The argument essay
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The Argument Essay. The Six-Part Oration: An alternative to the Five Paragraph Theme. From Jolliffe and Roskelly Writing America: Language and Comp in Context Cicero taught his students to create speeches by following a six-part model: Exordium Narration Partition Confirmation

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The Argument Essay

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The argument essay

The Argument Essay

The six part oration an alternative to the five paragraph theme

The Six-Part Oration:An alternative to the Five Paragraph Theme

  • From Jolliffe and Roskelly Writing America: Language and Comp in Context

  • Cicero taught his students to create speeches by following a six-part model:

  • Exordium

  • Narration

  • Partition

  • Confirmation

  • Refutation

  • Peroration

Six part oration cont

Six-Part Oration Cont

  • In the exordium, literally the web that draws the listeners into the speech, the speaker would introduce the subject at hand and include material that would make the audience both attentive and receptive to the argument.

  • The narration would offer background material on the case at hand

  • The partition would divide the case and make clear which part or parts the speaker was going to address, which parts the speaker would not take up, and what order would be followed in the development

The argument essay


  • The confirmation would offer points to substantiate the argument and provide reasons, details, illustrations, and examples in support of these points.

  • The refutation would consider possible objections to the argument or its supporting points and try to counter those objections

  • The peroration would draw together the entire argument and include material designed to compel the audience to think or act in a way consonant with the central argument

Notice how these six moves might structure an argument essay

Notice how these six moves might structure an argument essay:

(But before we get to that, recognize that “MOVE” does not equal “paragraph”– some may take more than one paragraph to accomplish, some less)

Translating to ap argument essay

Translating to AP Argument Essay

  • You contextualize the issue at hand for your readers and let them know why your topic is an important one for them to consider (exordium).

  • You provide some background information on your topic. Briefly, you sketch out what the “going wisdom” or “word on the street” about your topic is– what do people generally talk about when your topic comes up. “Most people contend ____.” (narration)

The argument essay


  • You divide your topic into smaller chunks, and then commit to developing one of them– your thesis– mapping out for your reader how you intend to do so. “I could argue blank, or blank, or blank. The most important point, however, is blank.” (partition)

  • You generate points to support your thesis, and you make these points substantial by providing reasons, details, examples, illustrations (confirmation)

The argument essay


  • You anticipate your readers’ objections and address them, again with reasons, details, examples, and illustrations. (refutation)

  • You conclude by doing two things: a. by addressing the “so what” question– so what are the implications of your thesis for further discussions of the topic? So how are the readers better off for having read your essay? B. by sounding like a conclusion– by having the rhythm of your conclusion sound like the end of a symphony performance, when the orchestra goes “dum-dum-da-dum.” (peroration)

Argument question

Argument Question:

  • Recognize the complexity of the question

    • That is ½ of the purpose of the argument

    • That is a path to a higher score- qualify!!!

  • Qualifying not only addresses the other side of the argument (which is a very sophisticated and mature way to improve your ethos), but it also even concedes points to the side with which you disagree. If you qualify, make sure you still favor a side. Don’t come across as wishy-washy.

  • Do not use hypothetical evidence

    • It must be real (use your AP History knowledge, your knowledge from reading & being an informed citizen)

Claim data unspoken because

Claim, Data, Unspoken Because

  • Claim- take-home idea– your central claim/proposition/thesis

  • Data- material (specific) that you will cite in support of your thesis

  • Unspoken “because”- underlying assumptions, opposing viewpoints, etc.

  • A good argument brings the unspoken to addressed.

For struggling writers thesis and topic sentences

For struggling Writers-Thesis and Topic Sentences

  • - Everything you write should relate back to your thesis, which should, in turn, relate back to the prompt.

  • - Use topic sentences and transitions for each paragraph.

  • - Have your thesis and topic sentences written out in your outline before you begin to write. This will help keep your essay tight and structured. Don’t spend too much time on your outline. 10 mins. MAX

Thesis cont d

Thesis Cont’d

  • Here’s a nice formula for your thesis statement:

  • Answer the prompt directly because reason, reason, and reason.

  • Reasons– can be facts or opinion supported by evidence

  • At this point, be quick about just introducing your reasons here in a few words. The body paragraphs are for expounding.



  • For each reason that you have mentioned (each of which should be at least its own paragraph, if not more), you need evidence to support why you feel the way you do. Evidence for the AP exam can come from current events/news, politics, social observation, literature (if it’s famous and actually relevant to the topic), history, and personal experience.

  • Personal experience is limited in its ability to convince your target audience that you are correct, but it does show the AP graders that you have a reason (albeit personal) to feel the way you do outside of emotion or blind tradition. Consider beginning your essay with a personal anecdote (Gladwell style) instead of using it for support.



  • For each paragraph, make sure you have a warrant. A warrant is a sentence or a few that describe how your evidence ties into that paragraph, or what it has to do with your point/overall argument. This could be seen as metacommentary that helps the reader stay with you and understand what point you are trying to make.



  • If you just figure out your answer to the prompt, your reasons, and the evidence you want to use by filling out the thesis formula I just gave you, this would serve to help organize your paper, make sure you have addressed what you should have addressed, and give you a much better product. Warrants can be written out as you are actually writing your essay.

Argument essay cont

Argument Essay Cont.

Also, remember every grader is human. Grading gets tedious and when you come across boring, safe, predictable arguments, readers aren’t impressed. If you can be creative in your approach, rationale, evidence, or thesis statement, you will score higher. If you can pull it off, that is. You want to make sure you still use appropriate evidence and stay on topic, directly answering the prompt. Special insight into the plight of humanity requires critical thinking. Evidence of critical thinking in any essay is always a plus. Also, wit is good. Corniness or humor that falls flat isn’t. Be certain when writing a humorous essay or making a humorous point that someone else besides you thinks it’s funny.

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