A First Look at Argumentation

Some Beginning Thoughts

Writing a good argument

Back to the basics

Begin by asking two very clear questions: What am I trying to do? and Who am I trying to do it to?

Using the worm example, am I trying to show that this surprising new creature is something totally distinct? Am I trying to entertain people with a tale of my journey to the Amazon rain forest? Am I trying to destroy the reputation of scientists who disagree with me? Knowing the what will give you a tool to know what you should include and what you should leave out.

The who is often a problem for college freshman writers. I get a lot of papers that seem to be pitched to very young children: "I'll bet you didn't know that the dictionary defines 'worm' as 'any of a number of creeping or burrowing invertebrate animals with long, slender soft bodies and no limbs.' " (Well that didn't work! The 4- and 5-year-old crowd didn't understand "invertebrate" and the rest of us already knew that worms don't have legs.) You need to ask yourself questions about age and experience of your audience (and for college writing, I suggest at least high school graduates!) as well as such issues as political affiliation and cultural background.

Good data

The best evidence falls into two categories: good information and good logic.

The best information is quality data that was gathered from objective sources. A university study of cost savings related to switching from gasoline automobiles to electric automobiles might be an example of good information. "I don't think electric cars sound like much fun because I like the sound of a Mustang's exhaust" does not count as a "information from a good, objective source."

Much of what went wrong with the lower levels of that pyramid relates to faulty logic. "Elon Musk spread misinformation about Covid-19; therefore electric automobiles are a fraud" is an example of faulty logic on several levels—but that's an example of the sort of complaint you might see in print.

Clear essay structure

Though you might hate the 5-paragraph essay structure, it's got a lot of good things going for it. Many academic arguments look a lot like 5-paragraph essays:

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 8/5/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.