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Ways to Make an Academic Argument


Arguments play a key role in academic writing. Academic arguments consist of a claim, also called a thesis statement, followed by logical reasoning and evidence to support the claim. You may be surprised to learn that counterarguments and objections also play a key role in academic writing. They contribute to your argument’s persuasiveness and bolster your credibility as a researcher by showing your awareness of the issues and your ability to address differing viewpoints.

Effective academic writing relies heavily on crafting strong arguments. A compelling academic argument consists of a clearly defined claim or thesis statement, which is then supported by a combination of logical reasoning and evidence. However, what you might not expect is that counterarguments and objections also play a crucial role in academic writing. By addressing opposing viewpoints, you can enhance the persuasiveness of your argument and demonstrate your ability to approach the topic from multiple angles, ultimately strengthening your credibility as a researcher.

Literature Search

To build a compelling academic argument, it is crucial to conduct a thorough literature search to gather evidence and insights from other researchers in your field. This step is vital to include counterarguments and objections comprehensively. Without it, your argument may come across as biased and untrustworthy to readers. Here are some tips on how to develop an academic argument.

Develop a claim (thesis statement): Developing a claim or thesis statement is the first step in building an academic argument. A claim is the main idea or thesis statement of the paper or dissertation, and it can be simple or complex. A simple claim is a straightforward statement, while a complex claim includes reasoning and evidence. A complex claim is usually more suitable for the overarching argument of a thesis or dissertation, while numerous simple claims are often presented in academic papers. For example, the introduction chapter of a thesis or dissertation paper may contain a single complex claim, while each section of the literature review may contain one or more simple claims. Here are examples of simple and complex claims:

Simple claim:

Medications represent a common cause of increased fall risk in older adults.

Complex claim:

Medication management represents the most effective intervention for decreasing fall risk in older adults.

The simple claim presents a fact derived from evidence (i.e., data), such as the number of falls attributed to the effects of medication. The complex claim presents a value judgment, arguing that one method of decreasing fall risk works better than other methods. This argument will require more involved examples and reasoning to make the case.

Provide evidence: To strengthen an argument, it is essential to provide supporting evidence for any claims made. This evidence should be derived from reputable primary and secondary sources, such as research studies or expert opinions. The sources should be credible and reliable, and the evidence presented must logically support the claim being made. In addition, it is important to analyze and interpret the evidence accurately to ensure that it is being used to its full potential in supporting the argument. By following these guidelines, claims made can be supported by solid evidence and contribute to a stronger, more persuasive argument. For instance: “This study linked close to 90% of falls in older adults to medications.”

Provide examples: When making a complex claim about why medication management is the most effective method for reducing fall risk in older adults, it is important to provide reasoning, examples, and evidence to support your argument. To strengthen your argument, it's recommended to use real or hypothetical examples that are relevant to the claim. This way, you can clearly demonstrate why you believe medication management is the best approach to reducing fall risk in older adults.

For instance, to support the above complex claim, you might say: “For example, nursing home administrators may find that teaching nursing home patients how to manage their medication can improve medication compliance, reducing falls more effectively than requiring staff to complete fall risk prevention courses.

Address counterarguments or objections: When we engage in academic arguments, it is important to take into account the opposing viewpoints and arguments. This is where counterarguments come into play. By acknowledging and addressing the counterarguments, we demonstrate a deep understanding of the topic and position ourselves as credible and thoughtful scholars. In their book "They Say/I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, Graff and Birkenstein offer several templates that can be used to effectively address counterarguments. These templates enable us to acknowledge and refute opposing viewpoints in a clear and concise manner while ensuring that our arguments remain strong and persuasive. By mastering the art of addressing counterarguments, we can elevate the quality of our academic writing and contribute to meaningful and impactful discussions in our respective fields.

  • The claim that _________ rests upon the questionable assumption that _________.

  • Z may have been true in the past, but recent research has shown that ___________.

  • By focusing on _____, X has overlooked the more significant problem of _________.

  • Though I concede that ___________________, I still insist that ________________.

  • While it is true that ___________, it does not necessarily follow that ____________.

Organizing your Argument

It's important to follow a specific organizational structure when developing an argument to ensure that the reader can easily understand your reasoning. There are three popular organizational structures for developing an academic argument: the Toulmin method, the classical method, and the Rogerian method.

  • The Toulmin method is based on a six-part format and emphasizes the importance of backing up one's claims with evidence and reasoning. It begins with an assertion, followed by evidence, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal.

  • The classical method, on the other hand, follows a five-part format that includes an introduction, narration, confirmation, refutation, and conclusion. This approach is particularly useful for persuasive writing and is often used in formal debate settings.

  • Finally, the Rogerian method is a more collaborative approach that seeks to find common ground between two opposing viewpoints. It begins with a summary of the opposing viewpoint, followed by a statement of agreement, and then moves on to present the writer's own perspective. If you're interested in learning more about these methods, the Purdue Online Writing Lab website provides detailed explanations and examples of each method.

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