Friday, September 2, 2016

How to Organize or Outline an Argumentative Speech or Essay

Creating order helps your reader follow your thoughts.

When writing an argumentative speech or essay, a writer should choose a logical order for the paragraphs and the supporting details within those paragraphs.  Two common ways to arrange the information in argumentative or persuasive speeches and essays are "problem-solution" and "refutation," which is sometimes called "point and counter-point."  The emphasis in this type of speech or paper is for the writer to support his or her reasons in support of the thesis claim or position.

Organizing an Argumentative or Persuasive Speech or Essay


In a problem-solution type speech or paper, the writer argues there is a problem, and the writer follows an explanation of that problem with an explanation of the solution the writer believes is the best solution for that problem. Included within the explanation of the solution are the writer's logical reasons why that solution is better than other solutions.  Those reasons are supported by evidence.  A simplistic outline for this type of paper may look like the following:

  • Introduction with thesis or enthymeme
  • Presentation of the problem
  • Explanation of the currently proposed solutions to the problem
  • Statement of the best solution
  • Reasons and evidence in support of proposed solution 
  • Conclusion

Depending on the scope of the topic (how complicated it may be), each of these main sections of the paper may be one paragraph long, or each section may be several paragraphs long.

Refutation or Point & Counter-Point

Another type of argumentative organizational strategy is by refutation.  In this type of paper the writer investigates multiple perspectives related to an issue (a complicated problem that has no one right answer).  After carefully researching each perspective, the writer then chooses to support one perspective and explains his or her reasons for that decision. The writer briefly presents an opposing view, then emphasizes his or her own view while refuting the opposing view.  In other words, the writer presents a counter-point.  The goal is to present both (or multiple) perspectives while clearly indicating a position that supports one of those perspectives over any other.  Again, this type of paper must include an explanation of the issue, a review of the evidence available, the writer's reasons in support of one perspective, and evidence to support the writer's reasons.

  • Introduction with thesis or enthymeme
  • Explanation of the issue
  • Reasons in support of one perspective over others
  • Evidence in support of each reason
  • Conclusion

Five Additional Hints and Tips for Organizing Argumentative or Persuasive Speeches and Essays

  1. Keep in mind the difference between persuasion and argumentation.  Be sure you are meeting the given assignment's requirements, which may be related to that difference.  
  2. Choose an issue or problem that is of interest to you because you must spend time researching multiple perspectives related to that issue or problem.  You don't want to lose interest before you even begin writing your paper!
  3. Include expert evidence when writing about a problem or issue that is contentious: Expert evidence is more likely than other types of evidence to convince a skeptical audience or readers who hold opposing views.
  4. No matter which organizational structure you choose, you must include all the parts of an argument in your speech or paper: issue, reasons, and evidence.
  5. Use transitional words to indicate your organizational strategy to your audience. It will help them follow your train of thought.


The most important thing to remember is to choose an organizational pattern for your speech or essay and stick to it while clearly articulating and supporting your own claim or position.  Remember, an essay is the writer's take on a nonfiction topic or idea.  When properly researched and supported with evidence, your reasons for your claim or position should take center stage in this type of speech or essay.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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