All essays should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is true of writing in all disciplines. An argument essay has these same divisions with a few more features that will communicate your stance and present your claims as clearly as possible. Since you want your audience to agree with you by the end of your essay, you need to organize it in such a way that your readers can easily follow it. The guidelines in this section will help you organize the material you have gathered into a coherent essay.
The first outline shows the order in which the features of an argument essay are most effective:
1. Background information
2. Introduction of the subject
3. Statement of your opinion
1. Common ground
2. Lots of evidence (logical and emotional)
3. Opposing points of view
4. Response to the opposing points of view
MODULE: STUDENT VERSION
MODULE: STUDENT VERSION
1. Restatement of your position
2. Call for action or agreement
Bob Herbert’s essay follows the general outline just presented. Here is a skeleton outline of his essay:
1. Background information about racial profiling in New York City
2. Subject introduced
3. Statement of opinion
1. Evidence: Statistics (par. 2-7)
2. Common ground: Humiliation, fear (par. 8)
3. More background: Reasons for stops (par. 9-10)
4. More evidence: Personal narratives (par. 11-12)
5. Opposing points of view: Police department, Paul Browne (par. 13-14)
6. Response to the opposing points of view: logical and emotional response (par. 15)
1. Restatement of the solution (par. 16)
2. Call to action (par. 16)
The arrangement of your evidence in an argument essay depends to a great extent on your readers’ opinions. Most arguments will be organized from general to particular, from particular to general,
or from one extreme to another. When you know that your readers already agree with you, arranging your details from general to particular or from most to least important is usually the most effective approach. Using this order, you build on your readers’ agreement and loyalty as you explain your thinking on the subject.
If you suspect that your audience does not agree with you, reverse the organization of your evidence and arrange it from particular to general or from least to most important. In this way, you can take your readers step by step through your reasoning in an attempt to get them to agree with you.
Organize your essay in a way that represents what you just learned in this section. Then draw horizontal lines through your essay to distinguish its beginning, middle, and end. Finally, label the key features of your argument by using the terms from the first outline in this section.