What Is Argument? All people, including you, make arguments on a regular basis. When you make a claim and then support the claim with reasons, you are making an argument.
Dealing with distractions Developing an argument This video suggests how you can develop your argument. Please note that S3 is now called Skills Hub. What is an argument?If your papers do not have a main point, they cannot be arguing for anything. Why, then, would you want to provide them with material they already know? Instructors are usually looking for two things: Proof that you understand the material A demonstration of your ability to use or apply the material in ways that go beyond what you have read or heard. This second part can be done in many ways: you can critique the material, apply it to something else, or even just explain it in a different way. In order to succeed at this second step, though, you must have a particular point to argue. Arguments in academic writing are usually complex and take time to develop. Evidence Do not stop with having a point. You have to back up your point with evidence. The strength of your evidence, and your use of it, can make or break your argument. See our handout on evidence. You already have the natural inclination for this type of thinking, if not in an academic setting. Think about how you talked your parents into letting you borrow the family car. Did you present them with lots of instances of your past trustworthiness? Did you whine until they just wanted you to shut up? These are all types of argumentation, and they exist in academia in similar forms. Every field has slightly different requirements for acceptable evidence, so familiarize yourself with some arguments from within that field instead of just applying whatever evidence you like best. What types of argument and evidence are they using? The type of evidence that sways an English instructor may not work to convince a sociology instructor. Find out what counts as proof that something is true in that field. Is it statistics, a logical development of points, something from the object being discussed art work, text, culture, or atom , the way something works, or some combination of more than one of these things? Be consistent with your evidence. You can often use more than one type of evidence within a paper, but make sure that within each section you are providing the reader with evidence appropriate to each claim. Information about how fan support raises player morale, which then results in better play, would be a better follow-up. Your next section could offer clear reasons why undergraduates have as much or more right to attend an undergraduate event as wealthy alumni—but this information would not go in the same section as the fan support stuff. You cannot convince a confused person, so keep things tidy and ordered. Counterargument One way to strengthen your argument and show that you have a deep understanding of the issue you are discussing is to anticipate and address counterarguments or objections. By considering what someone who disagrees with your position might have to say about your argument, you show that you have thought things through, and you dispose of some of the reasons your audience might have for not accepting your argument. Recall our discussion of student seating in the Dean Dome. To make the most effective argument possible, you should consider not only what students would say about seating but also what alumni who have paid a lot to get good seats might say. It may seem to you that no one could possibly disagree with the position you are arguing, but someone probably has. For example, some people argue that the American Civil War never ended. If you are making an argument concerning, for example, the outcomes of the Civil War, you might wish to see what some of these people have to say. Talk with a friend or with your teacher. Consider your conclusion or claim and the premises of your argument and imagine someone who denies each of them. They are dirty and needy. Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing arguments. When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have considered the many sides of the issue. It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies. Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly. Audience Audience is a very important consideration in argument. Take a look at our handout on audience. A lifetime of dealing with your family members has helped you figure out which arguments work best to persuade each of them. Maybe whining works with one parent, but the other will only accept cold, hard statistics. Your kid brother may listen only to the sound of money in his palm. At the same time, do not think of your audience as capable of reading your mind. You have to come out and state both your claim and your evidence clearly. Critical reading Critical reading is a big part of understanding argument. Discuss your results with a partner or a group. Did you come up with the same argument? Have everyone explain the reasoning for his or her results. Argument and Rhetoric An argument in written form involves making choices, and knowing the principles of rhetoric allows a writer to make informed choices about various aspects of the writing process. Every act of writing takes place in a specific rhetorical situation. The most basic and important components of a rhetorical situation are Author of the text. Intended audience i. Form or type of text. These components give readers a way to analyze a text on first encounter. These factors also help writers select their topics, arrange their material, and make other important decisions about the argument they will make and the support they will need. With this brief introduction, you can see what rhetorical or academic argument is not: An argument need not be controversial or about a controversy. An argument is not a mere fight. An argument does not have a single winner or loser. An argument is not a mere opinion. An argument is not a statement of fact. Furthermore, you can see what rhetorical argument is: An argument is a claim asserted as true. An argument is arguable. An argument must be reasonable. An argument must be supported. An argument in a formal essay is called a thesis. Supporting arguments can be called topic sentences. An argument can be explicit or implicit. An argument must be adapted to its rhetorical situation. What Are the Components and Vocabulary of Argument? Questions are at the core of arguments. What matters is not just that you believe that what you have to say is true, but that you give others viable reasons to believe it as well—and also show them that you have considered the issue from multiple angles. To do that, build your argument out of the answers to the five questions a rational reader will expect answers to. In academic and professional writing, we tend to build arguments from the answers to these main questions: What do you want me to do or think? Why should I do or think that? How do I know that what you say is true? Why should I accept the reasons that support your claim? What about this other idea, fact, or consideration? How should you present your argument? When you ask people to do or think something they otherwise would not, they quite naturally want to know why they should do so. In fact, people tend to ask the same questions. The answer to What do you want me to do or think? The answer to Why should I do or think that? The answer to How do I know that what you say is true? The answer to Why should I accept that your reasons support your claim? The answer to What about this other idea, fact, or conclusion? The answer to How should you present your argument? As you have noticed, the answers to these questions involve knowing the particular vocabulary about argument because these terms refer to specific parts of an argument. The remainder of this section will cover the terms referred to in the questions listed above as well as others that will help you better understand the building blocks of argument. The root notion of an argument is that it convinces us that something is true. What we are being convinced of is the conclusion. An example would be this claim: Littering is harmful. A reason for this conclusion is called the premise. Typically, a conclusion will be supported by two or more premises. Both premises and conclusions are statements. Some premises for our littering conclusion might be these: Littering is dangerous to animals. Littering is dangerous to humans. Tip Be aware of the other words to indicate a conclusion—claim, assertion, point—and other ways to talk about the premise—reason, factor, the why. Also, do not confuse this use of the word conclusion with a conclusion paragraph for an essay. What Is a Statement? A statement is a type of sentence that can be true or false and corresponds to the grammatical category of a declarative sentence. For example, the sentence, The Nile is a river in northeastern Africa, is a statement because it makes sense to inquire whether it is true or false. In this case, it happens to be true. However, a sentence is still a statement, even if it is false. For example, the sentence, The Yangtze is a river in Japan, is still a statement; it is just a false statement the Yangtze River is in China. In contrast, none of the following sentences are statements: Please help yourself to more casserole. Do you like Vietnamese pho? None of these sentences are statements because it does not make sense to ask whether those sentences are true or false; rather, they are a request, a command, and a question, respectively. Make sure to remember the difference between sentences that are declarative statements and sentences that are not because arguments depend on declarative statements. Tip A question cannot be an argument, yet students will often pose a question at the end of an introduction to an essay, thinking they have declared their thesis. They have not. If, however, they answer that question conclusion and give some reasons for that answer premises , they then have the components necessary for both an argument and a declarative statement of that argument thesis. To reiterate: All arguments are composed of premises and conclusions, both of which are types of statements. The premises of the argument provide reasons for thinking that the conclusion is true. Arguments typically involve more than one premise. What Is Standard Argument Form? A standard way of capturing the structure of an argument, or diagramming it, is by numbering the premises and conclusion. For example, the following represents another way to arrange the littering argument: Littering is harmful Litter is dangerous to animals Litter is dangerous to humans This numbered list represents an argument that has been put into standard argument form. A more precise definition of an argument now emerges, employing the vocabulary that is specific to academic and rhetorical arguments. An argument is a set of statements, some of which the premises: statements 2 and 3 above attempt to provide a reason for thinking that some other statement the conclusion: statement 1 is true. Because a thesis is an argument, putting the parts of an argument into standard form can help sort ideas. You can transform the numbered ideas into a cohesive sentence or two for your thesis once you are more certain what your argument parts are. Additionally, studying how others make arguments can help you learn how to effectively create your own. What Are Argument Indicators? While mapping an argument in standard argument form can be a good way to figure out and formulate a thesis, identifying arguments by other writers is also important. The best way to identify an argument is to ask whether a claim exists in statement form that a writer justifies by reasons also in statement form. Other identifying markers of arguments are key words or phrases that are premise indicators or conclusion indicators. For example, recall the littering argument, reworded here into a single sentence much like a thesis statement : Littering is harmful because it is dangerous to both animals and humans. Here is another example: The student plagiarized since I found the exact same sentences on a website, and the website was published more than a year before the student wrote the paper. Conclusion indicators mark that what follows is the conclusion of an argument. Here is another example of a conclusion indicator: A poll administered by Gallup a respected polling company showed candidate X to be substantially behind candidate Y with only a week left before the vote; therefore, candidate Y will probably not win the election. If it is an argument, identify the conclusion claim of the argument. If it is not an argument, explain why not. Remember to look for the qualifying features of an argument: 1 It is a statement or series of statements, 2 it states a claim a conclusion , and 3 it has at least one premise reason for the claim. I have been wrangling cattle since before you were old enough to tie your own shoes. First, I washed the dishes, and then I dried them. Are you seeing the rhinoceros over there? Obesity has become a problem in the US because obesity rates have risen over the past four decades. Bob showed me a graph with rising obesity rates, and I was very surprised to see how much they had risen. What Susie told you is not the actual reason she missed her flight to Denver. What Constitutes Support? To ensure that your argument is sound—that the premises for your conclusion are true—you must establish support. The burden of proof, to borrow language from law, is on the one making an argument, not on the recipient of an argument. If you wish to assert a claim, you must then also support it, and this support must be relevant, logical, and sufficient. It is important to use the right kind of evidence, to use it effectively, and to have an appropriate amount of it. If, for example, your philosophy professor did not like that you used a survey of public opinion as your primary evidence in an ethics paper, you most likely used material that was not relevant to your topic. Rather, you should find out what philosophers count as good evidence. Different fields of study involve types of evidence based on relevance to those fields. Make sure it is clear how the parts of your argument logically fit together. You need to fully incorporate evidence into your argument. See more on warrants immediately below. In other words, the evidence you have is not yet sufficient. One or two pieces of evidence will not be enough to prove your argument. Would a lawyer go to trial with only one piece of evidence? No, the lawyer would want to have as much evidence as possible from a variety of sources to make a viable case. Similarly, a lawyer would fully develop evidence for a claim using explanation, facts, statistics, stories, experiences, research, details, and the like. What Is the Warrant? Above all, connect the evidence to the argument. This connection is the warrant. Evidence is not self-evident. In other words, after introducing evidence into your writing, you must demonstrate why and how this evidence supports your argument. You must explain the significance of the evidence and its function in your paper. What turns a fact or piece of information into evidence is the connection it has with a larger claim or argument: Evidence is always evidence for or against something, and you have to make that link clear. Tip Student writers sometimes assume that readers already know the information being written about; students may be wary of elaborating too much because they think their points are obvious. Thus, when you write, be sure to explain the connections you made in your mind when you chose your evidence, decided where to place it in your paper, and drew conclusions based on it. What Is a Counterargument? Remember that arguments are multi-sided. As you brainstorm and prepare to present your idea and your support for it, consider other sides of the issue. These other sides are counterarguments. For example, you might choose the issue of declawing cats and set up your search with the question should I have my indoor cat declawed? Your research, interviews, surveys, personal experiences might yield several angles on this question: Yes, it will save your furniture and your arms and ankles. No, it causes psychological issues for the cat. No, if the cat should get outside, he will be without defense. As a writer, be prepared to address alternate arguments and to include them to the extent that it will illustrate your reasoning. Almost anything claimed in a paper can be refuted or challenged. Opposing points of view and arguments exist in every debate. It is smart to anticipate possible objections to your arguments — and to do so will make your arguments stronger. Another term for a counterargument is antithesis i. To find possible counterarguments and keep in mind there can be many counterpoints to one claim , ask the following questions: Could someone draw a different conclusion from the facts or examples you present? Could a reader question any of your assumptions or claims? Could a reader offer a different explanation of an issue? Is there any evidence out there that could weaken your position? Can you offer an explanation of why a reader should question a piece of evidence or consider a different point of view? Can you explain how your position responds to any contradicting evidence? Can you put forward a different interpretation of evidence? It may not seem likely at first, but clearly recognizing and addressing different sides of the argument, the ones that are not your own, can make your argument and paper stronger. By addressing the antithesis of your argument essay, you are showing your readers that you have carefully considered the issue and accept that there are often other ways to view the same thing. You can use signal phrases in your paper to alert readers that you are about to present an objection. Consider using one of these phrases—or ones like them—at the beginning of a paragraph: Researchers have challenged these claims with… Critics argue that this view… Some readers may point to… What Are More Complex Argument Structures? So far you have seen that an argument consists of a conclusion and a premise typically more than one. However, often arguments and explanations have a more complex structure than just a few premises that directly support the conclusion. For example, consider the following argument: No one living in Pompeii could have survived the eruption of Mt. The reason is simple: The lava was flowing too fast, and there was nowhere to go to escape it in time. Therefore, this account of the eruption, which claims to have been written by an eyewitness living in Pompeii, was not actually written by an eyewitness. This account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was not actually written by an eyewitness. Rather, some statements provide evidence directly for the main conclusion, but some premise statements support other premise statements which then support the conclusion. To determine the structure of an argument, you must determine which statements support which, using premise and conclusion indicators to help. The next questions to answer are these: Which statement most directly supports A? What most directly supports A is B. No one living in Pompeii could have survived the eruption of Mt. However, there is also a reason offered in support of B. That reason is the following: C. The lava from Mt. Vesuvius was flowing too fast, and there was nowhere for someone living in Pompeii to go to escape it in time. So the main conclusion A is directly supported by B, and B is supported by C. Since B acts as a premise for the main conclusion but is also itself the conclusion of further premises, B is classified as an intermediate conclusion. What you should recognize here is that one and the same statement can act as both a premise and a conclusion. Statement B is a premise that supports the main conclusion A , but it is also itself a conclusion that follows from C. Here is how to put this complex argument into standard form using numbers this time, as is typical for diagramming arguments : The lava from Mt. Therefore, no one living in Pompeii could have survived the eruption of Mt. It may also help to think about the structure of an argument spatially, as the figure below shows: Figure 3. A subargument, as the term suggests, is a part of an argument that provides indirect support for the main argument. The main argument is simply the argument whose conclusion is the main conclusion. Another type of structure that arguments can have is when two or more premises provide direct but independent support for the conclusion. Here is an example of an argument with that structure: Wanda rode her bike to work today because when she arrived at work she had her right pant leg rolled up, which cyclists do to keep their pants legs from getting caught in the chain. Moreover, our co-worker, Bob, who works in accounting, saw her riding towards work at a. Here is the argument in standard form: Wanda arrived at work with her right pant leg rolled up. Cyclists often roll up their right pant leg. Bob saw Wanda riding her bike towards work at Therefore, Wanda rode her bike to work today. In this case, to avoid any ambiguity, you can see that the support for the conclusion comes independently from statements 1 and 2, on the one hand, and from statement 3, on the other hand. It is important to point out that an argument or subargument can be supported by one or more premises, the case in this argument because the main conclusion 4 is supported jointly by 1 and 2, and singly by 3. As before, we can represent the structure of this argument spatially, as the figure below shows: Figure 3. At this point, it is important to understand that arguments can have different structures and that some arguments will be more complex than others. Determining the structure of complex arguments is a skill that takes some time to master, rather like simplifying equations in math. Even so, it may help to remember that any argument structure ultimately traces back to some combination of premises, intermediate arguments, and a main conclusion. Exercise 3 Write the following arguments in standard form. If any arguments are complex, show how each complex argument is structured using a diagram like those shown just above. There is nothing wrong with prostitution because there is nothing wrong with consensual sexual and economic interactions between adults. Moreover, there is no difference between a man who goes on a blind date with a woman, buys her dinner and then has sex with her and a man who simply pays a woman for sex, which is another reason there is nothing wrong with prostitution. Prostitution is wrong because it involves women who have typically been sexually abused as children. Proof that these women have been abused comes from multiple surveys done with female prostitutes that show a high percentage of self-reported sexual abuse as children. Someone was in this cabin recently because warm water was in the tea kettle and wood was still smoldering in the fireplace. Therefore, someone else must be in these woods. The train was late because it had to take a longer, alternate route seeing as the bridge was out. Israel is not safe if Iran gets nuclear missiles because Iran has threatened multiple times to destroy Israel, and if Iran had nuclear missiles, it would be able to carry out this threat. Furthermore, since Iran has been developing enriched uranium, it has the key component needed for nuclear weapons; every other part of the process of building a nuclear weapon is simple compared to that. Therefore, Israel is not safe. Since all professional hockey players are missing front teeth, and Martin is a professional hockey player, it follows that Martin is missing front teeth. Because almost all professional athletes who are missing their front teeth have false teeth, it follows that Martin probably has false teeth. Anyone who eats the crab rangoon at China Food restaurant will probably have stomach troubles afterward. It has happened to me every time; thus, it will probably happen to other people as well. Since Bob ate the crab rangoon at China Food restaurant, he will probably have stomach troubles afterward. Lucky and Caroline like to go for runs in the afternoon in Hyde Park. Because Lucky never runs alone, any time Albert is running, Caroline must also be running. Albert looks like he has just run since he is panting hard , so it follows that Caroline must have run, too. One part of an argument. Premise—a reason behind a conclusion. The other part of an argument. Most conclusions have more than one premise. Statement—a declarative sentence that can be evaluated as true or false. The parts of an argument, premises and the conclusion, should be statements. Standard Argument Form—a numbered breakdown of the parts of an argument conclusion and all premises. Premise Indicators—terms that signal that a premise, or reason, is coming. Conclusion Indicator—terms that signal that a conclusion, or claim, is coming. Support—anything used as proof or reasoning for an argument. This includes evidence, experience, and logic. Warrant—the connection made between the support and the reasons of an argument. Counterargument—an opposing argument to the one you make. An argument can have multiple counterarguments. Complex Arguments—these are formed by more than individual premises that point to a conclusion. Complex arguments may have layers to them, including an intermediate argument that may act as both a conclusion with its own premises and a premise for the main conclusion.
Your argument is the statement of what you think about the argument you've been discuss. It determines your structure, evidence, reasoning, quotations, introduction and conclusion.
What is critical writing — University of Leicester
Spend time on it. You should be able to sum up your argument in a single sentence.
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You should be able to explain the the of it to how young child. You should be able to write it in a few words on a Post-it Note.
Argument What this handout is about This handout will define what an argument is and explain why you need one in most of your academic essays. In fact, making an argument—expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with evidence—is often the aim of academic writing. Your instructors may assume that you know this and thus may not explain the importance of arguments in class. Most material you learn in college is or has been debated by someone, somewhere, at some time.
Keep refining the wording of that simple statement until you are convinced it describes what is at the heart of your essay.
See Making an argument Royal Literary Fund.
Talk through your ideas to help work college application essay review service your argument.
Talk to other students, friends and family members.
How do I come up with a line of argument? You develop a line of argument as you plan the body of your essay. A line of argument is the expression, organisation and sequence of ideas.
Argument - The Writing Center
When you have identified your key arguments and listed them 1, 2, 3, try changing the how of your list to see if it improves your line of argument. Write or draw the line of thinking on a large piece of discuss to see how direct and logical it looks. Remember - every stage of your argument critical to be supported with appropriate evidence and examples. All sources must be referenced.
Do I have to be critical People often essay about this. Originality comes naturally essay you think for yourself: from your responses to what you read from your research findings from how you select write and about wrong people's ideas from your conclusions. You do not have to come up with an argument no one thinking has thought of but you are expected to think independently.
Online homework serviceTherefore, probably, humans are causing global warming. As you may have noticed, every argument that has false premises is bad. Example 1 If you are a confident driver and have never been in an accident, then driving over the speed limit is not dangerous for you or others. You are a confident driver and have never been in an accident. Doubtless, then, driving over the speed limit is not dangerous for you or others. Driving over the speed limit is not dangerous for you or others. Is the argument deductive or non-deductive? Is the argument valid? So the argument is valid. Next question: Is the argument sound? But the first premise is false. Speeding is well known to be one of the main causes of accidents, regardless of the skills and confidence of the speeding driver. Indeed, there are other drivers on the road, not all of which are confident drivers that have never been in an accident, and they might react in dangerous ways to the presence of the speeding driver. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have considered the many sides of the issue. It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies. Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly. Audience Audience is a very important consideration in argument. Take a look at our handout on audience. A lifetime of dealing with your family members has helped you figure out which arguments work best to persuade each of them. Maybe whining works with one parent, but the other will only accept cold, hard statistics. Your kid brother may listen only to the sound of money in his palm. At the same time, do not think of your audience as capable of reading your mind. You have to come out and state both your claim and your evidence clearly. Critical reading Critical reading is a big part of understanding argument. Although some of the material you read will be very persuasive, do not fall under the spell of the printed word as authority. Very few of your instructors think of the texts they assign as the last word on the subject. Remember that the author of every text has an agenda, something that he or she wants you to believe. For more information on objectivity and bias and on reading sources carefully, read our handouts on evaluating print sources and reading to write. Take notes either in the margins of your source if you are using a photocopy or your own book or on a separate sheet as you read. Put away that highlighter! Simply highlighting a text is good for memorizing the main ideas in that text—it does not encourage critical reading. Then you can stop thinking of these ideas as facts and start thinking of them as arguments. Does the author adequately defend her argument? What kind of proof does she use? Is there something she leaves out that you would put in? Does putting it in hurt her argument? With critical writing you are participating in the academic debate. This is more challenging and risky. You need to weigh up the evidence and arguments of others, and to contribute your own. You will need to: consider the quality of the evidence and argument you have read; identify key positive and negative aspects you can comment upon; assess their relevance and usefulness to the debate that you are engaging in for your assignment; and identify how best they can be woven into the argument that you are developing. A much higher level of skill is clearly needed for critical writing than for descriptive writing, and this is reflected in the higher marks it is given. Finding your academic voice When you engage in critical writing you are developing your own academic voice within your subject. Wellington et al. Succeeding with your doctorate. London: Sage. Try to get into the habit of writing critically, by making sure that you read critically, and that you include critique in your writing. Stringing together of quotes It can be tempting to string together quotes to support an argument, feeling that the more quotes you include, the stronger your argument. It is important, however, to remember that you also need to interpret the quotes to the reader, and to explain their relevance, discuss their validity, and show how they relate to other evidence. Strategic use of paragraphs There are several ways in which you can use the paragraph to enhance your critical writing. You can use paragraphs to make a clear and visual separation between descriptive writing and critical analysis, by switching to a new paragraph when you move from description to critical writing, and vice versa. This can help in: emphasising to the reader that you are including both description and critical analysis, by providing a visual representation of their separation; and pushing you to produce the necessary critical writing, especially if you find that your description paragraphs are always longer, or more frequent, than your critical analysis paragraphs. Please note that S3 is now called Skills Hub. What is an argument? Your argument is the statement of what you think about the question you've been set. It determines your structure, evidence, reasoning, quotations, introduction and conclusion. Spend time on it. You should be able to sum up your argument in a single sentence. You should be able to explain the essence of it to a young child.
Rather than worry about whether or not you are write original, think about the kind of essay you are writing. Criticising other people's ideas means evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. See Critical thinking. The text resources on this page have been adapted from original work by Moira Wilson, copyright