Argumentative Writing | Kent State University

 
Arguments: What are they and why do we write them?

When most people think of arguments, they picture two people fighting over different viewpoints. Therefore, many of us feel as if the argumentation process is meant to cause conflict rather than resolve it. However, arguments were invented to persuade others to alter or compromise their position on a certain topic.

To persuade your audience to reconsider their beliefs, you must, as the writer of your argumentative paper, move them from one position to a different one. To do this effectively, you should assess how resistant your audience will be to your position: Are they a neutral audience that is undecided about your topic? Or are they openly hostile to your stance and refuse to see your side of the argument? On this page you will find strategies to write for these audiences so you can convince them that your viewpoint is important.


Evaluation Arguments

  • Evaluation arguments prove how a particular topic is good or bad.
  • Topics that could be addressed by Evaluation arguments include:
    1.  Are organically-grown vegetables more nutritious than regular ones?
    2.  Should Congress support programs that promote abstinence or safe sex?
    3.  Do students receive a better education at public or private universities?
  • Before you write an Evaluation argument, you have to establish a set of criteria that relates to your paper’s topic. 
  • Then you should evaluate these criteria. Stephen Toulmin, a 1950s philosopher, came up with a courtroom model called the Toulmin system to evaluate his arguments. 

When you use the Toulmin system, you are acting as a defense attorney would in a courtroom; you need to anticipate counter-arguments from the prosecutors and present evidence, so the judge will rule in your favor.


The Toulmin System

Claim: the position you try to get your audience to accept (thesis)

Stated Reasons: supporting claims that prove your paper’s thesis  

Grounds: evidence (facts, testimonies, statistics, examples) to prove your stated reasons 

Warrant: the unstated assumption behind your claim (i.e., the statement of belief or principle)

Backing: evidence needed to support your warrant and to persuade your audience to gradually accept the beliefs and values that inform your claim 

Finding Evidence to Support Your Argument
In order to support your argument’s claim, you must have evidence. Sources that are considered “evidence” include the following: the viewpoints and conclusions of experts/scholars, statistics from peer reviewed scholarly studies, and quotes from respected magazine, journal, & newspapers. You can find all three of these in the Opposing Viewpoints database. Go to www.kent.edu/stark/library, select the “Finding Articles” link in the left-hand menu, and scroll down and click on the “Opposing Viewpoints” link to access its homepage.


Classical Arguments

  • Classical arguments were used by ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.
  • Classical arguments are written to persuade undecided or neutral audiences. 


Rogerian Arguments

  • Rogerian arguments use empathy and self-reflection to connect with audiences.
  • Writers who construct Rogerian arguments imagine themselves in their audience’s position – they establish common ground with their hostile readers by highlighting shared values and similar goals.
  • Rogerian arguments are written to persuade resistant audiences.  Imagine if you were a five foot umpire trying to reason with a 6’9” angry baseball player – your resistant audience is that baseball player!  You must soothe his heated emotions and address his side of the story if you want your position to be accepted. 

When Writing Rogerian Arguments, you:

  • Summarize the audience’s position
  • Demonstrate understanding of audience’s position before presenting your own position
  • Point out areas of agreement between your position and your audience’s
  • Reach a compromise in the conclusion that will satisfy both you and your audience

 
 
Source: Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, 5th Edition, 2001