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US ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE
US Army Command and General Staff School
Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) Common Core
H100: Rise of the Western Way of War Block

Annex D

The Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay seeks to prove and illustrate an idea or theory. Most officers attending the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) have had experience in presenting briefings, but probably not in publishing essays. Obviously, briefings will continue to be important, but key positions require one to relate information to a larger and in some cases more sophisticated audience.

CGSC requires that you submit essays while you are enrolled in the course. You will answer a specific question provided to you in the H100 course materials. DDE strongly encourages all students to review the essay topics carefully, and to spend a sufficient amount of time developing the outline first, and then writing the essay. Note that topical questions are not necessarily your topic statement. As indicated in Annex C, “Tips for Writing History Essays,” a challenge is keeping your paper concise and within the page limits. Organization is important in satisfying this writing requirement.

There are many different writing styles, but at CGSC, it is necessary to impose a modicum of standardization. Begin with a clearly stated thesis (the point you want to prove) in your introduction and use the body of your paper to construct your argument. Rationally build your case, leading to a conclusion consistent with your thesis without repeating that thesis word-for-word. Avoid using information or comments not directly supporting your thesis.

In general, devote one paragraph to one idea. Arrange your sentences in logical order from most to least important. Do your best, however, to connect your paragraphs with transition sentences. Build each paragraph around a strong topic sentence informing the reader what the paragraph contains so that it contributes to the thesis. For additional information and guidance, consult ST 22-2 as well as The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. The former is located on Blackboard in the Master Library folder marked Student Texts.

H100 Annex A, “Concise DMH Style Guide,” stipulates that your history paper must contain proper footnotes or endnotes according to ST 22-2. (For further examples, see: Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.) The abbreviated style of putting the source and page number within parentheses in the text (parenthetical documentation) is unacceptable. As a reminder, every direct quotation requires a footnote or endnote to properly identify and credit the source. Use direct quotations sparingly, generally to add special emphasis to a point you are making. However, be judicious. Using direct quotations from secondary sources rarely adds to the strength of an argument. Stringing together direct quotations is seldom effective and distracts from the paper’s purpose.
A more effective technique is summarizing ideas and information within a paragraph and then inserting a footnote or endnote to direct the reader to the source. Use footnotes or endnotes to provide more depth or explanatory information that otherwise would interrupt the flow of the paragraph. Including several sources within the same footnote or endnote is acceptable.

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