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 Writing Argumentative Essays
• Is your topic debatable?
• Does your essay develop an argumentative
• Have you considered the opinions, attitudes,
  and values of your audience?
• Have you identified and refuted opposing
• Are your arguments logically constructed?
• Have you supported your assertions with
Writing Argumentative Essays (Cont’d.)

• Have you established your credibility?
• Have you been fair?
• Have you avoided logical fallacies?
• Have you provided your reader with
  enough background information?
• Have you presented your points clearly
  and organized them logically?
• Have you written an interesting
  introduction and a strong conclusion?
 Using Evidence and Establishing Credibility

1. Using evidence:
  Most arguments are built on assertions-
  claims you make about a debatable topic-
  backed by evidence- supporting
  information, in the form of examples,
  statistics, or expert opinion.
Using Evidence and Establishing Credibility
Only statements that are self-evident (“All
human beings are mortal”), true by
definition (2+2=4), or factual (“The Atlantic
Ocean separates England and the United
States”) need no proof.

Readers need supporting evidence for all
other kinds of assertions you make.
Using evidence and establishing credibility
               (Cont’d. )
 2. Establishing credibility and being fair.
   In order to convince readers, you have to
   satisfy them you are someone they should
   listen to- in other words, that you have

   Readers will also judge the fairness of
   your use of the evidence.

 • Identify the various sides of the issue.
 • Identify the points on which you and your
 reader are in agreement.
 • Work these areas of agreement into your
 • Include relevant personal experiences.
 • Include relevant special knowledge of
 your subject.
 • Include the results of any relevant
 research you have done.
 • Avoid sounding as if you are talking
 down to or insulting your readers.

 • Use moderate language and qualify your
• Do not distort evidence.
• Do not intentionally misrepresent
  opponents’ views by exaggerating them
  and then attacking this extreme position.
• Do not change the meaning of what
  someone has said or implied by selecting
  certain words from a statement and
  ignoring others.

• Do not select only information that
  supports your case and ignore information
  that does not.
• Do not use inflammatory language
  calculated to appeal to the emotions or
  prejudices of readers.

  Finally, readers will not accept your
  argument unless it is logical. For this
  reason, you should revise carefully to be
  sure you have avoided logical fallacies.

  In its simplest form, an argument consists
  of a thesis statement and supporting
  evidence. However, argumentative essays
  frequently contain additional elements
  calculated to win audience approval and to
  overcome potential opposition.

   The introduction of your argumentative
   essay orients your readers to your subject.
   Here, you can show how your subject
   concerns your audience, note why it is
   important, or explain how it has been
   In this section you may briefly present a
   narrative of past events, a summary of
   others’ opinions on your subject, or a
   review of basic facts.
    Your thesis statement can appear anywhere in
    your argumentative essay. Frequently, you state
    your thesis after you have given your readers an
    overview of your subject. However, in highly
    controversial arguments- those to which your
    audience might react negatively- you may
    postpone stating your thesis until later in your
Much of the evidence for your research
conclusions will come from authorities with
special insight or knowledge about your
topic. An authority is someone qualified to
offer an opinion or make a statement on a
    AUTHORITY (Cont’d.)
The extent to which someone qualifies as
an authority depends upon the topic and
the individual’s background and
       AUTHORITY (Cont’d.)
A medical doctor qualifies as an authority when
talking about the health risk involved with piercing
one’s navel to accommodate body jewellery;
however, the same doctor is not an authority on
the reasons that young people are so fond of this

That opinion should come from someone with
more background on the topic such as an authority
on culture or a researcher who has interviewed a
number of teenagers about navel piercing.
Checklist for Evaluating Authority
You should judge the authority of a source
by a variety of criteria. In addition to an
individual’s background and experience,
weigh factors such at the following in
determining a source’s level of credibility
or expertise:
 Checklist for Evaluating Authority
• If the source’s qualifications are not
  immediately clear, is there an adequate
  explanation of them?
• Does the source demonstrate knowledge
  of the topic and an awareness of recent
  issues, research and opinions?
• Is the source recognised and cited by
  others who address the topic?
  Checklist for Evaluating Authority
• Is the source current?
• Does the source acknowledge information
  and opinions from others?
• Do the information and opinions offered
  appear in a reliable publication or other
  type of trusted source?
• Is the source unbiased in presenting his or
  her own ideas and the ideas of others?
 Checklist for Evaluating Authority
You will find most authorities agree about
factual evidence but you may find they disagree
about larger and more intangible issues. Make
sure you consult authorities on each side of an
issue during your research and discuss any
conflicting points of view as you set forth your
own conclusions in the research paper.
Logical fallacies represent errors in thinking.
Most of them reflect overvaluing or ignoring
certain evidence; others use language that
distorts the basis of an argument. Since the
conclusions derived from such fallacies are
usually stated in ways that make them sound
logical, they are frequently popularized and
accepted as common sense.
  Because logical fallacies are common in
  popular attitudes and arguments you need
  to be aware of them in your own thinking
  and in the arguments of your research

  Following are brief descriptions of some of
  the most common logical fallacies
  (traditional terms for some of the better-
  known fallacies are given in parentheses):
Avoid these common logical fallacies

• Against the person (ad hominem):
  Confusing the validity of an argument
  with the character of the person who
  makes it.
Avoid these common logical fallacies
• Rather than address the argument itself, an
  attack against the person focuses on an
  opponent’s appearance, personal habits, or

• E.g. We can’t trust the testimony of a DNA
  scientist who once declared bankruptcy and
  has been divorced twice, can we?

• This is an example of an argument against the
     Avoid these common logical
          fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Appeal to authority: Assuming that the
  authority or reputation of an individual is
  evidence for the truth of his or her views.

• While the views an authority expresses may be
  validated by other evidence, the fact that
  someone is an Oscar-winning movie star, for
  example, is not a sufficient reason to buy the
  brand of car he or she may be advertising.
    Avoid these common logical
         fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Appeal to ignorance (ad
  ignoratiam): Arguing that a claim
  must be true simply because no one
  has shown that it is false.
      Avoid these common logical
           fallacies (Cont’d.)
• “The abominable snowman must exist. After
  all, no one has shown it doesn't” is an appeal
  to ignorance resulting from an illogical
  inference. While an audience might agree
  with the premise that the abominable
  snowman could exist, it does not logically
  follow that it therefore does.
   Avoid these common logical
        fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Appeal to pity (ad misericodiam):
  Attempting to persuade by arousing
  pity instead of addressing the real
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• “But I still think my paper should get a
  passing grade, Professor Harper. I missed
  work yesterday and stayed up all night to
  get it finished on time” is an appeal-to-
  pity argument all too familiar to English
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Appeal to the people, or
  bandwagon (ad populum): Arguing
  that something is right or best
  because many others think it is.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• E.g. Complaining to one’s parents that All
  our friends have QuickConnect online
  service. We should, too ignores any
  evidence for or against QuickConnect’s
  services. The argument assumes
  QuickConnect must provide good service
  solely on the evidence that others are using
  it. Everybody else is doing it is not a logical
  reason or excuse for doing anything.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Circular definition, or begging the
  question: Restating an assumption
  as part of its proof. Arguments using
  circular definition simply repeat their
  initial proposition in different words.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• A man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do
  and Pornorgraphy is dangerous
  because it harms lives are circular
  arguments that beg, or put off, the
  question they raise by actually
  ignoring the issue at hand.
   Avoid These Common Logical
        Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Equivocation: Shifting the meanings of
  the terms used in an argument.
• For instance: You claim whales are intelligent. But if
  whales are intelligent, why do we have to protect
  them? Can’t intelligent creatures take care of
  themselves? Such reasoning may seem plausible,
  but it is not: The speaker has changed the meaning
  of intelligent from “capable of understanding” to
  something different than was meant in the
  opponent’s original claim.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• False analogy: Using a comparison
  in which the differences between two
  things are greater than their
  similarities or in which the similarities
  are irrelevant to the argument being
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Referring to television as the plug-in-
  drug, for example, overlooks major
  differences between the varied
  causes of habitual television watching
  and those of life-destroying, addictive
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• False cause (post hoc, ergo propter
  hoc): Assuming a cause-effect
  relationship because two events are
  related in time. The fallacy of false cause
  is also known as post hoc reasoning, from
  the Latin phrase post hoc, ergo propter
  hoc, meaning “after this, therefore
  because of this”.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• False-cause reasoning assumes that
  because one thing happened at the same
  time as another, the first caused the
  second. Such reasoning is often the basis
  for superstition, as when a person has bad
  luck after breaking a mirror and concludes,
  wrongly, that the accident with the mirror
  caused the bad luck.
     Avoid These Common Logical
          Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• False dilemma, or either-or: Arguing for a
  conclusion as if there are only two alternatives.
  The alternative in the false dilemma is generally
  more attractive than the initial proposal.

• For example, Either learn to play golf or forget
  about getting that job as vice-president
  presents a false dilemma that ignores the fact
  that someone may advance in a career for
  many other reasons than being the boss’s golf
    Avoid These Common Logical
         Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Hasty Generalization: Drawing a conclusion
  based on inadequate evidence.

• Arguing that Professor Tolmas’s examinations
  are easy at a point when you have taken only
  one is hasty generalization. You do not have
  enough examples of his tests to reasonably
  draw such a conclusion; indeed, the one test
  you have taken may have been an exception.
     Avoid These Common Logical
          Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• The error of making judgments based on
  inadequate evidence can lead to stereotyping
  and prejudice, both the results of erroneously
  generalizing about a group on the basis of one
  or two pieces of evidence.

• Just because someone in Rome stole your
  wallet is not justification to call all Romans
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)

• Poisoning the well: Using loaded
  language to discourage discussion of
  an argument before examining it.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Saying that No one who cares about
  children will hesitate to support this law
  intimidates would-be opponents and
  discourages them from responding. To
  argue against the law might mean being
  viewed as not caring about children or
  having to defend oneself against such a
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Red herring: Diverting discussion of
  an issue by introducing another,
  unrelated topic.

• The term red herring derives from the
  fact that smoked herring is strong
  smelling and used to divert hunting
  dogs from a trail.
     Avoid These Common Logical
          Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Similarly, most red-herring issues are
  controversial or interesting enough to
  get an audience’s attention and make
  them forget about the issue at hand.

• Yes, we may need to look at this city’s
  use of landfills, but isn’t the problem of
  illiteracy among our high school
  graduates more important? is an
  example of a red-herring technique.
  Avoid These Common Logical
       Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Slippery slope: Claiming that an
  action should not be taken because
  doing so will lead to a chain of
  undesirable events.

• Slippery-slope reasoning assumes one
  action will inevitably lead to the next,
  then the next, and so on until a
  calamitous point is reached.
   Avoid These Common Logical
        Fallacies (Cont’d.)
• Those who oppose banning the sale or import
  of assault weapons, for example, often fall back
  on slippery-slope arguments:
• Once assault weapons are banned, they
  reason, other automatic weapons will be
  banned next, then handguns, and so on until all
  guns are banned.
• The fallacy behind such arguments is in
  presuming that the same reasons for the first
  action would necessarily lead to the second, the
  third, and so on.
•   Your understanding of argument
    will be vital to the success of your
    research effort and the resulting
    research paper.

•   To understand what makes an
    effective argument, you must be
    able to reason logically – to
    consider one or more facts and
    come to a reasonable conclusion.
•   As you complete your research
    and fine-tune the plan for your
    paper, discuss these points with
    someone else.
• Review several of your scores to look for
  examples of deductive and inductive
• Consider what makes each approach
  effective or ineffective in these sources.
• Do a rough outline of the argument
  presented in one source, showing either the
  deductive or inductive pattern of reasoning.

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