Structure of argument

A typical argument is often structured something like this:

1. First, a lead paragraph that introduces the issue or problem and establishes its importance; in your proposal, it seems to me the logical place to start is with the problem or aspect of your community that could be improved. Try some sharp details, engaging language, a short anecdote (real or imagined), a bit of humor. Traditionally the thesis statement appears at the end of this paragraph. In a proposal, this is what you suggest doing, with perhaps an indication of why this will improve your community.

2. At the beginning of your argument, it may be necessary or desirable to give some background info (maybe historical or technical in nature–an argument about cloning, for example, would likely begin by explaining exactly what cloning is). Depending on your topic, this paragraph may not be necessary.

3. Now you’ll start a series of paragraphs that give your reasons for taking this position. Each reason will normally be developed into its own paragraph, fleshed out with evidence and explanation. This may include personal experience or observation; if you choose to incorporate research, it may be facts, statistics, survey or study reports, the judgment (“testimony” it’s usually referred to) of experts in the field. There may be an obvious, logical reason for ordering these paragraphs in one particular way (chronology, for example), but if there is not, often writers choose to start with a strong-but-not-the-strongest reason, burying weaker reasons in the middle, and ending with their strongest reason.

4. Often, next, you’ll consider one or two the arguments of the opposing side(s); these are called the counterarguments. It may seem paradoxical, but acknowledging your opponents’ arguments may serve to strengthen your own because you not only anticipate what they will say but you also can answer it. In some cases you may be able to offer a rebuttal (some evidence that questions their facts or logic); in other cases you may have to concede that they have a point (but that they are perhaps emphasizing the “wrong” thing. ) Sometimes this section appears earlier, before you give your reasons.

5. Last comes your conclusion. In the conclusion of a short essay, try to do more than just repeat what you have already said, though you do want to make sure to emphasize your claim. Try to extend or apply your argument or to echo the lead (esp. if you have used an anecdote in the beginning).

6. The last page of your argument will be the Works Cited page, which should be  in alphabetical order and doublr-spaced, with a hanging indent.