Argument Paper Criteria Explanation
This explanation document is intended to go hand-in-hand with the “Argument Paper Criteria
Sheet” on page 117 of your Composition Manual. Through this document, I hope to clarify our
essay criteria and help you do your best on the argument paper.
a well-defined issue
You should explain why your issue is both current and controversial. You should also
give the reader any background information necessary to understand the issue. For
example, if you plan to argue that the new healthcare laws should be revoked, you would
first explain what those healthcare laws are for readers who may not know about them.
This would give sufficient background information to the reader. You would also explain
that these laws were recently enacted (thus showing how the issue is current) and many
people disagree with them (showing the issue is controversial). Most writers include all
of this information in their introductions, between the attention grabber and the thesis
statement. Wherever you include this information, do it early in the essay so that readers
are not lost.
a clearly stated and arguable thesis that declares your position
Your readers should be able to pick out easily your thesis statement. The thesis statement
is usually most effective when placed at the end of the introduction. It is also usually
most effective to state your thesis statement in one sentence, which includes your issue,
position on that issue, and your forecasted main points. For your thesis statement to be
arguable, you must make an assertion about your issue, and your issue must be one that
can be argued by reasonable people (no clear correct answer). For example, “Child
abuse is wrong” is not an arguable thesis, because most reasonable people would agree
sound reasoning based on logic and supported by credible evidence from appropriate sources
An argument paper without sound reasoning and credible evidence is just a rant. You
should present your argument carefully, logically, and completely. You should also seek
evidence from reputable and believable sources to support your main points. Typically,
.com and .net sources aren’t as credible as other sources. Wikipedia is never an
appropriate source for papers you write in this class. Sources from .edu, .gov, .org, and
electronic databases are usually credible. Books and newspapers are usually credible as
effective and clear organization
Your paper should include a thesis statement, topic sentences, introduction, conclusion,
and body paragraphs. Your body paragraphs should be organized logically.
Transitional phrases also help to lead the reader from one point to the next.
evidence that you have anticipated opposing viewpoints and have attempted to refute them
You should address and deal with more than one opposing viewpoints (at least two).
Notice that the criteria states “refute.” In Composition I at ESU, you were required to
address and either refute or concede to an opposing viewpoint. This time, you cannot
concede; you must refute.
appropriate tone for your audience
For this paper, you’ll use formal academic tone. This means that you should avoid slang,
contractions, abbreviations, first person pronouns (i.e. I, me, my, our), and second
person pronouns (i.e. you, your). For more about tone, see the Course Information link
> Resources folder > “Tone Sheet.”
information from at least four credible, properly documented sources
The “credible” part of this criteria is explained above. When documenting your sources,
you should use MLA style. Each source you use (whether you quote, paraphrase, or
summarize) in your paper should be introduced with some sort of tag (an attributive tag
the first time you use a particular source and a shortened version of the tag for
subsequent times), followed by an in-text citation (if the relevant information isn’t
already in the tag), and cited fully on a Works Cited page.
five to seven pages, typed, double-spaced, with one inch margins
For each full page less than the required minimum page limit, I will take 10% off your
essay grade. For each half page, I’ll take off 5%, and so forth. In addition to losing
points for this criteria, a short essay will also probably not fulfill the other criteria as
documented and formatted according to MLA style
Documentation is discussed above. In addition to documenting your sources in MLA
style, you should also format the rest of your paper in MLA. See the Course Information
link > Resources folder for a couple of materials explaining MLA. In particular, look at
the example essay posted there for how your document should appear.
edited for spelling, mechanical, grammatical, and typing errors
I don’t expect your essay to be completely error-free. You can still earn an A and have a
few minor errors. Papers that have several minor errors, have serious errors, or are
difficult to read because of those errors will lose points. However, I will never take off
more than 10% for errors in spelling, mechanics, grammar, or typing.
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