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How to Write an MLA Argument Essay


Argument essays require you to take a position on debatable issues. Your position on the issue is your thesis. As Purdue Online Writing Lab notes, argument essays contain research from factual, authoritative sources to support your ideas, not just personal opinions or anecdotes. References to these sources must conform to Modern Language Association style, the primary research paper writing style for English and the humanities.

Choose a Topic

If your instructor does not assign topics for the argument essay, you must create your own. Suitable topics for an argument essay can range from the simple to the complex, like forcing visitors to your apartment complex to buy parking stickers or allowing school officials to carry firearms. Newspaper or magazine articles, opinion pieces and current events provide examples of argumentative issues, such as gun control, legalized abortion or same-sex marriage. Your topic must be arguable and narrow enough to cover in one essay.

Develop a Thesis

The thesis states your position in the last line of the introductory paragraph. Your thesis statement gives the subject of your essay and your stance and suggests the purpose or direction of your argument. For example, “Public schools should require one hour of daily physical activity for all students to combat obesity, improve mental clarity and increase health awareness.”

Gather Research

You must bolster your argument with sufficient factual evidence. Common types of support include statistics, research studies, expert publications and insightful stories or anecdotes directly related to the topic. Your evidence should educate the audience and persuade them to adopt your position.

Address the Opposition

A balanced argument not only presents your position, but also considers the opposition. The refutation section of the essay spans two or three paragraphs to negate the opposition’s rhetoric. Your rebuttal presents compelling data to dispel or weaken their reasoning. This segment of the essay appears just before the conclusion.

General MLA Guidelines

The visual layout of MLA style essays consists of one-inch margins all round, double-spacing and a readable 12-point font, like Times New Roman. No title page is required. The left heading printed on the first page includes your full name, the instructor’s name, the course title and the date. The upper right header displays your last name and the page number. The general format for in-text citations begins with the author’s last name followed by the page number containing the referenced quote. You should use the official "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers," 7th edition, to format your essay.

About the Author

Ashan R. Hampton is an instructor, multimedia specialist, author and commercial radio broadcaster/producer. She has earned certificates in information technology multimedia and instructional design. Hampton also holds an M.A. in English and is completing a doctorate in higher education administration.

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