• Ellie Atayee-Bennett

Constructing an argument

In academia, we spend a lot of time constructing arguments. We write arguments, we present arguments, we defend arguments. It's imperative therefore that we're well versed in what an argument should look like. In this blog post, I offer a three step process for constructing arguments: preparation, writing, and review.


Preparation

  • Research your subject - make sure you know it well

  • Research the opposing view - make sure you know that well too

  • What's the purpose of your argument?

  • Who is your audience?

  • State your position in 1 sentence

  • State the main reason for your position succinctly

  • What are your key points?

  • Gather your evidence for these points

  • Prepare how you will respond to any objections

  • Plan your structure

Writing

  • Introduce the topic and your position in the first section

  • Have a clear and logical line of reasoning

  • Support each point with sufficient, solid evidence (if you're trying to persuade a particular audience, tailor your evidence to meet their needs and expectations)

  • Include new information

  • Be specific and avoid generalisations

  • Present the opposing view fairly

  • Be aware of any assumptions you're making and state why they are valid

  • What questions might a reader have? Answer them as you go

  • Weigh up the evidence - think about the strengths and weaknesses. What should be accepted and what should be rejected?

  • In your conclusion, make it clear where you stand. Connect your claim to real life.

Review

  • Is your position clear and consistent throughout?

  • Is your argument clear and concise?

  • Does it follow a logical order?

  • Do your key points stand out clearly?

  • Do all of your points lead back to your position?

  • Is your number of points just right or have you included too many?

  • Do each of the points lead clearly towards the conclusion?

  • Are the points and evidence used relevant?

  • Is the evidence used solid and valid?

  • Have you presented new information or do you only include information that people already know?

  • Are you specific or do you include too many generalisations?

  • Have you considered what the reader might ask and offered an answer in your work?

  • Have you considered other viewpoints?

  • Have you represented the opposing view fairly?

  • Are there any inconsistencies in your argument?

  • Are there any fallacies in your work?

  • Are there any assumptions in your work that you haven't tackled?

  • Is your argument distorted by any personally held beliefs?

  • Do you offer any indication of the level of probability or uncertainty where your evidence is concerned?

  • Is your conclusion (or recommendations) clear and based on evidence?

  • Do you leave the reader with a strong final thought?

To make life easier, I've also designed a checklist which is free to download here.