Argument in College Writing
In 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted “The Declaration of Sentiments,” she was thinking about how to convince New York State policy makers to change the laws to allow women to vote. Stanton, seen in the image on the right, was making an argument.
As you may have learned in other sections of the OWL, some consider all writing a form of argument—or at least persuasion. After all, even if you’re writing a letter or an informative essay, you’re implicitly trying to persuade your audience to care about what you’re saying. But, formal argument in academic writing is something specific.
You may have been assigned persuasive essays in the past but didn’t have to use a formal argumentative structure. It’s important to note that some professors differentiate persuasive writing and argumentative writing. Persuasive writing serves as a broader term for any kind of persuasion, and argumentative writing generally serves as a more specific term for a type of writing that follows certain argumentative structures. It focuses on certain types of evidence and relies heavily on logic and specific rhetorical strategies.
This section of the OWL will prepare you for the kinds of argumentative pieces you will be required to write for your college classes, whether these texts are formal essays, presentations, or policy proposals.