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6.1: Argument

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    Why\(^{152}\) Argue\(^{153}\)?

    We don’t always argue to win. Yes, you read that correctly. Argumentation isn’t always about being “right.” We argue to express opinions and explore new ideas. When writing an argument, your goal is to convince an audience that your opinions and ideas are worth consideration and discussion.

    What distinguishes an argument from a descriptive essay or "report" is that the argument must take a stance; if you're merely summarizing "both sides" of an issue or pointing out the "pros and cons," you're not really writing an argument.

    Academic arguments usually "articulate an opinion." This opinion is always carefully defended with good reasoning and supported by plenty of research. Research? Yes, research! Indeed, part of learning to write effective arguments is finding reliable sources (or other documents) that lend credibility to your position. It's not enough to say, "capital punishment is wrong because that's the way I feel."

    Instead, you need to adequately support your claim by finding:

    • facts
    • statistics
    • quotations from recognized authorities, and
    • other types of evidence

    You won't always win, and that's fine. The goal of an argument is simply to:

    • make a claim
    • support your claim with the most credible reasoning and evidence you can muster
    • hope that the reader will at least understand your position
    • hope that your claim is taken seriously

    What is an Argument?

    Billboards, television advertisements, documentaries, political campaign messages, and even bumper stickers are often arguments – these are messages trying to convince an audience to do something. But be aware that an academic argument is different. An academic argument requires a clear structure and use of outside evidence.

    Key Features of an Argument

    • Clear Structure: Includes a claim, reasons/evidence, counterargument, and conclusion.
    • Claim: Your arguable point (most often presented as your thesis statement).
    • Reasons & Evidence: Strong reasons and materials that support your claim.
    • Consideration of other Positions: Acknowledge and refute possible counterarguments.
    • Persuasive Appeals: Use of appeals to emotion, character, and logic.
    • Organizing an Argument

    The great thing about the argument structure is its amazingly versatility. Once you become familiar with this basic structure of the argumentative essay, you will be able to clearly argue about almost anything! Next up is information all about the basic structure…

    Structuring arguments starts with an introduction, then body paragraphs with a counterargument, and then end with a conclusion.\(^{154}\)

    A Note About Objective Language

    Some instructors tell you to avoid using "I" and "My" (subjective) statements in your argument, but it’s not so black and white. Perhaps consider only using "I" or "My" if you are an expert in your field (on a given topic). If you are not an expert, choose more objective language to get your point across.

    Consider the following:

    I believe that the United States Government is failing to meet the needs of today's average college student through the under-funding of need-based grants, increasingly restrictive financial aid eligibility requirements, and a lack of flexible student loan options.

    "Great," your reader thinks, "Everyone's entitled to their opinion."

    Now let’s look at this sentence again, but without the "I" at the beginning. Does the same sentence become a strong statement of fact without your "I" tacked to the front?

    The United States Government is failing to meet the needs of today's average college student through the underfunding of need-based grants, increasingly restrictive financial aid eligibility requirements, and a lack of flexible student loan options.

    "Wow," your reader thinks, "that really sounds like a problem."

    A small change like the removal of your "I"s and "my"s can make all the difference in how a reader perceives your argument – as such, it's always good to proofread your rough draft and look for places where you could use objective rather than subjective language.

    A Note About Audience When Arguing

    Many topics that are written about in college are very controversial. When approaching a topic, it is critical that you think about all of the implications that your argument makes.

    Questions to Consider When Arguing\(^{155}\)

    • How would your relatives/friends/classmates react to the argument? Would they understand the terminology you are using? Does that matter?
    • How would you explain your argument or research to a teenager vs someone who is in their 70s? Is there a difference?
    • If you are aware that your classmates are more liberal or more conservative in their political standing, does that determine how you will argue your topic? Or does that even matter? If you are aware that your instructor is more liberal or conservative than you are, does that determine how you will argue your topic? Or does that even matter?
    • If you were to people-watch at a mall or other space where many people gather, who in the crowd would be your ideal audience and why? Who is not your ideal audience member? Why?

    Want An Example?

    Example: “Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?”\(^{156}\)

    Graffiti is not simply acts of vandalism, but a true artistic form because of personal expression, aesthetic qualities, and movements of style.

    Graffiti, like traditional artistic forms such as sculpture, is art because it allows artists to express ideas through an outside medium.

    Graffiti must be considered an art form based on judgement of aesthetic qualities. Art professor George C. Stowers argues that “larger pieces require planning and imagination and contain artistic elements like color and composition” (“Graffiti”).

    Like all artistic forms, Graffiti has evolved, experiencing significant movements or periods.

    Often, graffiti is seen as only criminal vandalism, but this is not always the case.

    The artistic merits of graffiti–expression, aesthetics, and movements–cannot be denied; Graffiti is art.

    Works Cited

    “Graffiti: Art through Vandalism.” Graffiti: Art through Vandalism. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept.


    A tweet by @iSmashFizzle on September 16, 2016 says: A teacher friend went over safety procedures with her class and asked, "If I am shot, what do you do?" One of her students said, "Avenge you."

    \(^{152}\)This chapter’s contents come from the original chapter on Argument in the first edition of Writing Unleashed.

    \(^{153}\)“What is an Argument?” Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. Last edited 27 Nov 14. Accessed 10 May 17. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

    \(^{154}\)Image used in previous OER textbook, Writing Unleashed, the non-argumentative one. It was created by Dana Anderson on Piktochart.

    \(^{155}\)Questions taken from a longer piece by: Jory, Justin. “A Word About Audience.” Open English at Salt Lake Community College. 01 Aug 2016. https://openenglishatslcc.pressbooks...pter/audience/ Open English @ SLCC by SLCC English Department is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    \(^{156}\)Example used in previous OER textbook, Writing Unleashed.

    This page titled 6.1: Argument is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe (Independent Published) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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