Simple Steps to Organize an Argument Essay

You’ve created a strong thesis statement, you’ve compiled your research, you may have even written your intro, but where do you go from here? Are you stumped about how exactly to put all of this information together?

Organizing a long research paper can be a daunting task, but fear not! Read on for a quick and easy way to lay out your argument essay. This organization method is only one option, and your instructor may have a preferred method, but if you are lost, this is a great road map to get you unstuck.

Start with Your Thesis

To begin, you’ll need to write down your thesis statement.

Thesis: The US should implement a cross-country high-speed rail system.

Now you have to answer the big question: Why should the US implement a cross-country high-speed rail system?

Reasoning out an Argument

Answering this question in a series of what we’ll refer to as “because clauses,” will fill out the body of your paper. These will be the reasons why your audience should support your position. Let’s pick three strong reasons, and list them here:

Thesis: The US should implement a cross-country high-speed rail system because. . .

Because Clause #1: because a rail system will greatly reduce highway congestion, resulting in lower automobile fatalities.

Because Clause #2: because a rail system will serve the poor population who cannot afford the cost of owning and maintaining a car.

Because Clause #3: because a national rail system will greatly reduce automobile emissions and be more environmentally friendly.

As you can see, each because clause smoothly follows the thesis statement. You should be able to combine the thesis with each because clause in one succinct, logical sentence. These three (or four) reasons or because clauses, as well as the information and research you include to support these reasons, will constitute the majority of your paper.

Once you decide on what your reasons will be and what research you’ll use to support each reason, you’ll simply begin to lay them out after your introduction. Organize your paper by following your reasons, keeping each “because” reason in its own paragraph/s. In other words, don’t talk about information related to because clause #1 in the paragraph for because clause #3.

Simple, right?

Think of the body of your essay as a train; each rail car is lined up one after the other, holding its own separate contents. Just as the engineer wouldn’t want to mix the rail car full of coal with a car full of apples, you don’t want to mix the information in your clauses.

Including Opposition and Rebuttal

After you have given all of your reasons, now you’ll need to include a section (one or more paragraphs) of opposition and rebuttal. Below, we have included two different oppositions.

Opposition #1 (followed by rebuttal): Many opponents against a high-speed rail system believe the monetary costs outweigh the benefits.

Opposition #2 (followed by rebuttal): The cost of high-speed rail tickets will be unaffordable for the low-income population it hopes to attract.

These opposition points are developed depending on the audience you’re hoping to persuade. The length of your paper will usually dictate how many different oppositional points (with accompanying rebuttal) you will need. For our purposes, we are placing the opposition after the reasons have all been argued, but it is also acceptable to place a direct opposition immediately after each reason, if the opposition directly argues against the specific reason. Above, Opposition #2 directly relates to Because Cause #2, and could be placed directly after.

It’s a good idea to outline your argument before you begin writing. If you’re not into numerical outlines, just draw a box for every paragraph or section, and label each box with what’s going inside, like this:

You can get as detailed as you want, including what research goes where.

To break down the body section, for instance, it might look something like this:

Once you’ve determined your reasoning, you can easily arrange and rearrange as needed. After outlining the Intro, Body, and Opposition, all that’s left is the concluding thoughts.

Easy, right?

Final Thoughts

Organizing a longer argument essay takes some time and forethought. Remember to keep the coal with the coal, and the apples with the apples! With a little work on the front end, you’ll be on track for focused and well-organized essay.