Form an argument

Your argument is the message you want your reader to remember when they finish reading. When writing an essay, you need to set up a clear argument in the introduction, and develop it in the body of the essay.

'The colony of Port Phillip was unchanged by the gold rush.' Discuss.

To answer this question, you could argue any of the following points:

  • I agree – the gold rush didn't change anything in Port Phillip
  • I disagree – the gold rush completely transformed Melbourne and Victoria
  • I can see both sides – some things changed and some things didn't.

A good argument:

  • is objective and avoids biased language
  • can be summed up in one sentence
  • communicates why you think your argument is right
  • is interesting and convincing.

If the essay question is testing work you've covered in class, you might already know what you think about the topic. Research is then about finding evidence to back up this point of view.

If the question is asking you to find out new information, it's often harder to come up with a clear argument. If you're not sure what you think about a topic, start reading and let the information you find guide your essay.

Keep an open mind

Whatever your opinion about a topic, it's important to be open to different points of view during your research. If most of the information you find disagrees with your argument, consider changing your point of view – after all, your essay has to be shaped by the evidence you find.

You can argue any point you like, as long as you have evidence to back up your opinion.