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Argumentative Writing

How to write logically sound arguments and the difference between argumentative and persuasive writing.
by

sarah nordstrom

on 5 September 2014

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Transcript of Argumentative Writing

the core of critical thinking
ARGUMENT
What does it mean to "argue?"
Is it this?
or this?
Was that an "argument?"
What was missing?
Argument is about making
claims supported by:
EVIDENCE
WARRANTS
BACKING
REBUTTALS
CLAIM
QUALIFICATION
Toulmin's Theory of Argument
Notice what comes first?
Good argument begins with looking at
data

that is likely to become the
evidence
in an argument
1. Examine the data
2. Ask questions based on the data
3. Reexamine the data
4. Try to answer the questions
5. Data that supports your answer = evidence
You wouldn't
claim
that someone is guilty,
then try to find evidence to prove it.
You would look at all of the
data
then decide
what
evidence
supports a
claim
of guilt.
Warrants are explanations why the data
we produce support the claims we make.
We make claims based on the evidence (data) that we find.
Warrants may be simply common sense rules that people accept as generally true, laws, scientific principles or studies, and thoughtfully argued definitions.
Common Warrants
1. Argument based on Generalization
A very common form of reasoning. It assumes that what is true of a well chosen sample is likely to hold for a larger group or population, or that certain things consistent with the sample can be inferred of the group/population.
2. Argument based on Analogy
Extrapolating from one situation or event based on the nature and outcome of a similar situation or event. Has links to 'case-based' and precedent-based reasoning used in legal discourse. What is important here is the extent to which relevant similarities can be established between 2 contexts. Are there sufficient, typical, accurate, relevant similarities?
3. Argument via Sign/Clue
The notion that certain types of evidence are symptomatic of some wider principle or outcome. For example, smoke is often considered a sign for fire. Some people think high SAT scores are a sign a person is smart and will do well in college.
4. Causal Argument
Arguing that a given occurrence or event is the result of, or is effected by, factor X. Causal reasoning is the most complex of the different forms of warrant. The big dangers with it are:

Mixing up correlation with causation
Falling into the post hoc, ergo propter hoc trap. Closely related to confusing correlation and causation, this involves inferring 'after the fact, therefore because of the fact').
5. Argument from Authority
Does person X or text X constitute an authoritative source on the issue in question? What political, ideological or economic interests does the authority have? Is this the sort of issue in which a significant number of authorities are likely to agree on?
6. Argument from Principle
Locating a principle that is widely regarded as valid and showing that a situation exists in which this principle applies. Evaluation: Is the principle widely accepted? Does it accurately apply to the situation in question? Are there commonly agreed on exceptions? Are there 'rival' principles that lead to a different claim? Are the practical consequences of following the principle sufficiently desirable?
Support, justification, reasoning supporting the warrants
What makes the warrants universally accepted
Possible objections or counter-arguments to the claim
Reasons for including:
1. It demonstrates that the author is aware of opposing views, and is not trying to 'sweep them under the table'. It thus is more likely to make the writer's argument seem 'balanced' or 'fair' to readers, and as a consequence be persuasive.
2. It shows that the writer is thinking carefully about the responses of readers, anticipating the objections that many readers may have. Introducing the reader to some of the positions opposed to your own, and showing how you can deal with possible objections can thus work to 'inoculate' the reader against counterarguments.
3. By contrasting one's position with the arguments or alternative hypotheses one is against, one clarifies the position that is being argued for.
Connects the data to the claim
Possible objections to the claim
Limits to the claim. Nothing is 100% true.
Words such as: probably, very likely, almost certain, and most.
So how does this whole thing work?
Let's start with the evidence:
"At five-feet six and a hundred and ten pounds,
Queenie Volupides was a sight to behold and to clasp.
When she tore out of the house after a tiff with her
husband, Arthur, she went to the country club where there was a party going on.
She left the club shortly before one in the morning
and invited a few friends to follow her home and have one more drink. They got to the Volupides house about ten mintues after Queen, who met them at the door and said, 'Something terrible happened. Arthur slipped and fell on the stairs. He was coming down for another drink - he still had the glass in his hand - and I think he's dead. Oh, my God - what shall I do?'
The autopsy conducted later concluded that Arthur had died from a wound on the head and confirmed that he'd been drunk."
We need to determine what happened.
Before we can make a claim about what happened,
we must evaluate the data and search for evidence.
Full transcript