What Are the Parts of an Argumentative Essay?

Rebecca Simon, Kimberly Bennett
  • Author
    Rebecca Simon

    Rebecca Simon is an ELA and social studies Master Teacher. She is certified to teach 6-12 grade ELA. She has an M.A. in Professional Writing and Rhetoric from the University of New Orleans and a B.A. in Literary Studies.

  • Instructor
    Kimberly Bennett

    Kimberly has taught Reading/Language Arts to intermediate and middle school students and holds a Master's Degree.

Identify the parts of an argumentative essay. Learn what a claim and counterclaim is in argumentative texts, and study examples of the components of an argument. Updated: 12/08/2021

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Parts of an Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay is an essay in which the writer tries to persuade a particular audience that their claim or point of view is correct. An effective argumentative essay utilizes the following four components of an argument:

  • claims
  • counterclaims
  • reasoning
  • evidence

The claim is the author's central argument that they are trying to persuade the audience to believe. Counterclaims are arguments of the opposing side which the author will address. Reasoning is the author's logic used to support and prove their claims. Evidence is sourced facts, statistics, data, or quoted experts the author uses to provide factual support for their claims and reasoning.

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  • 0:03 Parts of an Arguement
  • 0:25 Claims
  • 1:17 Counterclaims
  • 2:10 Reasons
  • 3:08 Evidence
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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What is the Function of a Claim in an Argument?

Protagoras (pictured right) engaging in a public debate. Protagoras was a Greek philosopher who is widely considered the father of argument and debate

A drawing of the philosopher Protagoras engaged in a public debate

A claim is an argument in statement form. The central or overall claim of an argumentative essay is also known as the thesis. After providing the thesis in the introduction, the author then spends the entire essay working to prove that claim through sub-claims (the central claim broken down into smaller chunks), reasoning, and evidence.

There are four types of argumentative claims: claims of fact, claims of value, claims of policy, and claims of cause and effect. Under each type of claim is an example of that claim on the topic of capital punishment. Note that the only factual claim on the topic is the claim of fact. The three other claims are up for debate and need to be supported by a lot more reasoning and evidence in order to persuade an audience to believe the argument.

Claims of Fact

A claim of fact (or a factual claim) is a claim arguing that something is or is not true. Claims of fact make assertions that can be proven or disproven with evidence.

  • Less than 20 inmates were executed in the United States in 2020.

Claims of Value

A claim of value makes a judgement on something's worth, morality, or merit.

  • The death penalty is unethical.

Claims of Policy

A claim of policy is an argument in support of, in opposition or, or for the alteration of an existing policy, law, or mandate.

  • The United States should ban capital punishment.

Claims of Cause and Effect

A claim of cause and effect is a claim that one thing influences or affects another.

  • The existence of capital punishment deters violent crimes,

What is a Counterclaim in Writing?

The first televised presidential debate took place between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. Debate participants will often prepare counterclaims in order to have a rebuttal ready for their opponent

First Presidential Debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, 1960

A counterclaim is the argument opposing the author's claim. An effective argumentative essay will bring up counterclaims for two reasons:

  1. Bringing up counterclaims provides the author with a sense of credibility, thereby utilizing the rhetorical appeal of ethos. Rhetoric, being the art of persuasion, is a key component of any argumentative essay. Counterclaims provide credibility because it shows that not only is the author well-researched in the subject as they have proved to have researched all sides of it, but it shows that the author is not trying to hide possible information from the audience. They are being upfront with the audience about all sides of the issue, and are therefore more credible or believable.
  2. Bringing up counterclaims allows the author to provide a rebuttal. A rebuttal is an argument or evidence used to disprove an argument. By bringing up a counterclaim, the author is then able to disprove the counterclaim within their own argument.

An effective counterclaim will both disagree with and disprove a claim.

If the claim is that the United States should ban capital punishment, an effective counterclaim would be that the United States should not ban capital punishment because capital punishment provides a sense of closure for the families of the victims of violent crimes. This is an effective counterclaim because it disagrees with the claim (stating that it should not be banned) and provides reasoning that disproves it (that it provides closure).

Components of an Argument: Reasons and Evidence

Two key components of an argumentative essay are the reasons and evidence.

Reasons

The reasons of an argument are the reasoning or logical proof provided to prove the argument. The reasons can also be thought of as the "why" behind a claim. Taking the policy claim from earlier, if an author is arguing that the United States should ban capital punishment, their reasons would be the reasons why they believe this is the case. For example, one popular reason in support of the claim about banning capital punishment is that capital punishment costs taxpayers more than life in prison. The reason "capital punishment costs taxpayers more than life in prison" answers "why" capital punishment should be banned. Reasons for a claim can also be written as a "because" statement with the claim: the United States should ban capital punishment because capital punishment costs taxpayers more than life in prison. Good reasoning for a claim is on topic, logically sound, factual, and can be supported by evidence.

Evidence

Evidence provides factual proof for the reasons in an argument and can consist of facts, data, statistics, published study results, and quoted experts. In order for evidence to be reliable, it must come from a credible source that is current, nonbiased, provides researched sources, and (preferably) peer-reviewed. When providing evidence to support reasoning, always make sure that the evidence comes from a credible source and that it is directly relevant to the reasoning.

Working with the above claim and reasoning (the United States should ban capital punishment because capital punishment costs taxpayers more than life in prison), below is an example of strong evidence and weak evidence to support the claim and reason.

Strong Evidence

"Florida has estimated that the true cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or approximately six times what it would cost to keep that person in prison for all of his or her natural life" (Spangenberg and Walsh 15).

  • This above quote is an example of strong evidence because it directly relates to the claim and reasoning, providing factual evidence of the actual cost of capital punishment versus life in prison. Additionally, it comes from a credible source: an academic paper from the Loyola Law Review.

Weak Evidence

"In addition to wasting lives, the death penalty also wastes money. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's much more costly to execute a person than to imprison them for life" (Andre and Velasquez).

  • While this quote is from a credible source (Markkula Center for Applied Ethics), it merely restates the claim and reasoning, rather than providing actual evidence to support it.

"The demographics of the death row population show a racial bias as well. 42% of the inmates are black, although African-Americans only account for 12.5% of the U.S. population" (Walter).

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 4 parts of an argumentative essay?

The 4 parts of an argumentative essay are the claim, counterclaim, reasoning, and evidence. The claim is the author's argument that they are attempting to prove in the essay. The counterclaim is the opposite argument which the author addresses in order provide a rebuttal. The reasoning is the logic used to prove a claim. The evidence is the facts, data, and quoted experts used to provide support for the reasoning.

What is the structure of argumentative essay?

There are three parts of the structure of an argumentative essay: introduction, body, and conclusion. For a standard 5-paragraph essay, the introduction is one paragraph and contains the thesis statement, or overall claim for the essay. The body of the essay is three paragraphs and contains the author's reasoning, evidence, and counterclaims. The conclusion of the essay is one paragraph and contains an overarching summary of the argument as well as any implications this argument may have moving forward.

What is the function of a claim?

The function of a claim is to provide the author's argument. The overall claim for an essay is also known as the thesis and can be found in the introduction of the essay. Sometimes, an author breaks their overall claim, or thesis, into smaller claims called sub-claims.

What is an example of a counterclaim?

A counterclaim is an argument that argues in opposition to the author's claim. An effective counterclaim works to disagree with and disprove the author's claim. If the author's claim is that organ selling should be legalized, an example of an effective counterclaim would be that organ selling should not be legalized because it can drive up the cost of organ transplants, meaning that only the rich could afford to receive a transplant.

This counterclaim both disagrees with the claim and disproves it with on-topic reasoning.

What is the main purpose of a counterclaim?

The main purpose of a counterclaim is to address the opposite side of the argument and provide a rebuttal. A rebuttal is when the author disproves an argument. So, not only does the author work on proving their claim, but they work on disproving the counterclaim or opposition's argument.

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