Argumentative Essay

When arguing a position one must first examine the question for the purpose of the response.

  • When asked to defend a position, one must explain the merits of the position--what makes it a workable, viable position. Supporting arguments would not merely restate, but actually develop the position.

  • When asked to refute or challenge a position, one must explain the problems with the position—why it is not a workable, viable position. Arguments should anticipate how the opposing reader might react to the supporting arguments and respond accordingly.

  • When asked to qualify a position, the writer recognizes the merits of a position (claim) but then proceeds to disagree with the position citing specific evidence. Avoid using concrete words such as all, none, always, never.

Possible Thesis Statements: Include judgment about the claim (argument) + style (form). Write two sentences for the thesis to close your introduction.


In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the author provides a convincing argument that success results from circumstances and advantages of the time period. He develops this claim through a variety of substantial evidence and in-depth organizational and logical thinking to prove his point.


In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the author provides an interesting argument about how intellect and achievement are not perfectly correlated and cites the important role of practice intelligence and environment as factors of success, but the writer fails to consider other valid perspectives as it relates to role of motivation and drive in his argument. While Gladwell relies on anecdotal evidence, observations, and facts to prove his point, he does not fully address the psychological influence that motivation and resilience play in success.


In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the author delivers weak, insubstantial evidence to support his argument that 10,000 hours is needed to fully master a profession, and mostly relies on a few successful people who had spent an extraordinary effort to advance their careers. He fails to offer a counter argument for his claim and to examine other factors such as the quality of the practice as well as genetics and intelligence. While he provides anecdotal evidence and observations, the data is limited in scope and perspective.


Even if you agree, you are still evaluating his argument. You have to construct a defense of his opinion. You need to examine his argument and his evidence closely, pointing out specific elements that establish credibility and validity to his argument.

Cite the reasons why the argument is valid or has merit.

  1. Strong, substantial evidence is used with accurately documented results and research

  2. Clearly organized showing a depth of knowledge on the subject

  3. Use of rhetorical strategies and language

Guiding Questions

What specific ideas do you see as logically sound? What specific point or points of this argument do you find valuable or convincing?

Sentence Stems for YES/DEFENDING:

  • Gladwell provides a convincing argument because __________________.

  • The evidence of Gladwell proves his point by ______________.

  • Few readers will argue with Gladwell’s theory that _________ because of ___________.

  • Gladwell argues that _________, and he is correct because _____________.

  • Gladwell is insightful in that he illustrates _______ and supports his argument with ________.


Guiding Questions

With which specific points do you agree, and with which do you disagree? What evidence could the author interject that would convince you fully? Which elements of the argument seem valid and what elements seem invalid?

Cite the reasons why the argument is uncertain regarding the author’s perspective.

  • Convincing argument presented but the writer needs to cite more evidence to support it

  • Convincing argument presented but the writer fails to consider other valid perspectives

  • Interesting argument presented but the validity and credibility of the evidence cited remains in question

  • Inadequate documentation of results or evidence

  • Central thesis with interesting points but much of the work is confusing and difficult to understand or follow

  • Argument is oversimplified or overgeneralized.

Sentence Stems for MAYBE/QUALIFY:

  • Gladwell’s findings of __________ are accurate; however, his presentation of ________ is not because ________.

  • Though Gladwell makes an excellent point that ___________, his evidence on _________ lacks credibility because of __________.

  • Though Gladwell makes a noteworthy point that ___________, his evidence on _________ lacks logical reasoning because of __________.

  • Gladwell’s argument of _________ stands up to scrutiny as he rightly points out that _________________. However, later on, he states, “XXX,” which illustrates that he fails to consider __________-.

  • Gladwell’s point may be valid; however, he neglects to consider _________.

  • Gladwell’s point may be valid; however, he fails to _________.

  • Although Gladwell rightly points out _______, his overall argument of ______ fails to convince because ______-

  • Gladwell’s argument about ________, though interesting, remains unconvincing overall because he neglects to address _________.

  • While _________ was insightful, the discussion seems to veer off topic because of _______.

  • Although Gladwell had a valid point about _______, he lost credibility when he discusses _________.

  • It is difficult to take a clear stand on Gladwell’s work because __________-.


Guiding Questions

What doesn’t make sense to you and seems erroneous? Is there an idea or argument that you think lacks merit or validity? What specific elements of the argument do you find flawed? What evidence lacks credibility or reasoning?

Cite the reasons why the argument flawed:

  • Failure to present a convincing argument

  • Weak, insubstantial evidence to support the argument

  • Lack of or inaccurate documentation of the results

  • Lack of or inaccurate citation of sources

  • Lack of central thesis

  • Poorly written work that fails to illustrate the depth of knowledge on the subject

  • Unclear, confusing language throughout the work

Sentence Stems for NO/CHALLENGE:

  • The argument Gladwell presents fails logically because ___________.

  • Gladwell’s argument remains unconvincingly because _____________.

  • The evidence Gladwell presents lacks credibility because _________.

  • Gladwell first argues ________; however, he then argues ___________. This contradiction shows his thinking on _________ is erroneous or flawed because of ____________-.

  • Gladwell’s argument cannot be trusted as he vacillates on the issue of ___________. He first states, “XXX,” but later, he states, “XXX.”

  • Gladwell attempts to argue ___________, but in fact __________ has been widely discussed by _____, _______, and _______.

  • What Gladwell neglected to examine is ________.

  • What Gladwell fails to discuss is the more important issue of _______.


Your thinking comes through more clearly through paraphrasing and using in-text citations. Readers want to see your words to see your understanding.

Guiding Question

What is the main person’s point? What are some specific ways he supports that point?

What to paraphrase:

  • Referring to an overall point or assertion of a text

  • When referring to a specific event in the text

  • Details or examples

  • When summary is sufficient


Only quote what you can explain and defend. Always have a reason for why you chose a particular quote to cite. All quotes must directly and clearly relate back to your claim. You must explain the significance of the quote.

Guiding Question

How relevant is the quote in supporting my specific point in this paragraph?

What to quote:

  • Language that is particularly eloquent or significant

  • When specific phrasing matters

Sentence starters for elaborating

  • The author’s claim asserts _______ in order to _________.

  • ______ shows how ___________.

  • _____ makes the point that ___________.

  • According to _____, ________ makes logical sense since _________.

  • Based on the claim that ________, then __________.

The author states that _________ in order to __________.