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The Argumentative Essay. “. . .a writer tries to persuade readers to adopt his or her point of view about a given issue.” “. . .the underlying aim of argumentative essays is to use words to make a difference.” drawn from Section 7 of Scribner. A good persuasive argument. . .

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the argumentative essay

The Argumentative Essay

“. . .a writer tries to persuade readers to adopt his or her point of view about a given issue.”

“. . .the underlying aim of argumentative essays is to use words to make a difference.”

drawn from Section 7 of Scribner

a good persuasive argument
A good persuasive argument. . .
  • . . .conveys a reasonable conclusion--often called a thesis or a claim--about a controversial topic.
  • . . .presents supporting evidence that is always incorporated, explained and documented clearly and precisely..
furthermore a good argumentative essay
Furthermore, a good Argumentative Essay. . .
  • . . .considers and often presents the conflicting point of view about the controversy.
  • . . .reflects thorough research
things to consider
Things to consider:
  • Your audience
  • Why is this subject important?
  • Answer the position of the other side
    • refute
    • concede
  • Build your own position.
think of your audience you do not want to invite your readers opposition or hostility
Think of your audience; youdo not want to invite your readers' opposition or hostility.
  • you need to show a real concern about how your readers might think about a given subject
  • Also you need to consider how they might react to the way you think about that subject.
  • All audiences within our western academic culture respond to logic and reasonableness.
logical thinking

Logical Thinking


inductive anddeductivereasoning

inductive reasoning
Inductive Reasoning
  • . . .used to attribute causes to events or circumstances rather than to determine the truth about them with absolute certainty.
  • Your generalizations about causes may be right or wrong, but you cannot be certain because inductive thinking depends on probability.
  • Probability refers to the likelihood, rather than to an absolute conviction, that something is true.
  • Errors in inductive reasoning typically involve oversimplification.
an example of inductive reasoning
An example of inductive reasoning

If you break out in hives every time you eat chocolate, you most likely will generalize from those specific instances and reason that eating chocolate caused the hives in you.

Be aware that observations need to be accurate:

You may consider whether you are allergic to other things besides chocolate.(Did the pizza with anchovies you ate before the chocolate dessert have something to do with your reaction?)

elements of inductive reasoning
Elements of Inductive Reasoning
  • begins with a specific observation
  • continues with additional specific observations
  • arrives at a general claim or a reasonable conclusion that is based on available evidence
  • attributes causes to events or circumstances, resulting in a hypothesis that can be tested further (an educated guess).
  • offers probability rather than certainty
deductive reasoning
Deductive Reasoning
  • occurs when you take a general principle or truth and apply it to a more specific instance.
  • Deductive thinking is syllogistic reasoning.
    • Asyllogism is an argument arranged in three parts:
      • a major premise,
      • a minor premise, and
      • a conclusion.
MAJOR PREMISE When Gabriele drinks coffee she alwaysgets a headache. [Fact]
    • MINOR PREMISE Gabriele is drinking coffee. [Fact]
    • CONCLUSION Gabriele will get a headache.
  • The premises can be factsorassumptions.
    • A major premise stipulates a general principle (e.g., that all spiders have eight legs),
    • and a minor premise reflects a specific instance (e.g., that the creature on your desk has six legs).
A syllogism is valid when the conclusion follows logically from the premises. When the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises, a syllogism (along with the argument it states) is invalid, even if the premises are facts, as in the following example.
  • MAJOR PREMISE: When Gabriele drinks coffee she always gets a headache. [Fact]
  • MINOR PREMISE: Gabriele has a headache. [Fact]
  • CONCLUSION: Gabriele must have been drinking coffee.
When a premise is an assumption rather than a fact, you must be able to support the premise with evidence.
  • MAJOR PREMISE If you wear Gap clothes to school, you will be accepted by the school's most popular group. [Assumption]
  • MINOR PREMISE Jose wears Gap clothes to school. [Fact]
  • CONCLUSION Jose will be accepted by the school's most popular group.

Since the major premise of thisexample rests on a shaky assumption (it cannot be supported with evidence), the argumentis not true. But the structure is valid.

In most instances, wearing Gap clothes (or any other brand or type of clothing) does not ensure automatic popularity. Other factors, such as academic or athletic ability, sense of humor, physical characteristics, friends, and others, influence acceptance.

elements of deductive reasoning
Elements of Deductive Reasoning
    • begins with a general idea or major premise
    • continues with an additional minor premise applied to a particular case
    • concludes with a specific statement derived from the premise
further elements of deductive reasoning
Further Elements of Deductive Reasoning
    • can be true or false, depending on how true or false the premise is
    • can be valid or invalid, depending on the structureof their syllogisms
    • when true, provides certainty rather than probability
checklist of common logical fallacies
Checklist of Common Logical Fallacies
  • Non sequitor: A statement that does not follow logically from another.
  • Hasty generalization: A conclusion based on insufficient evidence.
  • Stereotyping: Assuming without sufficient evidence that members of a group think or behave alike.
  • Either-or thinking: Limiting possible explanations to two.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Assuming that an event is caused by another simply because one event occurs after the other.
  • Begging the question: Assuming as true what needs to be proven.
  • Circular reasoning: Asserting the same point in different words.
  • Special pleading: Arguing without considering opposing viewpoints.
  • Red herring: Introducing an irrelevant or distracting consideration into an argument.
Appeal to ignorance: Assuming something is true because the contrary cannot be proven.
  • Ad populum: Appealing to the prejudices of an audience.
  • Ad hominem: Attacking a person's character rather than addressing the issue at hand.
  • False analogy: Making an illogical connection based on irrelevant similarities.
audiences respond if you adopt a fair minded and reasonable tone in your arguments therefore avoid
Audiences respond if you adopt a fair-minded and reasonable tone in your arguments. Therefore avoid. . .
  • . . .exaggeration and anger
    • For example, never use name-calling as a tactic (you should not refer to your opposition as stupid or ludicrous).
  • . . .wording that sounds pompous or borrowed.
  • . . .wording that overstates your case and thereby distorts the truth.
be thorough
Be thorough. . .
  • Look at the whole controversy so that you do not overlook important evidence.
  • Jumping to conclusions tends to lead to using evidence that supports preliminary and, perhaps, unfounded bias for a particular solution.
  • Ignoring other points of view can only weaken your argument by suggesting to readers that you have considered no other position except your own.
a thesis should reflect thoughtfulness
A thesis should reflect thoughtfulness:
  • The library must create additional space so that its collection can be supplemented.

The topic, in this example, is how best to use a high school's library budget. One special interest group in the community wants to build new storage space for books that few people consult; the other groupwants to weed out the older books and spend most of the money for new books. These two groups are locked in a standoff, recognizing no middle ground.


Although our local library has a significant problem with dwindling storage space, gaps in the social studies, science, and fiction collections make it imperative that additional books be purchased. Placing low-circulation books into secondary storage at an alternative location and a concerted effort by the librarian to replace bulky periodicals with microfilm can create sufficient space for supplementing the collection for five more years.

guidelines for developing an argumentative essay
Guidelines for Developing an Argumentative Essay
  • Select a controversial subject that interests you.
  • Consider other points of view. Be fair to all sides of the argument during research by doing the following:
    • As your evidence begins to lead you to a particular conclusion, search for contradictory evidence.
    • Question your own evidence just as you question other investigators' conclusions.
Avoid jumping to conclusions, and never be satisfied d if your evidence leads to only one way of seeing your topic.
    • Try to imagine how your audience will interpret your evidence.
    • Let the principles of logic guide your effort.
  • Write a short account explaining what you have discovered about your controversy. Sketch out the various points of view.
  • Based on the evidence you have gathered formulate a tentative thesis, one that you will reconsider and modify as you do more reading, writing, and analysis.
Make a tentative outline of how you think you will develop your argument, listing the major and support ideas, or premises, and the order in which you will present them. Keep in mind that the way you organize your evidence will help determine just how convincing your argument will be.
  • Write a draft beginning, and then develop the middle of your essay. Write an ending.
  • Present your argument to your work group or to another classmate. Ask your readers to resist your argument and to indicate weak spots
a review of the main features of the argumentative essay
A Review of the mainFeatures of the Argumentative Essay
  • It presents supporting evidence that is always incorporated, explained, and documented clearly and precisely.
  • It presents the conflicting points of view.
  • It reflects thorough research.
  • It conveys a reasonable conclusion.