English Composition I
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Writing an argumentative/persuasive paper is like any other writing assignment: first you must determine what is expected of you, and then you should do your best job in fulfilling that assignment. The key to this assignment is that it is to be a Argumentative/persuasive paper, not just a simple expository report. You are not being asked to look up some facts and then repeat them back to your reader(s). Instead, you are to research a subject, and once you've learned something new about that subject, tell your readers about what you've learned and what your opinion or view is of that subject now.
In effect, you will be taking your audience along the same path of discovery that you yourself followed in doing your research. Thus, you must come to a decision or conclusion about your subject before you start writing your argumentative/persuasive paper. That's the main problem with argumentative/persuasive papers: all the hard work and thinking is done before you start writing.
In this argumentative/persuasive paper, you should emphasize your opinion and views, not those of your sources. Research should always lead to something new or previously unknown. The only thing new you are going to find out about at this level of research is your own view, thus you need to make that view your thesis. The experts and authorities will be used to support your ideas and views, not the other way around. If the experts are used to support your thesis, they add weight to your argument(s) because of their reputations and authority. Your opinion adds little to anything to their arguments. It means little if you agree with them, but it means a lot if they agree with you and back up your view.
The purpose of this paper is NOT to persuade the reader to your side. One unavoidable fact of life is that there will always be people who disagree with your position on any given topic. If you take the attitude that only your position is valid and anyone who doesn't understand after reading your definitive paper is an idiot, you are risking the alienation of your readers. A better approach to take is that of proving the validity of your belief. You don't deny that other opinions are possible, or even valid in their own way, you just show why you have chosen the view you hold. If you can back this decision up with good examples and a solid argument, you run a lesser risk of alienating your audience. They might still disagree, but they can judge your thesis as an argument or opinion and not as the absolute positive truth.
This focus on your own view does not mean that you simply ignore all sides of an issue except your own, however. It is very important to show that you have looked at all sides of an issue in a fair manner and simply chosen the view that made the most sense to you. Part of leading the reader down your path of discovery is also showing them why other views didn't work for you. Discuss these other views and show why you disagree or disapprove of them. Don't just dismiss them by saying they are obviously stupid or wrong. Remember, somebody believed these other views enough to write about and publish them. Compare and contrast these different views, showing where they do and don't stack up compared to your overall view. You must then prove your case by giving the reader proper and convincing evidence that your view does indeed make more sense than the other views. If only certain parts of certain theories make sense, then form your own theory out of the pieces that make the most sense.
This is just a basic primer on the topic of argumentative/persuasive papers, but it should let you know what your instructor is expecting from your paper and yourself. These guidelines will lead you to a new style of writing a paper that will hopefully make your papers more interesting to yourself and your audience. NOTHING will ever make them less work.