The Argument Essay definitely allows for some flexibility, but it helps if you have a memorized template going in, because then there’s no risk of being “stuck.” Below is a sample outline. If you are an adept writer, you may wish to place your “How to Strengthen” paragraph on its own right before the Conclusion, and then have a separate shorter Conclusion. Click here for tips on writing your essay.
Paragraph 1 – Introduction
Like a Critical Reasoning passage, before you begin writing you will need to understand the Conclusion, Evidence, and underlying Assumptions in the argument. Do not use self-reference, or the words “I agree” or “I disagree” anywhere in your essay. You will probably use phrases like “the argument” and “the author” but make sure your statements come across as accepted fact, not small opinions. Your main task in your introduction is to convey your understanding of the premise. Do this by:
- Introducing the timeliness of the argument’s topic
- Describing the argument in your own words
- Stating emphatically that the argument is flawed.
For example, your introduction could take a form like this:
The issue of _______ is as timely as ever. Recently, _________. Regarding this issue, the author of the argument claims __________. He suggests that _________.Though the underlying issue certainly has merit, because of a lack of evidence, weak assumptions, and vague terminology the author’s argument is unsubstantiated and deeply flawed.
You do not have to list your three examples in your thesis, but it can be a nice way of clarifying for the reader what you will be discussing.
Paragraph 2 – “Lack of Evidence”
Almost every Argument can be criticized for a lack of evidence. If evidence is provided, how can you explain that it is confusing, unrelated, or otherwise weak?
Paragraph 3 – “Weak Assumption”
What is the author assuming to be true? Show the reader you can see the gaps in logic between the weak evidence provided and the conclusion. Use very clear transition words between your body paragraphs.
Paragraph 4 – “Vague Terminology”
Use a transition phrase again, then attack the specific terminology the author utilizes in the argument. How many is “many”? Who exactly does he mean by “most”? Here you will be using the author’s own rhetorical construction against him.
Paragraph 5 – How to Strengthen
In your conclusion, introduce a few ways the author could improve his argument, other than the three flaws you have already discussed. Reinforce the idea that there is some merit in the issue underlying the author’s argument, but the argument itself is not convincing:
Though as written the argument is categorically unconvincing, the author could strengthen his position were he to _________, and _________. If he _____________, then the argument’s reasoning would be significantly improved. However, without these changes, the argument’s reasoning is faulty.
Remember, this template is only a suggestion, so please adjust it slightly into a version that best works for you!
Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing tips and tricks to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.