What is Argumentative Writing?

According to Purdue Online Writing Lab, Argumentative Writing is “a genre of writing that requires students to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.”

In a nutshell, what this means to me is that argument essays require you to take a position on a topic and justify your position with evidence (facts, examples, anecdotes, statistics, truths, expert opinions). Before the writer can take a position, he/she must consider different sides of the issue and engage in some research.

If you have been investigating and incorporating the Common Core State Standards into your curriculum, you will have noticed that the word ‘persuade’ has almost disappeared, only to be replaced with the words argument/argumentative writing. I think of persuasion as a more aggressive, one-sided stance on a controversial issue; the writer takes a strong stance on a position and uses evidence and propagandistic language to convince the reader of something. Argumentative writing, on the other hand, defends one position/claim while also addressing and responding to opposing claims. It is also more balanced, logical, and sequential in the way in which it must address and explain multiple pieces of evidence. This is the direction that the Common Core Standards are leading us toward.

A pioneer in the field of Argumentative Writing is Dr. Richard Beach. If you teach Language Arts, you’re going to want to purchase this book:

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Teaching to Exceed the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards: A Literacy Practices Approach for 6-12 Classrooms

In fact, he’s written a great deal of poignant, timely texts on Language Arts and the Common Core. Here is a link to his page on Amazon.

I had the privilege of hearing him speak about Argumentative Writing at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Symposium in June of 2012. After reading several articles about his current research, I created my own Argumentative Writing Unit and Instructional Workbook for guiding my students through the Argument Writing Process.

Argument Unit (c) Kristen Dembroski        The Paper Chain (c) Kristen Dembroski

I will say that this makes a lot more sense to me than persuasive writing. The goal is no longer ‘winning’ a debate, but rather considering the issue from all angles and taking a calculated position. Not to get too philosophical here, but I do think this is a skill that would greatly benefit our politically divided country. Learning to listen to one another and address opposing claims leads us in the directions of understanding and compromising – surely these are much more ’21st Century Skills’ than winning.

Have you incorporated Argumentative Writing into your curriculum?

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1 Comment on What is Argumentative Writing?

  1. Noelle
    October 19, 2013 at 10:30 am (7 years ago)

    Such a good observation you have made here, Kristen. It’s not about winning (funny how that mentality fit in well with the teach-to-the-test mentality of recent years), rather seeing issues from multiple perspectives. This gives students the opportunity to be an engaged and balanced learner, and to treat other people’s opinions (arguments) with respect. We have not done argumentative writing yet, but looking forward to getting there this year! Great post 🙂

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