Polemic essays are the strongest form of argumentative essays. The aim is to state and take up a strong view for or against a particular idea or position. Usually, these types of essays are reserved for highly controversial subjects which evoke both passion and emotion. For example, “Marijuana is not harmful and should be legalised”, or “Abortion in any circumstance is wrong”.
The aim of a polemic essay is to emphatically and clearly state an opinion of support (or dissent) and present sufficient evidence to demonstrate why the stance taken by the writer is correct.
As with any essay, it is good practice to first write a plan which should incorporate.
- Identifying the stance, you will take on the issue.
- Identifying and locating key sources to back up your views.
- Listing the points, you want to make and matching these with your sources in a logical, coherent order.
It is imperative in a polemic essay that you are able to deliver clear justification and evidence for your stance so that readers are convinced that you are correct.
The Structure of a Polemic Essay
In terms of structure, there is a strong model that can be used as foundation for the development and writing of a polemic essay.
The Toulmin model is frequently used in many universities and consists of presenting the core arguments of the work, and a definitive statement of intent or stance from the writer. The body of the text provides data and evidence, in a paragraph-by-paragraph format, with one statement/argument per paragraph, along with supporting evidence. The model ends with a strong conclusion that demonstrates why the presented argument is accurate and valid and incorporates refutation of counterarguments as part of the overall content.
A strong introduction is vital for a high-grade polemic essay and should begin with introducing and defining the subject and why it is controversial. For example, “Marijuana, an illegal drug has been considered beneficial in medical uses, but due to the potential hallucinogenic properties of the substance there is a strong movement against its legalisation”. Once you have stated the intent of the essay, the remainder of the introduction should provide a brief background to the subject and importantly the stance that you have taken. For example, “My own perspective is that the benefits of marijuana outweigh any of the counter-arguments for its legalisation”. This ensures that your readers are left with no illusions about your views. The introduction should conclude by linking to the body text. For example, “this work will demonstrate, with clear evidence, why marijuana should be legalised”.
The body text of the essay should be separated into clear paragraphs, one for each point. In each paragraph there should be a topic introduction, along with explanation of any terms. This should then be followed by evaluation of the point, including your own stance alongside clear evidence of why you have reached this view. The evidence can include figures, graphs or statistics but must come from reliable and credible sources and all sources should be correctly cited in text and listed in full at the end of the essay.
A good tip is to provide a counterargument at the close of each paragraph with reasons, backed up by evidence, why you disagree, again using strong evidence to support your perspective. This demonstrates wider reading and understanding of the subject. In closing each paragraph, you need to ensure that there is a link between each paragraph so that your essay has a cohesive flow and that the conclusions you draw at the end are logical and appropriate to your arguments. For example, “taking this view further, it has been identified that…”.
An effective conclusion is essentially a condensing or synopsis of all the points made, bringing them together to deliver a final picture of the subject under discussion. No new points or information should be incorporated into the conclusion. In addition, you should refer back to your original statement of intent and overall stance on the issue and conclude by indicating that, through the evidence presented, you have confirmed that your stance is the correct one.
Key Words for a Polemic Essay
- In the same way
- On the other hand
- On the contrary
- In consequence
- It can be emphatically stated
- Clearly this means
- There is a definite logic to the view that
- It cannot be argued that… because