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Persuasive/Argument Papers

This packet details the steps necessary to produce a a persuasive/argument paper that may be required in various disciplines. This packet is not intended to replace instructor guidelines and should not be used in that manner. The packet’s intended use is as a supplement to classroom instruction. Therefore, it contains only general information that must be tailored to fit specific guidelines as required by your discipline and by your instructor.

This packet is subdivided into seven sections:

I. Purpose

The purpose of a persuasive or argumentation research paper is to get the reader to side with you on a particular topic for the reasons that you present. The information presented in this packet will serve as a guide to understanding the elements of a persuasive/ argument paper and to formatting the paper, as well as offer prewriting strategies and a checklist to verify that the requirements have been met.

There are specific elements for every mode of writing. One thing to keep in mind is that no matter what mode of writing you choose, all writing should meet the guidelines set by your instructor. For the purpose of this explanation, the academic criteria for persuasive/ argument essays have been integrated into this handout.

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II. Elements of Persuasive/Argument Papers

Persuasive and argument essays contain some common elements.

They must

Clarify the relevant values of the topic so that the audience can see the position of the paper.

Remember that there are many parts of any argument. The topic of the paper should be specific to the issue that you plan to address.

Present facts that support the side of the argument that you plan to present and to persuade for or against.

Facts can consist of statistics, researched information, and other materials that are found in scholarly journals, government publications and other academic or professional fields.

Remember to cite all information that is not your own original idea. The Academic Center has copies of both the APA and MLA Quick Guides available online and in the Center.

Sequence or prioritize the facts in a manner that builds the argument in the most influential way.

The presentation of facts for the argument should follow the same organization presented when clarifying the relevant values. The first issue stated in the thesis should be the first topic approached in the persuasion/ argument section of the paper and so on.

Form and state conclusions.

The conclusion should never be thought of as just a summary of the essay. If you answer the question, “So, why am I writing this paper to this audience?” you can create a stronger conclusion that does what it was intended to do, persuade.

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III. Prewriting Strategies for Persuasive/Argument Papers

As with any writing project, you should take some time to organize your thoughts. Here are a few prewriting strategies that focus specifically on writing persuasive/ argument essays.

  • Choose a side of the argument that you feel most comfortable presenting.
  • While researching the facts, think of the questions posed for the assignment or the topics to investigate.
  • Analyze the source of information presented for value and reliability.
  • List the facts and opposing arguments on the topic that are most important for your audience.

This packet also includes a prewriting strategies worksheet. Using pre-writing activities is a very useful way to organize your argument, to state your purpose and to begin analyzing your audience. For information regarding purpose or audience, the Student Success Center has many other useful handouts available.

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IV. General Organization of Persuasive/Argument Papers


The introduction should present the topic of your paper. In academic writing, the introduction most often begins with a general reference to the topic and narrows down to your thesis within four to six sentences. The thesis should be clear, concise, well stated and identifiable. In other words, the reader should have no question about what will be discussed within the paper.

Statement of the Case

The statement of case in the essay is the presentation of all pertinent information for your argument. In this section of the paper, at least one paragraph should be dedicated to each element of the argument.

Proposition statement

The proposition statement is used very much in the same way that a thesis statement is used. This statement should clearly define and detail the scope of the essay, but it should also be a debatable statement.

Ex: Hispanic county officials must show their support of bilingual education programs because . . .


In the refutation section of the essay, you will have the opportunity to refute any claims made against your argument. It is imperative that you research your audience and their views that oppose the elements of your argument. This section will make your argument that much stronger if you can show that opposing ideas have been considered and disproved.


During the conformation section of the essay, you will reinforce the elements of your argument that refute the opposition’s argument. All three areas, the proposition statement, the refutation section, and the conformation section, should be parallel.

Digression (optional)

At this point in the essay, you may want to include some kind of anecdotal information. You could give information from a case study, or from a personal story that has been documented in a journal. Keep in mind that this information, like all information presented in the essay, should be factual and well documented.


You must remember that this is your last chance to state your case. Think of the conclusion as the summation in a court case; you have to be convincing.


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V. Key Words and Transitional Phrases for Persuasive/Argument Papers

After you begin writing, you may run into difficulties when trying to make transitions between paragraphs or ideas. Included below are some useful transition words that will be helpful.

accordingly, granted, of course, admittedly, however, on the one hand, because, in conclusion, on the other hand, but, indeed, since,

certainly, in fact, therefore, consequently, in summary, thus, despite, moreover, to be sure, even so, nevertheless, truly

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VI. Persuasive/Argument Paper Checklist

This section of the packet is designed to help you evaluate your own organization and presentation. You can use this list to determine if you have met the requirements of format and structure of a persuasive/ argument essay.

  • Does my introduction present the issue I will discuss, and does it clearly state my position?
  • Is my topic debatable? Are there two sides to the topic?
  • Does my proposition statement clearly state my position on the issue?
  • Have I given enough information on the topic so that my audience can easily follow my argument?
  • Are there any definitions or ideas that need to be clarified for my audience?
  • Have I addressed the major arguments against my position?
  • Did I refute the arguments against my position using researched, well-documented facts and statistics?

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VII. Resources

Kirszner, L.G. & Mandell, S.R. (2002). Writing first: Practice in context with readings. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant:

University of St. Thomas Study Guides & Strategies: Writing Persuasive Essays. (Material no longer available at this link.)

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