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Argumentative Writing. Objectives. Differentiate between persuasion and argument Introduce (or review) language of argumentation To recognize argumentative techniques in a variety of texts To formulate an argument with a claim and counter-claim To reach a logical conclusion .

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  • Differentiate between persuasion and argument
  • Introduce (or review) language of argumentation
  • To recognize argumentative techniques in a variety of texts
  • To formulate an argument with a claim and counter-claim
  • To reach a logical conclusion

 A claim is the main argument of an essay. If your claim is boring or obvious, the rest of the paper probably will be too.

 A claim defines your paper’s goals, direction, scope, and is supported by evidence.

 A claim must be argumentative. When you make a claim, you are arguing for a certain interpretation or understanding of your subject.

 A good claim is specific. It makes a focused argument.

Which is a better claim:

MTV’s popularity is waning because it no longer plays music videos

MTV sucks.


Evidence refers to the facts that support your claim. Examples such as the following are not considered evidence--

— Because it is my personal opinion

—Because my friends or relatives think so or most people think so

—Because it’s always been; it’s tradition

—Because it’s obvious

—Because it’s morally right

opinion vs arguable claim
Opinion Vs. Arguable Claim


Arguable Claim

—Twinkies are delicious.

—I like dance music.

—I think Virginia Woolf is better than James Joyce.

—The governor is a bad man.

—Twinkies taste better than other snack cakes because of their texture, their creamy filling, and their golden appearance.

—Dance music has become popular for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the music; rather, the clear, fast beats respond to the need of people on amphetamines to move, and to move quickly.

—Virginia Woolf is a more effective writer than James Joyce because she does not rely on elaborate language devices that ultimately confuse and alienate the reader.

—The governor has continually done the community a disservice by mishandling money, focusing on frivolous causes, and failing to listen to his constituents.


In arguing a claim, you should always consider potential counterclaims and counterarguments. For instance, in response to a claim about Clemson or Carolina being a horrible team, someone might say: “Actually, the Tigers defensive problems last year were a result of poor coaching on the part of the defensive coordinator. The Tigers have won their last two games and are number 4 in the country.”

This counterclaim denies the validity of the claim. Usually, it’s important to address counterclaims in your writing.

watch how you say it
Watch How You Say It

Remember that choice of words can affect a person’s response to it. Try to anticipate their response, and choose your words accordingly.

Phrasing A: The media's exploitation of the Watergate scandal showed how biased it was already.

Phrasing B: The media's coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that perhaps those in the media had already determined Nixon’s guilt.

Which one is less likely to raise a listener’s defensives?

writing an argument
Writing an Argument

Consider the situation

● What is the topic?

● What is my purpose?

● Who is my audience?

● What action do I want my audience to take?

Clarify your thinking

● What are you trying to prove?

● Why do you feel the way you do?

● What kind of proof do you have?

● Who will be affected by this?

construct a claim thesis statement
Construct a Claim (thesis statement)

A claim is the position statement or the key point of your argument

● Three types of claims:

1)claim of fact—state something is true or not true;

2)claim of value—state something has or doesn’t have worth;

3)claim of policy—assert something should or shouldn’t be done

● Claims may contain one or more reasons you will prove

● Write claim as one coherent sentence

collect evidence
Collect Evidence

● Facts

● Examples

● Definitions

● Comparison

● Statistics

● Experience

● Analysis

● Prediction

● Demonstration

● Expert opinions


● Quotations

consider key objections develop counter arguments
Consider Key Objections—Develop Counter Arguments

● Point out flaws/weaknesses in arguments on the other side or arguments you don’t accept

● List objections

● Recognize or concede another viewpoint when claim has true weaknesses. This adds believability to overall claim.

Transitional Phrases for Counter Arguments

I admit that Even though Certainly

It is true that Perhaps I accept

Of course I agree that I realize that

admittedly granted I cannot argue that

even though I agree that while it is true that

craft your argument
Craft your argument

● Use logical appeals—facts, statistics, expert opinions, anecdotes, and examples

● Avoid appeals to fear or ignorance

● Use levels of evidence—a minimum of two pieces of evidence to support each reason

confirm your claim
Confirm your claim

● Conclude with a restatement of main arguments

● Use a call to action

avoid fallacies of thinking use logic
Avoid Fallacies of Thinking—Use Logic!

An argument is a chain of reasons, supported by evidence, that support a claim. Faulty logic means using evidence that is fuzzy, exaggerated, illogical, or false. Be careful to avoid faulty logic like the following when defending claims:

  • Appeal to Pity—Using excuses to ask for leniency. “Imagine what it must have been like…”
  • Bandwagon—Appeals to everyone’s sense of wanting to belong or be accepted. “Everyone believes it or does it so you should too.”
  • Broad Generalization—Using words like “all” and “everyone” are too general. “Is this claim true for all of the people being discussed, or just for some?”
  • Circular Thinking—Restating your claim in different words as evidence for your claim. “I hate this class because I’m never happy in this class.”
  • Either-Or Thinking—Offering evidence that reduces examples to two possible extremes. Are there other possibilities that should be considered?
  • Half-Truths—Telling only part or half of the truth. Is this the full story—or is there another side to this that is not being told?

More Fallacies to Avoid

  • Oversimplification—Simplifying complex topics into a “simple question.” “______________ is a simple question of ___________.”
  • Slanted Language or Distracting the Reader—Selecting words that have strong positive or negative connation in order to distract the reader from valid arguments. “Is this evidence dealing with the real issue?” “No one in his right mind would ever do anything that dumb.”
  • Testimonial—Make sure the expert opinion is an authority on the topic. “What are this person’s credentials?”
  • Exaggerating the Facts—“Is everything that is being said true and accurate?”
  • Appeal to Ignorance—Claiming that since no one has ever proved a claim, it must be false. Shifts the burden of proof onto someone else. “Show me one study that proves…”
other helpful transitions for fluency
Other Helpful Transitions for Fluency

Also, besides, furthermore, in addition, similarly, in other words, for example, for instance, although, but, despite the fact that, however, as a result, since, so, therefore, admittedly, as a result, consequently, yet, thus

words to use instead of said
Words to use instead of “said”

























Dictated Emphasized Estimated Exclaimed Explained Expressed Feared Indicated Insisted Instructed Lectured Mentioned Murmured Noted Notified Objected Observed Ordered Pleaded Pointed out Predicted Questioned Reassured Related Repeated Replied Responded Requested Restated Revealed Ruled Screamed Spoke Stammered Stated Stormed Suggested Thought Told Urged Uttered Vowed Warned 

using others ideas appropriately
Using others’ ideas appropriately
  • Quoting: using the exact words of another. Words must be placed in quotation marks and the author cited either in the sentence or in parentheses after the sentence.
  • Summarizing: putting the ideas of another in your own words and condensing them. Author must be identified and ideas cited.
  • Paraphrasing: putting someone else’s ideas in your words but keeping approximately the same length as the original. Paraphrase must be original in both structure and wording, and accurate in representing author’s intent. It can not just be switching out synonyms in the original sentence. Author must be identified and cited.
  • Why use quotations?
    • when the speaker’s name and reputation add credibility
    • when the phrasing of the quotation is interesting or revealing and cannot be stated another way as effectively

Hint: cut quotes to the core and use them like spice, sparingly

    • Many students “improve their reading ability” by looking at a text closely and by giving their first reactions to it (Burke 46).  
  • Summaries
    • Should be shorter than original text
    • Should include the main ideas of the original
    • Should reflect the structure of the original text somewhat
    • Should include important details
  • Source: “People of African descent in the Diaspora do not speak languages of Africa as their mother tongue.”
  • Inappropriate Paraphrase: “People of African descent no longer speak the languages of Africa as their first language.”
  • Appropriate Paraphrase: “Painter contends that cultural factors like language and religion divide African Americans from their ancestors. Black Americans speak a wide variety of languages, but usually these are not African.”
introducing others ideas
Introducing others’ ideas
  • Put source names either before the idea or after the idea in parentheses--
    • Painter insists that the hula hoop can help fight diabetes.
    • Others find the idea ridiculous (Painter).
  • Use vivid and precise verb signals more than “says” or “believes” to show how an author feels: suggests, agrees, recommends, insists, explains
  • Make sure the idea adds to the point you are making. Dropping in unrelated quotes or names diminishes your credibility. SHOW how the idea contributes to YOUR argument.