Elements of a Proposal Argument
Choose a problem that is important or interesting to you and propose a solution to it. Your proposal should include the following elements:
1. A claim that
- proposes specific action, whether a change of practice or policy, to resolve a problem or need, and
- is suitable for your audience.
2. Evidence and reasons that
- show clearly the problem and its significance,
- clearly relate the proposal claim to the problem or need, and
- show that the proposal will work and resolve the problem or need.
3. A consideration of
- other proposals, and
- possible rebuttals to your proposal.
Consider practical problems at Kean University; your high school; your city or town; your place of work; your hobbies, etc. If you were to choose a problem or situation at Kean, for example, you might consider proposals like the following:
- A proposal to improve the quality of advising for students in your major.
- A proposal to improve the ESL program
- A proposal to improve the international student exchange program.
- A proposal to improve safety conditions in a particular building or facility.
- A proposal to change a rule at your dormitory.
Proposals are generally addressed to someone who can do something with them, and they are accompanied by a cover letter that introduces the proposal to that specific person or persons. For example, if you were writing a policy proposal based on a social issue, you might name your senator or representative as the individual capable of taking action, but it must be the correct senator or representative for your voting district. If you feel that the senator or representative might not listen, then you might address your proposal to a specific group or organization that the senator or representative might listen to.
Some tips to help you
Find an issue that is manageable. For instance, proposing changes to the New Jersey education system requires an enormous amount of research and expertise. Instead, propose specific, small changes to the school you or your children attend. In this situation, you can talk to the people in charge, find out why something has or has not been tried, and adapt your proposal to what you find out. Because you have the opportunity to talk with your audience, you have a better chance of understanding what the problem is from their perspective and be able to make a better proposal that they will at least listen to.
Preparing to Write
Brainstorm to find a narrow, local issue which is a problem for you.
Brainstorm and research who the right audience would be for your proposal. Find someone who can implement your proposal or pass it on to someone who can do something about the problem.
Use your own research (interviews, surveys, graphs, polls) and library research. Document your sources accurately both in your text and in your bibliography. Your research should show that other problems like yours exist in the world, that people are concerned about them, that they are serious, that there are counterarguments and criticisms to your solution, and that there are solutions that can solve these problems.
Consider the values of your audience.
Use details and vivid examples (if possible, of real incidents and your own personal experience).
Create credibility by looking at the problem objectively, not as a complainer.
Writing the proposal
The following sections explain the shape of this proposal paper and give the subtitles that you should use in your own paper.
This one-page letter introduces your audience to the problem, its significance, and your proposal to solve the problem. It should be addressed to a specific individual or group.
This section summarizes the problem, its background, the proposal, and justification in one paragraph.
This is a one-sentence description of the problem.
Background to the problem
This section is an introduction to the problem.
Describe the problem, its background/history, and its significance.
Convince your audience that it's a real problem and something needs to be done about it. Sometimes, a reader might initially respond by saying, "Oh, that stuff again." So you need somehow to make it personal or show how it affects the reader.
Present your proposal (thesis statement) concisely.
After showing a problem really exists in the introduction, you need to show your solution, one which is solvable, doable, and practical.
Explain your proposal in detail (with step-by-step specifics on how your solution works):
- how much money it will cost,
- who will be responsible for implementing it,
- how easily it can be implemented,
- how much time it will take to set it up and make it work,
- what kinds of materials and labor are needed to make it work,
- how it addresses the problem,
Use analogy: Perhaps your solution or a similar one elsewhere is successful.
Use precedent: Perhaps your solution or a similar has been successful in the past. If a similar solution was not successful, show how your situation is different so that the solution will now work in your situation.
Give reasons for your audience to implement your proposal (other than those which relate to its being able to solve the problem by giving arguments from the heart and from values).
Show how the benefits of your solution outweigh the costs. If the costs are high, appeal to the values of the audience by showing that your proposal will lead to actions that lead to consequences that your audience values.
Summary and rebuttal of opposing views
(This section may go before the proposal and justification sections.)
Describe rebuttals to your solution, including other proposals for this problem.
Respond to each of these rebuttals.
Sum up the main points and state your case clearly and directly, so that your audience feels convinced to do something about the problem, preferably adopt your proposal.
Use either APA or MLA style for your sources, and unlike on the wiki, do not annotate them.
Have you ever watched a great film trailer and thought, “I have to see that movie!”? A good trailer gives you the basic premise of the movie, shows you the highlights, and encourages you to want to see more.
A good thesis statement will accomplish the same thing. It gives readers an idea of the most important points of an essay, shows the highlights, and makes them want to read more.
A well-constructed thesis serves as a lighthouse for your readers, offering them a guiding light in the stormy sea of claims and evidence that make up your argumentative essay.
It will also help keep you, the writer, from getting lost in a convoluted and directionless argument.
Most importantly, a good thesis statement makes a statement. After all, it’s called a thesis statement for a reason!
“This is an interesting statement!” you want your reader to think, “Let’s see if this author can convince me.”
This blog post will dissect the components of a good thesis statement and will give you 10 thesis statement examples that you can use to inspire your next argumentative essay.
The Thesis Statement Dissected
Before I give you a blanket list of thesis statement examples, let’s run through what makes for a good thesis statement. I’ve distilled it down to four main components.
1. A good argumentative thesis is focused and not too broad.
It’s important to stay focused! Don’t try to argue an overly broad topic in your essay, or you’re going to feel confused and unsure about your direction and purpose.
Don’t write, “Eating fast food is bad and should be avoided.”
This statement is too general and would be nearly impossible for you to defend. It leaves a lot of big questions to answer. Is all fast food bad? Why is it bad? Who should avoid it? Why should anyone care?
Do write, “Americans should eliminate the regular consumption of fast food because the fast food diet leads to preventable and expensive health issues, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.”
In this example, I’ve narrowed my argument to the health consequences related to a diet of fast food. I’ve also chosen to focus on Americans rather than everyone in the universe. (Because, as we all know, inhabitants of the faraway planet Doublepatty 5 require the starches and fats inherent in fast food to survive).
2. A good argumentative thesis is centered on a debatable topic.
Back in the ‘80s, teens loved to say “that’s debatable” about claims they didn’t agree with (such as “you should clean your room” and “you shouldn’t go to that movie”). This age-old, neon-colored, bangle-wearing, peg-legged wisdom holds true today—in your thesis statement.
Don’t write, “There are high numbers of homeless people living in Berkeley, California.”
No one can argue for or against this statement. It’s not debatable. It’s just a fact.
An argument over this non-debatable statement would go something like this:
“There are lots of homeless people in Berkeley.”
“Yes, there sure are a bunch of them out there.”
As you can see, that’s not much of an argument.
Do write, “Homeless people in Berkeley should be given access to services, such as regular food donations, public restrooms, and camping facilities, because it would improve life for all inhabitants of the city.”
Opponents could easily argue that homeless people in Berkeley already receive adequate services (“just look at all those luxurious sidewalks!”), or perhaps that they shouldn’t be entitled to services at all (“get a job, ya lazy loafers!”).
3. A good argumentative thesis picks a side.
I went into a lot of detail about the importance of picking sides in my post The Secrets of a Strong Argumentative Essay. Picking a side is pretty much the whole entire point of an argumentative essay.
Just as you can’t root for both the Yankees and the Mets, you can’t argue both sides of a topic in your thesis statement.
Don’t write, “Secondhand smoke is bad and can cause heart disease and cancer; therefore, smoking should be outlawed in public places, but outlawing smoking is unfair to smokers so maybe non-smokers can just hold their breath or wear masks around smokers instead.”
A wishy-washy statement like this will make your reader scratch his head in puzzlement. Are you for smoking laws or against them? Yankees or Mets? Mets or Yankees?
Pick a side, and stick with it!
Then stick up for it.
Do write, “Secondhand smoke is just as harmful as smoking and leads to a higher prevalence of cancer and heart disease. What’s worse, people who inhale secondhand smoke are doing so without consent. For this reason, smoking in any public place should be banned.”
4. A good thesis makes claims that will be supported later in the paper.
As I explained in my blog post How to Create a Powerful Argumentative Essay Outline, Your claims make up a critical part of building the roadmap to your argument.
It’s important to first include a summary of your claims in your thesis statement. During the course of your essay, you will back each of your claims with well-researched evidence.
Don’t write, “Humans should relocate to Mars.”
This statement doesn’t include any supporting claims. Why should humans move to Mars? What are the benefits of moving to a planet without oxygen or trees?
Do write, “It is too late to save earth; therefore, humans should immediately set a date for their relocation to Mars where, with proper planning, they can avoid issues of famine, war, and global warming.”
This statement includes some thought-provoking claims. The reader will wonder how the author plans to defend them. (“Famine, war, and global warming can be easily avoided on Mars? Go on…”)
Now that you understand the four main components of a good thesis statement, let me give you more thesis statement examples.
10 Thesis Statement ExamplesFinally, I’ve come up with 10 debatable, supportable, and focused thesis statements for you to learn from. Feel free to copy these and customize them for use in your own argumentative essays.
There are a couple of things to be aware of about the following examples:
- I have not done the research needed to support these claims. So some of the claims may not be useable once you dig into them.
- Be careful not to use these thesis statements word-for-word; I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble if your teacher did a copy/find Google maneuver on you!
#1. Why Vaccinations Should Be Mandatory
Inspired by this sample essay on vaccinations.
Today, nearly 40% of American parents refuse to vaccinate their children due to a variety of unfounded fears. Vaccinations against diseases such as polio, rubella, and mumps, should be mandatory, without exception, for all children of the U.S. who wish to attend school. These vaccinations are critical to the control and eradication of deadly infectious diseases.
#2. Government Surveillance Is Harmful
Inspired by this sample essay on government surveillance.
Government surveillance programs do more harm than good because they invade civil liberties, lead innocent people to suffer unfair punishments, and ultimately fail to protect the citizens that they are designed to safeguard. For these reasons, programs such as PRISM operated by the NSA should be discontinued.
#3 Financial Compensation for Organ Donors
Inspired by this sample essay on organ donation.
People who sign up for organ donation freely give their hearts and other organs, but this free system limits the number of available donors and makes it difficult for recipients to access lifesaving transplants. Thus, organ donors should be financially compensated to produce more available organs and, at the same time, to decrease profitable, illegal organ harvesting activities in the black market.
#4. Our School Is Too Dependent on Technology
Inspired by this sample essay on technology dependence.
Our school’s dependence on technology has caused students to lose the ability to think independently. This dependence has caused a greater prevalence of mood disorders, memory loss, and loneliness. Educators should combat these issues by requiring students to participate in regular technology detoxes.
#5 School Officials’ Should Fight Cyberbullying
Inspired by this sample essay on cyberbullying.
Bullying has extended far beyond school and into cyberspace. Even though these acts of aggression take place outside of school boundaries, school officials should have the authority to discipline students who engage in cyberbullying without fear of reprisal. Doing so will help improve the online behavior of students and decrease incidences of cyberbully-related suicide attempts.
#6 The U.S. Media Should Update the Depiction of Traditional Families
Inspired by this sample essay on families.
The U.S. media depicts the traditional family as being comprised of a mother, father, and children; however, this notion of the traditional family is outdated and can be harmful to children who look to this as the gold standard. The U.S. media should, therefore, expand and redefine the definition of the traditional American family to include divorced and remarried parents, extended families living together, and families with same-gender parents. This will increase the overall sense of happiness and well-being among children whose families don’t necessarily fit the mold.
#7 Student Loans Should Be Forgiven
Inspired by this sample essay on student loans.
Crippling student debt is stifling the growth of the U.S. economy because it inhibits graduates from being able to spend money on consumer goods and home purchases. To alleviate this, lenders should be required to forgive student loans in cases where students are unable to repay their debts. Doing so would benefit the growth of the economy by increasing tax revenues, unfreezing credit markets, and creating jobs.
#8 Marijuana Should Be Legalized
Inspired by this sample essay on legalizing marijuana.
Marijuana has numerous medical applications, such as treating symptoms of epilepsy, cancer, and glaucoma. Legalizing the use of marijuana in the U.S. will greatly benefit the medical sector by giving physicians access to this lifesaving drug.
#9 Foreign Aid to Africa Does Not Work
Inspired by this sample essay on foreign aid to Africa.
Sending foreign aid to African countries is doing more harm than good, and it should be discontinued; the practice has caused African countries to become vulnerable to inflation, currency fluctuations, corruption, and civil unrest.
#10 China’s One-Child Policy Should Be Reversed
Inspired by this sample essay on China’s one-child policy.
China’s one-child policy was intended to help control population growth. Instead, it has led to unintended and negative consequences, such as a diminishing labor force, an aging population, the neglect of basic human rights, and an unbalanced gender population. To improve China’s situation, the policy should be reversed.
Any one of these thesis statement examples will get you started on the road to writing an awesome argumentative essay. Once your essay is finished, feel free to send it to a Kibin editor who can check it for grammar, sentence structure, and the strength of your thesis.
Good luck with your essay!
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