This research paper provides some information of argumentative essay writing to computer and technical students. The students have difficulties with argumentative texts which contain well-link arguments and counterarguments. So, this paper offers the ways for helping the students to overcome the difficulties they experience in writing. As the students are science and technical students, the argumentative essay writing is described for them to get the ability to debate or discuss a controversial theme intelligently. Therefore, they can understand how to present their point of view with evidences and arguments.
Since writing is one of those skills that the students develop through practice, this paper is designed to guide them to tackle the full range of writing texts confidently. On the whole, this paper aims to consolidate the students’ writing skill to perform well in their academic field and professional field.
Key words: Argumentative writing, Ability, Debate, Arguments, Procedures
As English has continued to expand its influence as the international language, it has become more and more necessary for those who wish to take advantage of educational, business or immigration opportunities to be competent in English, and to be able to demonstrate this competence by means of result in examinations.
So, English is taught as a compulsory subject to help students become proficient in the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Among these four skills, writing is the most difficult skill for the students and integrates into other skills.
There are many kinds of writing, including argumentative essay writing.
The argumentative writing skill requires writing in response to a problem, opinion or controversial proposition. The students have to show an ability to demonstrate an argument from a certain standpoint, suggest the solution, justify their opinion by drawing on their knowledge and experience, weigh it against other opinions, and support their argument with their own experiences. It is important to note that their writing should be convincing for the readership. It means they need to develop means or strategies to express their opinions and ideas effectively. Therefore studying argumentation assists them to understand and gradually learn and employ these strategies. The process of producing a clear and convincing argument helps a writer mature as a thinker and a critic because written argumentation facilitates the development of such important mental skills as developing and organising ideas, evaluating evidence, observing logical consistency and expressing them clearly and laconically. So writing can help the students be more careful thinkers throughout their lives.
“Kies (2008) states that the argumentative essay writing are a means of learning how to think. Argument demands that the writer examines a belief by testing the strength of the reasons for holding such a belief.” Argument of this kind forms a “dialectical structure”, a dialogue, within the essay itself. In this dialogue, the writer explores several sides of the issue under consideration with the readers in an attempt to demonstrate why one perspective is the most enlightened. The writer’s analysis of the issues (his/her evaluations of the claims, evidence, assumptions, hidden arguments, and inherent contradiction) leads the writer to champion one perspective of the subject at hand, even though reasonable, thoughtful, intelligent people advocate different perspectives.
The writer of an argumentative essay has several goals: the primary goal is to persuade and move the audience to accept his/her position on an issue, but that is often a very difficult challenge. A secondary and more modest goal is for the writer to articulate why he/she chooses the stance that he/she does on an issue. The secondary goal recognises the fact that to persuade is a difficult objective but that at least the writer can explain his/her reasoning behind his/her position.
For those reasons, many rhetoricians describe the argument as a dialogue, set in writing, between the writer and the readers. In this dialogue, the writer introduces his/her subject, makes his/her claim, discusses any necessary background information, and then presents the evidence for the position and in rebuttal to other positions .
When we have an opinion and try to convince our listener or reader to accept our opinion, we are agreeing with or disagreeing with something. For example, in an everyday situation, we may try to convince a friend to go somewhere or in a composition or speech class, the instructor may make an assignment in which we must support or oppose the use of nuclear energy to produce electricity. If we agree or disagree on an issue, we will want our reader or listener to accept our point of view.
There are a few types of argumentative compositions such as:
Although there are many ways to present an argument in an essay, the following outline is a good outline for presenting a well-organised essay which is easy to read and clear to understand.
Section (1) The Introduction: This section introduces the topic of the essay, offers any background information which might be necessary for clarity, and clearly indicates the position that will be defended.
Section (2) The Argument: This section advances the best argument (defense) for the writer’s position. Thus, the section should consist of a single argument which supports the position in the introduction.
Section (3) The Counter-argument: This section advances the best counter-argument against the writer’s position. It presents the counter-argument as completely and fairly as possible. In essence, it defends the opponent’s position.
Section (4) Response: This section responds to the counter-argument from Section (3). It should respectfully and fairly respond as to avoid fallacy.
Section (5) Conclusion: This section restates the position the writer is defending, reveals how it defends his/her position, and responds to any related issues. By responding to related issues, the writer shows the relevance of his/her conclusion.
This type of argument is a two-sided argument. Both sides of the issue are presented. By leaving out Sections (2) and (3), a writer could create a one-sided argument. Generally, two-sided arguments are seen as a way of strengthening the writer’s position, especially when the issue is well known. One-sided arguments might prove useful in opinion essays where the issue is not well known.
Writing is not a mere mechanical task. Writing requires audience analysis, a striving to understand what audience members will desire, understand, and spend the time and energy reading. This is not an easy task; it requires thought and effort. The teacher can help to develop the students’ writing skill by focusing on writing when he/she is working on other skill areas. For example, when looking at the reading periods, he/she encourages the students to notice how the text or the argument has been organised. He/she can point out new vocabulary and focus on cohesion or referencing. This will help to make the course a truly integrated one. When he/she is working on the listening and speaking skills, he/she can draw the students’ attention to the difference in style between the spoken and the written form of the language. And then it is essential for the teacher to choose the appropriate materials which can develop the students’ writing skill. So, the following procedures are a step-by-step guide on how to teach a particular task.
In this stage, the teacher makes sure the students know that an argumentative question contains three different types of information.
Instructions: These are fairly standard and ask them to give reasons for their answer supported by examples.
Topic statement: The statement outlines a view or problem. It gives them the topic or subject of their essay. It is important to read this part carefully, so their essay fully answers the question. For example, is the question shown about teenagers or teenage stress compared with earlier generations?
Task: This is the part that tells the students which type of essay they should write. For example, they may be asked to give their views, discuss both sides of an argument and suggest solutions to a problem.
And then, the students are asked to discuss argumentative questions in pairs. The teacher gets them to share their ideas with the class, inviting comments from other pairs or getting them to justify their opinions. For example, if the question is as follows:
Today’s teenagers have more stressful lives than previous generations.
Discuss this view and give your own opinion.
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
For this question,
Sentence 1: Topic Statement
Sentence 2: Task
Sentence 3: Instruction
Before the students start the argumentative writing, they should decide whether they agree/disagree completely with the statement, partly agree/disagree with it or have no definite opinion. Then, they have to choose one of these approaches.
In the essay, they may be asked to agree or disagree with a statement or opinion, rather than being required to discuss opposing views. In this case, they may choose simply to give their own opinions on the topic and justify these. This is called the thesis-led approach.
In some argumentative essays, they need to discuss more than one type of evidence, argument or point of view before reaching their conclusion. This is called the argument-led approach.
The teacher introduces how to present with an argument, an opinion or a problem. He/She explains some questions asked to the students:
This type of “agree or disagree” question does not require them to discuss both sides of the issue, so they can use a thesis-led approach. If they have a clear opinion on the subject, they may decide to use this approach. When using a thesis-led approach, they should state their opinion clearly in the introduction and use subsequent paragraphs to justify and support their view. The same viewpoint should be stated in the conclusion. If they feel there are two equal sides to the issue (for and against), they may decide to use an argument-led approach.
In thesis-led answers, they will be assessed on how well they present and support their opinions. In argument-led answers, they must show that they can summarise and evaluate the argument logically, supporting both opinions with clear supporting evidence.
The opening paragraph opens the essay. It is a short paragraph usually about three sentences. When using the thesis-led approach, the students make a general comment in their introduction without copying the question wording, and then include their thesis statement (opinion). For example; if the question was:
The arts should be rejected in favour of more practice studies. Do you agree?
For this question, the teacher explains them not to write as follows:
Studying less theoretical subjects is better than studying arts. I don’t’ agree with this.
It is better to add an opinion in the first sentence.
In my opinion, I do not think studying more practical subjects is better than studying arts. (or) Some people believe that studying more practical subjects is better than studying arts.
To present and possibly justify an opinion, the students state their opinion; then make sure they can support their opinion with relevant details.
When they are asked for their opinion on a subject, they can avoid sounding too dogmatic by using suitable language to present what they have to say.
For example, the sentence “the arts are boring and have no value” would sound better phrased as: I think the arts are boring, and to me they have no value. So the students have to be careful not to be too direct.
If they give an opinion, they should justify it and, if possible, offer a reason, solution or speculation.
E.g. I don’t think people should automatically be entitled to three weeks’ holiday a year, because companies may need their labour. As I see it, two weeks’ holiday a year is acceptable, with any additional days off acting as an incentive for overtime.
It is permissible to use personal pronouns because when they express an opinion they say what they, personally, think about something.
An argument of some kind should be balanced by including a paragraph which either gives an alternative viewpoint or states or refutes the opposing side of the argument.
The students are not expected to agree with any argument, and are at liberty to disagree. If they disagree with the other side of the argument, they will need to refute that opinion or position. This means that they first state the opposing side of the argument, and then give reasons why they do not agree. Perhaps the opposing argument is weak or does not include all the known facts. Or their opposing argument is a more compelling one, in which case they must say why. So they may disagree strongly, mildly or only partially.
The conclusion is the end of the essay. It is a short paragraph and often has the same idea as the introduction, only in different words. If we teach the students about writing the conclusion with the thesis-led approach, their conclusion should not contain new information. In the thesis-led approach, it should restate what has been said earlier in the essay using paraphrase.
This stage gives the students the opportunity to consolidate the skill of argumentative essay writing. Before writing the essay, the students are asked to analyse the question and decide on their approach. If they choose a thesis-led approach, they state their opinion in the introduction. They are asked to use the main paragraph of their essay to present and develop their opinion. They should justify each point with clear supporting material. Where appropriate, they have to refute the opposing opinion, providing a logical argument for doing so. In the final stage, they need to restate their opinion succinctly in the conclusion in a different way from before.
For the following question, the teacher should read through the question together. Some high-level positions in companies are elicited. He/She discusses whether this situation is in fact true in their country as there may be a cultural gap and explains “allocate” and then discusses the idea of positive discrimination in the workplace. Depending on the level of the class, the teacher could extend the time limit from 40 to 60 minutes, as this is the first time students will have seen and done a complete writing task. When giving feedback to the students on their essays, the teacher directs them to the sample essay and explains to them that the sample essay is not a definitive answer, it is just one way of answering the question.
Write about the following topic:
Most high-level positions in companies are filled by men even though the workforce in many developed countries in more than 50 per cent female. Companies should be required to allocate a certain percentage of these positions to women.
To what extent do you agree?
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.
In many countries these days, females make up over 50 per cent of the workforce, and increasingly highly-skilled women are taking managerial positions. However, it is still a fact that high positions such as CEO jobs are still dominated by men. Although this is not desirable, I do not personally believe that imposed quotas are the solution.
Firstly, I believe companies have a right to choose the best person for the job, whatever their gender, in order to contribute the success of their business. Forcing companies to hire, promote and appoint women could negatively affect business in the short term and even in the long term.
Secondly, to my mind the solution to this problem should be solved outside the workplace. Girls need to be encouraged to take more male-dominated subjects at school and later at university, and to aspire to do well in their careers. Girls and boys also need to be taught equality from an early age. This education can take place in schools, career programmers and in the home.
To those who argue that quotas are a good way to initiate this change, I would like to point out that artificially imposing rules has not always had the desired effect. When governments required males and females to receive the same pay for the same job, employers simply changed job titles to ensure that women were still paid less than men. It is my belief that employers will simply try to find loopholes to get around any such law.
In summary, I do not believe that forcing companies to allocate jobs to women is the best way to address this imbalance. Rather, it is a question of education and of changing mindsets so that those who deserve to be at the top will earn it and be appropriately appointed.
Writing reveals one’s ability to think clearly and to use language effectively. Effective writing does not come by chance. It does not just happen. It requires to write in a clear, well-organised way. The writing skill also requires the students to demonstrate the ability to understand, produce, and manipulate discourse. To meet these needs, this paper focuses on learning and approaches which will assist the students in developing the writing skill. In the argumentative essay, we not only give information but also present an argument with the supporting ideas and opposing ideas of an argumentative issue. We should clearly take our stand and write as if we are trying to persuade an opposing audience to adopt new beliefs or behaviour. The argumentative essay is also very useful to test a student’s ability to think logically. So this paper presents detailed guidance on how to approach an issue. It is hoped that this research paper will inspire the students to develop the writing skill from the approaches.
The author would like to acknowledge the generous support and encouragement of Dr Khin Mar Lar Tun, Rector of the University of Computer Studies (Pathein). The author also wishes to offer her respectful gratitude to her anonymous/external reviewers for their helpful suggestions and perceptive comments on her paper.