The argumentative or critical essay of the present is faithful to its origins, since it is an academic writing that is based, mainly, on the personal opinion of the writer, opinion product of the deep reflection on a subject, in general, controversial. It is true that this writing has a good dose of reflection, subjectivity and controversy; however, it is also necessary to provide evidence of various kinds to support the opinions that are expressed. It is worth mentioning that it is a writing whose function is not to treat a topic exhaustively; Its main function is to reflect on an issue, adopt a position, express opinions and justify them. That is to say, that a fundamental aspect of the essay is to provide a new personal perspective on an issue, without forgetting the rigor required by academic texts, such as the use of data and documentary references.
Selection and delimitation of the topic
- Make a brainstorm about controversial issues within your profession or some that are being discussed in the media. The matter should allow more than one opinion.
- Make sure you define the topic well, take into account the number of words or pages you must write as part of your assignment.
- Now that you have the subject well defined, spend 10 minutes to make a balanced list of pros and cons of the issue in question. For this, use a table with two columns and put your subject at the top.
Once you have the theme well defined, your first activity is embark on the adventure of finding information to write your essay.
- Look on the Internet. The network is a good place to start your search; however, it should never be your only means of obtaining sources of information. There are countless search engines that are at your disposal; if you only use Google you can reach 5 billion sites, instead of the 550 billion that exist on the Internet. Check academic search engines such as Google Scholar.
With all the results you get from these engines it will be necessary to identify the pages that are worthwhile. The degree of professionalism of the design and the presentation of the site speak about the content. On the other hand, remember that the arbitrated and indexed sources are the most robust and rigorous for the discussion of a topic from an academic perspective.
- Databases. Do not limit yourself to external sources of Internet, you have at your disposal the Digital Library of Tecnológico de Monterrey, where you can search almost any topic in specialized databases.
- Library. Do not forget to look in the library catalog. Consulting a book may be less comfortable than clicking the mouse. However, books contain organized information, are texts with a logical progression that report results of research done by experts in the area. Without a doubt, the books will provide you with excellent evidence for your essay.
As you investigate the subject, analyze the arguments of the different authors.
- Identify the argument An argument consists of two main components: an opinion and the evidence that supports that opinion. If one of the elements is missing, the argument simply does not exist. When you analyze an argument or when you build your own, first identify the opinion and then all the reasons that support it. The opinion is the controversial or debatable statement of the essay, while the reasons offer the explanations and evidence of why the opinion is correct.
Analyze the following example:
OPINION = The production of transgenic foods implies a greater economic and production yield.
Reason 1: The sowing of transgenic foods increases the economic viability by ensuring the obtaining of useful products.
Reason 2: The sowing of transgenic foods reduces the economic loss up to 30% by increasing the post-harvest life of products.
Reason 3: GM foods have toxins in them that could harm insects, which would reduce the use of pesticides.
- Evaluate the reasoning. Once you have located the argument, ask yourself the following questions to identify weaknesses in the logic:
Is there a possible alternative explanation? An alternative explanation is a different reason for the same opinion. Proving that there are such explanations is an excellent way to discover weaknesses in the logic of the author. For example: “Ramon arrived late because he is not interested in the class” (an alternative explanation could be that he arrived late because his car broke down and, therefore, he could not arrive on time, not because he was not interested in the class).
Does the writer use any logical fallacy? Fallacies are mistaken beliefs or faulty reasoning. If you learn to recognize them in the texts you read, you can avoid being cheated. There are many types, listed below are the six most common.
Search for an original idea
Make a brainstorm to discover original, hidden approaches to the subject. It is expected that at this point you have already reviewed several sources of information and have a solid base of the concepts that you can include in your essay. The task now is to lean on the experts you have read and find something really original to say about the subject. It is not enough to repeat what they have said, you must go further and propose an original idea. Your work should expose some idea or new approach to the topic.
Preparation of the thesis
After researching, analyzing and finding an original approach to the topic, it is time to elaborate the thesis, which will guide and shape the essay. The thesis works like the position of your essay and, in general, appears almost at the end of the introduction. The thesis expresses in a concise sentence the theme and purpose of your essay.
Represents the structure of the essay and what each of the sections should include. The number of words is indicative for an 800 word essay.
- It captivates the reader’s attention. To generate interest you can present an interesting fact, surprising information, a quotation that invites reflection, an intriguing paradox, the explanation of a weird term, a brief narration / anecdote (real), a provocative question.
Sigmund Freud said: “The big question … that I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of studying the female soul, is what do women want?” I must confess that I should have reconsidered this sentence before giving myself to the task of writing about the modern woman. I am not even sure if the modern woman really exists or if she is considered as such only in a temporary way.
- Go straight to the point. In a test of less than 1,000 words you do not need a very long introduction, go straight to the topic that concerns you and start. At this point you could describe the context of the problem you are exploring. Avoid starting with very general statements, for example:
Very general: Crime has become a topic of discussion over time.
Specific: The question about the severity of punishment of adolescents is an issue that has attracted attention due to the increase in shootings among young people in recent years.
Very general: Man has always wondered about the meaning of information.
Specific: The Information Age produced by the digital revolution of computers has raised significant questions about the value of this information: Having instant access to every newspaper and online publication, in the world, makes us smarter people, based on values?
- Present your thesis. The entire introduction should lead to the presentation of a debatable statement or thesis, through which you take a position on the issue being addressed. State your thesis at the end of the introduction so that the reader knows the position you will adopt in the essay. Do not provide many details about your thesis in the introduction, it may seem unintelligible to the reader who has no background on the subject. Also, avoid using phrases like: “I’ll argue …”, “I try to argue …”, “I’ll prove …”, etc.
I intend to show how social development and current human behavior, are not achievements of the present, but are based on the knowledge of past events; and that knowledge is a progression of ideas and actions that come together and have been transmitted through the ages. (J. Jaramillo, The Human Adventure).
So, my purpose is not to teach here the method that each one must follow to conduct his heart well, but only to show how I have tried to conduct mine. (R. Descartes, the discourse of the method)
- List and briefly describe the issues that will be covered
This essay includes, first, several introductory chapters. Then come three big “issues” related to poverty. By order: The international question, which points out the undue distribution of the World Product; the Social Question, which deals with the maldistribution of the National Product; the Economic Question, which indicates errors and suggests remedies, in the mechanisms of contemporary production. Finally a Conclusion appears, which aims to give meaning to the economic effort of man. (J, Figueres: The poverty of nations)
Development of the essay: structure of the paragraphs
This section develops the aspects that were indicated in the introduction. It is a very important section of the essay because it demonstrates the capacity of organization and argumentation of the writer.
- Develop your ideas. Each paragraph should concentrate on the development of an idea. There is a tendency to change the subject within the same paragraph, instead of continuing with the development of the idea with which it was started. The paragraph is a unit of thought in which a specific idea is developed, not three or four. If you realize that you already changed the subject, it’s better to start another paragraph.
- Start with a topic sentence. The topic sentence usually goes to the beginning of the paragraph and contains the opinion or point that the paragraph addresses. When this type of sentence is used, the reader finds it very easy to follow your thoughts and argument. If you are going to write an essay of more than 10 pages, it is best to use headings for the sections.
- Develop the idea. Sometimes students change the subject and lose focus within the paragraphs because they do not know how to properly develop their ideas. Usually, they know that the paragraph should be longer, but they do not know how to extend the idea to complete the extension. In fact, a paragraph should be at least half a page; Generally, no more than one page. How then do you build a paragraph if you do not have much to say? Instead of broadening the focus, which is one more way to change the subject, try using these development techniques:
Illustrate the idea with examples
- Provide a quote from an expert
- Anticipate and respond to counterarguments
- Back up your ideas with more evidence
- Offer another perspective of an idea
- Make cause / effect sentences, definitions, comparison / contrast
If your essay was long and complex, sometimes difficult to follow, the conclusion recapitulates your ideas in a clear and summarized way. You want your readers to understand the message you are trying to communicate. However, if your essay was short and simple, do not insult your readers by mentioning again the ideas they already understood. If your short essay is 600 words or less, any recapitulation should be brief (like two sentences) and said with other words, that is, not just cuts or hitting the thesis. You can also end by indicating the arguments that were not addressed in the essay and that could be addressed at a later time. If you want your writing to remain in the minds of your readers, write a conclusion with an effect in which you present a curious piece of information, an anecdote or a strong statement that keeps you thinking about the subject.
Example (Vargas Acunia, XXXX):
In short: it seems that particles can fall into black holes that then vanish and disappear from our region of the universe. The particles split into small universes that separate from ours. It is possible that these universes reintegrate at some other point. Perhaps they do not do much for space travel, but their presence means that we will be able to predict less than we expected, even if we found a complete unified theory (…) in recent years, several researchers have begun to study the small universes. I do not think anyone gets rich patented as a way of space travel, but they have become a very interesting field of research. (Stephen Hawking 1994)
The format: Citation and references
Please review the following link to apply the format and style according to the different disciplinary conventions to which the essay you are writing belongs: Identify and apply the format.
The last step is to conduct a thorough review of your essay.