Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers: An Argumentative Writing Study

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13568

Argumentation is one of the most-used approaches in nonfiction writing. In this lesson, you'll explore how to develop a strong argument using a fun premise.


Preparing for College, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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You've just washed your hands in a public restroom, and it's time to dry...

paper towel or hand drier

  • Do you have a strong opinion either way?

Argumentation is one of the most critical skills in academic writing and beyond. Some even suggest that all writing presents an argument!

Learn the tricks of the trade with this fun and low-stakes premise.

Writing an argumentative paper follows the same basic structure of any academic essay:

  • introduction (including thesis)
  • body paragraphs
  • conclusion

However, the approach you take with each section is slightly different than an essay about what you did last summer.

First, let's take a look at crafting a strong argument in essay form before moving on to the topic of hand drying methods.



It is crucial that your introduction doesn't just provide a summary of your essay. A good essay will begin with a hook -- something that will immediately engage the reader and compel him or her to continue.

According to 7 Sensational Essay Hooks That Grab Reader's Attention, by Suzanne Davis for Academic Writing Success, these are the types of hooks that lead to high reader interest:

  • interesting question
  • strong statement
  • fact or statistic
  • metaphor or simile
  • story
  • description
  • quotation

Take a moment to look at the examples of each type of hook in 7 Sensational Essay Hooks That Grab Reader's Attention.

Your introduction must include a thesis statement.

This is the entire point of your essay in a single sentence. You want it to be efficient -- no more words than needed -- but effective. Ideally, your reader will be able to easily identify which sentence in your introduction is the thesis; so it must be clear, definitive, and not buried by wordiness.

For some great tips on how to accomplish these goals, check out How to Write an Effective Thesis Statement by Jonathan Wlodarski for Best Colleges.

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph in your argumentative essay will advance one component of your argument with evidence to support it.

You'll want to organize these paragraphs in such a way as to create your desired effect on the reader. Some people like to start with their strongest point first, while others prefer to build toward the strongest point saving the best (most convincing) for last.

Sometimes, depending on the argument you're making, you might want to organize your body paragraphs based on a different idea -- and that's okay! Just make sure that the way you choose to present your argument flows well and will make sense to your reader.

Similar to an essay having a thesis statement, each body paragraph will have a topic sentence that clearly states the purpose of that paragraph. It should have the same characteristics as a strong thesis: clear, to the point, and easily identifiable.

The topic sentence states which point in support of your main argument that paragraph will discuss. You expand on that point by providing details, evidence, and commentary that makes your argument more persuasive.

Explore these tips further with examples to help strengthen your body paragraphs in Strong Body Paragraphs, courtesy of the Odegaard Writing & Research Center at the University of Washington.


Concluding an essay well makes all the difference because this is what you leave your reader with.

That's why it is so important to avoid simply summarizing your essay. You want the reader to continue thinking about what you've argued (and hopefully you've persuaded them as well).

Your conclusion may even include a call to action, in which case you hope the reader will follow through and perform an action as a result of your strong argument.

You want your thesis to "come home to roost" in your conclusion. This means you want to return to your thesis and re-frame it for the reader in light of all of the compelling information you've just presented them.

In the beginning, they had not heard your argument or all the evidence you've presented. Now that they have, what do you want them to do with it?

Conclusions, from The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has great tips on writing strong conclusions as well as tips for citing your sources -- another thing that is absolutely crucial in essay writing.

woman writing

Now that you're familiar with the necessary components of an argumentative essay, click through to the Got It? section to start crafting your argument.

  • Do you already know which position you want to take?
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