A Few Words on Formatting Your Argumentative Essay

Updated: Nov 15, 2016

An argumentative essay is typically constructed along a five paragraph format that clearly states the main idea in a cogent thesis sentence.

Like most college essays students encounter on the way to earning their sheepskin, an argumentative essay is typically constructed along a five paragraph format that clearly states the main idea in a cogent thesis sentence. Additionally, an argumentative essay will supply the reader with information that presents and supports an argument. Entwined within the argumentative essay, the author will also need to the pros and cons associated with the argument.

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The Five Paragraph Format

The five paragraph essay has been a staple of college level courses across the nation since the first fraternity pledge swallowed his first goldfish. Its popularity is due to the fact that it’s an easy way to manage the author’s material while presenting the reader with the most salient facts first. It has the added benefit of allowing the author to layer in their support of their central thesis statement.

At its most basic level, the five paragraph essay consists of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

The introduction serves to set the parameters of the essay and previews what the reader can expect to find throughout the body of the paper. The primary message is delivered in a cogent thesis statement, which is subsequently backed up in each of the three body paragraphs. Additionally, the introduction is the place to grab the readers interest to the extent that they can’t help but be compelled to continue reading.

Each of the three body paragraphs is notable for containing one main idea and a forceful topic sentence. Like the thesis sentence that guides the entire essay, the topic sentence is crafted to guide the reader through that particular paragraph. Clearly, these are the meat and potatoes of any essay, and generally speaking, like a newspaper article, the author will place their strongest arguments to the fore.

Finally, the essay’s concluding paragraph will summarize the main points, salient facts, and reiterate the primary argument of the essay.  It’s important to remember that the conclusion is not the place to introduce new information or arguments, and should serve only to summarize the previously stated data.


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Importance of Transitions

Effective transitions are a critical component to guiding the reader through the document in an artful fashion. Transitions serve to knit the paper together by hooking the reader’s attention back to a previous statement before tackling the next section. It has the dual effect of reiterating the message that was just delivered while simultaneously pointing the way to the next section of the paper.

The key to effective writing is in exciting the reader’s interest as mentioned above in the discussion about crafting an effective introduction. Keeping their interest, and moving them through the essay is achieved by the effective use of transitions.

The Argumentative Format

The specialized nature of the argumentative argument requires some consideration to how the information is presented. Specifically speaking, it is incumbent upon the author to address both the pros and cons of a given argument, and that provides some latitude in how the five paragraphs are crafted.

Following the presentation of the thesis statement, the author can use the first two body paragraphs to make their case with data and information that supports their arguments while the final body paragraph is used to refute opposition to the central premise of the paper.

Conversely, this format can be reversed with the first two body paragraphs dedicated to laying out the opposition’s argument before being disproved in the final paragraph. A middle ground approach is found in the final organizational option, whereby;  the author uses each of the body paragraphs to present an opposing view before countering it and moving on to the next point of contention. 

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