In academic work, the argument is the most crucial part of your essay. Indeed, there are two main styles of writing when it comes to academic prose: informative and persuasive.

Informative writing simply describes something. As it says on the tin, it informs the reader of an event, a topic, etc. Wikipedia articles are, generally, informative. Their aim is to describe.

Persuasive writing, on the other hand, moves beyond description. Whilst it will certainly include descriptive elements (to increase reader understanding) its main aim is to present an argument. Indeed, in a persuasive paper your aim is to convince your reader of the value in what you are presenting using a diversity of evidence.

Academic writing, in most cases, is persuasive in nature. Thus, the argument really does take centre-stage. It is absolutely crucial to ensure that your argument is the sun around which your introduction, body and conclusion orbits. Your argument should together all three segments of your paper in a well-structured essay. More guidance on this can be identified here:

So what makes a good argument?

Take a look at these two essay introductions below. Which do you think has a better argument?

The answer: The better argument comes from paper A. Whilst paper B might, arguably, seem a more eloquent piece of writing…paper A is contains an explicit argument. As you can see, in paper A the author has clearly stated what will be argued in this essay. This argument has been expanded with further points elucidating how this argument will be investigated through the rest of the essay ( this is what we call a ‘pathway’ and can be further looked at in the ‘academic structure’ page above).

It is absolutely crucial that your argument is clear in your essay.

Sometimes it can be tempting for students to want to present their final argument at the end of their work… to leave a bit of suspense for the reader. That might be why paper B can sometimes be a more attractive structure. However, you don’t want to leave your reader searching for what you are trying to say. Nor do you want to only leave one chance – in your conclusion – to finally note what you’ve been wanting to emphasise all along. You need to remind your reader of the argument you are making throughout your work – in the introduction (setting up the argument), body (expanding the argument) and conclusion (reiterating the argument).

So how do you go about constructing your argument?

  1. Know what you want to say. What is the ‘main point’ your readers should take away?
  2. Know what evidence you want to use. How will you support your main point? What research exists to do so?
  3. Know how to address oppositional evidence. What are the counterarguments to your position? How can you address them?

Further tips can be found on this page here: