Chapter 35: Essay Tests & Other Argument
What are some other types of argument papers?
Argument is one of the most important thinking
skills you can develop in college, both for college courses and for your future
profession. The "Dialogic/Dialectic" and "Thesis Paper" chapters given
previously are important beginning ways of learning to write arguments in
college. The additional types of argument papers mentioned in this
one-page chapter are used in a wide variety of college courses and/or
professional situations. The chapter has three main parts. Click on
the part you want or scroll down:
A. ESSAY-ANSWER TESTS: a
typical method for taking essay tests requiring an argumentative essay answer
B. DIALOGIC ARGUMENT PAPERS:
C. THESIS ARGUMENT PAPERS:
One specialized form of a thesis essay is the written essay-answer test in which
you must argue one or more points. Here is a method you can develop for
taking an approximate one-hour written essay test in response to one question.
You also can adapt this method to taking essay tests that have several questions
per hour to answer. Here are five steps and a sample test.
Five Steps to Taking an Essay Test
DON'T START WRITING! Set up a time
1/5 - 1/10 (10-20%) of your allowed time for brainstorming,
1/5 - 1/10 (10-20%) of your allowed time for revising/editing, and the remainder of
your time for writing just one draft!
BRAINSTORM FIRST: Write down ideas all
over the paper or list things or outline. Then group them into a few groups
by lines, circles, or numbers.
WRITE: Write neatly and carefully--you
only have time for one draft. Start with your body (1-4 sections of 1
paragraph each or more, depending on your time). Then do a strong conclusion
with a summary sentence. Do the introduction with a summary sentence last,
unless you know exactly what you intend to say when you start writing.
GIVE LOTS OF DETAILS: As you write, cover
as many items as you can. In addition, don't worry too much about depth on
any one item. Go for quantity more than quality, breadth (width) of
knowledge more than depth or totality of any one thing.
time for dotting your i's, crossing your t's, adding in "not's" you may have
left out, and adding a few more detail examples between the lines.
Here is a practice essay-answer final test for this
course. This is a realistic practice test. While answering the questions in this
test, be sure to do the following:
Use the information above about taking written finals.
USE THE TIME
This test is open book. You may gather and use
any notes and essays
youve written for this course.
Use a thesis-essay format for answering the
question below: develop a central argument, three supporting reasons why it is
true, and supporting details to prove each reason.
As in many first-draft forms of writing,
you may want to leave half a page of blank space at the beginning and write
your introduction last so that you know more exactly what to say in
The test is immediately below:
Example of a Test Question for You to Take Now
Here is the question:
Consider the requirements for this
course and the work--both in quality and quantity--you did for the
course. Then write a response to this question: "What grade do you deserve for the
part of this course that has to do with improvement, rewriting quantity and
quality, and participation?"
Be sure to use the time schedule discussed above.
Assume that the total time you have is sixty minutes, and allow plenty of time
for planning at the beginning and some time for editing at the end. Work for the entire time
looks bad to instructors to leave a written final early. Be sure to use a thesis structure
and lots of detailed examples, stories, quotes (as well as you can remember them),
numbers, names, etc.
A Real Test Essay Question and Answer
Here is a real test-essay question and essay answer.
The answer is provided here with permission from the author. The essay is
somewhat disturbing, but the dynamics--and the problem--are very real to the
author, so her argument is particularly interesting..
How many children should there be in a household? Form a specific
argument. Next, plan how to argue your point of view using a thesis
structure and personal-experience details that help prove your points.
Then write your essay. Plan your time, as well: you will have two hours to plan,
write, and edit
“My Other Half”
by Val Boden, Basic English, Inver Hills College
I am a twin. Some people say to me, “Tell me, don’t you just absolutely
love having a twin brother?” Others ask, “Are you two identical?” Some
even say, “Do you think alike?” All of these would all be wonderful
questions if it were not for the fact that I have been hearing them for the
last twenty-two years, and the answer to all three is "no." Having a
twin brother has definitely had its good times and bad. However, the
strongest memories are those that actually left scars. The conflict,
favoritism, and disgusting living habits I encountered were enough to make
even Marsha Brady on The Brady Bunch run away from home. In the
mind of this young person, it is better for parents not to have more than
one child in a household.
First, it is better not to have a brother or sister because something always
seems to turn up missing. I often wonder if my brother thinks that because
my possessions are located in my parent’s house, they belong to him. Most
people would not expect their very own brother to have “sticky fingers,” not
to mention the nerve to lie when being caught. For example, there was one
time when we were no more than 15 years old. I myself had been working
part-time, while he was unemployed. My hard earned $50.00 magically
disappeared from a small closet in my bedroom.
Was it a ghost? Most certainly not: it was my trustworthy twin. By the
time I confronted him, I was so full of hatred and rage, I could barely
talk. When I asked about my money, he responded sarcastically, “ Duh, the
same place you left it, idiot.” My only option to this was to yell, “Mom
and Dad, help! Dave stole my money!” Of course, arguing between Dave and me
was so common, it took at least five minutes before our parents finally came
to see what all the commotion was, and by this time Dave and I were already
thrashing each other. Our parents temporarily resolved our issues once
again, this time by paying me back on behalf of Dave, and allowing him three
whole months to pay them back. I think they are still waiting for their
Second, it is better not to have a brother or sister because for some reason
the person never seems to know how to share. Sharing has always been
something the majority of us are taught at a young age. Perhaps my brother
missed that lesson, too.
For example, we were barely seven years old when our parents purchased a
television set for us to share. At the time, my brother and I already had
to share a bedroom. He cried until he was able to watch what he wanted,
when he wanted. The first time I tried to take a stand, I politely asked,
“Can we please watch something else today?” I am sick of you always
Dave’s response was, “No way, GI Joe and Transformers are
about to begin; go downstairs and play with mom or something.”
I asked a second time, saying, “Please Dave stop being such a jerk.”
He said, “Screw you,” then threw a pillow at my innocent face. At this
point, I was in tears and yelled, “I just want to watch Little Ponies!”
No one responded to my cries or complaints, only to Dave’s. When the time
came for us to have our own bedrooms, he demanded to take the television set
with him. Our parents were so sick of the fighting, they caved in to his
demands. I once again sacrificed my happiness and avoided being beaten up by
allowing my brother to get his way.
Disgusting in Cleanliness
Third, it is better not to have a sister or brother because the person just
increases your chances of being blamed for something you did not even do.
Responsibility and cleanliness are normally traits people develop at an
acceptable age, but unfortunately, my brother lacked these qualities. For
example, last year our parents went to Las Vegas for a week, leaving my
brother and me behind in a large house full of pets and problems.
After working my ten-hour workday, I returned home to a dark, cold, and
messy house. My brother failed to let the dog outside to go to the
bathroom, dishes were piled up in the dirty sink, and beer bottles covered
the counters. I demanded to know what happened. He simply replied, “Why
worry?” We still have six more days until it needs to be clean.” I packed
my bags, took one last look around the disaster site I once called home, and
exited shouting, “Farewell, piglet!”
How can any person, especially someone related to me, live like this and
think nothing is a little odd or even wrong with it? Why should I have to
suffer because my parents hit the jackpot and ended up with twins? My life
had been severely affected and disturbed in countless negative ways due to
my sibling. I would never replace my twin brother or the unique bond we
have. I would, however, advise against anyone having more than one
child per household.
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Dialogic Writing and Analysis
Dialogic writing is very similar to another type of writing assignment popular
in college: analysis. However, the two also have important differences.
The word analysis means many things, depending on who uses it. At
its simplest, the word analyze means "to take apart" or
"to show the parts of." Thus, for example, a literary
analysis simply shows the parts of a literary work by taking it apart using the
literary elements: characters, setting, background, plot, symbols, etc. A
psychological analysis of a person, reading, or event simply shows the parts of
the subject according to a psychological system. And a business analysis
shows the parts of a business or a business transaction according to one or
another theory of business practice or economics.
However, in some assignments and some disciplines, you are expected to analyze
from several points of view, and these points of view may be
argumentative. For example, in a sociology course, you might be asked to
analyze a culture or a group of people using two or more sociological theories;
in economics, you might be asked to analyze our current economic situation using
two or three economic theories; and in philosophy, you might be asked to analyze
an idea using two or three philosophers' beliefs. In situations like
this--especially when they are placed beside each other--theories function as
arguments. While showing their similarities, you also should be sure to
highlight the differences between the theories as you use each one to examine or
analyze something. There may not be two completely opposing theories, nor,
necessarily, a compromise or higher resolution. However, this type of
analysis paper is very similar to a dialogic paper because in each, you must use
three differing arguments.
The primary difference is that in a dialogic paper, you are trying to prove the
truth of--give the reasons and supporting details for--each of your arguments,
whereas in an analysis, you simply are applying each theory in turn to the
assigned subject. For this reason, it is wise to keep the two separate in
your mind, however much they may be alike: a dialogic paper tries to prove all
three arguments; analysis using different theories applies those theories to
For more information on analysis papers, go to the chapter called "Writing
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Dialogic Writing in a Professional
In business and professional writing, a paper similar to a dialogic argument is
a recommendation report. A recommendation report is a sophisticated form
of a business proposal. On the one hand, a simple business proposal argues for
just one solution to a
problem or need. However, a recommendation report offers several possible
solutions to the problem, and then recommends one of them (or a combination of
them). Thus at some point in a recommendation report, the author must
present several different and even sometimes opposing solutions, arguing for
each one fairly, logically, and succinctly. Furthermore, the author must
then choose one and argue why it is the best, or fashion a compromise among two
or more of the solutions and argue for that compromise. Because of this
dialogical process, one can call recommendation reports the dialogic arguments
of the professional world.
For more information on recommendation reports, go the chapter called "Writing
a Recommendation Report."
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A case study is a type of analytical argument used in psychology
and the social sciences. It has a point to make--an opinion to verify--and
it proves its point by showing that a particular client or patient's case was
successful or unsuccessful. In this way, a case study resembles a
scientific report (see "IMRaD" below) in identifying a problem or need, testing
it factually, examining the results, and then coming to an argumentative
conclusion. By the end, if the case study (or IMRaD science report) is
done very well, then the final argumentative conclusion is no longer an argument
(as it was when the research was started), but instead a new established fact.
The parts--the topic or body sections--of a case study are as follows:
Parts of a Case Study
discussion of the basic problem, need, or situation and how it will be
examined in this study
subject of the study: the client(s) or patient(s)
Problem(s)/Symptoms and Diagnosis--what
the client or patient presents by way of symptoms, behavior, etc., and what
the textbook or other diagnosis is
Plan--the details of the study or action(s) taken, often described in
three sub-sections as "Components," "Treatment," and "Results/Prognosis")
overall conclusions, findings, and implications
For more on this type of paper, see the chapter called "Case Study."
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Disagreement with a Reading
Some instructors and even some professional
coordinators may ask you to write a formal response to a reading. The
wisest way to do this is to first show clearly that you understand the main
argument and its primary supporting details in the reading itself, and then to
explain your disagreements and your own supporting points.
One way to use this overall pattern is to present
the main argument and supports of the reading, itself, in an initial summary
section, and then make your own points. Another--and more thorough, more
complex, and sometimes more rewarding way if you also present very clear writing
to your readers--is to choose two to four main points with which you disagree
(and perhaps even a point or two with which you agree), explain why you disagree
(or agree) with each, and provide your own supporting details. Then, in
the conclusion, you can describe how your own point of view is slightly--or
dramatically--different from the reading's author because of the points you have
explained and detailed.
For more on this kind of writing, go to the chapter
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Editorial for a Newspaper or Online News/Blog Column
Newspaper editorials are another form of thesis writing. The structure
often is much the same, though an editorial often is shorter than a thesis
paper. On the other hand, the style, tone, and voice of an editorial are different
from that of a college thesis paper. This difference can be slight, as in
a New York Times editorial that may sound somewhat academic, to the
highly personal and even storytelling forms used for making a point in an
informal online news column or blog.
In style, an editorial avoids being "academic," which means a reading level of
tenth to twelfth grade or higher with words more difficult and sentences longer; instead,
the style is journalistic, which means a reading level of about sixth to eighth
grade with shorter words and sentences
(see "Writing a News Article").
The tone of an editorial tends to be a bit stronger--never bombastic or harsh, but usually with
a little bit more emotion, often one that shows strength, kindness, criticism of
the opposing side, urgency, or concern. Such tones, though slightly more emotional, still
should be handled delicately with a light touch. In voice, whereas thesis
papers usually use the formal "he/she/it/they" pronouns and a voice of educated
confidence, editorials, on the other hand, may use "he/she/it/they," the "you"
voice, or even the "I" voice, depending on how personalized the writer wants to
make the editorial feel.
Many if not most
editorials do not simply argue for something: they also, or additionally, argue against
something. In this regard, they are disagreements (see "Advanced
Methods" in the chapter called "Disagreeing
with a Reading").
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IMRaD Science/Research Report
A requirement of most science, social science, and
psychology students is that they learn the "IMRaD" method of arguing or proving
that a hypothesis is true or false. In this kind of scientific argument,
ideally the researcher has no bias before the research takes place about whether
the hypothesis will be proven true or false. Nevertheless, the final paper
is an argument showing precisely what fact has been established from the initial
hypothesis, which in itself is a proposed argument. This kind of paper is,
in a way, a pure form of arguing by starting with an opinion and reaching a
"IMRaD" stands for the following, which are the
major topic or body sections of an IMRaD paper:
Introduction--the hypothesis, the
research activity proposed for discovering the truth or falsity of the
hypothesis, and the background details for the research activity or need for the
research activity (which may sometimes include extensive summaries of written
methodology, materials, means, and/or modes used to test or search for answers
to the hypothesis
description of the research and its results
thorough discussion of what the results mean, do not mean, and why, along with
possible effects for future hypotheses
For more on this kind of paper, see the chapter
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A magazine article or newsletter article often is some kind of thesis or an
analysis of several arguments. However, in order to define this type of
magazine/newsletter article, it is necessary to briefly describe the difference
between three main types of news articles: the factual article, the analytical
article, and the argument.
Factual article: If you intend to write an article that is entirely
factual, you may follow one of three factual formats. (a) The first is the
traditional news report pattern: the 5 W's of journalism (who, what, where,
when, why/how) and the inverted-pyramid of journalism (i.e., most important info
first, second most important second, etc.). (b) The second factual format
is the more modern newpaper reporting style: instead of gathering information
using the 5 W's, it gathers information into a series a main subjects, anywhere
from several (for a short article) to perhaps one or two dozen for a long
article; this format also uses the inverted pyramid of journalism to arrange the
most important group of facts first, the second most important second, etc.
If you are interested in using either of these patterns, then see
the chapter in this book called
(c) The third factual format for typical
magazine/newsletter articles is the professional report, a very simple pattern
in which you collect your facts into three or four main body sections and then
report them using a traditional college and professional report pattern of
intro, body sections, and conclusion. For this report pattern, see the
chapter in this book called "Professional Report."
Analytical article: If you want to write your magazine/newsletter article
as an analysis, there are two primary ways. One is to simply write it as a
traditional college-style analysis. If you want to do this, then see the
chapter in this textbook called "Analysis."
Another is to write it as an analysis of one or more arguments. If this is
what you want to do, then see
"Dialogic Writing and
Analysis" on this page, above.
Argumentative article: Perhaps the most common type of article in most
popular or general magazines and newsletters is the argumentative article.
It may work like a dialectic/dialogic article, and then choose one of the two or
three dialogic positions in the end, or go back and forth between two competing
viewpoints, explaining at each step why one is better than the other. Or
it may use a straight thesis format, with a thesis statement in the
introduction, then several body sections proving the main reasons why the thesis
statement is true, and a final conclusion. To write in either of these
ways--dialogic or thesis--see the "" or "" chapter in this section.
For the specific thesis-style method of writing a magazine article, this book
has a an entire chapter. That chapter also explains how magazine and
newsletter writing are different in style, tone, and voice than college writing.
To see this chapter, go to
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Proposal for Business, Technical, or Research Needs
Proposal writing is the business and professional equivalent
in many ways of writing a thesis paper. A good proposal describes a basic
problem or need, offers a solution for solving it, gives the details of how to
carry out the solution, and then describes what will happen once the solution
has been enacted. In other words, a proposal uses plenty of detail to
prove that something should be done. To see more about such writing, go to
the chapter called "Writing a Proposal."
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Senior Thesis, Master's Thesis, or Doctoral
If you someday write a senior thesis, a master's
thesis, or a dissertation for a doctoral degree, the paper likely will be a
lengthy argument--a long version of a thesis paper. The specific form may
vary according to your discipline, but the important task you are completing is
that you are expected to make new knowledge.
This means that you are supposed to contribute
something unique in an important way, whether a small but significant bit of new
knowledge or a larger truth. In fact, often in academic writing, it is the
smaller bits that are most important, as they can be more easily checked,
examined, and verified. In addition, rarely is scholarly progress made by
writing a prescription for the entire world; rather, most scholars take on what
would seem to anyone outside of their discipline as a small corner of knowledge,
perhaps even a corner incomprehensible to the great majority of people, to build
a new facet of the truth.
If you are planning on writing a thesis or
dissertation, assume you will be arguing something. Talk at length with
your thesis or dissertation advisor about both the content and the form of your
paper before proceeding.
There are other types of arguments and methods of
arguing, as well. If you are in doubt about what pattern, style, or tone
to use, ask your instructor or professional coordinator for examples of the type
of good writing he or she wants.
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