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How to Choose a Stance or Position

In Forming an Argument Essay

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Upon occasion, you will be required to take a side on a specific issue in order to construct a persuasive essay or an argument. Whether you are writing a long argument essay, writing a test essay, writing a speech, or preparing for a debate, you will need to know how to take a strong stance on a subject at some point.

There is an art to taking a side. You have to be a little crafty. To really persuade someone in an argument essay, you have to know a little about each side and pick the one you can argue most effectively.

TIP: You don't have to choose the side you believe, necessarily. If you are going to be graded according to your logical points, you might have to go against your gut feelings.

Imagine that you have been assigned the topic:

Recently, a young man was suspended from high school for wearing makeup to class. His cosmetic choices included black lipstick and eyeliner. The young man protested that the school was guilty of gender discrimination, since female students routinely used makeup. Do you agree or disagree that the school discriminated against the young man?

First, draw a line down the middle of a piece of scrap paper, dividing the sheet in half. Label one side “pro” and one side “con” (or “yes” and “no”).

Think of strengths for each side. List at least three strong points for both sides.

Yes It’s Discrimination:

  • Girls and boys should be treated equally.
  • Sometimes makeup is necessary to cover embarrassing scars or blemishes.
  • High school is tough enough for students who feel different.
  • Makeup is a personal choice.
  • The school is stereotyping, which sets a bad example.
  • If there is not already a written rule about makeup, the school can’t make one up.

No It’s Not Discrimination:

  • Makeup is traditionally worn by girls.
  • The boy is just trying to cause a distraction.
  • Officials have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to distracting behavior.
  • Officials have the right to interpret dress codes to include other issues concerning appearance.

Once you have come up with several points for each side of your issue, read over the results to determine which side is strongest, and which you could argue most effectively. Decide which side has the points that you could back up with examples.

Types of Evidence

Before you make a choice, review the points you made and decide if your statements can be backed up by evidence. Types include:

  • Statistics
  • Examples
  • Expert opinions
  • Anecdotes
  • Observations
  • Precedence
  • Consequence

Choose a side that will enable you to use variety in your argument. For example, you might decide that you can argue most effectively that the school is not discriminating, because you can offer several differing types of evidence:

Precedence: Students have always been required to adhere to dress codes to avoid disruptions.
Observation: The boy’s choice of black lipstick demonstrates that he is not merely wearing makeup to cover blemishes. He is attempting to draw attention.
Consequence: The boy’s makeup can (and already has) created distractions.

Addressing the Opposition

Even though you choose one side as the strongest for your argument, you must be able to demonstrate that you understand both sides of your issue. Keep this in mind as you construct your argument essay, and use the strengths that you listed for the opposite side:

While it is true that boys and girls should be treated equally, it would be a mistake to use makeup as a measuring stick for equality. It is widely known that cosmetic makeup is traditionally associated with females.

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