Chapter 8: Arguing Academically
What are the features of argument?
Argument is not simply the loud, assertive, unwavering statement of your opinion in the hopes of conquering the opposition. Argument is the careful consideration of numerous positions, and the careful development of logically sound, carefully constructed assertions that, when combined, offer a worthwhile perspective in an ongoing debate. Certainly you want to imagine yourself arguing with someone—and certainly you want to believe your opinion has superior qualities to theirs—but the purpose of argument is not to solve a practical problem or shut down a conversation. Rather it’s to illuminate, expand, and further inform a debate happening on a worthwhile subject between reasonable, intelligent people. In other words, calling the opposition stupid is not good argument. And anyway, that’s an ad hominem attack.
Most of the tools of argument you already have in your possession; they are the strategies you evaluated when considering the arguments of others in Rhetorical Analysis. The tables are turned now, and the spotlight is on you. Therefore, you must carefully use the following strategies to your own advantage:
The use of reasonable logic, data/evidence, and support to establish the practicality and rationality of your ideas. The types of logical structures at your disposal include:
- Debatable and Supportable Claims
- Logical Reasoning
- Noticeable Examples
- Reasonable Projections
- Concessions & Rebuttals
- The Avoidance of Logical Fallacies
The use of examples and language that evokes an appropriate emotional response in your reader—that gets them to care about your topic.
The optimal planned/organized/fluid building of ideas and arguments onto one another for the most persuasive impact or effect on the reader; the consideration of how ideas connect with each other and their placement within the essay; the use of concessions and rebuttals (see above) strategically placed; the clear use of transitional language to facilitate reader comprehension.
The use of formal language appropriate for the audience and occasion; the use of precise, engaging language that avoids idiom and cliché, and dull or simple word choices; the use, where appropriate, of poetic or figurative language, or language that evokes the senses.
The ethical and well-balanced use of all of the strategies above to present yourself as trustworthy and intelligent in your consideration of the topic and in the development of your argument.