Tips for writing an argumentative essay

This material is about explaining the arguments in the academic debate, but these principles are general and can be useful for anyone who wants to learn to justify their opinion in any life situation.

What is an argument?

The argument is a statement of its reasoning. It consists of a conclusion (assertion) and one or more premisses (reasons that justify this conclusion). The premise can be the conclusions of previous discussions, facts, statistics, observations, conclusions of experts and scientists, well-established truths, moral principles, and so on.

The argument can be inductive or deductive. For the deductive argument, if the premise is true, then the conclusion of the argument will certainly be true, as it is impossible to accept the premise, but to deny the conclusion without contradicting logic. 

The inductive argument, if the premise is true, the conclusion may also not be true, but the premise provides substantial evidence for the truth of the conclusion. For example, you can list the various reasons (competence, knowledge, public sympathy) why a politician might be nominated as a presidential candidate, but although these reasons show that this event is highly probable, these premisses are not enough to guarantee the conclusion. truthfulness.

Sometimes inductive arguments can be transformed into deductive arguments, thus making them more convincing. Example:

  • As the availability of light firearms leads to accidental death (premise),
  • because of accidents (subordinate premise)
  • and it is not possible to prevent child access to weapons (subordinate premise),
  • and the easy availability of firearms leads to murder (premise),
  • and curbing the availability of firearms would reduce the number of accidents and killings (premise),
  • the smaller the number of people at home would be weapons (subordinate premise),
  • that is why we need to limit the availability (conclusion) of firearms.

This can make a moral premise “and the state, when adopting laws, must do everything possible to prevent accidental and meaningless death”, thus transforming it into a deductive argument.

Why an argument statement?

  • It is not enough to just say in the debate, for example,
  • How to kill people is bad (premise)
  • and embryos are also people (premise)
  • and aborting the life of an embryo is taken away (premise),
  • therefore abortion should be prohibited (conclusion).

In order to convince the audience, it is necessary to explain and justify the truth of the premise, as well as to show how these premisses prove the conclusion. It is not enough to just say one sentence and hope that the audience will be clear, they will understand it, they will agree to it and will not question it.

Is it long to explain the reasoning behind each of the arguments used in the argument? Not mandatory. It is necessary to justify all the premisses that the opponent or listeners could challenge, believing that this premise is false. It is also necessary to explain the premise that people may find difficult to understand or unlikely at first glance. However, if a premise is so self-evident that every member of society agrees with it (for example, scientifically proven and known facts or fundamental values that everyone has agreed on) then it is not worth spending time to justify this premise. How deeply do each premise have to be explained? This depends largely on how long the speaking time is. However, it is advisable to explain in more detail the premisses that are known to be opposed by those who advocate opposing views. The less likely a premise is, the more deeper its explanation is needed.

In the example above, it is not worth to be enthusiastic about the long explanation of why people are bad to kill (most companies do not dispute it). Instead, in the debate on abortion, the main controversial issue is what is understood by the word “man”, which is to say that a month old embryo is also a person who has the same right to life as, for example, 9 months old fetus (justification for second premise). In the event that the opponent in the debate decides to challenge the premise that people are bad to kill, then in the next speech, then, the reasons why killings are not good should be justified.

How to explain the argument?

Usually in the academic debate, each speaker speaks five to seven minutes, during which one to three different arguments are spoken. Beginners often wonder why there is a need for separate arguments in a speech, why can’t I just speak with a speech that supports the position I have to defend in the debate? First of all, such a speech would inevitably show several ideas and hopefully also examples that show why a particular position should be supported. This means that the question “why separate arguments are needed” essentially means another question: “Should I trust the listeners and judges that they will identify the most important reasons or arguments in my chaotic position in my place?” the divine ability to arrange chaos and understand inconsistent speech, the answer is no. For this reason, the speech must be logically structured, the arguments must be separated from each other so that it is easier for the listeners to track the speech and understand it.

The argument contains 4 parts:

  1. argument name
  2. argument explanation
  3. example
  4. link to resolution.

1. The name of the argument. A short, simple sentence in which the argument is said in the form of a statement. The title fulfills the function of the headline by which the listeners learn what is going to be discussed. The title of the argument explains why it is necessary to implement or what will happen if the proposal is introduced. The title of the argument includes the starting point (planned activity) and the end point (result) to which you will reach.

2. Explanation of the argument. Demonstrate how and why this statement is true, explaining how the debtor has come to this conclusion. The debtor must show the logical chain (relationship between cause and effect) in which way B from the initial state A and B the end state C (A → B → C) followed by justification why end position C is either good or bad, that is, desirable or unwanted.

3. Example / i. Examples are used to 1) make the theoretical statement of the argument more readable and understandable to the listeners; 2) make the given argument credible, ie to prove that the argument is not only theoretically logical but also works in “real life”. Examples include facts, specific cases, statistics, analogues that show that the theoretical explanation of the argument is true.

4. Link to resolution. It answers the question of how this argument proves the debtor’s position, just as it justifies or overturns the resolution. This part can be omitted in cases where it is self-evident how a particular argument is related to a resolution, and it is clear to every listener why the debtor spoke about it at all.

Example. Resolution: “This government will ban abortion”.

1. Name. Abortion should be banned because abortion (A) violates the child’s right not to be killed (E).

2. Explanation. When abortion (A) occurs, the embryo is deprived of life (B). The unborn child is also a human, it has human DNA, it is a separate being, it can move independently, it has human internal organs. Of the newly born infant whose right to life we guarantee, the embryo is different only because it is a few months younger (D). Thus, abortion is a violation of the child’s right to life (E), and we must not do so subjectively by saying that until some age children can be killed because both the universally recognized human rights law and the generally accepted moral principles make no human being not be killed, regardless of his age, gender, skin color, health condition or any other signs (justification for the end result).

3. Example. We apply this human rights principle to all groups of people. For example, we do not kill people who are mentally ill, whose mental abilities do not correspond to the level of a normal person, or who, like the embryo, are unaware of themselves and the world around them. The unborn children should not be the only exception whose right not to be killed we would refuse to guarantee because these children are also human.

4. Link to resolution. I just proved that the unborn child also has the right to life. Abortion should be prohibited in order to secure this right, otherwise the mother may choose to kill her unborn child.

Types of arguments and differences in their explanation

The arguments used in the debate can be divided into two major groups:

  1. causal and utilitarian arguments;
  2. arguments of principles.

1. Causes and consequences or utilitarian arguments. They talk about the good or bad consequences of some action. These arguments are usually in the following form:

  • If X (cause) occurs, Y (effect) occurs,
  • Y is good / bad because it gives / reduces… (happiness, economic growth, improved people’s quality of life, better health, etc.)
  • so there is no need to do X.

A good utilitarian argument fulfills the following criteria: 1) there is a high probability that these effects will actually occur, 2) a large number of affected people, 3) have a significant impact on the lives of these people.

The explanation of utilitarian arguments should answer the questions:

1) what will happen (for example, “the state has to pay for treatment of infertile couples because infertility treatment [A] will improve the demographic situation [C]”);

2) why this will happen, and how from the current situation A will come to the specific result C, namely the explanation of the logical chain (A → B → C) (in this case – why treating infertile pairs [A] will significantly increase birth rate [B] and this will improve demographic situation [C];

3) why end result C is good and desirable or bad and unwanted (why demographic improvement [C] is something good).

2. Arguments of the Principles. They talk about values, principles, justice, duties, rights, and so on.

Where to find and use examples?

Examples are used to 1) make the theoretical statement of the argument more readable and understandable to the listeners; 2) make the given argument credible, ie to prove that the argument is not only theoretically logical but also works in “real life”. Examples include facts, specific cases, statistics, analogues that show that the theoretical explanation of the argument is true.

1. Examples aimed at making this argument credible.

With these examples, the debtor tries to get the listener to his statement in his argument. This means that such examples should be 1) real, not hypothetical; 2) general; 3) significant.

Use real examples. The debate often tries to prove some hypothesis about what will happen if the government does something, for example, saying that “if a military invasion of Syria takes place, peace in this country will be ensured”. In these cases, it is theoretically possible to prove the logical link that comes from the starting point to the consequences, but with the example shows that in ‘real life’ it does, for example, in a resolution on military invasion in Syria, mentions cases of other countries where the invasion was successful or unsuccessful (Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Kosovo). Instead of a real example, do not confront the story of a hypothetical Syrian citizen X, who is saved by a NATO tanker from another citizen Y, who then suffers with Kalashnikov, then with his citizen X, the soldiers sneaked, then he told the family, the wife tells the rest of the village, and as a result, the whole village is starting to love NATO troops.

Uses general examples. Exceptions (rare and isolated incidents) do not show a general trend. For example, if a resolution is “this government believes it is better to be better than to be wise”, you cannot use Hitler as an example and say, “Hitler was smart, but not nice, he killed millions of people, so be nice is better”. Such an example does not say anything about general cases, because Hitler was a special case that is little like ordinary citizens.

Use important examples. Focuses on large, well-known, important examples. For example, one should not start talking about what a acquaintance or family member does. On this the team of opponents can answer: “Maybe your family does it, but the rest are doing differently”. Or: “I have not heard anything about this case with your grandmother, so I can’t know if this is true.” In international tournaments, it is advisable not to use something that has happened in UK (unless is world famous), while UK does not use it. not to use something in the tournament as an example, which has taken place in the debtor’s rural village (unless this case has been widely publicized, which would make everyone aware).

In order for the argument to be more credible, it usually uses facts or specific cases from the subject of the debate. Such examples allow us to prove the truth of an affirmation: “we have a problem and its existence / relevance is proved by an incident X” or “the proposed solution to the problem will not work because it was unsuccessful in a similar case X”. Here are some examples:

  • Military invasion is not a way to deal with international conflicts → Vietnam.
  • Globalization has neglected the diversity of traditional cultures → McDonald’s instead of traditional kitchens.
  • The country must invest money in the fight against terrorism → 11 September.
  • International organizations should step up their efforts to promote respect for human rights in the world → third world countries where human rights violations are significant (they need to be listed).
  • If the resolution is about social problems, it refers to the solutions it has used in other countries / cities and what the consequences were.

Statistics can also be used if one or more examples cannot be used to show the overall overall situation. For example, you could tell the life stories of children born in two distressed areas, but these examples would not help to illustrate the general situation, help to understand hunger and poverty in third countries. Another example is the debate about what countries should do with AIDS patients and their treatment. An unhappy life story of an AIDS patient would not help to illustrate the overall picture, explain the problem and its extent. In these situations, statistics are used instead of examples. To make it sound more likely, it is desirable to tell where the particular data has been taken.

Reference to international agreements. For example, it is debating whether the freedom of movement of asylum seekers may be restricted, i. to imprison refugees who have come illegally from countries affected by war or poverty could mention a lot of facts or statistics, but there is no reason why it is wrong to keep these people imprisoned. In such cases, arguments about morality or principles must be proved. Reference to international treaties can help here as they show the common position of the people on the issue. For instance,

Article 9 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or expulsion”. Detention of asylum seekers is considered a form of arbitrary detention, as it is extended to a whole group of people without exception and the individual has no possibility to go to court and challenge it. This means that detention of asylum seekers is wrong, that it is a violation of human rights.

2. Examples aimed at making the theoretical presentation of the argument more readable and understandable to the audience.

For this purpose, teachers use examples of teaching mathematics theorems or foreign language grammar laws. There is also sometimes a situation in the debate that explaining an argument is difficult enough to be worth illustrating the idea with an example. This usually happens in situations where it is necessary to explain a principle. For instance:

Adopting laws that prohibit people from doing something must be based on the principle of harm. This means that the state must not restrict the individual’s freedom of action in cases where he or she does not cause harm to another member of the society. For example, it is forbidden by law to beat the passers-by on the street, as it harms another person, but it is allowed to engage in extreme sports, resulting in regular injuries to the athletes themselves. This principle is good because… In the situation X, an individual does not cause harm to his or her fellow human beings because… So action X must be legal.

Analogues and similar situations in other areas. Such examples are used when there is a need to justify a principle and its relevance in a given case, namely, “we must not do X, because in another situation, similar action X was found to be unfair”. At this point, it is necessary to explain what are the common features that lead to the conclusion that both the example given in the example and the issue to be discussed in the debate are identical in a particular sense. For instance:

  • People suspected of terrorism should not be imprisoned without trial → even the blame for serial killers needs to be proven in court.
  • Homosexuals should not be discriminated against by law simply because they are disgusting to someone → disgusting people may also be disgusting, but we have not adopted the law that people with ugly and mutilated faces are forbidden to appear in society.
  • Doping in sport is an unfair way to win → using a computer in human chess competitions.
  • When it comes to what to do with a group of people, another group of people with similar problems will be an example.

Hypothetical and fictional examples. They can be used if it is necessary to make the theoretical statement of the argument more readable and understandable to the listeners, but it is not advisable to compose unrealistic examples in situations where it is necessary to make the listener say a claim that may be questioned. Whenever hypothetical and fictional examples are used, they must reflect the general experience of people, and they must not be such that it is difficult for the listener to believe that it might happen. Hypothetical examples can be used, for example, to show how some behavior will affect the average citizen of a society. For example, if there are some changes in the learning process in schools, the impact of these changes on the pupils can be explained by the average statistical pupil of the country.

Examples and analogues can also be used to make the listener imagine the situation, thus making the argument more binding and emotional. The debate is whether the service sector may allow employers to discriminate against job seekers on the basis of their external appearance.

Discrimination based on external appearance in the service sphere should be allowed, because it has a good appearance as one of the qualities of the employee. Every employer recruits people with the appropriate qualifications and the qualities required for a particular job. For example, we do not want teachers who do not know how to speak and explain the subject matter, we do not want nuclear plant workers who do not know physics. And the beautiful appearance is a feature that is needed for employees in the service sector. [Theoretical rationale why a good look is one of the qualities that a worker needs is omitted, instead of a practical example that shows it.] It damages your appetite, you don’t want to stay at this cafe for a long time, and the next day you go to an adjacent café, where a beautiful waitress is working, to whom everyone is happier and your money goes to the owner of this cafe. Every employer has to hire people who are capable of performing a particular job, because only then can his business succeed. And in the service sphere, the task of the employee is not only to make a breakfast plate, but also to make the visitors feel good.

General rules for using examples

As an example, it is necessary to say again what exactly illustrates this, or how it shows that B will follow B and follow it C. It is necessary to justify why this example has just been mentioned, to prove that this example (fact, case, statistics, proof, analogy) generally refers to the subject of debate. It is not enough simply to name an example, it is also necessary to interpret and analyze this example, because although most people agree on the facts, their personal opinions about them tend to be quite different. If several examples are used, they should not be simply listed. The first example is analyzed, then it says: “The same principle is illustrated by other examples: X, Y, Z.” If the speaking time is sufficient, in this situation it is also desirable to explain briefly how exactly the same principle is expressed in each of the other mentioned. cases.

Both examples and facts and statistics need to be sound. This means that the debate must be prepared before. What does it mean to “sound credible”? It is necessary to use words, numbers, dates, and in some cases also to name the source of information. For example, “British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government expressed support for Bush’s stance on the war in Iraq” sounds better than “Britain supported the US”, “1995. On April 19th, Timothy Makveights killed 168 people by blowing up the Murach federal building in Oklahoma ”sounds more convincing than many people were killed in the mid-1990s by the Oklahoma Terrorist, or“ UN data show that 5 million children die in the world every year until they die. five years “will be better than” many children die of hunger in the world “.