Go The Distance: Academic Writing – The language of argument

Open navigator

1. Arguing – in the academic sense

It's time for Academic Writing – the course that gives you the tools you need to become an effective writer in your studies. In the area of academic writing we're looking at this time, it's super-important to get your words right; we're looking at the language of argument!

In academic writing, getting your point across is crucial. But you have to make sure the language you use isn't too informal – or even rude. Scroll down and try these activities to work on your language of argument.

2. A language of argument glossary

To do: Click on the image for explanations of some key terms and concepts related to academic arguments.

This content uses functionality that is not supported by your current browser. Consider upgrading your browser.

Next: Now you've had a look at the key concepts, let's check what you've understood! Try the next activity and see if you can identify the claim, evidence, counter-argument and warrant!

3. Challenge 1: Identifying key concepts

Now let's see if you can identify the concepts in practice.

To do

We've taken a paragraph from an essay on law and order and split it into three parts – can you spot the claim, evidence, counter-argument and warrant? When you've finished, scroll down to check your answers by doing the quiz.

Part 1

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than citizens of other developed countries (The American Journal of Medicine, 2016). Over 20% of Americans own guns, and the total number of firearms in the country is 265 million, more than one weapon for each adult (Azreal et al, 2016).

Part 2

While some argue that guns are a deterrent against crime, or that it is their right to bear arms, public opinion is now turning towards stricter gun control, with 52% in favour (Pew Research Center, 2017).

Part 3

This paper contends that in order to reduce gun crime, the simplest and most effective way is to control sales to the general public.

4. Challenge 1 answer: Which part was which?

Click on the options to check you've identified the key concepts of argument language correctly.

The claim

What is the main point?

You selected

The claim

Part 3: It puts forward the main idea of the paper. Often, this appears at the beginning of the paper, although it can also be included at the end.

The evidence

Evidence often includes sources

You selected

The evidence

Part 1: This includes statistics about gun-related death, and gun ownership, from two sources. It is important that the evidence supports the claim.

The counter-argument

Look for the section that disagrees with the main point

You selected

The counter-argument

Part 2: This has two opinions which disagree with the claim. They are then argued against by further evidence: that most people believe in stricter gun control.

The warrant or justification

This explains why the evidence supports the claim

You selected

The warrant or justification

The warrant is not actually written down here. A possible warrant could be 'There is a clear link between gun ownership and gun crime'.

5. Challenge 2: Spot the better argument

We’ve looked at the elements of a strong argument. You can also apply these principles when looking at the arguments of others.

To do

How would you compare these two paragraphs taken from assignments on diet and healthcare? Which is a better argument? To help you spot the differences, we've numbered the sentences in each paragraph. You can check your answers – in a quiz question – later on this page.

Paragraph A

1) UK health officials believe we should cut 300 calories from our diets each day. 2) Eating too many calories is known to cause obesity. 3) One in three children leave school overweight, according to UK health officials.

Paragraph B

1) Cutting calories from our daily diets is the best way to fight obesity. 2) New research shows we are eating between 200-300 calories more than our bodies need each day (Public Health England, 2015). 3) Consuming more calories than we need is a prime cause of obesity. 4) Some have argued that doing more physical exercise is the most effective way of fighting obesity. 5) However, studies have shown that while exercise is effective at improving overall fitness, dietary changes account for more significant weight loss (Carroll, 2015).

6. Challenge 2 answer: Paragraph A or B?

To do: Check which paragraph has the better academic argument by clicking 'choose' on each option.

claim

Which paragraph includes a claim?

You selected

claim

A: There is no claim. B: The claim is clearly stated in sentence 1.

evidence

Is there evidence in paragraphs A and B?

You selected

evidence

A: As there is no claim, you can't really have evidence. B: The evidence is included in sentence 2.

justification or warrant

Is the claim justified in paragraphs A and B?

You selected

justification or warrant

A: There is no justification. B: The justification is in sentence 3. This could be left out depending on the audience – for example if they are health experts.

counter-argument

Which paragraph includes a counter-argument?

You selected

counter-argument

A: There is no counter-argument. B: The counter-argument is included in sentence 5.

7. Review – and more practice

Now you've had a good look at key concepts relating to the language of argument, let's review what we've learned so far:

  • The claim is where you where you make your main point – it's a key part of academic argument. If there's no claim, there's no argument.
  • You need to support your claim with evidence. We are talking about opinions here, not facts – good evidence backs up the points you make.
  • Justification is where you explain why the evidence supports the claim – sometimes this can be left out if it's obvious or a widely held belief.
  • Claim, evidence and justification all combine to produce a clear argument.
  • Counter-arguments are important. If you include them in your writing it shows that you have considered more than one side of an argument.
  • Tell your reader your limitations. This doesn't mean that your writing is lower quality but actually helps the reader understand your context better.

Downloads

Now you know the concepts, it's time to practice words and phrases included in claims, evidence, justifications, counter-arguments and limitations.You'll also take a look at useful hedging language to make balanced arguments – just click on the Downloads button to find a free pdf with more activities to practise your language of argument.