In informal logic and philosophy, an argument map or argument diagram is a visual representation of the structure of an argument. An argument map typically includes the key components of the argument, traditionally called the conclusion and the premises, also called contention and reasons. Argument maps can also show co-premises, objections, counterarguments, rebuttals, and lemmas. There are different styles of argument map but they are often functionally equivalent and represent an argument's individual claims and the relationships between them.
Argument maps are commonly used in the context of teaching and applying critical thinking. The purpose of mapping is to uncover the logical structure of arguments, identify unstated assumptions, evaluate the support an argument offers for a conclusion, and aid understanding of debates. Argument maps are often designed to support deliberation of issues, ideas and arguments in wicked problems.
An argument map is not to be confused with a concept map or a mind map, two other kinds of node–link diagram which have different constraints on nodes and links.
A number of different kinds of argument map have been proposed but the most common, which Chris Reed and Glenn Rowe called the standard diagram, consists of a tree structure with each of the reasons leading to the conclusion. There is no consensus as to whether the conclusion should be at the top of the tree with the reasons leading up to it or whether it should be at the bottom with the reasons leading down to it. Another variation diagrams an argument from left to right.
According to Doug Walton and colleagues, an argument map has two basic components: "One component is a set of circled numbers arrayed as points. Each number represents a proposition (premise or conclusion) in the argument being diagrammed. The other component is a set of lines or arrows joining the points. Each line (arrow) represents an inference. The whole network of points and lines represents a kind of overview of the reasoning in the given argument..." With the introduction of software for producing argument maps, it has become common for argument maps to consist of boxes containing the actual propositions rather than numbers referencing those propositions.
There is disagreement on the terminology to be used when describing argument maps, but the standard diagram contains the following structures:
Dependent premises or co-premises, where at least one of the joined premises requires another premise before it can give support to the conclusion: An argument with this structure has been called a linked argument.
Independent premises, where the premise can support the conclusion on its own: Although independent premises may jointly make the conclusion more convincing, this is to be distinguished from situations where a premise gives no support unless it is joined to another premise. Where several premises or groups of premises lead to a final conclusion the argument might be described as convergent. This is distinguished from a divergent argument where a single premise might be used to support two separate conclusions.
Intermediate conclusions or sub-conclusions, where a claim is supported by another claim that is used in turn to support some further claim, i.e. the final conclusion or another intermediate conclusion: In the following diagram, statement 4 is an intermediate conclusion in that it is a conclusion in relation to statement 5 but is a premise in relation to the final conclusion, i.e. statement 1. An argument with this structure is sometimes called a complex argument. If there is a single chain of claims containing at least one intermediate conclusion, the argument is sometimes described as a serial argument or a chain argument.
Each of these structures can be represented by the equivalent "box and line" approach to argument maps. In the following diagram, the contention is shown at the top, and the boxes linked to it represent supporting reasons, which comprise one or more premises. The green arrow indicates that the two reasons support the contention:
Argument maps can also represent counterarguments. In the following diagram, the two objections weaken the contention, while the reasons support the premise of the objection:
Representing an argument as an argument map
A written text can be transformed into an argument map by following a sequence of steps. Monroe Beardsley's 1950 book Practical Logic recommended the following procedure:
- Separate statements by brackets and number them.
- Put circles around the logical indicators.
- Supply, in parenthesis, any logical indicators that are left out.
- Set out the statements in a diagram in which arrows show the relationships between statements.
Beardsley gave the first example of a text being analysed in this way:
- Though ① [people who talk about the "social significance" of the arts don’t like to admit it], ② [music and painting are bound to suffer when they are turned into mere vehicles for propaganda]. For③ [propaganda appeals to the crudest and most vulgar feelings]: (for)④ [look at the academic monstrosities produced by the official Nazi painters]. What is more important, ⑤ [art must be an end in itself for the artist], because⑥ [the artist can do the best work only in an atmosphere of complete freedom].
Beardsley said that the conclusion in this example is statement ②. Statement ④ needs to be rewritten as a declarative sentence, e.g. "Academic monstrosities [were] produced by the official Nazi painters." Statement ① points out that the conclusion isn't accepted by everyone, but statement ① is omitted from the diagram because it doesn't support the conclusion. Beardsley said that the logical relation between statement ③ and statement ④ is unclear, but he proposed to diagram statement ④ as supporting statement ③.
More recently, philosophy professor Maralee Harrell recommended the following procedure:
- Identify all the claims being made by the author.
- Rewrite them as independent statements, eliminating non-essential words.
- Identify which statements are premises, sub-conclusions, and the main conclusion.
- Provide missing, implied conclusions and implied premises. (This is optional depending on the purpose of the argument map.)
- Put the statements into boxes and draw a line between any boxes that are linked.
- Indicate support from premise(s) to (sub)conclusion with arrows.
Argument maps are useful not only for representing and analyzing existing writings, but also for thinking through issues as part of a problem-structuring process or writing process. The use of such argument analysis for thinking through issues has been called "reflective argumentation".
An argument map, unlike a decision tree, does not tell how to make a decision, but the process of choosing a coherent position (or reflective equilibrium) based on the structure of an argument map can be represented as a decision tree.
The philosophical origins and tradition of argument mapping
In the Elements of Logic, which was published in 1826 and issued in many subsequent editions, Archbishop Richard Whately gave probably the first form of an argument map, introducing it with the suggestion that "many students probably will find it a very clear and convenient mode of exhibiting the logical analysis of the course of argument, to draw it out in the form of a Tree, or Logical Division".
However, the technique did not become widely used, possibly because for complex arguments, it involved much writing and rewriting of the premises.
Legal philosopher and theorist John Henry Wigmore produced maps of legal arguments using numbered premises in the early 20th century, based in part on the ideas of 19th century philosopher Henry Sidgwick who used lines to indicate relations between terms.
Anglophone argument diagramming in the 20th century
Dealing with the failure of formal reduction of informal argumentation, English speaking argumentation theory developed diagrammatic approaches to informal reasoning over a period of fifty years.
Monroe Beardsley proposed a form of argument diagram in 1950. His method of marking up an argument and representing its components with linked numbers became a standard and is still widely used. He also introduced terminology that is still current describing convergent, divergent and serial arguments.
Stephen Toulmin, in his groundbreaking and influential 1958 book The Uses of Argument, identified several elements to an argument which have been generalized. The Toulmin diagram is widely used in educational critical teaching. Whilst Toulmin eventually had a significant impact on the development of informal logic he had little initial impact and the Beardsley approach to diagramming arguments along with its later developments became the standard approach in this field. Toulmin introduced something that was missing from Beardsley's approach. In Beardsley, "arrows link reasons and conclusions (but) no support is given to the implication itself between them. There is no theory, in other words, of inference distinguished from logical deduction, the passage is always deemed not controversial and not subject to support and evaluation". Toulmin introduced the concept of warrant which "can be considered as representing the reasons behind the inference, the backing that authorizes the link".
Beardsley's approach was refined by Stephen N. Thomas, whose 1973 book Practical Reasoning In Natural Language introduced the term linked to describe arguments where the premises necessarily worked together to support the conclusion. However, the actual distinction between dependent and independent premises had been made prior to this. The introduction of the linked structure made it possible for argument maps to represent missing or "hidden" premises. In addition, Thomas suggested showing reasons both for and against a conclusion with the reasons against being represented by dotted arrows. Thomas introduced the term argument diagram and defined basic reasons as those that were not supported by any others in the argument and the final conclusion as that which was not used to support any further conclusion.
Michael Scriven further developed the Beardsley-Thomas approach in his 1976 book Reasoning. Whereas Beardsley had said "At first, write out the statements...after a little practice, refer to the statements by number alone" Scriven advocated clarifying the meaning of the statements, listing them and then using a tree diagram with numbers to display the structure. Missing premises (unstated assumptions) were to be included and indicated with an alphabetical letter instead of a number to mark them off from the explicit statements. Scriven introduced counterarguments in his diagrams, which Toulmin had defined as rebuttal. This also enabled the diagramming of "balance of consideration" arguments.
In the 1990s, Tim van Gelder and colleagues developed a series of computer software applications that permitted the premises to be fully stated and edited in the diagram, rather than in a legend. Van Gelder's first program, Reason!Able, was superseded by two subsequent programs, bCisive and Rationale.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many other software applications were developed for argument visualization. By 2013, more than 60 such software systems existed. One of the differences between these software systems is whether collaboration is supported. Single-user argumentation systems include Convince Me, iLogos, LARGO, Athena, Araucaria, and Carneades; small group argumentation systems include Digalo, QuestMap, Compendium, Belvedere, and AcademicTalk; community argumentation systems include Debategraph and Collaboratorium. For more software examples, see: § External links.
In 1998 a series of large-scale argument maps released by Robert E. Horn stimulated widespread interest in argument mapping.
Argument maps have been applied in many areas, but foremost in educational, academic and business settings, including design rationale. Argument maps are also used in forensic science,law, and artificial intelligence. It has also been proposed that argument mapping has a great potential to improve how we understand and execute democracy, in reference to the ongoing evolution of e-democracy.
Difficulties with the philosophical tradition
It has traditionally been hard to separate teaching critical thinking from the philosophical tradition of teaching logic and method, and most critical thinking textbooks have been written by philosophers. Informal logic textbooks are replete with philosophical examples, but it is unclear whether the approach in such textbooks transfers to non-philosophy students. There appears to be little statistical effect after such classes. Argument mapping, however, has a measurable effect according to many studies. For example, instruction in argument mapping has been shown to improve the critical thinking skills of business students.
Evidence that argument mapping improves critical thinking ability
There is empirical evidence that the skills developed in argument-mapping-based critical thinking courses substantially transfer to critical thinking done without argument maps. Alvarez's meta-analysis found that such critical thinking courses produced gains of around 0.70 SD, about twice as much as standard critical-thinking courses. The tests used in the reviewed studies were standard critical-thinking tests.
How argument mapping helps with critical thinking
The use of argument mapping has occurred within a number of disciplines, such as philosophy, management reporting, military and intelligence analysis, and public debates.
- Logical structure: Argument maps display an argument's logical structure more clearly than does the standard linear way of presenting arguments.
- Critical thinking concepts: In learning to argument map, students master such key critical thinking concepts as "reason", "objection", "premise", "conclusion", "inference", "rebuttal", "unstated assumption", "co-premise", "strength of evidence", "logical structure", "independent evidence", etc. Mastering such concepts is not just a matter of memorizing their definitions or even being able to apply them correctly; it is also understanding why the distinctions these words mark are important and using that understanding to guide one's reasoning.
- Visualization: Humans are highly visual and argument mapping may provide students with a basic set of visual schemas with which to understand argument structures.
- More careful reading and listening: Learning to argument map teaches people to read and listen more carefully, and highlights for them the key questions "What is the logical structure of this argument?" and "How does this sentence fit into the larger structure?" In-depth cognitive processing is thus more likely.
- More careful writing and speaking: Argument mapping helps people to state their reasoning and evidence more precisely, because the reasoning and evidence must fit explicitly into the map's logical structure.
- Literal and intended meaning: Often, many statements in an argument do not precisely assert what the author meant. Learning to argument map enhances the complex skill of distinguishing literal from intended meaning.
- Externalization: Writing something down and reviewing what one has written often helps reveal gaps and clarify one's thinking. Because the logical structure of argument maps is clearer than that of linear prose, the benefits of mapping will exceed those of ordinary writing.
- Anticipating replies: Important to critical thinking is anticipating objections and considering the plausibility of different rebuttals. Mapping develops this anticipation skill, and so improves analysis.
Argument Interchange Format
The Argument Interchange Format, AIF, is an international effort to develop a representational mechanism for exchanging argument resources between research groups, tools, and domains using a semantically rich language. AIF-RDF is the extended ontology represented in the Resource Description Framework Schema (RDFS) semantic language. Though AIF is still something of a moving target, it is settling down.
Legal Knowledge Interchange Format
The Legal Knowledge Interchange Format (LKIF), developed in the European ESTRELLA project, is an XML schema for rules and arguments, designed with the goal of becoming a standard for representing and interchanging policy, legislation and cases, including their justificatory arguments, in the legal domain. LKIF builds on and uses the Web Ontology Language (OWL) for representing concepts and includes a reusable basic ontology of legal concepts.
- ^Freeman 1991, pp. 49–90
- ^For example: Davies 2012; Facione 2013, p. 86; Fisher 2004; Kelley 2014, p. 73; Kunsch, Schnarr & van Tyle 2014; Walton 2013, p. 10; van Gelder 2015
- ^For example: Culmsee & Awati 2013; Hoffmann & Borenstein 2013; Metcalfe & Sastrowardoyo 2013; Ricky Ohl, "Computer supported argument visualisation: modelling in consultative democracy around wicked problems", in Okada, Buckingham Shum & Sherborne 2014, pp. 361–380
- ^For example: Davies 2010; Hunter 2008; Okada, Buckingham Shum & Sherborne 2014, pp. vii–x, 4
- ^ abReed & Rowe 2007, p. 64
- ^For example: Walton 2013, pp. 18–20
- ^Reed, Walton & Macagno 2007, p. 2
- ^Freeman 1991, pp. 49–90; Reed & Rowe 2007
- ^Harrell 2010, p. 19
- ^Freeman 1991, pp. 91–110; Harrell 2010, p. 20
- ^Beardsley 1950, pp. 18–19; Reed, Walton & Macagno 2007, pp. 3–8; Harrell 2010, pp. 19–21
- ^ abBeardsley 1950
- ^Harrell 2010, p. 28
- ^For example: Hoffmann & Borenstein 2013; Hoffmann 2016
- ^See section 4.2, "Argument maps as reasoning tools", in Brun & Betz 2016
- ^Whately 1834 (first published 1826)
- ^Wigmore 1913
- ^Goodwin 2000
- ^Toulmin 2003 (first published 1958)
- ^ abSimon, Erduran & Osborne 2006
- ^Böttcher & Meisert 2011; Macagno & Konstantinidou 2013
- ^Reed, Walton & Macagno 2007, p. 8
- ^Reed, Walton & Macagno 2007, p. 9
- ^Thomas 1997 (first published 1973)
- ^ abSnoeck Henkemans 2000, p. 453
- ^Scriven 1976
- ^Beardsley 1950, p. 21
- ^Reed, Walton & Macagno 2007, pp. 10–11
- ^van Eemeren et al. 1996, p. 175
- ^van Gelder 2007
- ^Berg et al. 2009
- ^Walton 2013, p. 11
- ^ abScheuer et al. 2010
- ^Holmes 1999; Horn 1998 and Robert E. Horn, "Infrastructure for navigating interdisciplinary debates: critical decisions for representing argumentation", in Kirschner, Buckingham Shum & Carr 2003, pp. 165–184
- ^ abKirschner, Buckingham Shum & Carr 2003; Okada, Buckingham Shum & Sherborne 2014
- ^For example: Bex 2011
- ^For example: Verheij 2005; Reed, Walton & Macagno 2007; Walton 2013
- ^Hilbert 2009
- ^Twardy 2004; Álvarez Ortiz 2007; Harrell 2008; Yanna Rider and Neil Thomason, "Cognitive and pedagogical benefits of argument mapping: LAMP guides the way to better thinking", in Okada, Buckingham Shum & Sherborne 2014, pp. 113–134; Dwyer 2011; Davies 2012
- ^Carrington et al. 2011; Kunsch, Schnarr & van Tyle 2014
- ^Álvarez Ortiz 2007, pp. 69–70 et seq
- ^See the AIF original draft description (2006) and the full AIF-RDF ontology specifications in RDFS format.
- ^Bex et al. 2013
- ^Boer, Winkels & Vitali 2008
- ^"Estrella project website". estrellaproject.org. Archived from the original on 2016-02-12. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- Álvarez Ortiz, Claudia María (2007). Does philosophy improve critical thinking skills?(PDF) (M.A. thesis). Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne. OCLC 271475715. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2012-07-08.
- Beardsley, Monroe C. (1950). Practical logic. New York: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 4318971. A shorter version was published as Thinking Straight; the most recent edition is: Beardsley, Monroe C. (1975). Thinking straight: principles of reasoning for readers and writers (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0139182357. OCLC 1168973.
- Berg, Timo ter; van Gelder, Tim; Patterson, Fiona; Teppema, Sytske (2009). Critical thinking: reasoning and communicating with Rationale. Amsterdam: Pearson Education Benelux. ISBN 9043018015. OCLC 301884530.
- Bex, Floris J. (2011). Arguments, stories and criminal evidence: a formal hybrid theory. Law and philosophy library. 92. Dordrecht; New York: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0140-3. ISBN 9789400701397. OCLC 663950184.
- Bex, Floris J.; Modgil, Sanjay; Prakken, Henry; Reed, Chris (2013). "On logical specifications of the Argument Interchange Format"(PDF). Journal of Logic and Computation. 23 (5): 951–989. doi:10.1093/logcom/exs033.
- Boer, Alexander; Winkels, Radboud; Vitali, Fabio (2008). "MetaLex XML and the Legal Knowledge Interchange Format"(PDF). In Casanovas, Pompeu; Sartor, Giovanni; Casellas, Núria; Rubino, Rossella. Computable models of the law: languages, dialogues, games, ontologies. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 4884. Berlin; New York: Springer. pp. 21–41. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-85569-9_2. ISBN 9783540855682. OCLC 244765580. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- Böttcher, Florian; Meisert, Anke (February 2011). "Argumentation in science education: a model-based framework". Science & Education. 20 (2): 103–140. doi:10.1007/s11191-010-9304-5.
- Brun, Georg; Betz, Gregor (2016). "Analysing practical argumentation"(PDF). In Hansson, Sven Ove; Hirsch Hadorn, Gertrude. The argumentative turn in policy analysis: reasoning about uncertainty. Logic, argumentation & reasoning. 10. Cham; New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 39–77. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-30549-3_3. ISBN 9783319305479. OCLC 950884495.
- Carrington, Michal; Chen, Richard; Davies, Martin; Kaur, Jagjit; Neville, Benjamin (June 2011). "The effectiveness of a single intervention of computer‐aided argument mapping in a marketing and a financial accounting subject"(PDF). Higher Education Research & Development. 30 (3): 387–403. doi:10.1080/07294360.2011.559197. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- Culmsee, Paul; Awati, Kailash (2013) . "Chapter 7: Visualising reasoning, and Chapter 8: Argumentation-based rationale". The heretic's guide to best practices: the reality of managing complex problems in organisations. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc. pp. 153–211. ISBN 9781462058549. OCLC 767703320.
- Davies, W. Martin (November 2010). "Concept mapping, mind mapping and argument mapping: what are the differences and do they matter?". Higher Education. 62 (3): 279–301. doi:10.1007/s10734-010-9387-6.
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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-10 11:46:44
What is an argumentative essay?
The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner.
Please note: Some confusion may occur between the argumentative essay and the expository essay. These two genres are similar, but the argumentative essay differs from the expository essay in the amount of pre-writing (invention) and research involved. The argumentative essay is commonly assigned as a capstone or final project in first year writing or advanced composition courses and involves lengthy, detailed research. Expository essays involve less research and are shorter in length. Expository essays are often used for in-class writing exercises or tests, such as the GED or GRE.
Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.
The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important (exigence) or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis (warrant).
However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic. Depending on the length of the assignment, students should dedicate one or two paragraphs of an argumentative essay to discussing conflicting opinions on the topic. Rather than explaining how these differing opinions are wrong outright, students should note how opinions that do not align with their thesis might not be well informed or how they might be out of date.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. As noted in the paragraph above, a successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is unethical to exclude evidence that may not support the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students may begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis. You may also want to include a short discussion of more research that should be completed in light of your work.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph essay
A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion.
Longer argumentative essays
Complex issues and detailed research call for complex and detailed essays. Argumentative essays discussing a number of research sources or empirical research will most certainly be longer than five paragraphs. Authors may have to discuss the context surrounding the topic, sources of information and their credibility, as well as a number of different opinions on the issue before concluding the essay. Many of these factors will be determined by the assignment.