to Writing an Argument
Develop Your Argument
When you develop your argument,
you are confirming your own position, building your case. Use empirical evidence,
such as facts and statistics, to support your claims. Appeal to your audience's
rational and logical thinking. Argue your case from the authority of your evidence
Your list of strengths and weaknesses
can help you develop your argument. Prioritize the strengths and weaknesses
for each position; decide on the top three to five strengths and weaknesses.
Then, using a technique for developing content ideas, e.g., clustering, association,
journalist's questions, [see Chapter
2: Techniques to Get Started], begin to expand your understanding of each
of the items on your list. Evaluate each item as to how you can support itby
reasoning, providing details, adding an example, by using evidence. Again, prioritize
your list of strengths and weaknesses, this time noting what supporting comments
need more work, more evidence, or may be irrelevant to your argument. At this
stage, it's better to overlook nothing and keep extensive notes for later reference.
As you develop your ideas, remember
that you are presenting them in a fair-minded and rational way, counting on
your reader's intelligence, experience, and insight to evaluate your argument
and see your point of view.
Techniques for Appealing to
The success of your argument depends
on your skill in convincing your readerthrough sound reasoning, persuasion,
and evidencethe strength of your point of view. There are three fundamental
types of appeal in presenting an argument: reason, ethics, and emotion. As a
writer, your task is to weave these three types of appeal skillfully into your
argument in a balanced and sensible way.
Clear thinking requires that you state your claim and support it
with concrete, specific facts. This approach appeals to our common sense and
rational thinking. Formal reasoning entails following certain established
logical methods to arrive at certain pieces of information or conclusions.
Generally, these logical methods are known as inductive reasoning and deductive
When our logical thinking
states specific facts (called premises) and then draws a conclusion, a generalization,
we call this inductive thinking. Inductive reasoning enables us to examine
the specific details in light of how well they add up to the generalization.
When we think inductively, we are asking whether the evidence clearly supports
of inductive reasoning
Our marketing study proves
that citizens are concerned about information privacy and won't visit
certain Web sites.
In deductive reasoning,
our logical thinking starts with the generalization. As we apply our generalization
to a specific situation, we examine the individual premises that make that
generalization reasonable or not. When our logical thinking starts with the
generalization, or conclusion, then we may apply the generalization to a particular
situation to see whether that generalization follows from the premises. Our
deductive thinking can be expressed as a syllogism or an enthymeme, a shortened
form of the syllogism.
of deductive reasoning
Aggressive marketers speak of invasive data collection as
simply "getting to know the customer," and ABC corporation
is actively assembling a database of private client information. Despite
their claim to be interested in providing better customer service,
we may be concerned that ABC will not protect our privacy.
Because ABC corporation is assembling a database of private information
about their clients, their customers are concerned about identity
Think of ethics as the force of character of the speaker as it is represented
in oration or writing. If you misrepresent the evidence or one of your sources,
your reader will question your ethics. In any situation where you must rely
on your reader's good will and common sense, you will lose your reader's open-minded
stance toward your argument when you use unethical methods to support your
argument. This can happen intentionally, by misrepresenting evidence and experts
and by seeking to hurt individuals or groups. You may also undermine your
argument by unintentional misunderstanding of the evidence and the implications
of your position. This can happen when you don't research the evidence responsibly,
preferring instead to express your own and others' unfounded opinions.
Using emotions as a support for argument can be tricky. Attempting
to play on your readers' emotions can smack of manipulation and is often mistrusted.
To use emotional appeal successfully, you need to apply discretion and restraint.
You need to choose examples that represent and illustrate your ideas fairly
and then present your arguments as objectively as possible. The writer must
carefully draw the connections between the ideas and illustrations, choosing
diction in such a way that readers don't question motives as manipulative
and sensational. Strong evidence accumulated by careful research often addresses
this potential problem well. An example of an appeal to emotion is presented
here: Rather than continuing these tax-and-spend policies, we plan to return
your hard-earned tax money to you.