Part 2: The research process
2.5 Making an argument
Questions for reflection
- Have you ever argued with someone online? If so, how did you present your argument? Was your argument successful?
- How do people create arguments in your area of study or career path? Are there certain ethical rules that people in your industry must follow?
- How do people argue in your culture? Do you argue with everyone the same way (an elder vs. someone your age)?
- Do you think it’s possible to change someone’s mind using logic?
- Do you find it easier to create an argument in writing or in person? Why?
Making an argument
Making an argument means trying to convince others that you are correct as you describe a thing, situation, or phenomenon and/or persuade them to take a particular action. Important not just in university, that skill will be necessary for nearly every professional job you hold.
Realizing that your research report, essay, blog post, or oral presentation is to make an argument gives you a big head start because right off you know the sources you’re going to need are those that will let you write the components of an argument for your reader.
It’s no accident that people are said to make arguments. They are constructed from components that act like building blocks. The components are selected because of what they contribute to the argument. The components generally, though not always, appear in a certain order because they build on or respond to one another.
Components of an argument
Making an argument in a report, term paper, or other college writing task is like laying out a case in court. Just as there are conventions that lawyers must adhere to as they make their arguments in court, there are conventions in arguments made in university assignments. Among those conventions is to use the components of an argument.
One common arrangement for an argument is to begin with an introduction that explains why the situation is important—why the reader should care about it. Your research question will probably not appear here, but your answer to it (your thesis or claim) usually appears as the last sentence or two of the introduction.
The body of your essay or paper follows and consists of:
- Your reasons the thesis or claim is correct or at least reasonable.
- The evidence that supports each reason, often occurring right after the reason the evidence supports.
- An acknowledgement that some people have/could have objections, reservations, counterarguments, or alternative solutions to your argument and a statement of each. (Posters often don’t have room for this component.)
- A response to each acknowledgement that explains why that criticism is incorrect or not very important. Sometimes you might have to concede a point you think is unimportant, if you can’t really refute it.
- After the body, the paper or essay ends with a conclusion, which states your thesis in a slightly different way than occurred in the introduction. The conclusion also may mention why research on this situation is important. Sometimes recommendations also follow based on the argument made and conclusions stated.
For example, the thesis or claim is derived from the initial question. The reasons are bolstered by evidence to support the claim. Objections are raised, acknowledged and subsequently responded to.
This chapter contains material taken from Order Of The Components in Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide To Academic Research (used under a CC-BY 4.0 International license) and Making An Argument Using Sources in Business Writing for Everyone (used under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International license).