A clear sense of argument is essential to all forms of academic writing, for writing is thought made visible. Insights and ideas that occur to us when we encounter the raw material of the world—natural phenomena like the behavior of genes, or cultural phenomena, like texts, photographs and artifacts—must be ordered in some way so others can receive them and respond in turn. This give and take is at the heart of the scholarly enterprise, and makes possible that vast conversation known as civilization. Like all human ventures, the conventions of the academic essay are both logical and playful. They may vary in expression from discipline to discipline, but any good essay should show us a mind developing a thesis, supporting that thesis with evidence, deftly anticipating objections or counterarguments, and maintaining the momentum of discovery.
Motive and Idea
An essay has to have a purpose or motive; the mere existence of an assignment or deadline is not sufficient. When you write an essay or research paper, you are never simply transferring information from one place to another, or showing that you have mastered a certain amount of material. That would be incredibly boring—and besides, it would be adding to the glut of pointless utterance. Instead, you should be trying to make the best possible case for an original idea you have arrived at after a period of research. Depending upon the field, your research may involve reading and rereading a text, performing an experiment, or carefully observing an object or behavior.
By immersing yourself in the material, you begin to discover patterns and generate insights, guided by a series of unfolding questions. From a number of possibilities, one idea emerges as the most promising. You try to make sure it is original and of some importance; there is no point arguing for something already known, trivial, or widely accepted.
Thesis and Development
The essay's thesis is the main point you are trying to make, using the best evidence you can marshal. Your thesis will evolve during the course of writing drafts, but everything that happens in your essay is directed toward establishing its validity. A given assignment may not tell you that you need to come up with a thesis and defend it, but these are the unspoken requirements of any scholarly paper.
Deciding upon a thesis can generate considerable anxiety. Students may think, "How can I have a new idea about a subject scholars have spent their whole lives exploring? I just read a few books in the last few days, and now I'm supposed to be an expert?" But you can be original on different scales. We can't possibly know everything that has been, or is being, thought or written by everyone in the world—even given the vastness and speed of the Internet. What is required is a rigorous, good faith effort to establish originality, given the demands of the assignment and the discipline. It is a good exercise throughout the writing process to stop periodically and reformulate your thesis as succinctly as possible so someone in another field could understand its meaning as well as its importance. A thesis can be relatively complex, but you should be able to distill its essence. This does not mean you have to give the game away right from the start. Guided by a clear understanding of the point you wish to argue, you can spark your reader's curiosity by first asking questions—the very questions that may have guided you in your research—and carefully building a case for the validity of your idea. Or you can start with a provocative observation, inviting your audience to follow your own path of discovery.
The Tension of Argument
Argument implies tension but not combative fireworks. This tension comes from the fundamental asymmetry between the one who wishes to persuade and those who must be persuaded. The common ground they share is reason. Your objective is to make a case so that any reasonable person would be convinced of the reasonableness of your thesis. The first task, even before you start to write, is gathering and ordering evidence, classifying it by kind and strength. You might decide to move from the smallest piece of evidence to the most impressive. Or you might start with the most convincing, then mention other supporting details afterward. You could hold back a surprising piece of evidence until the very end.
In any case, it is important to review evidence that could be used against your idea and generate responses to anticipated objections. This is the crucial concept of counterargument. If nothing can be said against an idea, it is probably obvious or vacuous. (And if too much can be said against it, it's time for another thesis.) By not indicating an awareness of possible objections, you might seem to be hiding something, and your argument will be weaker as a consequence. You should also become familiar with the various fallacies that can undermine an argument—the "straw man" fallacy, fallacies of causation and of analogy, etc.—and strive to avoid them.
The Structure of Argument
The heart of the academic essay is persuasion, and the structure of your argument plays a vital role in this. To persuade, you must set the stage, provide a context, and decide how to reveal your evidence. Of course, if you are addressing a community of specialists, some aspects of a shared context can be taken for granted. But clarity is always a virtue. The essay's objective should be described swiftly, by posing a question that will lead to your thesis, or making a thesis statement. There is considerable flexibility about when and where this happens, but within the first page or two, we should know where we are going, even if some welcome suspense is preserved. In the body of the paper, merely listing evidence without any discernible logic of presentation is a common mistake. What might suffice in conversation is too informal for an essay. If the point being made is lost in a welter of specifics, the argument falters.
The most common argumentative structure in English prose is deductive: starting off with a generalization or assertion, and then providing support for it. This pattern can be used to order a paragraph as well as an entire essay. Another possible structure is inductive: facts, instances or observations can be reviewed, and the conclusion to be drawn from them follows. There is no blueprint for a successful essay; the best ones show us a focused mind making sense of some manageable aspect of the world, a mind where insightfulness, reason, and clarity are joined.
Copyright 1998, Kathy Duffin, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
Discussion Essay, how to write it
Discussions are competent deliberations, which are embedded within knowledge. A productive and a tactful discussion must consider both the opposing viewpoints thus resulting in a balanced view in the whole paper. Discussion essays present issues that surround a particular topic mostly found being open and debatable to the argument. As such, a discussion essay needs to include the thorough discussion of the different sides of a given topic. The essay should offer a well-rounded understanding of all issues before the writer shows his personal conclusions and opinions. Similar to many persuasive formats of essays, a quality discussion essay is dependent on the ability of the author to offer a substantial research and evidences that show the various views of the topic.
When you discuss an idea in the essay, you are expected to maintain some concrete structure. Select a single opinion and come up with negative and the positive arguments for the viewpoint. Your opinion should then be summed up in some elegant conclusion. Discussion type essays have some discussion questions. These issues might ask for a summary of arguments towards some particular point of view or the opinion towards the subject. Always read through the questions carefully. If it is a test, you might lose marks if you answer the wrong question.
Developing a discussion essay
Select the appropriate topic for the essay. The topic needs to be one that interests you. You are expected to discuss all the sides of the issues that surround the essay. Intense research with appropriate evidence will help a great deal by providing pertinent information for the essay.
The outline of the discussion essay should be made using a pen and paper. The primary goal at this point involves getting the thoughts on the topic organized in writing. A detailed outline could be written for the discussion essay using the formal traditional outline and numbers, which separates the main points. Another way, of coming up with the outline, involves jotting down the main points of discussion which you want to cover in the body.
Focus to write the essay in the following way. The objectives in the introduction of the assignment are to have all issues relating to the topic introduced. The introduction also offers the reader with vital background information. You are expected to explain the relevant terms or words that are used in the essay. Providing the reader with the basic overview of the organization of the discussion ensures that the flow of thought is understood in the whole essay body.
Body of the essay can be written with the help of the research sources collected. Each issue needs to be presented impartially and individually. You should start by discussing a single side then the other side of the argument, which is related to the given topic. The arguments in the body should be progressive beginning with weak arguments or issue and progressing to the stronger argument. A well-structured discussion essay helps the reader to follow the flow of thought in an easy way without any distraction.
The last section of the discussion essay is the essay conclusion. The role of the conclusion involves summarizing the information from the body of the essay. The conclusion makes the reader review the merits and demerits of the argument topic. In most cases, you are not expected to choose any side of the argument. If you decided to select a particular side of the argument, you would need to show your conclusion on the argument.
Phrases in discussion essay
In preparing for an argument essay the first thing, that should be done, involves memorizing some ready-made phrases. In this case, learning a number of sentences has a number of advantages. These include:
Disadvantages of using phrases in an essay.
This time we advise that you follow a view that is balanced. The phrases can be used in the essay, but these phrases should never be overused. Critical for you is to present your real personality in the essay by expressing yourself using your words.
There are a number of qualities of an acceptable discussion essay. The basic competence level is characterized by:
Using the first person pronoun (“I”)
A decent number of scientists have been exploring how to use first person pronoun in academic writing. These scholars have agreed on the fact that using the first person pronoun has had minimum effect on the nature of the academic writing. In this case, using the first person pronoun “I” may not necessarily make the essay less formal. In addition, doing away with the “I” may not automatically make the essay more academic. This means that the overall use of language and vocabulary instead of the selection of personal pronoun has a significant effect on the tone of the university writing. However, the general rules on using the first person include:
The figure above shows that using “I” in the introduction and conclusion could shows whatever would be done before it is done. It can also be used in highlighting whatever is done afterward.
“I” may be used instead of referring to the writer as “the research” or “the writer,” which may appear being more artificial.
Some fields like the social studies use “I”, when emphasizing the practical research. In language tests, the distinction may not be helpful hence not important in considering it.
In using the first person pronoun “I,”, it is vital to vary the verb that follows. For example, words like “I feel”, “I tend to regard..” “I would consider.,” could be used in the place of, “I think”. You should always find a way through which you can soften your language making it categorical or less direct.
The “I” can also be used in relating the personal experience to a given example thus distinguishing the personal experience from the reading aspects and research. In all cases, you avoid being too anecdotal.
Use of mnemonic device
In the preparation of a test, it is extremely vital to apply the mnemonic devices. The mnemonic devices are systems of words that are useful in recalling the main points. A mnemonic device can be remembered by just remembering the initial letters of the words in the phrase.
Where the first letter G is for Grammar, the second letter S is for Students, the third letter R is for Relevance, the fourth letter E is for Examples, and the last letter C is for Cohesion.
Grammar-Your grammar must be accurate and correct
Structure- Your essay should be well-organized
Relevance-All the asked questions must be answered
Examples- Illustrations should be included in the essay to ensure that all points are reinforced
Cohesion- Phrases and linking words should be used appropriately in the discussion essay.
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