Chapter two: How Do We Argue?

Arguments explain what we think and why we think so

  • Arguments can be defined in two different ways:
    1. By their function, or what they do: compelling arguments respond to questions or problems that seem urgent, controversial, or significant to writers and their audiences. They can help us create and communicate answers and solution, and they influence us to modify what (or how) we know, believe, think or act.
    2. By their form, or how they're structured: arguments are compromised of four main elements: a claim, support, linkages, and some explanation of why the argument matters.

Where Do We Find Arguments?

  • Scholars
    • Use arguments to explain and improve our world.

*Government and military intelligence experts
* Use arguments to inform politicians. Analysts piece together information from limited or incomplete sources, compare different versions of what might be happening, make judgements, and draw conclusions about what they think. Help to Justify foreign policy

  • Criminal trial lawyers
    • Use arguments to establish guilt or innocence. Juries decide questions of guilt or innocence based on the cases presented by prosecution and defence attorneys in the courtroom. The justice system seeks the truth about the case, but regardless of what actually happened, the verdict determines the defendant's fate.
  • Scientists
    • Discover evidence through research, which others use to build compelling cases for new laws and regulations.

All arguments, whether the intend to solve practical problems or simply deepen our understanding of an issue.

What About Scholarly Arguments?
When developing an argument, 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

Inquiry Based Argument
Scholars often do not know what their thesis is when they begin writing, but rather discover it through investigation and research. The thesis will intensify and become more convincing as the support for the topic accumulates.

If you don't think that arguments can influence what we know, think, and believe, consider 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

How Do We Build Arguments?
Imagine an argument as a bridge between a writer and reader

Thesis: the roadway
Supports: hold the road up
Linkages: tie everything together

Supporting Claims

  • Used because claims are controversial or open to question
  • We pair them with some kind of support that our audience will trust

Claim - "You should keep reading"
Support: "this chapter will be really useful."

Evidence: Includes anything we can observe
Verification: Includes things we can look up
Illustrations: Includes things we imagine

  • Evidence is a primary source, something that you can collect and analyze yourself
  • Verification is a secondary source, which means when someone else has already analyzed or interpreted the evidence
  • Illustration is an original source, one that you can create or borrow for a particular argument

An Everyday Argument
Effective arguments always build on some basis of acceptance or agreement

Making Assumptions

  • Evidence, verification, or other background knowledge that we assume our audience already knows
  • Values and Beliefs
  • The catalyst or implications of our argument assumptions make up the bulk of an entire argument

Above-Water Arguments

  • Every sentence in the argument is there for a reason
  • Arguments that anticipate disconnects, have the best chance for changing an audiences mind

Find The Right Mix

  • Increased controversy requires increased explanation

Here are the three most common rookie mistakes made by apprentice scholars:

  1. Arguing the obvious
  2. arguing without support
  3. Support without argument

To avoid arguing the obvious
a. Read more
b. Ask an expert

To avoid arguing without support
a. Highlight
b. Consult a reader

To avoid supporting without arguing
a. Use topic sentences
b. Search for stranded support

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