How to Write an Argumentative Paper for AP English

Knowing how to argue effectively is a valuable skill, even when you are not at a family reunion or about to receive a speeding ticket. If you can convert literary evidence into a clear, convincing argument, you will be on your way to mastering your advanced placement English course. Reading meticulously, planning carefully, and writing with focus combine to help you create a successful argumentative paper for AP English. Make sure you articulate a clear position in your paper and that you stick to it from beginning to end.


Look for keywords in the prompt, and use them to determine the specific task you are being asked to perform. Keywords are often action words such as “support,” “refute” or “qualify” that signal what kind of critical argument the prompt is asking for.

Determine how the central arguments of the source text connect to the task you are required to do.

Find evidence in the source text that demonstrates its central arguments. Make sure you are focusing on what the text is arguing, rather than how the text is arguing. The more evidence the better.

Develop a unique argument that fulfills the prompt’s task. This argument must question and evaluate, rather than summarize, the source text’s central arguments.

Create a thesis sentence that embodies your argument. This sentence must be simple to understand, yet represent the culmination of your ideas.

Map your paper’s argument on scrap paper. Creating an outline or flow chart of your ideas and the evidence you found to back them up helps you organize your thoughts and ensure that you have sufficient evidence.


Create an introduction that explains why the topic is important, states your thesis, and outlines your argument. The introduction serves to spark readers’ interest in your paper and shows them what to expect from your argument.

Connect the evidence you have found in your source text to the argument you make in your body paragraphs. Here your main task is to clearly explain your argument and show how your evidence backs it. You must explain why you interpret the evidence the way you do.

Write a conclusion that builds from your thesis. Make sure your conclusion offers a new interpretation of your thesis, rather than just summarizing your argument.

  • It is important that you challenge the arguments of your source text directly, rather than taking a vague "everyone is entitled to an opinion" stance.
Items you will need
Paper prompt
Source text(s)
About the Author

Lauren Mobertz has been writing professionally since 2010. While interning at Oakland Planning and Development Corporation in Pittsburgh she created many pieces, including web content, a public safety manual and a housing resource guide. She also revamped content for Retail Financial Solutions’ website, debuting in 2011. Mobertz is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing at Carnegie Mellon University.

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