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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Writing Arguments

Steps to Writing an Argument

Determine Your Organization

Let’s review the two main argument structures you will likely use for a research paper: The Aristotelian (or classic) argument and the Rogerian argument.

  • Aristotelian argument is made to confirm a position or hypothesis or to refute an existing argument.

  • Rogerian argument aims to find a common ground among readers rather than establish an adversarial relationship.

Next, let’s go over how to get each one of these argument styles started for your assignment.

Suggested Organization for an Aristotelian Argument

Give the context and background of your issue. Establish style, tone, and significance of your issue.

Clarify your issue here. Provide any necessary background for understanding the issue. Define any important terms or conditions here.

State your central proposition. Be sure your hook presents an issue that is open to debate. Present the subtopics or supportive points to forecast your argument for your readers.

Analyze the opposition’s argument and summarize it; refute or address the points; identify faulty reasoning and inappropriate appeals.

Present and develop your own case. Rely primarily on reasoning for your appeal; use examples, facts, experts, and statistics. Develop your argument using the appropriate prose strategy (e.g., causal analysis, comparison, analogies, definitions).

Conclude with conviction. Review your main points and state your claims strongly. Make a compelling plea for action, or invite your readers to refute your argument.

Suggested Organization for a Rogerian Argument

This statement should define the issue at hand.

State this in a neutral, objective way. Demonstrate that you understand the opposition’s opinion and their reasons for holding it. Avoid moralizing or judging the opposition’s position or reasons.

State this in a neutral, objective way. Avoid moralizing about your position or reasons.

Find commonly shared goals and values.

Resolve the issue in a way that recognizes and incorporates the interests of both positions.

When you are writing the paper, think of the points you are using to support your argument. Some of those points may be strong and some might be a bit weaker (but they still support your argument). The order of your strongest and weakest points is called the order of disclosure. But which point should you write about first? How do we know which order will work?

One effective way to order your points is to start with the second most important point, go to the next points of lesser importance, and then conclude with your strongest point. Here is why this is an effective method:

  • When you place your two strongest points first and last, the reader is more likely to remember those points based on their placement. If you put the strongest points in the middle of the assignment, they might get lost among the other information. Start off strong and end strong. This leaves a lasting impact.

  • Some writers like to save their strongest argument just for the end of the assignment. This is effective as well. When you finish your discussion with the strongest point coming last, you emphasize the strength of your argument.

This pattern is considered a powerful way to overcome the initial resistance of the readers/audience, although many arguments instead move from the weakest to the strongest points.

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