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Very often we get requests from students to review their argumentative essays to make sure that the language, grammar, referencing is correct. And a fairly big part of these essays has a bigger problem than grammar and spelling: poor arguments.

We return such papers with recommendations on how to revise the work to include better argumentation for their positions. That’s why we decided to develop a series of articles on writing argumentative essays, understanding the process of reasoning and developing excellent arguments. We already have a few blog posts on analyzing arguments, but given the complexity of the topic, I feel we need to study these arguments in more detail.

What is an argument

To develop great arguments for our essays, we need to understand what the argument is. This word is used in everyday life to denote different meanings. Some children think that arguments are what their parents have when they fight or yell at each other. It’s quite curious that when we look this word up in a dictionary (I used the simplest way, Apple dictionary for that), this meaning is the first one to come up: “an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one

While we use the word in such meaning a lot, this is not the kind of argument that we need to develop in our research papers. What we need to look for is the second definition of the word from the dictionary: “a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong in his book about arguments gives the following definition:

An argument is a connected series of sentences, statements, or propositions (called “premises”) that are intended to give a reason of some kind for a sentence, statement, or proposition (called the “conclusion”).

So to put it in another way, an argument is the result of the reasoning process, where a particular position, decision or conclusion is supported by so-called premises, or reasons.

So what's your position?

So if you’re writing an argumentative paper or essay, you need to make sure that first, you have some position or opinion on the topic of discussion, and second, that your paper contains support for this position. So to write a good argumentative paper, you will need to study the topic of discussion, and provide evidence or support to your conclusion. While doing that, you will be engaged in the reasoning process. That’s why argumentative essays are a good way not only to acquire the information on the subject, but to develop our critical thinking. There is a big variety of arguments that can be classified into kinds and types, but this will take another post of our series.

Next time we will tell you how to spot and construct arguments.

Reference: W. Sinott-Armstrong, R. Fogelin (2013) Understanding Arguments: and Introduction to Informal Logic. Cengage Advantage. p. 3

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