The Great Debate
What Exactly IS an Argument?
An Argument Is NOT...
- A shouting match
- Factual statements that aren't debatable
- An opinionated dispute of ideas without any real evidence to support the ideas
- Ideas that are illogical
- Information that is completely one-sided and that ignores real evidence
An Argument Is...
- An author's feelings about a topic (claim)
- Supported by evidence
- Often (but not always) includes a counterclaim
Claims of fact or definition
- What is it?
- What is it like?
- How should it be classified or organized?
- How should it be interpreted?
- How does its usual meaning change when the context changes?
- Did it happen?
- Is it true?
- How do we know this?
Claims about cause or effect
- What caused it?
- Where did it come from?
- What are the effects?
- What probably will be the results on a short or long term basis?
Claims of value
- How bad is it? How good is it?
- Is it moral? Is it immoral?
- What is it worth?
- Who says so?
- What do these people value?
- Is it more important than something else? Is it less important than something else?
Claims about problem or solution
- What should we do about...?
- How should we act?
- How can we solve this problem?
- What course of action should we pursue?
Every time you use numbers to prove a point, you are using statistics:
- "4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum"
- "Over 1 billion served"
Every time you use an expert to prove a point, you are using testimony:
- An eyewitness to a crime
- A doctor to describe side effects of a medication
Every time you use a personal account or story to prove a point, you are using anecdotes:
- An athlete's story of staying in school instead of dropping out
- A child's struggle with asthma to discuss the effects of smoking
Every time you compare your claim to another similar claim, you are using analogies:
- The benefits of a football team studying its plays compared to math students studying formulas
- Predicting the possible sale price of a house based on the sale price of similar houses in the area
Counterclaims (or counterarguments) are not always included in every written argument; but they are very powerful:
- They demonstrate the the author has considered the opposing side
- They can be used to show that one claim does not have to be WRONG to be worse
- They can be used to stop the reader from disagreeing without finishing reading