How to build an argument
- An argument is a reasoned way of presenting a specific issue or idea.
- A well-focused argument states the main point clearly then expands on it with facts and evidence.
- Predicting opposing points of view and challenging them will make an argument more convincing.
The word ‘argument’ suggests a disagreement - but a written argument has nothing to do with conflict. An argument should present a clear and well-supported point of view. You provide support for your view in the form of evidence.
A balanced argument can be created by referring to alternative points of view - the counter arguments.
Building an argument is similar in some ways to writing to persuade. Both of these types of writing need to be convincing in order to influence the reader.
Structuring an argument
An argument will usually start with a clearly stated main point. For example:
‘Testing products on animals is absolutely wrong for both moral and environmental reasons.’
The rest of the argument will then focus on adding supporting statements and evidence to back up your main point:
‘In March 2013 a new European law was passed that made it illegal to sell cosmetics in the EU that have been tested on animals. This suggests that many people in today’s society have a moral objection to testing cosmetics on animals.’
The more points that you can add to support your main idea, the stronger your argument will be.
The final paragraph will provide a clear conclusion, restating some of the main points from the argument:
‘So, due to the harmful effects of testing products on the animals, and the damage it inflicts on the environment, we must oppose animal testing.’
Notice that the conclusion does not repeat the opening statement directly, but reinforces it.
Acknowledging the counter argument
A counter argument anticipates the opposing viewpoint. When you counter argue, you acknowledge the possible arguments against your own:
'Supporters of animal testing will tell you that it is well regulated to protect the animals. But in fact, testing regulations differ from country to country and corporations can choose to test wherever the laws suit them.'
Mentioning the counter argument allows you to challenge opposing views on your own terms. Using a counter argument also gives the writing a more balanced feel.
Your argument will be stronger and more convincing if you deal with opposing viewpoints.
Using discourse markers
Discourse markers are phrases that help hold an argument together. They act as signposts for the reader to show where you are in the argument. For example:
- On the other hand ...
- Some may argue that ...
- However ...
- Alternatively ...
- In addition ...
- As a result ...
- As a consequence ...
- Even though ...
- Therefore ...
Try to think about all sides of an argument. Building an effective argument takes planning. It’s a good idea to plan your main points, evidence and counter arguments before you start writing. Planning will allow you to think about how best to structure your argument and the most effective order for your ideas.
Find out how much you know about building an argument in this short quiz!