Chapter 2 Notes L

Chapter 2: How Do We Argue?

  • A thesis states the what and the rest shows why in an argument.
  • Two ways to define arguments
    • By their function, or why they do
      • Compelling arguments respond to question or problems
        • Urgent, controversial, significant to writers and audience
    • By their form, or how they’re structured
      • 4 main elements: claim, support, linkage, and explanation of why

Where Do We Find Arguments?

  • Originate from a catalyst
    • Gap or imperfection, unknown answer, or unsolved problem
  • Scholars
    • Arguments are used to explain an improve the world
  • Government and military intelligence experts
    • To inform politicians
  • Criminal trial lawyers
    • Establish guilt or innocence
  • Scientists
    • Discover evidence through research, others use to build cases for new laws or regulations.
  • All arguments begin with a question or uncertainty and use some method of investigation and case building to arrive at a conclusion

What about Scholarly Arguments?

  • Scholars don’t address problems of important always.
  • Scholars might
    • Discover a disciplinary question that puzzles them.
    • Feel aggravated by a problem in their teaching.
    • Vehemently disagree with another scholar’s findings.
    • Notice something new that contradicts previous experience.
  • Literary Scholar
    • Textual evidence
    • Biographical information of author
    • Historical information of time and place published
    • Argues new interpretation of famous novels
  • Education Scholar
    • Theories of learning and results of experimental teaching, argues for new method of effective instruction
  • Apprentice Scholars
    • Feel motivated and more successful when they id gaps and imperfections.

Inquiry-Based Argument

  • Scholars discover their thesis when investigating and researching.
    • Guided by inquiry – attempt to gather information and create understanding.


  • If arguments can influence what we know, think, and believe, consider the effects of:
    • Arguments made by civil rights leaders who changed how we think about equality
    • Arguments made by feminists who influenced the way American families function
    • Arguments made by activists who demanded health care reform
    • Arguments made by respected mentors who inspired you to question a previously held opinion
  • These are results of investigation, discovery, and thinking.
  • Implications – consequences or effects that answer the “So What” question.
  • Change can occur in the audience if they become willing to adjust thinking, compromise, find a new solution, and investigate further and more.
  • Significant Implications – process circular
    • Implications to Catalyst to Inquiry to Argument and around again.

How Do We Build Arguments?

  • Thesis
  • Supports
  • Linkages
  • Claim – debatable or controversial idea

Supporting Claims

  • Controversial, paired with a support to give reason.
    • Evidence – observation
      • Primary source – collect and analyze
      • Empirical data
      • Personal experience
      • Textual evidence
    • Verification – look up
      • Secondary source – someone else analyzed or interpreted evidence
      • Previous research
      • Law or precedence
      • Established theory
    • Illustration – Imagine
      • Original Source – create or borrow
      • Fictional narrative
      • Hypothetical example
      • Analogy or metaphor
  • What’s most important thinking carefully about the support accomplishes
    • Do we want it to build credibility, activate reasoning, or evoke emotion?

Linking Support to Claims

  • Linkages connect supports and claims together.
  • Linkages shouldn’t be thought of obvious or common sense because you can’t assume the reader thinks the way you do.
  • Table 2.2 Argument Elements and Their Functions
    • Catalyst - the argument’s inspiration, question or problem
    • Thesis or Central Claim – debatable or controversial idea
    • Support – evidence, verifications and/or illustrations used to defend the claim
    • Linkage – Explanation of how a support holds up a claim
    • Implications – Consequences, effects, or larger significance of an argument

An Everyday Argument

  • Basic components of an argument
    • Reasons are claims themselves – debatable statements

*Not evidence, verification, or illustration

  • Effective arguments always build on some basis of acceptance or agreement.

Getting to the Bottom of Things

  • How difficult it is to get to the bottom of an argument
  • Scholarly arguments drill down until there is a much more solid ground to support the argument.

Making Assumptions

  • Elements of the argument, either writer or audience are thinking but not saying.
  • Assumptions can include
    • Evidence, verification, other background knowledge
    • Values and beliefs
    • Catalyst or implications of argument
  • Assumptions make up the bulk of the total argument

Above-Water Arguments

  • Scholars scrutinize their arguments carefully because arguments have the power to change minds, behavior, beliefs, and actions.
  • Arguments that anticipate disconnects have the best chance for changing our audience’s mind.

Find the Right Mix

  • General rule – increased controversy requires increased explanation
  • Most common rookie mistakes by apprentice scholars
    • Arguing the obvious
    • Arguing without support
    • Supporting without arguing
  • How to know whether we are making mistakes
    • To avoid arguing the obvious
      • Read more
      • Ask an expert
    • To avoid arguing without support
      • Highlight your argument
      • Consult a reader
    • To avoid supporting without arguing
      • Use topic sentences
      • Search for stranded support

So What?

  • Arguments use evidence verification and illustration to support claims
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