Argumentation


When writing down your argumentation you can appeal to the reader’s intellect or feelings. Use a separate paragraph for each argument (unity). Remember, good arguments should be based on sources, observations, facts or statistics.


One way of finding arguments is by making a list of pros and cons. Important here is that you use only your strongest arguments to support the thesis. Another good idea is to include one or two counter-arguments and then refute these. There are different ways of structuring your position paper, however it is of vital importance that you end with a strong (counter)argument.


An argument is build up out of different sections. First, there is the claim (the topic sentence), then you present your readers with evidence to back up what you are saying. This evidence can either be primary evidence (observations, interviews, questionnaires, experiments, personal experience) or secondary evidence (research compiled by others e.g., books, articles, internet). However, you should try to find unbiased and educated sources. Finally, the validity of your argument depends highly on the way this evidence is used in support of the claim (TS).


After you have written down all your (counter)arguments, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1.    Do all the arguments support the thesis statement?
2.    What are the arguments based on (e.g. facts, opinion, etc.) ?
3.    Are the arguments convincing or easily refutable? Any fallacies?
4.    Do the supporting points support the argument?
5.    Are the supporting points convincing? What are they based on?


It is certainly acceptable to express your own opinion in an academic paper. However, you must support your opinions with facts and details. Even facts may need further supporting details. These supporting sentences help clarify the topic sentence in each paragraph. Compare the following example sentences:

“Teenage smoking is on the rise” (unsupported fact)

“In 1995, the U.S. surgeon general reported that more than three million teenagers smoked cigarettes” (concrete supporting details)

Argumentation fallacies (misleading notions/ideas)


It frequently happens that writers do not use appropriate reasoning techniques. Arguments containing mistakes in reasoning are called fallacies. The fallacies that occur most frequently are listed below.


1 Hasty conclusion
When insufficient evidence is presented to support the argument.

    My lecturer was late this morning. This university is really badly organised.

2 Provincialism
When your reasoning is clearly based on a group mentality, which considers other groups’ views to be inferior. This usually focuses in ‘we’ against ‘them’ and may result in discrimination of certain groups.

    Women wearing headscarves are being suppressed.
           
3 Non sequitur
There is no logical connection between the assumption and the conclusion.

    I have a car, so I am a good driver.

4 Democratic fallacy
Saying something is true because everyone says so.

    Everyone agrees that prices have gone up since the introduction of the Euro.
    
5 Appeal to authority
Using an external source, such as an expert. The argument becomes fallacious when the expert’s opinion is quoted or when the expert is quoted outside his/her field.

    My French teacher says that ‘Gutentag’ means ‘go away.’

6 Slippery slope
The writer’s reasoning is based on the assumption that once something bad happens, a whole series of bad events will take place.
 
    If my girlfriend leaves me, I’ll fail my exams, which means I’ll lose my scholarship so         my landlord will evict me and I’ll end up homeless on the streets etc., etc.

7 Oversimplification
When one thing is said to cause something else, but this is based on insufficient evidence.

    The increase in violence is caused by the bad economic situation.

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