Lessons from logic: How to create a compelling argument
Being able to create a compelling argument isn't just going to help you get a good essay grade; it's an important life skill that can be beneficial pretty much everywhere.
Want more pocket money? Need a night off from your weekend job? If you’ve already got a good reason why, then all you need is a well-structured argument to get the job done!
Both inside and outside of the classroom, an ability to organise your thoughts into a sound, logical argument will serve you well.
What is an argument?
Before we start, we’d better clarify what exactly we mean by ‘argument’! No, we’re not using the word to refer to an angry discussion – it’s commonly used in an academic sense as well. At its simplest, an argument is an expression of a viewpoint on a certain topic, opinion, or question by using evidence.
There are a few different approaches you can use to create a good argument, but we’ll run through a five-step process which we think is both simple and effective. These steps are:
1. Analyse the situation.
2. Create your thesis statement.
3. Pile on the evidence.
4. Consider and address any objections.
5. Circle back to your main point.
Analyse the situation:
The best way to guarantee you’ll fail to create a compelling argument is by not fully understanding the situation or subject. So, do your due diligence and educate yourself about what you're arguing for.
Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:
What is the subject or purpose of your message? Know what you want to convince your reader or audience of, and how they should think or feel about it after you're done.
Who are you talking to? Know your audience, whether it's just one person or a whole group – familiarise yourself with their current opinions and beliefs. Either you are convincing them to change their current opinion on a topic they already know, or you are informing them of a new issue and ensuring that they side with your argument.
What tone should you use? Adjust your tone according to your argument and who you are presenting it to. For example, you probably wouldn't use an informal tone for an essay your teacher will read. In the same way, you probably wouldn't use an aggressive ‘debate-style’ tone while convincing your parents to get pizza for dinner.
Create your thesis statement.
To start, write down a single statement that sums up your argument. Often, this is called a thesis statement. A thesis statement should clearly lay out what your opinion is. Use it at the start of your argument and circle back to it at the end to reinforce your point.
Some examples of a good thesis statement are:
· Shakespeare’s Macbeth was primarily an exploration of how prophesies can become self-fulfilling.
· The New Zealand government should increase the cap on the number of refugees we currently accept.
· I deserve more pocket money.
Keep it simple, and don't make it too lengthy! The above examples are clear in what they aim to communicate, which means the audience will understand the argument right from the outset.
Pile on the evidence.
Research is a crucial ingredient in making a compelling argument. This is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of a convincing point of view, so once you’ve done the research, lay it all out!
The more evidence you have in your opinion, the less credible the opposing side will look. Gather as much information to support your argument from as many sources as you can; find videos, articles, and studies to show how strong your claim is. Refer to these sources specifically in your argument to sound more convincing.
Consider and address any objections.
This is an often-forgotten part of any argument! Hopefully, your claim has some great points to support it – but your argument might fall down if you haven’t considered some of the main reasons people might disagree with what you’re saying. If you’re in a verbal debate scenario, your opposition might be able to exploit these weaker points without giving you a chance to have your say. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have enough information to explain why these points can be overcome or overlooked.
Typically, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re right rather than why people who disagree with you are wrong – but it’s worth taking the time to consider some of the main disagreements people might have and addressing these straight off the bat.
Circle back to your main point.
Wrap up your argument by giving a summary of all your main points. Keep it concise and snappy – don't add in any new information at this point as it will require you to explain further.
Remember, this is just supposed to be a recap of what you have stated in the main body of your paragraph. In your last line, you should revisit your claim and leave the audience to consider your argument.
A few final words:
Keep in mind that there are so many variations of arguments out there. You could be writing an essay, speaking in a debate, persuading a whole group of people or just asking your parent for a new phone. Each of these arguments requires a different tone and style, so you will have to prepare for each one differently. Whether you’re writing things down or saying it to someone’s face, it always pays to be confident and sure of what you’re presenting
Now that you know the basics of creating a compelling argument, we hope that it makes getting more pocket money or that better grade a little bit easier. Keep practising the art – it’ll help you in so many different situations!
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