Writing arguments

Much of academic writing is structured in the form of arguments-not quarrels, but reasoned, logical, claims supported by expert testimony and factual evidence. It is in this way that members of academic (and professional) disciplines not only communicate with each other, but work to advance their fields. In their definitions of argument, John Ramage and John Bean claim that argument has three defining features: it “requires justification of its claims, it is both a product and a process, and it combines elements of truth seeking and persuasion.” That is, argument demands:

  • that you support your claims with a combination of logic and evidence
  • that you understand that an argument is both a thing (“product”) and an action “process”)
  • and that an you look for truth even as you persuade readers of that truth

For an introduction to the “elements of argument” visit Youngstown State University’s http://karn.wright.edu/~sg-ysu/argu.html. These pages have relatively brief and accessible introductions with examples to the main parts of an argumentative essay.

A more detailed approach to argument is provided by The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Writing Center at http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/argument.html. See also Utah Valley State College’s website: http://www.uvsc.edu/owl/handouts/logic.html#logical.

For a brief overview of argumentative writing strategies with links to student examples, visit Longman Publishers’ http://wps.ablongman.com/long_dodds_rrh_3/0,5006,309198-,00.html.

For an overview of the value of logic in developing arguments, visit Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/general/gl_argpers.html. Here you will find useful vocabulary, techniques, and pitfalls to avoid when developing logical arguments.

For a more comprehensive look at what are known as “logical fallacies” (i.e., traps that we can fall into that will make our arguments less effective), visit “Stephen’s Guide” at http://www.intrepidsoftware.com/fallacy/toc.htm or “The Fallacy Files” at http://gncurtis.home.texas.net/index.html.

If you are someone who benefits from thinking about tasks in terms of analogies, visit http://www.utdallas.edu/~pjb011000/courtroomanalogy.htm for a comparison of academic argumentative writing and the preparations for trial by a courtroom attorney. This page has limited utility for detailed approaches, but may help you wrap your mind around the expectations of academic writing.


©2004 Capella University

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