Argumentation Basics

The Art of Arguing Effectively—with verve and rationality.

Defining Argumentation

žAn argument is a “text that expresses a point of view” (Lundsford 5).

žThis point of view is called your BELIEF.

žYour BELIEF is your CLAIM in an argument.

žEXAMPLES: 1. Some women in the workplace are underpaid. 2. Smokeless tobacco could be more harmful than cigarettes. 3. Standardized tests could debunk the purpose of instruction. 4. Most of the present generation lacks the discipline to live a technology-free life.

žThe previous examples reflect my BELIEFS, aka my CLAIMS. These are MY OPINIONS. My next step would be to formulate my argument.

žAn arguer can AGREE, DISAGREE, or QUALIFY a claim (support, refute, qualify; defend, challenge, qualify).

žARGUMENTATION IS NOT FIGHTING. If you are belittling and deprecating the audience, you are fighting. This is unacceptable. You must learn the difference.

žAn argument should enlighten an audience, not make it feel chastised. If you are looking for a fight, do it somewhere else other than in the classroom or in a discussion or in a paper. That is tacky and will not be tolerated.

žOne cannot rationalize with an irrational person.

žWatch wording: avoid cuss words, avoid words that belittle the audience. Use qualifying words to avoid a “sticky situation”. (Those words will follow later.)

žIf I feel your diction is too strong, then I will tell you to change it.

Argument vs. Persuasion

žUnfortunately, many people interchange argument and persuasion. These two concepts are different. An argument is expressing a CLAIM/BELIEF. The writer presents the facts and ends the argument stressing his/her CLAIM. Then the writer leaves it to the audience to decide whether a course of action is desired. No prodding.

žPersuasion is moving people to action. This “base” form of argumentation is used in advertising to urge people to ACT.

An argument does not have the urgency that persuasion has.

žForcing your BELIEFS/CLAIMS so the audience will ACT is not what I want you to do. My goal for you is to STOP before you traverse to “the dark side” (aka persuasion).

žI will never have you persuade: professors will never have you persuade: nor will the SAT, ACT, or AP exams have you persuade.

žThis is an upper-level skill you are required to know and practice.

ž1. Is this argument or persuasion? Find the statement that indicates your answer. Explain your choice and justify it with evidence from the text. What wording is used to make the audience think the opposite?

2. What FACTUAL evidence does the author present for his CLAIM?ž

3. Where does the author see the other side? How does the author end this?

Why We Make Arguments

žOur motivations for arguing are classified in the following ways: To convince, to persuade, to inform, to explore, to make decisions, to meditate or pray.

Arguments are not always about the “hot topics”: abortion, gun control, religion.

žThe most compelling arguments are those that affect your daily life and could seem so insignificant to others. But to you they are important and worth the consideration.

žHere are some examples of the previous reasons to argue:


-Inform-fb posts, Twitter, bumper stickers

-Explore-Journals, blogs

-Decisions-What to wear, what college to attend

-Meditate-Student prays to pass exam

Kinds of Arguments

Believe it or not, argumentation is not the end-all be-all. Five different types of written arguments exist. The catch? You start at the base of the argumentation pyramid and go up, including the previous argument in the current argument. žBy the time you reach the top, you have included all five arguments in one.

ž1. Argument of Fact-A good student should have good grades.

ž2. Argument of Definition-A good student.

ž3. Argument of Evaluation-Who is a good student (according to the definition)?

ž4. Argument of Cause-What prompts a good student to want good grades?

ž5. Argument of Proposal-What can we do to encourage a good student and good grades?

A proposal argument contains all of the previous argument types, hence why it is last and the piece de resistance of arguments.

Famous Proposals

žJonathan Swift proposed babies be sold for food in his satirical “A Modest Proposal.”

žThomas Jefferson wrote the most important proposal argument, the argument that framed our country—The Declaration of Independence.

žEric Schlosser proposes fast food be held accountable for its nefarious acts.


The appeals of argumentation are what Aristotle touted as the basis of rational arguments.  Used together, these are the glue used to adhere claims.  Used poorly, the appeals become fallacious.  (Fallacies will be discussed after the appeals.)  Four appeals exist: pathos, ethos, logos, and kairos.  Kairos, the newest recognized appeal, is from Greek mythology and it means "at the opportune time."  Arguments and refutations should always be done "at the opportune time."  The other three appeals will be studied in later Tackks.