• Writing an Argument



    Prewriting: Plan your SOAPS

    ·         Subject: Do you need more research to be knowledgeable?

    o   Are all terms understood to mean the same thing to everyone?

    o   Clarify any key words that may be misconstrued.

    ·         Purpose: Why are you writing this?

    o   Do you want your audience to believe your views?

    o   Do you want the audience to go out and do something?

    ·         Claim: What is the thesis of your argument? Is it narrow enough to address within the constraints given?

    ·         Occasion: Why will your audience want to hear this NOW? Explain its urgency.

    ·         Warrant: Why would your audience want this claim addressed?

    o    Is there an overarching reason/assumption on which everyone can agree?

    o   Does our society provide a framework of beliefs that would lead to your claim?

    ·         Audience: address the concerns of your audience

    o   Use reasons that appeal to this group

    o    Use language (diction and syntax) that appeals to this group

    o   Use pathos, ethos, and logos as appropriate

    o   Use comparisons (analogies, metaphors) to help your audience understand you

    ·         Support: choose the most convincing details

    o   Refer to data, statistics, facts, examples

    o   Use observations and common knowledge

    o   Use other authorities (experts, reliable sources)to support your view

    o   Use personal anecdotes if appropriate

    o   Address the opposition’s possible arguments

    §  Qualify your argument if necessary (some, many, often)

    §  Concede the valid portions of the opposition’s views

    §  Maintain your assertive tone while acknowledging the opposing points





    The Rhetoric of Argumentation








    Planning your own argument

    ·         Thesis/ Assertion/ Claim-- agree, disagree, or qualify with the idea given

    o   Purpose: to create awareness (smoking kills), to defend an issue(parking for seniors), to accept a potentially controversial issue(no grades), to refute someone else’s position(school should be year long), to call to action (vote, strike), to propose a solution (improve recycling)

    ·          What details about the nature of the issue must you address?

    ·         Analyze your opposition

    o   Who is your audience? What are their prejudices, assumptions, stereotypes, beliefs?

    o   Who would be against your thesis? Anticipate their objections with rhetorical questions, hypophora, procatalepsis.

    o   What are the arguments and techniques used by your opposition (if there is an essay for you to refute)? Refute them.

    ·         How will your argument differ from others? Be strong and thoughtful. Go beyond the simple standard reasons.

    ·         Define terms of the argument: deal with connotation as well as denotation

    ·         State main reasons

    o   Arrange relevant issues in order of importance (best is last)

    o   Think about the opposition to your argument

    §  Anticipate opposing arguments

    §  Offer concessions to appease your audience

    o   Support: experiences/anecdotes, historical facts, literary allusions, statistical evidence

    §  Warrant: state the  assumption or principle which connects your claim to your support (a bridge to jump over to the claim)

    §  Use details which will most likely be supported by your audience

    §  Appeal to the audience’s feelings (pathos), logic (logos) and belief in the credibility of the author (ethos).

    §  Appeal to a sense of values, standards for what is right/wrong, bad/good, beautiful/ugly, etc.













    ·         Organize paragraphs


    1.   Defending your main idea

    a.      If you are stating your opinion, state your main idea, and then defend it

    b.      If you are establishing that a problem exists, present the “stock issues”, then introduce your thesis as the solution


    o   Construct your organization in your intro. when you state the main reasons for the defense of your argument

    o   Use appropriate warrants and data to support your thesis

    o   Urge the adoption of your idea or the efficacy of your facts

    o   Order your reasons to emphasize the most important which is usually saved for last and has the most supporting data

    o   If your time or scope is limited, focus on your best reason



    2.   Refuting the opposing view


    v  If you are refuting an idea, state that idea first, then argue against it.

    o   Highlight the main points of the opposition’s argument

    o   Summarize the opposition’s point of view

    o   Attack the principle elements of the opposing argument

    §  Question whether your opponent has proven that an problem exists

    §  Question the evidence

    §  Attack the warrants/assumptions that underlie the claim

    §  Attack the reasoning or logic of the opposing view (fallacies)

    §  Attack the proposed solution explaining why it would not work

    o   Supply reasons and evidence of your own view

    o   Make concessions



    3.      Presenting stock issues

    o   Convince your audience that the status quo (existing situation) must be changed

    §  Establish need

    §  Propose a solution/ plan (note that the thesis might appear in the middle of the paper)

    §  Show reasons for adopting your plan/ advantages






    ·         Style

    o   Simple versus complex sentences

    o   Short and long sentences

    o   Active verbs, not passive verbs

    o   Use of analogies

    o   Use of tropes: metaphors, etc.                                                 

    ·         Tone: the attitude and approach you take toward the subject of your argument (solemn, humorous, sardonic)

    o    Choose forceful, persuasive diction (intensifiers)both denotative and connotative

    o   Use of tropes and schemes (grammatical configurations)

    o   Syntax should reflect your attitude toward your subject:

                     Long, complex sentences =complex ideas

    Short simple sentences= refutation/concession/emphasis




    v  Varied sentence structure: long, short, simple, compound, complex, periodic, cumulative, differing sentence openers

    v  Active verbs (no killer be’s)

    v  Rich vocabulary, words used in new and creative ways

    v  Clever use of details and examples to clarify and to illustrate terms, generalizations, and principles

    v  Use schemes and tropes of emphasis but do not rely on simple repetition

    v  Avoid generalizations and superlatives (all, most, never, etc.)

    v  Avoid “I” and “you”

    v  Check for credible explanations and warrants

    v  Avoid mere summaries in your concluding paragraph; find a new idea which emerges naturally from the development of your whole argument; “go global or noble”

    v  Be sure that your paper is unified: focused on a goal; each statement is directed toward that goal

    v  Write cohesively: explain all ideas clearly and connect them by transitions (Check the beginning and ending of your paragraphs.)

    v  Use emphasis

    o   Key sentences at the beginning of paragraphs

    o   Key paragraphs at the beginning or end of your paper

    o   Place a short sentence among long ones

    o   Use verbal flags to alert your reader (“most importantly”)











    ·         Deductive: a conclusion is true because the premises on which it is based are true (general to specific)

    o   Syllogism: (Aristotle) major premise, minor premise, conclusion

    §  Ban harmful things. Cigarettes are harmful. Therefore cigarettes should be banned.

    ·         Inductive: the conclusion is based on particular examples (specific to general)

    o   Toulmin model (modern British philosopher) Support: Cigarettes are harmful. (give backing, support, data)Claim: Cigarettes should be banned. Warrant: Harmful things should be banned.

    §  Use qualifiers if necessary (“probably”, “more likely”)

    §  Use reservations if necessary: unless a certain condition is met the warrant may not connect the claim and support or there are conditions under which the warrants will not be relevant (“unless”)

    §   If necessary, refer to backing: the assurances upon which the warrant is based ( research to show that harmful things should be banned)





















    Logical Fallacy: wrong, misleading, or deceptive reasoning


    • Hasty generalization: jumping to a conclusion (prejudice, superstitions)
    • Faulty use of authority: citing experts who may not have credentials or may be refuted by other authorities ( the scientists hired by the cigarette company does not find evidence linking smoking to cancer)
    • Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (circular reasoning): because one event follows another, the first event  is assumed to have caused the first (it rained; I passed my test)
    • False analogy: comparing two unlike objects (apples and oranges)
    • Ad Hominem: attacking the man/woman rather than the issue
    • False dilemma: either/or choices when there are other options; seeing only black and white when grey exists (Either you study for vocab, or you will be dumb.)
    • Slippery slope: saying one step inevitably leads to the next (something is getting bad and must be stopped before it gets worse) without providing evidence (Smoking leads to heroin addiction.)
    • Begging the question: assuming that the issue has already been proven; evading the real question (Women do not belong in men’s clubs because they are only for men.)
    • Straw man/red herring: distracting the reader by bringing up a similar issue that can be easily defeated (Women should not be paid for childcare because women are not paid to become mothers.)
    • Non sequitur: one idea does not follow another; it’s irrelevant (The book sold millions; it’s great literature.)
    • Ad populum: appealing to the prejudices of the population (Mom, every other mom says it’s okay to go to the Bahamas.)
    • Appeal to tradition: we should keep doing what we have always done (Women have never been allowed in this club.)
    • Band wagon: everyone else believes it (Lawyers are crooked.)
    • Loaded terms: biased language (True Americans believe in bearing arms.)
    • Bogus claims: using unsubstantiated claims (Our diet pill costs $300 because it is the only one that works.)
    • Oversimplification: ignoring the complexities of an argument (If you would only study your vocabulary, you could go to Harvard.)







    Essay three: Usually, you will be asked to defend, challenge, or qualify the quotation/assertion of a famous person. Use very specific evidence from observations, experiences, and readings. Think of examples, anecdotes, and facts from history, literature, pop culture, and personal experiences. Organize into paragraphs.


    • Plan and organize
    • Write
      • Paragraph 1:
        • attention (jazzy metaphor, classy thesis- up to you)
        •  Identify your position/premise/thesis
        • Clarify ambiguous terms
        • Mention your support
        • Be brilliant, but concise
      • Paragraphs 2-4 > {this > means “or more”-so I’m not a math teacher }
        • Use organizational plan for dividing paragraphs:
          • Logic:
            • inductive (syllogism)         
            • deductive (Toulmin)
          • Explain your point –followed immediately by a specific fact to illustrate your point
          • Address the opposition
            •  Refutation
            • concession
          • Choose forceful, persuasive diction (intensifiers)
          • Use a strong tone
          • Appeal: ethos, pathos, logos
          • Syntax should reflect your attitude toward your subject:
            • Long, complex sentences =complex ideas
            • Short simple sentences= refutation/concession/ emphasis
          • Go on to a new paragraph, new argument
          • Transitional sentence/phrase
      • Paragraph: the last
        • Further state your opinion-forcefully
        • Go global (the big picture) or noble (wax philosophical)
      • Revise
        • Correct errors
        • Change your diction to more precise, brilliant, or appealing words
        • Be sure each statement is supported by specific data/stats, anecdote, fact
        • Fluently connect sentences together for a more sophisticated effect
        • Shorten a sentence (or paragraph) for emphasis
        • Play with punctuation and word order for emphasis
        • Throw in a semi-colon and a rhetorical question