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Effective Writing Center (EWC)

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Chapter 8 Table of Contents

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Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Writing Arguments

Steps to Writing an Argument

State Your Thesis or Proposition

In argument, the thesis is called a proposition. Your proposition should define your argument's scope by stating its situation or context and make clear what assertion you are going to debate. Although you may be presenting both sides of the argument to let your reader decide, you may "hook" your readers by stating your argument as a question. Because many questions lack a point of view, however, be sure a question you use as a hook leads to a proposition and that your proposition makes a claim that is open to debate. Your proposition should state something that your readers feel uncertain about and about which you find arguments for both sides of the issue.

Sometimes students have an opinion they intend to address and support. Then, after reviewing information on the topic, they decide that their opinion has to be modified or changed. This event can enhance your presentation, since you probably have gained valuable insights into how people have formed opinions on the topic. Since your proposition starts out as a working proposition, it can be modified as you write your draft, collect your evidence, and evaluate your information.

To help you get started at this stage, brainstorm and freewrite about what you already know about the topic. Asking—and answering—the following questions can give you a start to your assignment:

  • What do I already know about this topic? What do need to learn about this topic?
  • Why is this issue important to me? Why do I want to write about it?
  • Where can I find more information on this subject?
  • Am I concerned more with the causes of this issue, the effects of this issue, or both?
  • What other related issues need to be examined for me to address the topic thoroughly?
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