It is very important that you recognize which type of essay questions are looking for some sort of judgement, and then to be able to construct an effective, convincing argument in your answer. A major cause of complaint from tutors is that students at all levels do not do this very well, and make their writing descriptive rather than argumentative. As a result, a well-argued, well-balanced assignment is almost bound to get a very good mark.
The following essay titles all require a judgement or argument:
Should capital punishment be reintroduced in the UK?
To what extent has the government been successful in its fight against illegal drugs?
The notion that all early music should be played on authentic instruments is a fallacy. Discuss.
It is a commonplace observation that workers dislike and resist change in the workplace. How far do you think this is a rational response to their economic position and how far simply a result of the mismanagement of change?
If you were to write a very general
essay, for example, about capital punishment, without answering the
specific question asked, your mark is going to be low. Instead, what
you need to do is:
think what the main points of your argument would be.
do extensive reading to find evidence to back up your points, and at the same time note down counter-arguments and contradictory evidence. There is always more than one side to an argument, and it is very important in a piece of academic writing to show that you are aware of these different opinions. Your approach must be balanced, not one-sided.
structure your answer carefully. You should state what your conclusion
will be right at the start in your introduction; then present both,
or all, sides of the argument in a logical, coherent manner, showing
clearly which side you stand on by the specific use of language (see
below) and use of appropriate examples and evidence; and finally include
a well-developed conclusion which draws all the strands together andmakes
completely clear where you stand. In an argumentative essay the conclusionis
probably the most important part, so don’t make it too short.
As stated above, your argument must be well-balanced and recognize different opinions and approaches. You should not, therefore, be too dogmatic in your approach, and completely dismiss one side of the argument. At the same time, you should not “sit on the fence” and take an indecisive approach, as this may be interpreted as you not having an opinion, or simply not knowing. (In terms of pure argument, you don’t necessarily have to completely agree with what you are saying).
Sample piece of argumentative writing
Read the following very short argumentative essay and go through the accompanying analysis
Discuss the funding of childcare provision in the UK
1 Recent changes in government priorities
have seen a reduction in financial support for parents who use childcare.
This is occurring at a time when there is increasing social and financial
pressure on parents, particularly
3 Another argument against the use of childcare facilities (Vaughan 2001) is that children can be emotionally deprived in these facilities compared to the home. This argument assumes that the best place for children is to be at their parents', especially mothers', side for twenty four hours a day. It claims that children's emotional development can be damaged when they are left in childcare facilities. However, parents and children need to spend sometime apart. Moreover, children become less dependent on their parents and parents themselves are less stressed and more effective care-givers when there are periods of separation. In fact, a recent study conducted by MCC (2003) indicates that the parent-child relationship can in fact be improved by the use of high-quality childcare facilities.
4 It could further be asserted that
the government and the economy as a whole cannot afford the enormous
cost involved in supporting childcare for working parents. However,
working parents actually contribute to the national economy. They are
able to utilise their productive skills and pay income tax, while non-working
parents can become a drain on the tax system through dependent spouse
and other rebates.
Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4
The counter-argument is “weakened”
or “problematized” by phrases such as:
It is important to show this opposing argument, as by doing so you are showing that you have considered both sides of the argument, and also that you are able to anticipate and criticize any opposing arguments before they are even stated.
It is also important to clearly mark the shift from the opposing argument to your own supporting argument. In these three paragraphs, this is done by the use of the word however.
Top of page
1 When you can think of the opposing opinion but you have not seen it written anywhere:
Should marine mammals be kept in captivity in marine parks?
The issue of whether we should allow
marine parks to stay open has been widely debated in our community recently.
It is an important issue because it concerns fundamental moral and economic
questions about the way we use our native wildlife. A variety of different
arguments have been put forward about this issue. This essay will consider
arguments for having marine parks and point to some of the problems
with these views. It will then put forward reasons for the introduction
of laws which prohibit these unnecessary and cruel institutions.
The Age (1993) Use of Marine Parks for Scientific Research 19.2.93
The Age (1993) Should Animals be Kept in Marine Parks/ 16.8.93
Jones, G. (1991). The Myths about Animal Research in Marine Parks. Scientific Australian. Vol 12, No 3.
Smith, H. (1992). Marine Parks: Good for Business, Good for Australia. Leisure Business Review. Vol 24, No. 4
The Sun-Herald (1993) Increase in Tourists Visiting Marine Parks 20.7.93
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