Argumentative Essay Outline Format and Examples (Updated for 2019)

argumentative essay outline
  • Published Date: May 27, 2018

Writing an argumentative essay outline should be as easy as hurling a retort back at a stubborn parent. It should feel as though you’re so certain of your own point of view, you don’t even hesitate to respond with your counter-argument. That’s the fun of drafting and refining an argumentative essay: you pick a side, defend your side, and consistently refute as to why contradictory viewpoints are wrong. This type of essay asks you to wield the facts with the pizzazz and confidence of a district attorney. The more logical, lucid and well-organized your argumentative essay is, the more you will be able to convince the reader of the validity of your argument

Argumentative Essay Defined and Outlined

Many students make the mistake of thinking that a persuasive essay and an argumentative essay are the same thing. This misunderstanding is so common and largely rooted in the fact that persuasive essays and argumentative essays are similar. Both essays do attempt to convince the reader of something.

A persuasive essay uses facts combined with emotion in an attempt to get the reader to agree with the writer’s specific viewpoint. For instance, a persuasive essay might argue, “child abuse should be eradicated as it is one of the saddest evils of our time. It represents violence towards some of the most vulnerable, innocent and defenseless members of society.”

On the other hand, an argumentative essay selects a particular side of an issue and supports it. The overall goal of an argumentative essay is to use facts and logic to force the reader to recognize the validity of their overall argument. Hence, an argumentative essay might state, “child abuse should be eradicated because it causes well-documented physical and psychological harm to the child along with emotional scarring that can impede their ability to develop into healthy adults.”

Persuasive essays have a more emotionally intense tone to the overall work. On the other hand, an argumentative essay is much calmer, relying on facts and a solid rationale to provoke the reader to acknowledge the soundness of the points made. An argumentative essay is made up of facts, details, and clear explanations to convincingly demonstrate that the author has points that are of much weight.

All of these details and explanations are connected to logic. In every argumentative essay, there is an acknowledgement of opposing claims. However, the strength of an argumentative essay is that it is able to acknowledge those opposing claims, yet show why they aren’t as valid. This acknowledgement helps to strengthen the overall argument.

The outline of an argumentative essay is comparable to other types, it just needs to be particularly well-ordered because it requires so many facts to support its claims.

The outline of an argumentative essay is as follows:

  • Paragraph One (Introduction):
  • Attention grabbing hook statement connected to topic.
  • Relevant background information on topic.
  • Thesis statement
  • Paragraph Two: First Assertion: 2-3 pieces of evidence
  • Paragraph Three: Second Assertion: 2-3 pieces of evidence
  • Paragraph Four: Final Assertion: 2-3 pieces of evidence
  • Paragraph Five: Discuss and refute one or two opposing arguments.
  • Paragraph Six (conclusion):
  • Restate your thesis.
  • Summarize your main points from paragraphs two, three and four.
  • Connect your argument to the “bigger picture” of life/society/the future.

How to Complete One

  1. The first step in completing an argumentative essay with excellence, is picking your side of the issue unapologetically. All that matters is your ability to write a good essay, so pick the side that resonates with you the most, even if it is contrary to popular opinion.
  2. Take a moment to think about why you’ve chosen the side of the argument that you have selected. Use that reason as the base of your first attention-grabbing hook statement to open your first paragraph.

An example that reflects a more “unpopular” argument: one student who was vehemently in favor of the second amendment felt this way because she grew up in the deep South and her grandparents used their rifles as protection from the KKK. An opening statement connected to that issue might begin with, “My grandfather grew up in a small town outside of Biloxi, Mississippi and used his double barrel shotgun to protect his family when the Klan would go on monthly rampages.”

  1. Write three sentences providing context on the issue. Discuss any significant information about it. Alternatively, you can discuss the history of the issue or how it has manifested in current events.
  2. State your thesis: this should clearly indicate, without a doubt, which direction you plan on arguing the issue.
  3. Start your second paragraph with your first assertion as to why your side of the argument has much validity. For instance, with the second amendment focused topic, the first assertion could be that guns protect people from senseless violence.
  4. Add three facts to support your claim in the rest of the second paragraph. These facts need to be from research or irrefutable pieces of evidence.
  5. Start your third paragraph with your second assertion. For an essay in support of the second amendment, one might assert that our founding fathers fought to preserve the citizens’ right to take arms in defense of liberty and to shield against tyranny.
  6. Add three facts to support this claim, adding to the rest of the third paragraph.
  7. Start your fourth paragraph with your third assertion. In the case of gun owners’ rights, one might state that banning something never makes it go away, but just sends such things underground where they cannot be properly regulated.
  8. Add two to three facts to support this claim. For example, in support of the second amendment, one might add that banning alcohol during prohibition didn’t solve any problems, but just created more.
  9. Open your fifth argument by stating that “On the other hand, some might disagree with these claims, arguing that… and…”
  10. Explain why opposing arguments are incorrect using logic and facts.
  11. Restate your thesis using new words at the start of your concluding paragraph. Remind the reader of your main three claims and their importance, without repeating words you’ve already used.

Connect your thesis to a greater issue in society. In this case, one might connect owning firearms with the American independence and liberty, and the refusal of citizens to ever allow themselves to be controlled by a tyrannical government.

Outline Template

To make things even easier for you, we have provided an argumentative essay outline template which you can view or download in both MS Word format or PDF format.

Argumentative Essay Outline Examples

Sample Outline #1: Against the Death Penalty

Paragraph One:

1. Human life is the most precious gift.

2. penalty is against everything a civilized society stands for. While there’s a separation of Church and state, all major religions oppose it. Throughout history, humans have learned repeatedly the dangers of “playing God.”

3. Thesis statement: The death penalty should be abolished in the interest of human rights.

Paragraph Two:

1. The death penalty risks the lives of innocent people.

a. Cite times innocent people have been put to death.

b. Cite cases of human fallibility within the justice system.

c. Cite statistics of racism swaying the hand of justice.

Paragraph Three:

2. The death penalty is ineffective and expensive.

a. Cite the direct costs connected to killing one prisoner on death row.

b. Cite the facts that show capital punishment does not prevent crime.

c. Argue that the death penalty separates us from civilized nations who have abandoned it, but aligns us with more barbaric and ineffective nations that continue it.

Paragraph Four:

3. The death penalty is unjust in every manifestation.

a. The death penalty forces citizens to feel complicit in the state’s killing of prisoners.

b. Many death row prisoners were given incompetent legal defense.

c. People who put others to death often suffer from crippling PTSD.

Paragraph Five:

1. On the other hand, those in support of the death penalty argue that certain crimes are so heinous that the death penalty is the only suitable form of justice.

a. This viewpoint is incorrect because it operates under the assumption of some sort of moral order, and then violates that moral order. Every person knows it’s wrong to kill.

b. This viewpoint fails to realize that capital punishment is considered “cruel and unusual” and hence a violation of the eighth amendment.

Paragraph Six (conclusion):

Capital punishment is bad for society and a human rights violation. It is barbaric to have a form of punishment in place where innocent lives are sentenced to death. The death penalty costs the state millions each year and still does nothing to deter further crimes from happening. The death penalty is the pinnacle of an unjust society.

There is an inherent sacredness in human life, even in those who commit unfathomably heinous acts. Our failure to honor that through the use of capital punishment is the sign of a sick society.

Sample Outline #2: In Favor of the Death Penalty

Paragraph One:

1. Some crimes are so grotesque and nightmarish the only just punishment is capital punishment.

2. Throughout history certain criminals have haunted the minds and hearts of citizens. These are criminals who torture and kill innocent people and children in the most monstrous ways. They are the reasons why names like Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson and Ted Bundy are preserved in history. These men committed crimes so abominable that anything other than being put to death was an aberration of justice.

3. Thesis statement: The death penalty must be reserved for the most heinous crimes in the United States.

Paragraph Two:

1. The death penalty exerts justice over the worst of the most abominable criminals who are unable to be helped by rehab.

a. Cite evidence regarding serial killers and their inability to self-regulate.

b. Cite cases of sociopaths who torture and murder large amounts of children.

c. Cite research that states that sociopaths cannot be rehabilitated.

Paragraph Three:

2.The death penalty does deter crime.

a. Cite evidence that shows states that have active death penalties have less crime.

b. Cite the facts that show capital punishment does minimize murder rates.

c. Show that states that don’t have the death penalty have higher rates of murder and crime in general.

Paragraph Four:

3. The notion that “the punishment should fit the crime” is the cornerstone of the justice system.

a. It is not right that rapists and child murders eat cake and play sports inside of prison.

b. The prison system, while severe, offers prisoners safety and a stress-free life.

c. Those who commit monstrous crimes demand to be put to death by virtue of the nature of justice or we risk riots or severe societal unrest.

Paragraph Five:

1. On the other hand, those who are against the death penalty argue there is an inherent immorality and fallibility in human putting other humans to death.

a. This viewpoint is incorrect because it operates under the assumption that there is no such thing as a “just murder.” Historically, this is why we fight wars. Our nation is organized under the principle that some murders are just and necessary.

b. This viewpoint fails to realize that instances of innocent people being put to death are practically nil. The death penalty needs to be reserved for the most heinous crimes, such as for serial killers who are already at the one percent of all murders and have a long list of victims trailing behind them, making their guilt unmistakable.

Paragraph Six (conclusion):

Capital punishment is often the only option for crimes of a certain level of monstrosity. As we’ve seen, sometimes the death penalty is the only option for crimes so unfathomable, they involve the rape and torture of children, or the desecration of corpses, or the mutilation and decapitation of victims. The facts show that the death penalty does deter crime, particularly murders, and numerous studies support this unequivocally.

Many of the criminals who have been convicted and are suitable for the death penalty are the ones with psychological conditions such as confirmed sociopathy. Such conditions guarantee that rehabilitation will never work as such individuals have no desire to change their behavior. A society that allows blood-thirsty monsters to luxuriate in prisons while the families of victims struggle to function, is one that is so unjust it is warped.


Writing a strong argumentative essay starts with a solid argumentative essay outline. The outline is so crucial, as it ensure that you are able to assert your claims in an organized manner. Each claim needs facts, research, evidence, quotes from experts and other compelling hard data to support it. The outline can ensure that you make your case cohesively, while still taking a necessary paragraph to refute common arguments that contradict your viewpoint.

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