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Preparing for an Argumentative Research Essay

Preparing for an Argumentative Research Essay

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson provides an overview of strategies for preparing to write an argumentative research essay.

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Welcome English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? Today we're going to be talking about all the things that writers need to take into consideration when beginning an argumentative research essay. We'll talk about how to select a topic, honing a thesis, the different kinds of support these essays use, and the research process. Then we'll cover annotated bibliographies and outlines before ending with a discussion of how the writing process can and should be applied to argumentative research essays.

When beginning an argumentative research essay, the first thing a student should do is refer to the assignment or prompt for any directions regarding topic, focus, or thesis requirements. Beyond such requirements, it's best explore topics and potential theses that interest you or that you believe strongly about, because this interest will translate into a more energetic and engaging essay and will usually also result in a better argument overall. Remember that a topic is not a thesis, but rather a broader area that may contain multiple possible thesis statements.

It's best to choose topics on which there is an ongoing debate with at least two different perspectives, though more would be better. Brainstorming is useful for discovering topics of interest and the debates within them in order to develop a research question that's meaningful, debatable, and related to the topic. And finally, the hone from this question a working thesis that's a focused answer to the question.

It's important to remember that the question should be one that matters to the discourse community around the subject. That is, the group of people participating in the conversation about and around the topic. We should keep this community in mind, as it's usually the intended audience of the essay, but also because doing so can help us craft the focus, tone, support, style, and the underlying assumptions of the argument. It's perfectly normal for the working thesis to change and develop as we go through the research process, so I encourage you to embrace such changes as they are indicative of changes in your own thinking about and understanding of the subject.

The key to a thesis for any argumentative research essay is making sure it makes a claim that is debatable, because there's no point in defending a position that no one cares about or arguing about something everyone else has already decided the answer to. And don't forget the requirements of the assignment during all the stages of the writing process, including such details as required topics, thesis, page length, style, number or types of sources, drafts, and anything else.

While brainstorming about the subject, topic, and thesis of your upcoming essay, it's also a good idea to spend some time thinking about and planning for the kinds of support your research essay will most likely require. It's important to develop a plan for research and to begin conceiving the structure and flow of the argument before really beginning to research process. That way, when you do begin, you'll have a plan in mind and will be less likely to stray into tangentially related subjects.

The types of support that argumentative research essays make use of include personal experiences and opinions, rhetorical appeals, which include logical reasoning, empirical evidence, statistics and other factual evidence, original analyses of primary sources, and secondary sources, which can be used through quotations, summaries, and paraphrases. And when thinking about what kind of support your essays will need, always keep in mind the discourse community surrounding the subject and your intended audience. This will help you decide what model of argumentation would best suit your needs, whether it's the classical model, one that's focused on rhetorical appeals, the Rogerian model that's so good at building compromise, or the Toulmin model of argumentation, which focuses on building complex argument supported by reasoning. There's a model, or combination of models, that will fit your purpose.

Once you're armed with a working thesis and a general idea of the kinds of support your argument will need, the next step is to begin researching. Make and keep a plan or notes for what kind of things you'll need to find and any other relevant ideas to keep in mind while researching. And once you've begun, be sure to vary online search terms in order to get a broader sample of the accessible information. But don't rely solely on online sources, especially those that can be found through popular search engines. Remember, research librarians can be useful allies and help you discover search terms and academic databases that are likely to be of use.

When researching, it's best to prioritize credible sources, especially those that have been peer-reviewed or undergone some other rigorous editing process. And no matter what the source is or where you found it, remember to maintain a skeptical stance and ruthlessly evaluate the source for signs of credibility. And while researching, it's critical to take solid notes on the main point and ideas of the sources you find, as well as any quotations or information you think will be directly useful in your essay, any ideas for further thinking, and of course, all relevant bibliographic data. Taking those kind of detailed notes about each source might seem tedious, but in the long run, it'll save you time and help you avoid unintentional plagiarism by failing to accurately cite a source's ideas or words.

One of the best ways to organize research notes and sources is with an annotated bibliography, which gathers each source together under their own entries each of which includes the bibliographic data formatted according to whatever style you're using, whether APA, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style or others. It should also include notes on each source's main argument or point, and a brief response from the writer and notes about how the source would be useful for the essay, possibly including quotes or references to page numbers where particularly relevant information can be found.

Annotated bibliographies are incredibly useful for three reasons. One, they force the researcher to record bibliographic data for each source. And two, they allow the researcher a place to put notes on the source's ideas and use. Finally, they organize the research in a focused, workable way making it easier for the writer to reference during drafting and revising, which saves time later.

While it's always valuable to write an outline, it's particularly important for writers of argumentative research essays to create a detailed outline, because these essays are likely to require complex thinking on the writer's part and planning for where and how to use outside sources of information. This is an additional component that many beginning writers forget to take into account until after the drafting process has begun, which puts them at a disadvantage. Detailed outlines should include a working thesis and any ideas for the introduction, such as the hook, main ideas to be introduced, and any relevant sources.

It's a good idea to start with a concept for the introduction, but many experienced writers will put off actually writing this section in any detail until after the bulk of the essay's early drafting process has been completed. The outline should have headings for each controlling idea, point, or argument organized in a coherent order and traditionally indicated by Roman numerals. Below each heading should come subheadings, which note key points or logic to discuss, things that support the controlling idea traditionally marked by capital letters.

And below the headings and their key points should be source headings, which note the sources you plan to use to support, expand, or contrast your ideas. Sometimes these notes come in the form of quotes, but they can also be page or paragraph numbers or sections of the source. Whatever you think you'll need or want during the drafting process. Finally, the detailed outline should contain notes on the conclusion, including any ideas that should be touched upon, sources to use, and a plan for wrapping up the essay.

As we'll remember, writing is a recursive process, and this applies to argumentative writing as well. The eight steps, brainstorming, prewriting, thesis generation, researching, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading, are meant to be returned to and repeated as often as necessary to bring a particular writing project to its final form. It's best to trust the process and focus on whatever step you're on rather than succumbing to writer's block, which more often than not comes when a writer tries to engage with the entirety of the writing process at once rather than a particular step. And always remember, you have control over your ideas and your research, and you choose how they will be represented in your essay giving you the power to write an effective argumentative research paper.

What did we learn today? We learned a lot, all about the things writers need to take into account when beginning an argumentative research project. We covered deciding on a topic and thesis and the different kinds of support we can use and how to begin the research process. Then we looked at annotated bibliographies and detailed outlines that'll help writers get the most out of their researching and drafting processes. And finally, we talked about how trusting the writing process as a whole can help beginning writers create effective academic arguments. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

Notes on "Preparing for an Argumentative Research Essay"

(00:01 – 00:27) – Introduction

(00:28 – 02:13) – Topic & Thesis

(02:14 – 03:22) – Types of Support

(03:23 – 04:34) – Researching

(04:35 – 05:26) – Annotated Bibliography

(05:27 – 06:50) – Detailed Outlines

(06:51 – 07:32) – The Writing Process

(07:33 – 08:01) – Conclusion