These essays should be based on results of brainstorming and/or loop writing, etc.
 Forming a Very Basic Essay |  To PAPER organization guide | About Signal phrases/tag lines | Step-by-step for an Argument Essay|
Guidelines for Section Headings/Subheadings in MLA  |
Start with research question or possible topic to find a position through research/ brainstorming. THEN form an initial thesis sentence:
1 Topic:
2 Position/Opinion:
3 Main reason:
4 Counter Argument:

For full argument thesis/claims add Counter Argument acknowledgement by using "although, even though, despite, recognizing" etc. with brief phrasing of opposing ideas at beginning or end of claim sentence.


SIMPLE Working/possible thesis statement/claim (single sentence, NOT as a question, no use of "I" or "YOU"--state topic directly not as "this or that")
[sample:Health care must be a personal responsibility, because government should not make decisions for people.]
Claim/thesis sentence with counter argument acknowledgement:
Although society should provide certain safety nets, health care must be a personal responsibility, because government should not make decisions for people.
7 Working 2-part title reflecting the thesis: (Topic)  = Health  Care    : (Position/comment )=  A Personal Responsibility   


 The following is based on a sample topic: Tell about an outdoor experience.   After Brainstorming or Loop Exploration to find a specific theme/topic and position, These five (journalistic) questions can help generate a thesis sentence and expand detail:

  1. who>  main actors (my brother and I)
  2. what >  the subject  (go camping)
  3. where>  the setting/place  (the Blue mountains)
  4. when>  the time of year or maybe the day (every summer)
  5. why>    the reason  (to hunt for arrowheads)

A thesis sentence made of these 5 elements:

My brother and I go camping in the Blue Mountains every summer to hunt for arrowheads.
        <THEN ADD INFORMATION IN A PARAGRAPH <[click here to review parts of a paragraph] ABOUT EACH OF THE 5 PARTS:
  1. PARAGRAPH (<<review) 1--tell about my brother and me 2-5 SENTENCES
  2. PARAGRAPH 2 -- tell about, camping gear, RV etc. 2-5SENTENCES
  3. PARAGRAPH 3--tell about  the Blue mountains, landscape, trees, stream, animals, etc. 2-5 SENTENCES
  4. PARAGRAPH 4--tell about  every summer, what month, the weather then, etc.--2-5 SENTENCES
  5. PARAGRAPH 5--tell about  hunting for arrowheads, what they look like, where you look 2-5 SENTENCES
  6. PARAGRAPH 6 or LAST PARAGRAPH-- re-state the thesis and add an outcome or result of the experience.


  1. First form a short, clear and concise thesis sentence to go at the end of your first paragraph,
    1. thesis= topic + positon +(because) reasoning (COULD USE THE 5 JOURNALISTIC QUESTIONS TO GENERATE)
  2. Next write a brief opening paragraph that leads up to your thesis,
    1. present reasoning and or an example that leads to thesis sentence
  3. Next write four-five clear topic sentences supporting your thesis to begin paragraphs.
  4. Next fill in the paragraphs by using clear examples to support your topic sentences, and only if they relate to your topic sentences.
  5. IN LAST PARAGRAPH-- re-state the thesis and add an outcome or result of the experience.
AND PRESTO....AN ESSAY, or at least the main elements to build on....


MLA style  for Titles, Headings and Subheadings/ Sub-sections Formatting

from  by Sydney Baur



Argument can be defined in several ways, especially in the legal field, in debate and in other specific professions or fields of study. For our purposes, argument is: a declarative statement/assertion/claim (usually including a developed composition) that presents a  topic, a position and supportive reasoning (and counter-argument w/refutation) clearly backed-up by evidence that can be understood by the intended audience . 

  1. Find a Main Claim: In planning an argument, the first step is to define your thesis/main claim or central argument. One of the best ways to do this is by free-writing or other brainstorming. The main claim and the essay title should reflect each other.

  2. Consider the Central Appeal: Choose ethos, pathos or logos as the primary "coloring" for presenting the material, even though logos will constitute the factual evidence. 

  3. Write 3-5 Reasons for the Claim

  4. Find Solid Evidence for each main Reason: Keep a listing of sources in the appropriate documentation style, so the in-text citing of the sources match the bibliographic listing.

  5. Include a Main Opposing View (the counter-argument): Acknowledge and present the opposing view and why you disagree with it, including evidence that supports your position.

  6. Create a Rough Draft: Try various ways of presenting/organizing the material and weaving in the citing and signal phrases.

  7. Get Helpful Feedback: Develop a clear series of questions for a helper to focus on and answer as often as needed.

  8. Proof and Polish: | Proofing Gd.

    • Read the drafts aloud to find areas that need clarifying, and scan for spelling, grammar and other usage issues.

    • Be sure the main claim reflects the EVIDENCE even if the main claim changes from your first thinking.  

    • Be sure the title is thematic and reflects the main claim in its final form.

    • Be sure all aspects of the documentation style are accurate.

The following can be copy/pasted into a word doc. to use as a form to help "build" papers. Use Print Preview to resize for printing.

I. INTRODUCTORY SECTION (Thesis statement somewhere in this section) (FYI- MLA in-text help | Hacker Gd w/sample papers-to SHOW format, etc. )

(In First Paragraph with any sources cited--author last name and page # or domain name, if no author/page is available)

  1. (These 3 elements NOT necessarily in this order...) Personal comment to introduce/set up topic/issue
  2. Background of topic (as it may come from a primary focus text) or why it is interesting/important...
  3. Example/anecdote to illustrate topic

(In Second Paragraph--with sources cited)

  1. Define key terms--Which are terms/ideas especially IN the title/thesis and any other important or repeated ones.
  2. Brief etymology of the MOST important one--including the important root word and prefixes/suffixes
  3. Explain the Idea/terms as used in paper topic

II. BODY SECTION: presents the core of the thesis, the reasoning and key points of opposing views

(In next 3-5 Body Paragraphs--1 for more detailed explanation of thesis and 1 for each key point+reason and evidence with sources cited. Each paragraph should start with one of the key points that supports the thesis, followed by the reasoning, cited evidence and any personal comment to connect to next point/papragraph )

  1. !st paragraph in body section: Explanation of topic/issue in more depth than in intro.
    1. Presentation of clear reasoning that supports thesis
    2. Cited evidence to support reasoning
    3. Personal commentary as needed to interpret and make connections that create unity
  2. 2nd paragraph in body section: Statement of 1st main point that supports the thesis, reasoning/evidence, etc.
  3. 3rd paragraph in body section: Statement of 2nd main point that supports the thesis, reasoning/evidence, etc.
  4. 4th paragraph in body section: Statement of 3rd main point that supports the thesis, reasoning/evidence, etc.
  5. last paragraph in body section: (ANY key opposing points/evidence and why they don't stand up to the thesis)
  6. Personal commentary as needed to interpret and make connections to conclusion.

III. CONCLUSION SECTION: sums up the findings that prove the thesis

(In Final 2-3 paragraphs--with sources cited)

  1. Restates key thesis points, reasoning and evidence
  2. Refers to opening points or examples to close the "circle" of writing
  3. Personal comment that wraps up the thesis and writer's thinking
  4. Ending that suggests a brief remedy, next "step" or "take-away" regarding the issues in the thesis

IV. WORKS CITED: (FYI: EasyBib-citation maker to see how entry should look)  On a separate page, headed WORKS CITED, an MLA listing of the 3-5 sources actually appearing in paper. Each source can be used more than once in the paper, but needs only one listing in the Works Cited. The Works Cited listing DOES NOT number the entries.

About Signal Phrases and In-text Citing:

  • "Signal phrases mark the boundaries between source material and your own words; they can also tell readers why a source is trustworthy. . . .
    "Readers should not have to guess why a quotation appears in your paper. If you use another writer's words, you must explain how they contribute to your point. It's a good idea to embed a quotation--especially a long one--between sentences of your own. In addition to introducing it with a signal phrase, follow it with interpretive comments that link the quotation to your paper's argument."
    (Diana Hacker, The Bedford Handbook. Macmillan, 2005)
  • Sample signal phrases: Signal phrases handout
    • Chancellor Chase observed that "The Army is . . .."
    • According to Frito-Lay research, women snack only 14 percent . . .
    • The candidate insisted that the tariff must be reduced to a "competitive basis" and taxes . . .
    • Undernourished children have long been India’s scourge--“a national shame,” in the words of its prime minister . . ..
  • "If we mention the author's name in the text in a signal phrase ('According to Richard Lanham . . .'), then the parenthetical citation includes the page number only (18). If we use more than one work by an author, and we have identified his or her name in the text, our parenthetical citation must include a short title of the work cited and a page number (Style 18)."
    (Scott Rice, Right Words, Right Places. Wadsworth, 1993)

MORE NOTES ON WRITING THE PAPER: The topic sentence/focus of each paragraph should have at least one supporting reason and at least one cite for outside authoritative evidence to PROVE the claim in the paragraph's topic sentence/focus. The style of diction (word choice) for these papers should be semi-formal to formal, so there should be no careless use of "you," slang or ungrammatical usages for stylistic reasons, unless they are part of quoted material. Acronyms should be written out the first time they are presented, with the abbreviation in parenthesis just after it. There after, the acronym can be presented alone. Any technical terms or words used in some unusual way should be Italicized or placed in quotes, and if needed, briefly defined.  All writing that is not the writer's own comment, observation, explanation, etc. MUST have a clear credit to the source, even when the writer is agreeing with or restating those ideas. Quoted material should constitute no more than 10% of the total wording in the paper, because this kind of writing should be primarily the writer's own thinking, supported by authoritative sources, not a "collage" of others' words. Any general information that can be be found in at least 3 outside sources, i.e. common knowledge----like, Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7, 1941--doesn't need a citation, but should be clarified by wording such as, it is commonly known...or most everyone understands... or clearly,  Subheadings may be used to clearly guide the reader through the sections of the paper, but should be content/subject focused, not just "Introduction, Body," etc.  In-text cites, either, in the sentence wording or in parenthesis, must appear just as they are listed on the Works Cited page. That is, a source, "Smith" or "," in an in-text citing, must be listed in the Works Cited by alphabetical order under that name. For any additional details or guidance for specific listings, usages, etc. please consult a current writer's guide, a verifiable instructor produced web page or web sites ending in .edu, .org, or gov. Beware of using/relying on information from any web site with a heavy advertising presence, or that my require registration or payment of any kind. Sources are only as useful as they are authoritative and credible. 

© copyright ~ Jane Thielsen ~2011~ all rights reserved