If the writer/speaker is given a topic to speak against (oppose) or speak for (support) the motion in a debate by giving convincing reasons to support his/her stand, what the writer is presenting is an argumentative essay.
The Concept of Argumentative Essays
An argumentative essay is the one that requires a writer to present a subject matter with a view to persuading the reader to agree with the writer’s point of view.
There should be two opposing issues in which the writer/speaker is expected to be on one side and give convincing reasons for supporting the issue that he/she is supporting.
The writer/speaker should state his/her stand on such issues whether in favour of or against the motion or the view.
A ‘motion’ in a debate occurs if you are to speak either for or against the topic: ‘Civilian rule is better than military rule’ and you decide to speak in favour of or against the point.
Two Forms of Argumentative Essays
There are two ways in which questions on argumentative essays are set or formed. Consider them below.
Argumentative essay topics, having two sides where you are expected to choose one side and convincingly prove that it has more advantages than the other, two variables are compared by the word (than) or (to). Consider the relevant examples below.
(a) Teachers are better than doctors.
(b) Private schools are preferable to public ones.
In some cases, a debate on a topic may not require the word than or to and you should give a final opinion on the issue, that is, you should either support or oppose the motion. Consider the relevant examples below.
(a) Corporal punishment should be introduced in tertiary institutions.
(b) Capital punishment should be abolished in Nigeria.
(c) Should parents choose careers for their children?
(d) Can boys cook?
The writer should marshal his arguments one after the other logically, convincingly and in a well laid-out paragraph, whether the first or second form of arguments.
Important Keys to Note
In writing a good argumentative essay, you must note certain characteristics below.
- Make sure the arguments are convincingly presented.
- Use polite language and avoid abusive language. A good command of vocabulary,
sentence structure and clarity of expressions are necessary.
Processes in Writing a Good Argumentative Essay
The following are steps to take in writing an argumentative essay.
Step one:Write a title.
Although in making a speech, no title is given. In writing argumentative essay topics, it is important to write the title, but you should be very careful in writing it.
If you are asked to either oppose or support the motion of the topic ‘Civilian rule is better than military rule’, you can restructure the topic while opposing the motion as in: Military rule is better than civilian rule or Civilian rule is better than military rule (opposed).
Step two:Write an introduction.
After the title, an introductory/opening paragraph should be developed. Two crucial things should be done here.
- Greetings of your audience, from the most important person to the least; and
- Introduction to the topic to decide and tell the audience on the side you will argue.
Learn from the paragraph below.
Good afternoon, Mr Chairman, President of the English Language Association, Head of Department, English Language students, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. I stand before you to support the motion which states that civilian rule is better than military rule.
The two qualities are explained. The first sentence is (greeting) and second sentence is (introduction to the topic). Also, the initial letters of the people greeted should be written in capital letters.
Step three:Write the definition of the concept.
After the first paragraph (introduction), there is need for a defining paragraph for the motion to be clarified, especially if it is not straightforward before the audience. The definition may favour your side. Learn from the following paragraph:
Civilian rule is the practice of democracy according to a body of laws and rules popularly known as constitution which guides the conduct of government or where the government of the people rules its people while the military rule is a dictatorial rule.
The variables civilian rule and military rule are clarified through definition above.
Step four:Write the body of the argument.
After the defining paragraph, the writer/speaker should marshal his or her arguments one after the other logically, convincingly and in well laid-out paragraphs.
The writer/speaker is free to use any linkers like first, in addition, for example, again, so, moreover, however, consequently, nonetheless, yet, on the other hand, furthermore, etc.
Remember that it is good to raise your opponent’s weak points one by one and destroy or demolish them by giving counter-examples and convincing arguments.
It is useful to place emphasis on the advantages of your side and, at the same time, the disadvantages of the opposing side. Learn from the paragraphs below.
The first benefit that cannot be overemphasized is franchise. In the civilian rule, power resides in the people through whom they have the right to exercise their voting right (right to vote and be voted for).
In real sense, the common people have the right to choose their representatives in the legislative and executive arms of government. In a true democracy, these political rights can never be violated. If these are done, those who are involved will be impeached.
However, military rule violates the rights of citizens. The citizens are ruled under the military by the whims and the caprices of soldiers. They believe that no citizen vote for them.
Furthermore, in the civilian rule, there is the promotion of formulation and implementation of good policies and programs that are meant for masses.
The leaders usually think of the benefit that the people they govern can derive from a program before executing it. In contract, the military leaders do not consider this.
They just formulate the policies and implement them without taking the benefit or convenience of the citizens into consideration.
My opponents say that the students pay huge amount in schools and public funds are generally wasted by machinery of government but my questions are: how many of us benefitted from free education during the military rule?
Is the military rule not responsible for the devaluation of our currency? So, don’t let us deceive ourselves in terms of education and economy. We should now identify and say boldly which one of them is the best.
In paragraphs (1) and (2), the arguments are marshaled logically and convincingly in which two sides are laid out in paragraphs. In paragraph (3), the writer raises some weak points tendered by his opponent and demolishes them through rhetorical questions and convincing arguments.
Step five:Write a conclusion.
After the body of an argumentative essay, you can create a concluding paragraph where the writer should try to win the heart of his listeners/readers to line of arguments. The writer/speaker should give summary of the points in favour of the side he supports. Learn from the following paragraph:
Ladies and Gentleman, with all the points I have raised so far, I have no doubt left you that civilian rule is better than military rule.
Step six:Write ‘thank you’.
It is necessary to write the tag ‘thank you’ after the concluding paragraph as seen below
Step seven:Write your full name and designation if necessary.
In writing, you should write your name in full. If it is an inter-class debate, you will write the name of your class beneath your name at the right-hand side as seen below.
If, however, it is the inter-school debate, you will write the name of your school beneath your name at the right-hand side as seen below.
Koko High School.
Quickly answer these questions.
- Write down arguments either for or against the proposition: ‘Capital punishment should be abolished’.
- Your school has been invited to participate in a debate on the topic: ‘Co-education in the secondary schools should be abolished’. Write your speech for or against the motion. (SSCE Nov. 1989)
- You are the main speaker in a school debate, the topic of which is: ‘Bribery and corruption are worse enemies of our country than armed robbery.’ Write your speech for or against the topic. (SSCE June, 1994)