How to Write an MLA Argument Essay

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While it may seem that an argumentative essay is not different than other types of papers, arguments have their own criteria. Besides a strong connection between its audience and purpose, argument papers must have a thesis that presents “an opinion, a provisional judgment, that is not widely shared and that can be explained with reasons and evidence,” states Rebecca Howard and Amy Taggart, authors of “Research Matters.” Although it may seem confusing to make a stand while considering other viewpoints, following a few standard steps can ensure a successful Modern Language Association argument essay.

1 Essay Organization

2 Provide general background information in the introduction

Provide general background information in the introduction. Build interest in your topic by including an anecdote, a surprising fact, a telling statistic or even a fictional character who is dealing with the issue being discussed. Place the thesis statement in the very last sentence.

3 State your stance

State your stance explicitly in the thesis. Understand that topics must be arguable; there must be multiple points of view on the issue. “I love cats” is not arguable; however, “While many people think dogs are man’s best friends, cats make far better pets” is.

4 Organize the essay into three or four body paragraphs

Organize the essay into three or four body paragraphs. Begin each with a topic sentence to inform readers what the paragraph will discuss. Include in each topic sentence the main idea of the thesis, the paragraph topic, and a transition.

5 Conclude

Conclude by restating your main topics and the thesis. Predict what may happen in the future as a result of the issues raised in your paper. Offer solutions for change. Call for others to join you in your beliefs or to take action.

6 Place a works

Place a works cited page as the last page. Do not number entries. Use the authors’ surnames and alphabetize entries. If a source does not have an author, begin with the article title. Check to ensure that each citation has a corresponding entry on the works cited page.

7 Essay Development

8 Support paragraph points with specific evidence

Support paragraph points with specific evidence. Choose two or three pieces of information that back up your assertions and use these points to develop paragraphs. Offer evidence, including quotations, paraphrases and summaries from sources, appeals and examples. Explain why the evidence is important.

9 Research

Research how others disagree with your points. Ask friends to explain how their views differ from yours, for these statements can be used as counterarguments. Place counterarguments where they are most effective, either in a single paragraph right before the conclusion or integrated within body paragraphs.

10 Include rebuttals

Include rebuttals, which explain how others' views fall short. Offer concessions if you agree with some of the opposition’s points. Use voice markers when you engage with others’ ideas, for example: "I disagree strongly with Dr. Gray’s assertion that dogs are easier to train than cats."

11 Cite each source quoted

Cite each source quoted, paraphrased or summarized. If the source of the borrowed material is named, place the page number inside the parentheses at the end of the sentence: (27). If no attribution is used, place inside the parentheses the author’s surname and page number, as in this example: (Smith 27).

  • Failure to properly cite and document sources is plagiarism. When in doubt, cite.
  • 1 Research Matters; Rebecca Howard and Amy Taggart; 2011
  • 2 The Hodges Harbrace Handbook; Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray; 2010

Marie Brown is a Nashville-based writer who has been writing professionally since 2004. She began writing instructional articles online in 2009, writing articles about writing, business, home organizing and childcare issues. Brown holds a master’s degree in English, a minor in writing and has an associate degree in early childhood education.