Overview of Five Parts of Argument


Click here for Exercises on Parts of Argument

Academic and professional writing must make an argument. This kind of writing has a different purpose than other forms, such as summary or personal opinion. Argument is meant to solve a problem by giving others good reason to think or act as you want them to. Teachers and colleagues expect you to make a claim that you believe, then explain why you believe it and why they should too. In order to be successful in these environments, you must be able to form rational arguments and explain them by giving others good reason to believe your views deserve respect. Arguments define academic and professional communities.

For an exchange to be an argument is has to meet two criteria. First, it must offer a claim and support it with at least one reason. Second, it must consider the intention of the participants; in order to make an argument you must also believe the readers will accept your claim only if you give them good reason to do so.

Asking and answering these five questions creates the substance of a sound written argument:

1. What do you think? What's your point? What are you claiming that I should do or believe?

2. Why do you think that? Why should I agree? What reasons can you offer to support your claim?
(next: demonstrate soundness of your argument)

3. How do you know? On what facts do you base those reasons? How do we know they are good reasons? What evidence do you have to back them up? We think up reasons, but evidence must be found within the text or source.

4. What's your logic? What principle makes your reasons relevant to your claim? We'll call that principle a warrant.
(finally: imagine your argument from the reader's point of view)

5. But have you considered? But what would you say to someone who said/objected/ argued/ claimed? Do you acknowledge this alternative to your position, and how would you respond?
 
***An argument makes a Claim (because of) Reasons (based on) Evidence***
 
Claim:
* debatable (someone should be able to disagree with it)
* supportable (provable with reasons and evidence)
 
Reasons:
* explain why readers should believe the claim
* can be supported with evidence
* represent judgments that readers may not share with the writer
 
Evidence:

* supports a reason
* represents facts or conclusions that most readers won't question
 
Acknowledgment:
* refers to alternative claims, reasons, or evidence
* shows readers that their concerns have not been ignored
 
Response:
* accepts or rejects alternative claims, reasons, or evidence
* explains the complications or limits of the argument
 
Warrants:
* articulate general principles which either connect reason to claim or else connect evidence to reason
* help readers understand the logic behind an argument
* rarely get written down in argumentative essays