re making pre-emptively.
For instance, in the case of Johnson’s influence on wrestling, we might consider other factors that contributed to its popularity in the ‘90s and ‘00s. Or just how terrible his films are.
7. Have a Clear Conclusion
As with the basic argument at the start of this list, the conclusion of your essay should follow clearly from the preceding points (your ‘premises’). The crucial thing here is to show how your claim is supported by the evidence you’ve presented in your essay.
This requires more than just summarising your argument. Instead, try to explain how each point works with the others to contribute to your argument as a whole.