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How to Write a Great Argument

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  • 0:06 How to Make a Strong Argument
  • 0:36 Steps to Building a…
  • 5:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Many times our writing must not just be informative but it must also be persuasive. One of the best ways to be very persuasive is to use a great argument. Learn six steps you can follow to write a great argument.

Introduction

Imagine it has happened: You have been challenged to a duel. This isn't your typical duel. You have been challenged to battle one-on-one, not in a face-to-face setting, but on paper. You get one shot to convince the entire reading audience that your point is correct and gain their support. How do you do this? How do you persuade the masses of your point of view? With a great argument!

Steps to Building a Great Argument

There are a number of times we may be asked to present a written argument, both in academia as well as in real-life settings. Academic arguments are sometimes called for in courses analyzing stances taken in history, or perhaps during a speech class where you have to give a persuasive presentation or even when solving case study problems in business, engineering and clinical courses. In our everyday lives, we present arguments when writing our politicians, explaining our side in disputes and even encouraging friends and family members to support causes that are near and dear to our hearts. There are six steps we can follow to build a great argument.

1. Make sure to get the question or topic right.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone is passionately trying to persuade others of a topic that really isn't an issue in the first place? Have you ever asked someone a specific question and their answer addressed a completely different topic? As annoying as those instances are, we can find ourselves doing the same thing if we are not careful in arguing our topic. The best way to be sure you are dealing with the correct topic is to make the topic a part of your thesis statement. For instance, if I have been asked to argue the points for higher speed limits on highways, I can ensure I am arguing that point by making my thesis statement, 'Why higher speed limits on highways are beneficial.' This will keep me more focused than if I made my thesis statement, 'Why cars are well equipped to handle higher speeds on the highway.' I could easily veer into arguing the merits of advanced engineering or automatic steering and breaking, which may or may not have anything to do with higher speed limits on highways.

2. Support your side of the argument with good reason.

The way to refute an argument or to prove a point is with logic and reason, not with attacking the other side. No matter your feelings about the opposing viewpoint, never resort to ad hominem, straw man or other types of rhetorical attacks. Attacking people is never a good way to build your case. Readers want the merits of your point, not simply a tearing down of the views of others.

Proving your point with logic and reason includes having good, factual data as well as presenting your viewpoint in ordered steps that are easy for your reader to understand and follow.

3. Use good support that will seem valid and unbiased to your reader.

Present support from a variety of sources. This includes the use of definitions, statistical analyses, facts, testimonials, historical precedents and any other information that would be relevant to your topic and your point. It is important to use sources your reader will find credible and that are as free from bias as possible. Remember to always cite your sources.

4. Deal with disagreement.

Sometimes there are valid and legitimate arguments against our thesis. It is more powerful to acknowledge and deal with these issues than to ignore them. Let the reader know you understand arguments against your stance. Acknowledge those arguments specifically. Then address how your view overcomes those objections. You may also have to deal with myths, folklore and wrong conclusions. Give credible and factual information as to why these points are incorrect, but be sensitive to individuals who may have held these beliefs and thought they were true.

5. Be clear, yet concise.

More words don't make your argument more believable, and using too much information can leave your reader confused. Use as few words as necessary to convey your point. This doesn't mean leaving out important information, just ensuring that everything written is germane to your topic and your point.

6. Write a good essay.

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