Writing Arguments

Steps to Writing an Argument

Determine Your Organization

Classic and Rogerian arguments have organizational structures, frameworks that support their discursive aims. They are presented here.

Suggested Organization for a Classic Argument

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

  2. State your Case: Clarify your issue here. Give any necessary background for understanding the issues. Define any important terms or conditions here.

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

  4. Refutation: Analyze the opposition's argument and summarize it; refute or address the points; point out faulty reasoning and inappropriate appeals.

  5. Substantiation and Proof: Present and develop your own case. Carefully plan your disclosure; avoid logical fallacies. Rely primarily on reasoning for your appeal and use emotional appeals carefully; use examples, facts, experts, and statistics. Develop your argument using the appropriate prose strategy, e.g., causal analysis, comparison, analogies, definitions.

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

Suggested Organization for a Rogerian Argument

  1. Write a brief objective statement to define the issue.

  2. Analyze and state the other's position in a neutral, objective way. Demonstrate that you understand the other's position and their reasons for holding it. Avoid moralizing or judging the other's position or reasons.

  3. Analyze and state your own position in a neutral, objective way. Avoid moralizing about your own position or reasons.

  4. Analyze what the two positions have in common; find commonly shared goals and values.

  5. Propose a resolution to the issue that recognizes and incorporates the interests of both positions.

The order of your strongest and weakest points—called the order of disclosure—is important to think about as well. How do we know which order will work? One effective way to order your points is this: start with the second most important point, go to the next points of lesser importance, and then conclude with your strongest point. When you place your two strongest points first and last, you give your important points the two most memorable and emphatic positions, at the beginning and the end of your discussion. When you wrap up your discussion with the strongest point coming last, you emphasize the strength of your argument and give it punch. This pattern is considered powerful for overcoming the initial resistance of the reader/audience. However, many arguments use the order of the weakest points to the strongest points.