How to Write an Argumentative Essay

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How to write 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. Argumentative essays allow writers to express their opinion on a topic and support that opinion with strong logic and evidence. Read on to discover the outline for how to write an argumentative essay, and see examples of how to construct each part of this essay.

Argumentative Essay Writing Tips:

Argumentative Essay Definition

We’ve all used some form of argumentation at one point in our lives. Whether it was asking parents for permission to go somewhere, seeking more money at a job, or begging for a second chance with a lost love, we’ve examined different evidence to determine which approach is best to make our case for what we want in life. Though they may not have taken a formal style, these strategies of persuasion form the basis of argumentative essays.

The function of an argumentative essay is to show that your assertion (opinion, theory, hypothesis) about some phenomenon or phenomena is correct or more truthful than others’. The art of argumentation is not an easy skill to acquire. Many people might think that if one simply has an opinion, one can argue it successfully, and these folks are always surprised when others don’t agree with them because their logic seems so correct. Argumentative writing is the act of forming reasons, making inductions, drawing conclusions, and applying them to the case in discussion; the operation of inferring propositions, not known or admitted as true, from facts or principles known, admitted, or proved to be true. It clearly explains the process of your reasoning from the known or assumed to the unknown. Without doing this you do not have an argument, you have only an assertion, an essay that is just your unsubstantiated opinion.

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.

Argumentative Essay Types

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.

How to Write and Argumentative Essay

How to Write and Argumentative EssayWhen preparing to write an argumentative essay, it’s important to evaluate various sides of the issue. Research your topic by examining both primary (original documents) and secondary (references information from a primary document) sources, as well as evaluating anecdotal experiences. Once you have collected data that supports multiple perspectives on the issue, you can make an informed decision about which side has the strongest arguments or which side you support.

Planning

For an argument essay to be effective, it must contain certain elements that will persuade the audience to see things from your perspective. For this reason, you must take a few minutes to plan and prepare before you jump into writing an argument essay.

Finding a Good Topic

To find good topic for an argument essay you should consider several issues that will have two conflicting points of view or very different conclusions. As you look over a list of topics you should find one that really sparks your interest.

While a strong interest in a topic is important, it’s not enough to be interested. You have to consider what position you can back up with reasoning and evidence. It’s one thing to have a strong belief, but when shaping an argument you’ll have to explain why your belief is reasonable and logical. As you explore the topics, make a mental list of points you could use as evidence for or against an issue.

Once you have selected a topic you feel strongly about, you should make a list of points for both sides of the argument and pick a side. One of your first objectives in your essay will be to present both sides of your issue with an assessment of each. Of course, you will conclude that one side (your side) is the best conclusion.

Argumentative Essay Writing Process

  1. Well before you receive the assignment handout, your work begins. Keep up with your readings at every class session, and do not miss classes. You will understand much more when you come to class having done the readings. Identify the big questions and issues the professor emphasizes in the course. Then take clear notes on your readings and on class lectures/discussions that will help you quickly identify examples relevant to those big themes and issues. If you have trouble identifying the professor’s big themes, visit office hours as soon as possible.
  2. Read the assignment handout carefully. Make sure you understand the question or prompt and make sure that you follow all the directions provided. Talk with the professor if you have any questions or doubts.
  3. Gather evidence and build your outline. Review your notes and readings to locate evidence that is relevant to the assignment. As you identify examples, sort them into categories. Create a spatial environment that will allow you to see each category as it fills up with evidence. Some people like writing each idea and piece of evidence on a 3×5 card and then stacking the cards in piles, one pile for each big idea. Others prefer to sort examples into t-charts or other arrangements on a sheet of paper or computer screen. Experiment with different methods of sorting until you find one that works for you.
    1. As you gather and sort sources, you should see clusters of evidence appearing around certain ideas and topics. As these clusters form, think about how they help answer the assignment’s main question. This will allow you to draft a tentative thesis statement. Do not worry about perfecting the thesis yet. You can revisit it later after you draft the essay.
    2. Think about how each cluster of evidence can evolve into a paragraph. Big clusters might need to be split into two or three more manageable paragraphs. Small clusters should be combined or, if not crucial to your argument, abandoned. On a sheet of paper or a blank computer screen, arrange your clusters/paragraphs into a tentative order.
    3. Given computers’ “copy-and-paste” ability, be sure to keep careful tabs on which phrases and sentences are your own, and which came from another writer. Some cases of plagiarism begin when writers, at this early stage, fail to keep track of who wrote what.
  1. Write a rough draft. Now at last you are ready to start writing your paper. Start with a short introduction paragraph and then use your outline to draft the body and conclusion. Don’t forget to begin each paragraph in the body with a topic sentence that conveys the main argument of that paragraph.
    1. Do not aim for perfection when drafting. The process of writing usually helps reveal which ideas from your outline are compelling and which ones are confused or irrelevant. Use the writing process to test out ideas and examples, and do not be afraid to make adjustments to your outline as you go along. Sometimes, your essay will be stronger if you simply delete a paragraph that no longer helps make your argument. In case you change your mind, create a separate section of “scraps.” That way, if you decide you really did want to use a troublesome paragraph, you can easily bring it back into your essay.
    2. If you get stuck while writing the draft, it usually helps to sit and reflect on the assignment handout or on your outline. If you encounter writer’s block while sitting at your computer, use a blank sheet of paper and try hand-writing some sections. Try talking out loud to yourself or to a trusted friend. If that doesn’t work, take a walk outside or reread a key passage from one of your class readings. But don’t panic. Temporary roadblock are common.
    3. Once you finish drafting your body and conclusion, quickly revisit your introduction to make sure that your initial thesis corresponds to what your essay’s body actually argues. Often, arguments will evolve in the process of drafting.
  1. Create your title.
  2. Take a break. Do something else. A day spent away from your draft will give you time to reflect on your ideas and will give you “fresh eyes” useful for editing. If you do not have a full day, take whatever time you can afford, the longer the better.
  3. Revise the draft. Start with a clean printed copy of your draft and get ready to cover it all over with editorial marks and rewrites. Take pleasure in seeing your ideas emerge in clearer form.

Argumentative Essay Format

Please note that this is only a sample argumentative essay format. There are multiple ways to organize an argumentative paper.

INTRODUCTION

  • 1-2 paragraphs tops
  • PURPOSE: To set up and state one’s claim
  • OPTIONAL ELEMENTS
    • Make your introductory paragraph interesting. How can you draw your readers in?
    • What background information, if any, do we need to know in order to understand your claim? If you don’t follow this paragraph with a background information paragraph, please insert that info here.
  • REQUIRED ELEMENTS
    • If you’re arguing about a literary work—state author + title
    • If you’re arguing about an issue or theory – provide brief explanation or your of issue/theory.
    • If you’re arguing about a film—state director, year + title
    • STATE your claim at the end of your introductory paragraph

BACKGROUND PARAGRAPH

  • 1-2 paragraphs tops; Optional (can omit for some papers). Also, sometimes this info is incorporated into the introduction paragraph (see above).
  • PURPOSE: Lays the foundation for proving your argument.
  • Will often include:
    • Summary of works being discussed
    • Definition of key terms
    • Explanation of key theories

SUPPORTING EVIDENCE PARAGRAPH #1

  • PURPOSE: To prove your argument. Usually is one paragraph but it can be longer.
  • Topic Sentence: What is one item, fact, detail, or example you can tell your readers that will help them better understand your claim/paper topic? Your answer should be the topic sentence for this paragraph.
  • Explain Topic Sentence: Do you need to explain your topic sentence? If so, do so here.
  • Introduce Evidence: Introduce your evidence either in a few words (As Dr. Brown states ―…‖) or in a full sentence (―To understand this issue we first need to look at statistics).
  • State Evidence: What supporting evidence (reasons, examples, facts, statistics, and/or quotations) can you include to prove/support/explain your topic sentence?
  • Explain Evidence: How should we read or interpret the evidence you are providing us? How does this evidence prove the point you are trying to make in this paragraph? Can be opinion based and is often at least 1-3 sentences.
  • Concluding Sentence: End your paragraph with a concluding sentence that reasserts how the topic sentence of this paragraph helps up better understand and/or prove your paper’s overall claim.

SUPPORTING EVIDENCE PARAGRAPH #2, 3, 4 etc.

  • Repeat above

COUNTERARGUMENT PARAGRAPH

  • PURPOSE: To anticipate your reader’s objections; make yourself sound more objective and reasonable.
  • Optional; usually 1-2 paragraphs tops
  • What possible argument might your reader pose against your argument and/or some aspect of your reasoning? Insert one or more of those arguments here and refute them.
  • End paragraph with a concluding sentence that reasserts your paper’s claim as a whole.

CONCLUSION PART 1: SUM UP PARAGRAPH

  • PURPOSE: Remind readers of your argument and supporting evidence
  • Conclusion you were most likely taught to write in High School
  • Restates your paper’s overall claim and supporting evidence

CONCLUSION PART 2: YOUR “SO WHAT” PARAGRAPH

  • PURPOSE: To illustrate to your instructor that you have thought critically and analytically about this issue.
  • Your conclusion should not simply restate your intro paragraph. If your conclusion says almost the exact same thing as your introduction, it may indicate that you have not done enough critical thinking during the course of your essay (since you ended up right where you started).
  • Your conclusion should tell us why we should care about your paper. What is the significance of your claim? Why is it important to you as the writer or to me as the reader? What information should you or I take away from this?
  • Your conclusion should create a sense of movement to a more complex understanding of the subject of your paper. By the end of your essay, you should have worked through your ideas enough so that your reader understands what you have argued and is ready to hear the larger point (i.e. the “so what”) you want to make about your topic.
  • Your conclusion should serve as the climax of your paper. So, save your strongest analytical points for the end of your essay, and use them to drive your conclusion
  • Vivid, concrete language is as important in a conclusion as it is elsewhere–perhaps more essential, since the conclusion determines the reader’s final impression of your essay. Do not leave them with the impression that your argument was vague or unsure.

WARNING: It’s fine to introduce new information or quotations in your conclusions, as long as the new points grow from your argument. New points might be more general, answering the “so what” question; they might be quite specific. Just avoid making new claims that need lots of additional support.

Argumentative Essay Structure

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Argumentative Essay Outline

This section provides an outline of what a good argumentative essay should look like when it is done. It is a very brief outline. Read further to find fuller descriptions of each section.

  1. TITLE
  2. INTRODUCTION: explain the thesis (be precise but do not present evidence yet)
  3. BODY
    1. Paragraph #1
      1. Topic sentence (main argument of the paragraph)
      2. Specific examples to support the topic sentence
    2. Paragraph #2, and so on
      1. Same as Paragraph #1
  4. CONCLUSION: quick summary of thesis; then muse on implications of the thesis

The Title

The best titles provide a brief and catchy summation of your essay’s argument. Suppose your essay will argue that cats make great house pets. A title that conveys your argument might be something like this: “The Hidden Genius of the Playful Cat.” This title is better than one that merely conveys your topic, such as “Are Cats Good Pets?” or “Assessing the Merits of Cats.” Even these topic-conveying titles, however, are better than “Midterm Essay #1.” Because your title will depend on your final argument, it is usually best to write the title after you have drafted the essay.

The First Paragraph: The Introduction

Start with an opening hook to catch your readers’ interest. One strategy is to pose a puzzle or question that your essay will then resolve. Whatever you do, keep it brief, and make sure that your opening hook provides a bridge to your thesis statement. Also be sure to avoid general statements that make sweeping and unsupportable claims (e.g. “Since the beginning of time, people have wondered…” or “Americans have always valued their material possessions.”). Another common flaw in introductions is the empty “warm up” sentence. These sentences might at first glance appear to have substance, but they really contribute nothing to your argument (e.g. “In order to assess the causes of the revolution, it is important that we carefully consider numerous factors.”)

The thesis statement should be one or two sentences long, and it should at minimum present your thesis to readers. Ideally, you can also briefly explain your main reasons behind the thesis. For instance, if your thesis will argue that “Cats are better than dogs,” include in the thesis a brief explanation of your main sub-arguments: “Cats are better than dogs because they possess a sense of independence, dignity, and hygiene that dogs lack.” As with the opening hook, keep the thesis statement brief. In a short essay (i.e. anything under ten double-spaced pages), the introduction should be just one paragraph total, about a half-page in length. Save specific evidence for the body.

The Body

Each paragraph in the body of the essay should start with a topic sentence. The topic sentence should announce the argument of the paragraph and make clear how the paragraph’s evidence will support the essay’s overall argument. The rest of the paragraph should then present and explain evidence that will support the topic sentence. In a sense, the phrase “topic sentence” is little misleading, because this sentence should convey the paragraph’s argument, not simply its topic.

Resist the temptation to cram too much into one paragraph. Each paragraph should develop one distinct idea. If you squeeze too many different ideas into one paragraph, your topic sentence will become muddled or it will introduce only one of the paragraph’s several ideas. When you see this happening, split the paragraph into two, each one starting with its own topic sentence.

Although you can make exceptions to this rule, each supporting body paragraph should be about a half-page in length. This length usually provides enough space for supporting evidence, without cramming too many ideas into one paragraph.

The Last Paragraph: The Conclusion

Some professors want the conclusion to provide a simple summary of your main argument. Other professors (like me) find this approach repetitious and boring. By the end of the body, a good essay will already have established its core argument. Use the conclusion to raise broader ideas that flow from your argument and evidence. Perhaps you can offer some lessons that people today should draw from your argument. Perhaps you see interesting parallels to another time, place, or issue. Perhaps you have found an interesting personal or emotional reaction to the material. Feel free to be speculative and thoughtful. After presenting careful evidence in the body of the essay, you have earned the right as an author to share broader ideas with your readers in the conclusion.

How To Revise an Argumentative Essay

As you revise your argumentative essay, pay particular attention to these questions:

  • Does the introduction clearly establish and explain the essay’s main argument? Is the introduction brief (i.e. a half-page or less in length)?
  • Do the supporting paragraphs appear in a logical order that will help readers easily understand your overall argument?
  • Does each supporting paragraph start with a clear topic sentence that announces the paragraph’s main idea? Does that topic sentence idea provide clear support for your essay’s overall thesis? In a first draft, the sentence that deserves to be your topic sentence will often appear at the end of the paragraph. That’s because you were not sure of the paragraph’s main point when you started writing it. Only by the end of the paragraph did you figure out what the paragraph was really about. When this happens, move the late-blooming topic sentence idea to the start of the paragraph.
  • Does each supporting paragraph have enough evidence to support its topic sentence? If your draft exceeds the assignment’s page limit, decide which examples are the most relevant or persuasive. Removing less effective evidence can improve an essay.
  • Is each sentence clear and grammatical? Will an outsider be able to read and understand each sentence? One trick that helps with sentence-level editing is to read your essay aloud. This will help you catch awkward phrases, grammatical errors, and missing words. If you are working in a library, even silently mouthing the words will help. It sounds silly, but it works. You can also have a trusted friend read the draft to make sure your ideas come across clearly. Just check with your professor before sharing your draft with another student in the same class.
  • Which sentences need trimming? Delete any words or phrases that consume space without adding any meaning or substance to your essay. Replace long-winded formulations with shorter, more forceful phrases or words.
  • Can you shorten any long quotations? Lengthy quotations consume space while silencing your own voice and analysis. Quote just the best parts of a primary source, perhaps even as little as four or five words. Then embed the quoted material in your own analysis. Quotations work best when the material to be quoted is elegant or memorable. If the material is dull, you are better off putting it in your own words (paraphrasing).
  • Are your citations accurate and adequate? As a general rule, you do not need to provide a citation for facts so generic that someone could find it almost anywhere. For instance, the idea that the Civil War ended in 1865 requires no citation. However, you must provide a citation for all quotations and statistics and for all facts and ideas that reflect the work of another scholar or writer. You can thus pay your intellectual debts, and a reader can easily determine where you found your material.

The German novelist Thomas Mann once observed, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Good writing requires time and concentration, and even great writers can struggle. But the pleasures and rewards are considerable. Strong writing can allow you to articulate ideas with more clarity and force than possible through spoken words alone, and it can allow you to reach a wider audience. Becoming a good writer takes time and continual practice. Incremental gains are more common than dramatic overnight transformations. However, if you follow the steps above, and allot yourself enough time for the task, you will almost certainly see yourself become a better writer.

Argumentative Essay Topics

The list of top 20 argumentative essay topics will definitely leave people with an opinion, a perspective or a sour taste in their mouths. The fact remains that a good debate has the ability to arouse mixed feelings some of which may be latent and hostile feelings towards a particular issue. Additionally, disputes and arguments are likely to arise when there is a good controversial topic up for debate. Below are a few examples of argumentative topics that are likely to spark debate. To find good topic for an argumentative essay you should consider several issues that will have two conflicting points of view or very different conclusions. As you look over a list of topics you should find one that really sparks your interest.

1. Abortion

Abortion has been legal in the USA and in almost all western European countries since the early 1970s, and in Belgium and Ireland since the early 1990s. Although abortion was legal in the Soviet Union for several years prior to its collapse, abortion politics have subsequently come to the fore in some Eastern European countries (e.g., Poland) as a result of government attempts at scaling-back abortion. Legal access to abortion continues to be highly restricted in Mexico and in several Central and South American countries. Abortion is most intensely debated in the USA, where legal and congressional initiatives to amend the US Supreme Court’s recognition (Roe v.Wade, 1973) of a woman’s legal right to an abortion continue unabated. Abortion activism is pursued by several religious and secular organizations, and abortion politics dominate presidential and congressional elections and debates over judicial appointments. Grassroots efforts to restrict abortion have met with some success; post-Roe Supreme Court decisions have imposed various restrictions, most notably the imposition of spousal and parental notification requirements. Currently, the issue of late-term abortion is intensely debated (though most abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy).

2. Death Penalty

The death penalty is the sentence of death after conviction following due process of law. The death penalty has been sanctioned by major juridical and religious traditions. It was defended during the Renaissance and Reformation by many Enlightenment thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. This same period first saw the emergence of the movement to abolish the death penalty with the seminal work of Cesare Beccaria (1764), an end which was advocated in the nineteenth century by the jurists Jeremy Bentham and Samuel Romilly. The practice has undergone two key transformations in modern times: a restriction on the crimes and categories of offender punishable by death; and a transformation from public displays of excess to private, medicalized executions. These shifts have been explained either by the cultural dynamic of the privatization of disturbing events or by the transformation in technologies of power from punishment as a public and violent spectacle inflicting pain on the body to the emergence of disciplinary power and surveillance of the soul.

3. Disability

Common sense takes disability as a simple natural fact, but the sociology of disability emphasizes that disability has to be differentiated from impairment. Not every chronic health condition is acknowledged as disability. There are cultures in which the social fact of disability does not exist. Disability as a social problem has evolved as a product of the modern welfare state. With the beginning of modernity and, above all, during the period of industrialization, a line was drawn between ‘‘the disabled’’ and other poor and unemployed people. In the course of the twentieth century disability became a horizontal category of social stratification. Even today the ascription process is ambivalent: it includes rights and benefits as well as discrimination and segregation.

4. Discrimination

Discrimination refers to the differential, and often unequal, treatment of people who have been either formally or informally grouped into a particular class of persons. There are many forms of discrimination that are specified according to the ways in which particular groups are identified, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, class, age, disability, nationality, religion, or language. The United Nations Charter (1954) declared in article 55 that the UN will promote human rights and freedoms for all, ‘‘without distinction as to race, sex, language, and religion.’’ Later in 1958, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights added eight further grounds for possible discrimination, which were color, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.

5. Divorce

A major social trend during the past century has been a global increase in the divorce rate. During the second half of the twentieth century divorce rates increased in most industrialized countries. Some of the social characteristics that appear to have contributed to the increase in the divorce rate are increased individualism, increasing marital expectations, the economic independence of women, and no-fault divorce laws. During the past 30 years there has been a gradual decrease in the US divorce rate. Divorce is a complex process influenced by many social and individual characteristics. Factors that have been found to be associated with the risk of divorce include age at marriage, premarital cohabitation, parental divorce, infidelity, alcohol and drug abuse, poor financial management, and domestic violence.

6. Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior designed to exert power and control over a person in an intimate relationship through the use of intimidating, threatening, harmful, or harassing behavior. Victims of domestic violence are primarily female. Women are up to six times as likely to be assaulted by a partner or ex-partner than by a stranger and they are more likely to suffer an injury when their assailant is an intimate. Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of injury to women in the USA. Domestic violence rates also vary by age and economic status, with highest victimization rates among the poor and females between the ages of 16 and 24 years.

7. Environment

Humans have faced poor environmental conditions throughout history, but what we think of as ‘‘environmental problems’’ became more common and apparent with urbanization. In the USA urban air and water pollution attracted growing attention throughout the last century, and by the 1960s became recognized as significant problems. Celebration of the first ‘‘Earth Day’’ on April 22, 1970, helped transform ‘‘environmental quality’’ into a major social concern, and a wide range of environmental conditions from pollution to declining wilderness and wildlife became major social problems. Examining the socio economic processes that generate environmental problems is beyond the scope of this essay, but the nature of such problems can be clarified via use of an ecological perspective. Ecologists note that the environment provides many ‘‘services’’ for human beings (and all other species), but we can simplify these into three general types of functions that it performs for human societies. First, the environment provides us with the resources necessary for life, from clean air and water to food and shelter, as well as the natural resources used in industrial economies. In providing what ecologists term the ‘‘sustenance base’’ for human societies, the environment is serving a ‘‘supply depot’’ function. It supplies us with both renewable and non-renewable resources, and overuse of the former (e.g. water) may result in shortages and the latter (e.g. fossil fuels) in potential scarcities.

8. Eugenics

‘‘Eugenics’’ derives from the Greek word eugenes meaning ‘‘good in birth’’ or ‘‘noble in heredity.’’ Eugenics was developed in the late nineteenth century and means ideologies and activities aiming to improve the quality of the human race by selecting the ‘‘genetically fit.’’ It can entail (1) ‘‘positive’’ strategies to manipulate the heredity or breeding practices of ‘‘genetically superior’’ or ‘‘fit’’ people, or (2) ‘‘negative’’ strategies to exterminate the ‘‘genetically inferior.’’ Eugenics combines genetics as a scientific discipline with ideas from social planning and rational management developed during the industrial revolution. Eugenic ‘‘science’’ was considered to be the application of human genetic knowledge to social problems such as pauperism, alcoholism, criminality, violence, prostitution, mental illness, etc. In the early twentieth century, eugenics became a social movement first in Europe and then also in the United States. Public policies were developed which were rooted in eugenic ideology and justified on grounds of societal or state interests: those deemed ‘‘genetically unfit’’ were stigmatized as an economic and moral burden.

9. Gambling

While gambling is widely accepted today as a source of entertainment and recreation, a growing tendency to highlight problematic aspects is also to be noticed. Traditionally, heavy gamblers who sustained repeated losses and other adverse consequences were considered derelict, immoral, or criminal and for much of the twentieth century the prevailing view of excessive gambling continued to define that behavior as morally and legally reprehensible. A few decades ago, a new perspective emerged in which gambling is seen as pathological – as a form of addictive behavior in need of therapeutic treatment. The disease-concept (at least partly) replaced former deviance-definitions as a kind of willful norm violation, and excessive gambling increasingly is considered to be an expression of a mental disorder resembling the substance-related addictions. Since 1980, this change in perception has been strongly stimulated by – and reflected in – the evolving clinical classification and description of pathological gambling in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

10. Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering (GE; often also called biotechnology) is the technique and science of intervention into the genetic mechanisms of a biological organism. For sociologists of risk (e.g. Ulrich Beck) GE it is a paradigmatic case for risk society. There are two main applications: agriculture and food production, and medical genetics; furthermore, GE is used in different fields of industrial production. GE is one of the most contested technologies, especially in the medical field. Critics claim that there is a general trend towards ‘‘geneticization,’’ i.e. explaining social behavior with genetics (e.g. homosexuality, criminality, alcoholism). Since people cannot change their ‘‘genetic outfit’’ and genetics has prognostic power also for families and future generations, the status of and access to genetic information are important issues in legal regulation. ‘‘Genetic privacy’’ refers to third party access to genetic information. Further topics are: the combination of genetics and reproductive technologies (pre-implantation and prenatal diagnosis), research on human embryos and stem cells, human cloning, gene therapy and human enhancement.

11. Genocide

The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin, in 1944. It was legally defined in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. The Convention states that ‘‘genocide means . . . acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’’ Such acts as detailed in the Convention include: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to them; deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another one. This definition excludes groups defined by class and political affiliation. Contemporary human rights lawyers include these groups and count, e.g. the genocide of its own people by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as genocide.

12. Globalization

Appearing first in the 1960s, ‘‘globalization’’ has become a central but contested sociological concept. Although the origins of globalization can be found in the distant past, the concept was used widely after the end of the cold war, after which it was possible at least to imagine a ‘‘borderless’’ world in which people, goods, ideas, and images would flow with relative ease. The global division between capitalism and state socialism gave way to a more uncertain world in which capitalism was the dominant economic and social system. This coincided with the development of digital communication technologies from the late 1980s and their dramatic consequences for socioeconomic organization and interpersonal interaction. Global restructuring of states, financial systems, production technologies and the politics of neoliberalism in turn accompanied these developments, creating previously unprecedented levels of transnational interdependence.

13. Human Rights

‘‘Human rights are those liberties, immunities and benefits which, by accepted contemporary values, all human being should be able to claim ‘as of right’ of the society in which they live’’ (Encyclopedia of Public International Law 1995: 886). Human rights are constitutive for the contemporary discourse on the moral nature of society and individuals that is simultaneously a legal discourse on rights of individuals, and obligations and accountability of states and international organizations. As such they embody the ‘‘collective conscience’’ of a world community that is developing among citizens, judiciaries and legislatures still embedded in nation states. The paradigm of contemporary human rights emerged with the modern nation state and has its philosophical roots in the Enlightenment tradition of Europe and the United States. The Petition of Right in 1628 and the Bill of Rights in 1689 in Britain were followed by the American Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the American Bill of Rights (1791).

14. Immigration

Sociologists look at migration as a social phenomenon. Their research is focused not on individual immigrants but on immigrant populations and their characteristics, because the characteristics of immigrant flows and immigrant populations are essential for understanding migration processes and the reaction to these processes from the receiving societies. The volume of the migration flow, its demographic structure (only young males, or whole families e.g.), the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the immigrant population according to educational attainments for instance, this kind of variable is relevant for the description of immigration as a social phenomenon. A second decision relates to the societal context of our field of study. Because migration is such a ubiquitous phenomenon it has occurred and still occurs under very different circumstances. The world counts to date millions and millions of people who have migrated out of their own free will or as compelled by ethnic cleansing, civil wars or natural disasters. The receiving societies differ fundamentally in nature and stability of state formation to mention only one important characteristic.

15. Racism

When most people think about racism, they think about the concept of individual prejudice – in other words, negative thoughts or stereotypes about a particular racial group. However, racism can also be embedded in the institutions and structures of social life. This type of racism can be called structural or institutional racism (hereafter ‘‘institutional racism’’), and it is significant in creating and maintaining the disparate outcomes that characterize the landscape of racial inequality. There are two main types of institutional racism. The first, which is called ‘‘direct,’’ occurs when policies are consciously designed to have discriminatory effects. These policies can be maintained through the legal system (such as in the case of Jim Crow in the USA); or through conscious institutional practice (such as redlining in residential real estate). The second type, ‘‘indirect’’ institutional racism, includes practices that have disparate racial impacts even without any intent to discriminate (such as network hiring in workplaces).

16. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other forms of unwanted attention of a sexual nature, in a workplace or elsewhere. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome (sexual) jokes, remarks with sexual connotations, gossip, repeated requests to go out, and any form of unwanted touching or invasion of personal space, as well as sexual advances or assault. The overwhelming majority of victims are women, as well as adolescent and young workers. Perpetrators are most often individual men or groups of men. Same-sex harassment has also received attention, in particular, gender and sexual harassment among men. Besides consequences such as loss of a job or not being promoted, victims can experience adverse psychological effects such as confusion, discomfort, anxiety, anger, and stress.

17. Social Services

Social services are provisions that society makes to support individuals in need. Developed in the west to supplement family care, social services are found across the world and delivered mainly by social workers in various settings (state, voluntary agencies and commercial enterprises) in a ‘‘mixed economy of care.’’ Bureaucratized under the ‘‘new’’ managerialism and market forces, social services cover children, families, older people, disabled people, mentally ill people and offenders. Social workers care for and about people within a tension-filled environment that complicates delivery. An important issue is what causes need – personal inadequacies or structural factors. The Settlement Movement favored explanations involving structural causes. The Charity Organization Society (COS) originally popularized personal pathology, dividing claimants into deserving and undeserving ones. The former received stigmatized and inadequate services; the latter nothing. This tension continues as ‘‘welfare dependency.’’ Other sources of tension are: care-control dilemmas; low professional status; charitable giving or societal entitlements; state or market providers; and public or personal responsibility. Professionals and claimants have challenged analyses based on individual pathologies and demanded change through radical social work. Legislative fiat and social policies constrain their aspirations through reduced public expenditures and shifting service boundaries.

18. Surveillance

Surveillance, from the French verb, surveiller, means ‘‘watching over.’’ It involves the observation of behaviors, actions and activities to collect data and personal information on the part of governments, law enforcement agencies, and others such as credit and banking institutions, corporations, and research companies. Surveillance functions as social control. Michel Foucault’s concept of the Panopticon is a metaphor for surveillance society and accompanying disciplinary apparatuses. State power is no longer exercised through torture; rather, it is hidden in the everyday corpus of technologies to make populations self-police their own behavior. For example, why drive within the speed limit? Because someone (or some camera) may be watching.

19. Unemployment

All industrialized or post-industrial societies consider themselves to be working societies. Work – or more precisely, gainful work – defines an individual’s worth and status. It is for most people the main means of earning a living and frequently the prerequisite to be eligible for social security coverage. Unemployment endangers the livelihood of the unemployed individual and, possibly, also that of his or her family. It is the most important cause of poverty and is also frequently associated with problems such as crime, right-wing extremism, suicide, and illness. Therefore, unemployment is a principal social and political challenge. Usually, the unemployment of individuals with low education is markedly higher – generally by a factor of 2 to 4 – than that of highly qualified workers. Often, the unemployment of younger and older workers is also above average. Marked gender differences can be perceived in continental European countries, where women’s unemployment is often significantly higher than men’s, while there are hardly any gender differences in Anglo-Saxon countries with their liberal labor markets or in the Scandinavian countries with their greater emphasis on gender equality. In most cases, ethnic and racial minorities suffer significantly higher unemployment rates than the native-born majority.

20. Welfare

Welfare dependency refers to the use that people make of publicly provided cash benefits/transfers or human services. Welfare underuse is the term applied when people entitled to publicly provided benefits and services fail to do so. Welfare dependency is a feature of advanced industrial societies with developed welfare states, whose citizens enjoy specific ‘‘social’’ rights, for example, to social security, healthcare, social support and education. The premise on which the advocates of state welfare provision promoted it was that, as societies become more complex, the ‘‘states of dependency’’ that arise at various points in the human life-course may be ‘‘recognized as collective responsibilities’’ (Titmuss 1955: 64). The policy makers who fashioned the modern welfare states of the post-World War II era favored guaranteed basic minimum state provision, but they also, to varying degrees, expected people to depend so far as possible on income from paid employment and on support from their families.

Writing on Argumentative Topics

While a strong interest in a topic is important, it’s not enough to be interested. You have to consider what position you can back up with reasoning and evidence. It’s one thing to have a strong belief, but when shaping an argument you’ll have to explain why your belief is reasonable and logical. As you explore the topics, make a mental list of points you could use as evidence for or against an issue.

Once you have selected a topic you feel strongly about, you should make a list of points for both sides of the argument and pick a side. One of your first objectives in your essay will be to present both sides of your issue with an assessment of each. Of course, you will conclude that one side (your side) is the best conclusion.

In the planning stage you will need to consider strong arguments for the “other” side. Then you’ll shoot them down!

Also, check our list of more than 100 argumentative essay topics, and argumentative essay examples.

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