9-Making an Argument

Where You Get the Components

This section will help you figure that out which components may come from your professor, which you just have to think about, which you have to write, and which you have to find in your sources.

Here, again, are the components we’ll cover:

  • The question you (or your professor) want answered
  • Your claim or thesis
  • One or more reasons for your thesis
  • Evidence for each reason
  • Others’ objections, counterarguments, or alternative solutions
  • Your acknowledgment of others’ objections, counterarguments, or alternative solutions
  • Response to others’ objections, counterarguments, or alternative solutions

The Question You Want Answered

Sometimes your professor will give you the research question, but probably more often he or she will expect you to develop your own from an assigned topic. You learned how to develop research questions in another section. Though vitally important, they are often not stated in essays or term papers but are usually stated in reports of original studies, such as theses, dissertations, and journal articles.

Examples: Research Questions for Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers

  • Is the recent occurrence of stronger hurricanes related to global warming?
  • Did the death of his beloved daughter have any effect on the writings of Mark Twain?

Your Claim or Thesis

You write the claim or thesis–it doesn’t come directly from a resource. Instead, it is the conclusion you come to in answer to your question after you’ve read/listened to/looked at some sources. So it is a statement, not a question or hypothesis, that you plan to prove or disprove with your research.

After you’ve done more research, you may need to change your thesis. That happens all the time–not because you did anything wrong but because you learned more.

Examples: Claims (or Theses) for Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers

  • The strength of hurricanes has not been affected appreciably by global warming.
  • Mark Twain wrote more urgently and with less humor during the four years immediately after the death of his daughter.

One or More Reasons

Write what you believe makes your thesis (the answer to your research question) true. That’s your reason or reasons. Each reason is a summary statement of evidence you found in your research. The kinds of evidence considered convincing varies by discipline, so you will be looking at different sources, depending on your discipline. How many reasons you need depends on how complex your thesis and subject matter are, what you found in your sources, and how long your essay or term paper must be. It’s always a good idea to write your reasons in a way that is easy for your audience to understand and be persuaded by.

Examples: Reasons in Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers

  • Current computer modeling and the analysis of historical data about previous hurricane strength do not indicate that global warming is increasing the strength of hurricanes.
  • My content analysis and a comparison of publication rates four years before and after Mark Twain’s daughter died indicate that his writing was more urgent and less humorous for four years after. It is reasonable to conclude that her death caused that change.

Evidence for Each Reason

This is the evidence you summarized earlier as each reason your thesis is true. You will be directly quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing your sources to make the case that your audience should agree with you.

Examples: Evidence for Reasons in Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers

  • Report the results of the computer modeling and the analysis of historical data on temperatures and hurricane strength.
  • Report the results of your comparison of writing content and publication rate before and after Twain’s daughter’s death.

Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions

Do any of your sources not agree with your thesis? You’ll have to bring those up in your term paper. In addition, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What might they not find logical in your argument? In other words, which reason(s) and corresponding evidence might they find lacking? Did you find clues to what these could be in your sources? Or maybe you can imagine them thinking some aspect of what you think is evidence is illogical.

Examples: Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions in Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers

  • Imagine that the reader might think: Computer modeling done in 2007-08 did show an effect for ocean temperature on hurricane strength.
  • Imagine that the reader might think: Computerized content analysis tools are sort of blunt instruments and shouldn’t be used to do precise work.

Your Acknowledgement of Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions

What will you write to bring up each of those objections, counterarguments, and alternative solutions? Some examples:

  • I can imagine skeptics wanting to point out…
  • Perhaps some readers would say…
  • I think those who come from XYZ would differ with me…

It all depends on what objections, counterarguments, and alternative solutions you come up with.

Examples: Acknowledgement of Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions in Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers:

  • Some researchers may point out that computer modeling done in 2007-08 did show an effect for ocean temperature on hurricane strength.
  • Readers may think that a computerized content analysis tool cannot do justice to the subtleties of text.

Response to Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions

You must write your response to each objection, counterargument, or alternative solution brought up or that you’ve thought of. (You’re likely to have found clues for what to say in your sources.) The reason you have to include this is that you can’t very easily convince your audience until you show them how your claim stacks up against the opinions and reasoning of other people who don’t at the moment agree with you.

Examples: Response to Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions in Hypothetical Essays or Term Papers:

  • But the more current modeling equipment used here is able to take the XYZ into effect, which negates any difference in readings for different temperatures.
  • Unlike other content tools, the XYZ Content Analysis Measure is able to take into account an author’s tone.

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