skip to content

Each essay is an argument, rather than a statement of fact. The essay negotiates between different positions, and presents and supports a particular interpretation or approach to a contentious issue. Throughout your writing, and particularly in your introduction, your reader should have a clear sense of your position in a debate, whether you assert yourself overtly or subtly. To some extent, your authorial persona equates to your position on an issue: your arguments, interpretations and conclusions. If these are clearly stated and argued, particularly against the views of other scholars, then "you" are implicitly present in your text, as it is assumed that any views expressed are those of the author unless it is indicated with a reference that they are the views of someone else.

Below is a sample of academic writing, with sections of the text underlined to show where it demonstrates this quality: 

Shakespeare's sonnets demonstrate that he exploited the potential of literary forms as a means of argument. Argument is not a purely cognitive activity in which one's case is always made cogently and explicitly; both in life and literature it is reliant upon suggestion and an appeal to the emotions, as is evident in Sonnet 42. On a superficial level, the argument appears to be that of the poet within himself; he seems to have successfully convinced himself through witty conceit that his ‘grief' is in fact a ‘joy'. However, the true argument is directed at the reader; Shakespeare suggests that the offered consolation is entirely insubstantial. The apparent retreat to internality (‘thee' becomes ‘my friend' in the thirteenth line, indicating that the poem is no longer addressed to the friend) suggests a lack of confidence which prevents the poet from making public the conceit-based argument, while the flat contradiction of the preceding lines in ‘she loves but me alone' means that this effect does not rely on any exophoric reference on the reader's part; the inconsistency is a fundamental aspect of the poem's design. Although the sonnet is an entirely different medium from the play, this poem demonstrates two aspects of Shakespearian argument which, it will here be contended, are evident in the problem plays: firstly, that Shakespeare's argumentative method is to appeal to the emotions rather than to reason, and secondly that he argues through negation (as, for example, he negates the abandoned lover's consolation in Sonnet 42). The term ‘problem plays' will here be taken as referring to The Merchant of Venice, All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. Although other plays, notably Troilus and Cressida, have also been placed in this category by critics, they have much less in common with these three than they do with each other.



  • Words such as 'suggests', 'demonstrates', 'appears to be, 'as is evident in', 'it will be contended' position the statements made as opinions, rather than facts, and they are thus ascribed to the position of the writer.
  • There is a clear thesis statement which sums up the position taken by the writer: 'this poem demonstrates two aspects of Shakespearean argument'.
  • The writer sets their own position in contrast with that of other critics in the final sentence.
  • The writer does not appear in the text explicitly as the first person 'I', but nevertheless still manages to create a distinct authorial presence. The use of 'I' could be used to strengthen it, but is not necessary here. See the section on Objective and rational for more information.