How to Write an Argumentative Essay and Remain Unbiased
Maintaining an objective voice is crucial to writing a credible and effective argumentative essay, but it’s often easier said than done. Although the whole point of an argumentative essay is to sway the reader’s opinion on a topic, any conclusion the reader forms on the topic should be driven by evidence that you present in your argument. Bias sometimes slips through in the form of your word selection, tone, and source material. Failing to maintain a detached tone weakens your position, and by association, your essay, leaving the reader thinking that the whole argument is based on your personal bias. How can you avoid this common mistake?
Start at the Source
The sources you choose for your piece reflect the overall feel of the essay, so it’s important to select sources that are unbiased toward the topic. As a general rule, stick with peer-reviewed journal articles, scholarly publications, and information gleaned from websites with domain extensions “.gov”, “.org” and “.edu” for the most reliable and unbiased information. When you use sources that are trustworthy, you borrow that credibility in your quest to get the reader to see your point of view.
Write from an impartial viewpoint, leaving opinions on the sideline and away from your essay. To write objectively, you must present the information in your essay in a fair and credible manner, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions. Steer clear of emotional phrasing and exaggerative adverbs, including “really” or “very”.
Rely on Logic
An evidence-driven argument is the hardest to refute. Develop the points you make logically, and then organize them into easy-to-digest factoids and information. A well-reasoned argument that includes clinical studies, statistics, and other types of empirical evidence obtained through reliable resources is one that is not easily assuaged.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Use language that is respectful, clear, reasonable, calm and honest to get your point across without showing bias or causing bias. Write with clarity. The sentence “Many elderly people live on this street” is not as effective as “Many people between ages 75 and 90 live on this street”. The former leaves room for the reader to assume the age of the street’s occupants, whereas the latter gives the reader an exact age for reference. In the same vein, avoid labeling people, such as “autistic child” or “diabetic” adult instead of a “child with autism” or an “adult with diabetes”.
Avoid Sweeping Generalizations
It is all too easy to alienate a large chunk of your audience with a sweeping generalization or two. Avoid generalizations and all-or-never assertions. The sentence “Teachers fail to consider individual students’ learning styles when they develop their lesson plans” makes a sweeping assertion that all teachers fail to make an important consideration. A better way to phrase that sentence may be “Some teachers fail to consider individual learning styles when they develop their lesson plans.” In this revised sentence, the writer acknowledges that not all teachers make this same mistake.
Maintain Third-Person Voice
Writing from a third-person perspective is the easiest way to keep bias out of your essay. A third-person narrative reads like an overview of the issue discussed, making it easier to keep personal opinions and accusatory language out of your piece.
Avoid Emotional Pleas
While some readers may be swayed by emotions, a more effective approach utilizes sound reasoning. Instead of opining that “The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, subjecting the condemned to horrific pain”, you might instead opt for “DNA evidence has proven hundreds of people innocent after their executions”. Some readers may not care that the death penalty causes horrific pain for the offender, but they may reflect on the possibility of innocence among the wrongfully condemned.
With these tips, you should be able to strike a balance between swaying your audience to your side and appearing to force your viewpoints on them.