Templates for structuring argumentative essays with practice exercises and solutions

 

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This page introduces a framework for writing argumentative/analytical essays, following a structure dubbed “They Say, I Say, My Critics Say, I Respond.”[1]

This page also includes a number of templates[2] or examples that you may find helpful for writing argumentative/analytical essays. Keep in mind that it is possible to change the sequence of the framework sections. Also, the templates can be used interchangeably.

Thesis statement

A principal element of an argumentative/analytical essay is the thesis statement.

A thesis statement is one or two sentences (maybe more in longer essays) typically occurring near the end of an essay introduction; it shows your position regarding the topic you are investigating or your answer(s) to the question(s) that you are responding to.

Here are some templates that may help you write an effective thesis statement:

  • In this paper, I argue that .......... because ..........
  • In the pages that follow, I will argue that .......... because ..........
  • Although/Even though .......... this essay argues that/I will argue that .......... because ..........
  • This paper attempts to show that ..........
  • This paper contests the claim that ..........
  • This paper argues that .......... 
  • The central thesis of this paper is ..........
  • In this essay, I attempt to defend the view that ..........

Thesis statement exercise and solutions

Imagine that you have been asked to write an argumentative essay about physical education in the Canadian high school system. Use one of the templates suggested to write a thesis statement about this topic.

view solutions
  • In the pages that follow, I will argue that physical education in the Canadian high school system has been largely ineffective because it has remained limited in its range of exercises and has failed to connect with students’ actual interests, such a dance and martial arts.
  • This paper attempts to show that physical education is a crucial aspect of the Canadian high school system because many teenagers do not experience encouragement to do physical activity outside of school and contemporary life is increasingly sedentary for people of all ages.

They say

The body of an essay usually begins by providing a background of the topic or a summary of the resources that you have reviewed (this is sometimes called a literature review). Here, you bring other people’s views into the paper. You want to show your readers what other scholars say (“they say”) about the topic, using techniques like paraphrasing, summarizing, and direct quotation.

You can start this section using one the following templates or examples to delve into the topic.

Referring to others’ work

Previous

Several

studies of X

surveys of X

investigations of X

have

found ...

revealed ...

reported ...

identified ...

established ...

demonstrated ...

shown significant increases in ...

To date,

Thus far,

Until now,

several studies

previous studies

a number of studies

prior studies

have

used ...

found ...

reported ...

shown that...

indicated that ...

linked X with Y.

suggested that ...

demonstrated that ...

identified a link between ...

investigated the effects of...

confirmed the effectiveness of ...

attempted to evaluate the impact of …

They say exercise and solutions

Imagine that you are now trying to incorporate some sources into your academic paper about physical education in the Canadian high school system. Try using a couple of templates from the “They Say” section of the handout.

Bonus exercise: See if you can identify the “template” structure that each of the sentences below is using (hint, they are different from the templates provided above).

  • Brown (2018) rejects the idea that the levels of climate change we are currently seeing can be considered “natural” or “cyclical” (p. 108).
  • According to Marshall (2017), we can see evidence of both code-switching and code-meshing in students’ reflective essay writing (p. 88).
view solutions
  • Previous studies of physical education have revealed that teenagers experience a significant degree of dissatisfaction with their gym classes (Wilson, 2010; Vowel et al, 1999; Mossman, 1986).
  • A number of studies conducted prior to the 1990s have demonstrated that teenagers used to experience more encouragement to engage in physical activities outside of school hours (Sohal, 1954; Silverman, 1965; Lu, 1970; Mossman, 1986).
  • Jones’ (2017) investigations of sedentariness among young people have shown significant increases in illness among teenagers who do not engage in regular physical activity.

I say

After the background section (e.g., summary or literature review), you need to include your own position on the topic (“I say”). Tell your reader if, for instance, you agree, disagree, or even both agree and disagree with the work you have reviewed.

You can use one of the following templates or samples to bring your voice in:

Using impersonal language

  • It could be argued that ..........
  • It is evident/clear/obvious that the role of modern arts is ..........
  • Clearly/Evidently, the role of education is ..........
  • There is no little doubt that ..........

Agreeing with what you’ve reviewed in the “They say” section

  • I agree (that) ..........
  • I support the view that ...........
  • I concur with the view that ..........

Disagreeing with what you’ve reviewed in the “They say” section

  • I disagree (that) ..........
  • I disagree with the view that ..........
  • I challenge/contest the view that ..........
  • I oppose/am opposed to ..........
  • I disagree with X’s view that .......... because, as recent research has shown, ..........
  • X contradicts herself/can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, she argues ........... On the other hand, she also says ..........
  • By focusing on .........., X overlooks the deeper problem of ..........

Agreeing and disagreeing simultaneously

  • Although I agree with X up to a point, I cannot accept his overriding assumption that ..........
  • Although I disagree with much that X says, I fully endorse his final conclusion that ..........
  • Though I concede that .........., I still insist that ..........
  • X is right that .........., but she seems on more dubious ground that when she claims that ..........
  • While X is probably wrong when she claims tha ..........., she is right that ..........
  • Whereas X provides ample evidence that .........., Y and Z’s research on .......... and .......... convinces me that .......... instead.
  • I’m of two minds about X’s claim that ........... On the one hand, I agree that .......... On the other hand, I’m not sure if ..........
  • My feelings on the issue are mixed. I do support X’s position that .........., but I find Y’s argument about .......... and Z’s research on .......... to be equally persuasive.

I say exercises and solutions

Try using a template from each of the sections below to bring your own position into your writing:

  • Using impersonal language
  • Agreeing with what you’ve reviewed
  • Disagreeing with that you’ve reviewed
  • Agreeing and disagreeing simultaneously
view solutions

Using impersonal language
There is little doubt that the teenage years are important for establishing life-long habits.

Agreeing with what you’ve reviewed in the “They say” section
I support the view, presented by Vowel et al (1999) that effective physical education needs to consider the heightened self-consciousness that many teenagers experience and, in particular, needs to be sensitive to the body image issues that can be pervasive among young people.

Disagreeing with what you’ve reviewed in the “They say” section
By focusing on school physical education programs and their shortcomings, Wilson (2010) overlooks the deeper problem that young people are experiencing a lack of motivation to incorporate healthy exercise into their daily lives.

Agreeing and Disagreeing simultaneously
Though I concede that school physical education programs are valuable, I still insist that they cannot be the sole or even the primary way that we promote an active lifestyle among young people.

My critics say

In a good argumentative essay, in addition to expressing your position and argument, you should consider possible opposing views to your argument: refer to what your opponents say (“my critics say”) and why they may disagree with your argument.

Including the ideas of those who may disagree with you makes up the counterargument section of your paper. You can refer to actual people, including other research scholars who may disagree with you, or try and imagine what those who disagree with you might say.

Remember, a thesis should be debatable, so you should be able to imagine someone disagreeing you’re your position. Here are some templates that may help you in writing counterargument:

Opponents of (write your argument briefly here)

Sociocultural theorists

Some, however,

Critics

One may offer a contrasting perspective

It might/may/could

may call this into question/may question this

might object here that...

might argue that my interpretation overlooks...

believe that...

and state that...

be argued that...

and would argue that…

 

My critics say exercise and solutions

Using one of the templates, try imagining a counterargument for the thesis you drafted earlier.

view solutions

Sociocultural theorists used to believe that adolescence was a time of “natural defiance” (Fung, 1995) and therefore discounted the role of educational programs aimed at supporting teenagers to form healthy habits. Much of the focus of schooling therefore became about teaching specific content and skills.

Critics may call into question my assumption that effective physical education can help establish life-long healthy living habits.

I respond

After explaining what your opponents say, you have to refute them. This is sometimes called the rebuttal. Here, you can show your readers that your opponents either fail to provide enough evidence to support their argument or their evidence lacks credibility and/or is flawed.

This argument fails to

find

show

demonstrate

account for

acknowledge

a (any) benefit in ...

a (any) link between ...

a (any) correlation between ...

a (any) connection between ...

a (any) causal relationship between ...

a (any) consistent association between ...

a (any) statistically significant difference...

(any) convincing evidence of ...

(any) benefits associated with ...

 (any) support for the X hypothesis.

Alternatively, you may argue that your opponents’ argument is valid, but not persuasive enough to be used in your study, or that their argument could be valid in a different context.

This argument is

Vygotsky's (1978) sociocultural theory is

Although Piaget's (1936) theory of ………is

useful in the sense that………… 

extremely useful because……..

a comprehensive theory about….

However, …

However, I argue that…

I argue that….

While it is true that…

While I agree with sociocultural theory that…

Although Maslow's hierarchy can be a
useful tool for

 

I argue that…

I maintain that…

I disagree that…

Don’t forget that for each part of your argument, you must provide enough evidence for the claims that you make. This means that if you include one of these templates in your essays, you have to explain the evidence it presents in a way that is clear and convincing for your reader.

I respond exercise and solutions

Using one of the templates, craft a rebuttal to the counterargument you just created.

view solutions

Sociocultural theorists used to believe that adolescence was a time of “natural defiance” (Fung, 1995) and therefore discounted the role of educational programs aimed at supporting teenagers to form healthy habits. Much of the focus of schooling therefore became about teaching specific content and skills. However, this argument fails to demonstrate that the defiance observed during adolescence was “natural” or inherent and not a product of a specific cultural environment. It therefore does not convince me that education during the adolescent years needs to remain rigidly focused on content and skills.

Critics may call into question my assumption that effective physical education can help establish life-long healthy living habits. While it is true that we cannot assume that physical education will automatically lead to the establishment of healthy habits, I maintain that the creation of such habits, rather than simply teaching specific physical education content or skills, should be the central goal of an effective physical education program.


References

Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2017). They say / I say: The moves that matter in academic writing, with readings (3rd ed.). New York: Norton W. W. Company.

Marshall, S. (2017). Advance in academic writing: Integrating research, critical thinking, academic reading and writing. Toronto, Canada: Pearson Education ESL.

Morley, J. (2014). Academic phrasebank. Retrieved from http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/

[1] Adapted from Graff and Birkenstein (2016).

[2] The templates used in this handout are adapted from Morley (2014), Marshall (2017), and Graff and Birkenstein (2016).