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Tenets of an Argument

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TAMIU Writing Center

on 8 June 2016

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Transcript of Tenets of an Argument

Crafting an Argument
TAMIU Writing Center
People use the word, “argument,” in different ways.

philosophical definition -
a connected series of statements or propositions intended to provide support, justification, or evidence for the validity of another statement; arguments consist of one or more premises and a conclusion

Tenets of an Argument
Thank you and stop by the Writing Center!
Unlike in commentaries, both sides are covered more-or-less equally in argumentative essays.
Why Argue?
To learn!
We do not argue to prove how right we are!
...or not?
...or not?
Neither of the Examples are Arguments!
The first example
is just a shouting match between two people. This is not an argument.
What Constitutes an Ineffective Argument?
All sides are not covered fairly. (Pretend to hold a particular viewpoint. Do you think your ideas are fairly represented? Now, do the same thing and ask yourself the same question with a different viewpoint.)
What Constitutes an Effective Argument?
All sides are covered fairly. (Pretend to hold a particular viewpoint. Do you think your ideas are fairly represented? Now, do the same thing and ask yourself the same question with a different viewpoint.)
Who Makes a More Compelling Argument?
Read the two arguments, and then decide who argues their case more effectively.
"Bryan Stevenson: Racism and the Death Penalty"
This video can be found on YouTube; just search for the title of this bubble.
"4 Reasons to Keep the Death Penalty"
You can find this video on YouTube; if you search for the title above, it's the first video at the top of the list.
Which viewpoint was more effectively argued?
This exercise is not about who is right.
This presentation was produced to inform about the tenets of an argumentative essay.
You can navigate this presentation using the arrows below or on your keyboard.

You can also zoom with your mouse wheel.
For further instruction, visit www.prezi.com/support.
He Begins by Providing Relevant History
SCOTUS (1972): "death penalty applied arbitrarily, unpredictably, capriciously = unconstitutional"

87% of those executed for rape were black men convicted of raping white women
100% of those executed from 1930-1972 for rape were offenses involving white victims
women of color 3x more likely to be sexually assaulted
His Thesis is Introduced Next
By 1976, states passed death penalty statutes to control arbitrary features (current death penalty)

About half-way through the clip, he states his thesis:
"We cannot expect, in American society, that the problems of race bias--race consciousness--in the early stages of a post-apartheid era are going to be eliminated with something this insignificant [referring to the new, state-mandated DP]."
He Supports His Thesis with Evidence
McClesky vs. Kemp
In GA, lawyers did a sophisticated, eight-year study
11x more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black
If the defendant is black and the victim is white, you’re 22x more likely to get the death penalty
He Supports His Thesis with Evidence
"These disparities were subjected to all kinds of multi-variate analyses, and economectric tools were employed to somehow explain away the race effect, but no matter what combination of variables—even [those] that the State of Georgia proposed—race was the greatest predictor of who got the death penalty."

SCOTUS accepted the evidence as true but held a 5-4 decision that Georgia’s death penalty is constitutional.
He Concludes with Relevant SCOTUS Quotes
"If we recognize disparities based on race in the administration of the death penalty, it’s going to be just a matter of time before lawyers start complaining about race disparities for other kinds of criminal offenses. They’ll point out disparities based on race for drug crimes, sex crimes, misdemeanors, and property crimes."
Justice Brennan, in his dissent, ridiculed the court’s analysis as, "a fear of too much justice."
"A certain quantum of bias, a certain amount of discrimination, is, in our opinion, inevitable in the administration of the death penalty."
How do We Argue in Academics?
Generally, an argument essay should consist of:
An introduction
the thesis statement should clearly state the position you will defend and which evidence you will use

A summary
of the historical context and/or the controversial issue
exercise empathy when attempting to cover an issue fairly (establishes your own credibility)

Body paragraphs
, which detail:
your evidence
your interpretation of the evidence
how the evidence relates to your thesis
How do We Argue in Academics?
Generally, an argument essay should consist of:
Opposing views
serve two functions:
you seem less biased
strengthen your position by demonstrating the shortcomings

A solution/course of action
either a part of your position in your thesis statement, or a call to action in your conclusion

A conclusion
reiterates the thesis statement (not verbatim)
I. Introduction
historical context/summary of issue
thesis (subject + opinion/stance + brief justification)
introduce evidence X, Y, and Z
II. Opposing view(s)
acknowledge complexity of the issue and that there are other ways to see it
demonstrate the shortcomings of your opposition
III. Body Paragraph X
detail the evidence and your interpretation of it
relate it to your thesis
IV. Body Paragraph Y
detail the evidence and your interpretation of it
relate it to your thesis
V. Body Paragraph Z
detail the evidence and your interpretation of it
relate it to your thesis
VI. Conclusion
reiterate the thesis
propose a solution or call to action
Example Outline
Example Outline
This example outline is not meant to serve as a template upon which you will write your paper.
What Constitutes Academically-Acceptable Evidence?
peer-reviewed articles in academic journals and primary sources (depend on the field of study)
A lack of credible sources makes an argument weak!
Before drafting an outline, it's best to create a graphic representation of the different views on a topic. A T-chart or similar device is useful in this case. Use the completed T-chart to guide your outline.
The example of universal post-secondary education in the USA is used.
Education and information are rights

More workers for a post-industrial society

More consumer spending power

Increased standards for graduates
Education and information are commodities

Reduced profits in the private sector

A well-educated society is more difficult to control

US debt is too high because of a bloated military budget
Contact Information:
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Phone: 956.326.2884
Email: writingcenter@tamiu.edu

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Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are accepted.
Updated 7-14-2014

To be aware of predatory advertising/sales pitches
To think critically about our own views and the world, in general
To identify and dispel faulty arguments
To convince others
There are usually more than two sides to any given issue.
Professors may deduct points for fallacious reasoning.
The second example
is often mistaken as two people having a debate, which has traditionally been known as a formal argument; however, what happens in televised political debates is a far cry from the philosophical definition of an argument, and we know that rhetoric,
not sound arguments, is used by politicians because it is more
persuasive. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find "fair,
reasonable" arguments in any televised political debate.
The controversial topic is not truthfully or wholly represented.
The conclusions are fallacious (fallacies are covered in a separate presentation; a link can be found on the introduction slide).
Convincing evidence is not used to support claims or conclusions.
The opposition is referred to disparagingly and/or obscenities are used.
The tone is inappropriate and/or combative.
The controversial topic is truthfully and wholly represented.
The conclusions are not fallacious.
Convincing evidence is used to support claims or conclusions.
Referring to your opposition disparagingly or using obscenities are always bad ideas.
The tone is appropriate and not combative.
textbooks, monographs, lectures, and published interviews
news (be careful!)
blogs, magazines, opinion sections (TV, newspaper, etc.), and Wikipedia

your own work (as an undergraduate)
Professors' directions should always be prioritized.
Rather, it demonstrates the general academic expectations for an argument essay. It should be amended and appropriated as needed.
This is not about who is right or wrong.
Think of reasons why one person argues their side more effectively than the other.
Why? (Hint: consider the definitions given in the first couple of bubbles.)
What were the strengths and weaknesses of each argument?
Prezi on common logical fallacies:
Full transcript