Creating a Balanced Argument Using Multiple Sources

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Arguments are good things. They're important parts of our academic, professional, and social lives, but they have to be done right. In this lesson, we're going to talk about creating a balanced argument through a simple, 5-step process.

The Art of the Balanced Argument

You have opinions. That's good, but at some point in your life, you will be asked to defend them. That's okay, too. Debate is healthy, and important, but we want to make sure we do it right. Too many people try to shout their way through debates, blindly insisting that their ideas are correct while ignoring their opponents. Let me ask - if somebody treated you like that, would you take them seriously? Of course not. That person is being a jerk. We don't take jerks seriously. Since you're not a jerk, and you want people to take you seriously, you need to know how to create a balanced argument, one that considers every side of the issue and can be defended using logic and facts, not emotion. It's a difficult line to walk, but an important way to make sure your own ideas are valid, and to prove it to the world.

Studies show that a balanced argument is always more likely to be heard

Using Multiple Sources

We're going to break this down into a simple, 5-step process.

Step One: Admit Your Bias

The first step for creating a balanced argument actually has nothing to do with research. It has to do with you. Before you can defend an argument, you need to be aware of your own biases. How have your life experiences made you feel about the issue? Do you support a topic because of the facts, or because people around you do? Do you object to the opposing idea because you may be biased against it, or are there actual reasons to disagree? Creating a balanced argument always begins with this first step. You need to understand your own personal feelings on this topic first, and predict how they could impact your ability to remain controlled and logical.

Step Two: Research Each Side

Now we get to the research. Many people debating a topic will jump straight into finding all of the data and research that supports their argument, and you should too. Look for articles, books, interviews, and editorials that are created by credible sources that clearly outline the facts of the subject. Compiling research based on the emotion and prejudice of non-credible sources is not going to help you make a balanced argument. Again, if you want people to take your opinions seriously, your argument has to be balanced and supported by facts.

So, you've researched your argument, but you're not done yet. Now you need to research the other side. Why do people support this idea? What are their arguments? What facts do they have to support them? You need to understand what you are arguing against, and then you need to ask yourself the hardest question of all: do they have any good points? Very often, the most balanced arguments (and those that people take most seriously) are those which acknowledge the good points of the other side. Many times, debates over important topics are resolved through compromise, not by assigning a clear winner. Understanding the other side helps you appreciate where they're coming from and may open up areas of compromise.

There is nothing wrong with compromise and respect

Step Three: Research the Arguments Against Each Side

Now that you've got a clear grasp on each side of the debate, it's time to understand exactly what each side thinks of the other. Remember, up to this point, you've only been researching the pros of both sides. Now it's time to focus on the cons. Why do people who support your argument think that the opposing side is wrong? Just as importantly, what do people on the other side say is wrong with your argument? Remember to focus only on fact-driven arguments, not those based in emotion. Understanding this can help you prepare for a debate, as well as identify the parts of the debate that actually matter to each side. Sometimes, the difference between two sides comes down to a single issue. If that's the case, you want to stay focused on that issue and avoid getting sidetracked by tangential ideas.

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