A Rulebook for Arguments Essay ONE Identify ONE idea from EACH of the following that demonstrates your thoughts and/or what you’ve learned, appreciated, o

A Rulebook for Arguments Essay ONE

Identify ONE idea from EACH of the following that demonstrates your thoughts and/or what you’ve learned, appreciated, or have questions about.

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A Rulebook for Arguments Essay ONE Identify ONE idea from EACH of the following that demonstrates your thoughts and/or what you’ve learned, appreciated, o
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TIPS FOR STRONG WORK: Remember to fully explain each idea so someone who hasn’t read or hasn’t seen what you have will understand your insight or question. Reference the source you’re referring to in your responses. Properly format titles, as you’ll see below (so that all keywords are capitalized; the titles of long works are italicized; the titles of short works are placed in “quotation marks”).

A Rulebook for Arguments

Chapter VIII: “Argumentative Essays”

They Say/I Say

Chapter 6: “Skeptics May Object”: Planting a Naysayer in Your Text
Chapter 7: “So What? Who Cares?”: Saying Why it Matters

“Essential Skills for Academic Papers,”

Pages 28-40

“The Academic Argument”

“Argument Dinner Party Series, Part One”

“Claims, Claims, Claims”


Share the progress you’ve made on developing an idea for your Essay Four main claim or what you’ve learned about your topic that will help you with this. Then, share the ideas you have for finding a counterargument for this Sunday. Page 1 of 4
Claims, Claims, Claims
A claim persuades, argues, convinces, proves, or provocatively suggests something to a
reader who may or may not initially agree with you. What most non-academics mean by
argument is usually a polar opposition or heated debate: I win/you lose; you?re a
Democrat/I?m a Republican; I?m for the death penalty/you?re a bleeding-heart liberal
against the death penalty; I?m pro-choice/you?re against choice. Though academic
arguments can be just as heated and draw on political, social, cultural, or personal positions
and experiences, academic claims are different—often more complex, nuanced, specific, and
detailed. Most academic argument is bounded by what is considered debatable or up for
inquiry within a discipline, acknowledging that some questions are already settled (though
that too may end up being debatable).
The „rules? of academic argument exclude the following as support:
—Because it is my personal opinion
—Because my friends or relatives think so or most people think so
—Because it?s always been, it?s tradition
—Because it?s obvious
—Because it?s morally right
What a Claim Is
? A claim is the main argument of an essay. It is probably the single most important part
of an academic paper. The complexity, effectiveness, and quality of the entire paper
hinges on the claim. If your claim is boring or obvious, the rest of the paper probably
will be too.
? A claim defines your paper?s goals, direction, scope, and exigence and is supported by
evidence, quotations, argumentation, expert opinion, statistics, and telling details.
? A claim must be argumentative. When you make a claim, you are arguing for a certain
interpretation or understanding of your subject.
? A good claim is specific. It makes a focused argument (MTV?s popularity is waning
because it no longer plays music videos) rather than a general one (MTV sucks).
Why Descriptive Thesis Statements are NOT Arguable Claims
Following are examples of descriptive thesis statements students write in high school. Each
is drawn from the top-scoring AP English Language and Composition papers posted on the
College Board website:
“To be a writer, one must have an elite understanding of diction, syntax and tone.
These literary devices are utilized by writers, including Eudora Welty, as a method
for expressing the message that they wish to convey to readers.”
“In the excerpt from One Writer?s Beginnings, Eudora Welty conveys a positive tone
toward her childhood experience. She accomplishes this through the use of
descriptive diction, impressionable images, and unusual syntax.”
“The two passages given describe the swamp in very different lights. Although they
are in some ways familiar, the styles of the authors of these paragraphs are very
Courtesy the Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Adapted from UW Expository Writing Program handouts
Page 2 of 4
These are NOT argumentative claims because the writers? strategy here is to create a thesis
statement that is DESCRIPTIVE. The writer is describing some aspect of the main text, and
that?s all their doing. It?s like saying, “Shakespeare?s Romeo and Juliet is a play about two
star crossed lovers and two warring families.”
Descriptive theses do not investigate anything, critique anything, or analyze anything.
Descriptive claims also do not invite support and argument from outside of the central text
nor do descriptive papers apply what has been learned in the central text to other texts.
Opinion vs. Arguable Claim
—Twinkies are delicious.
—I like dance music.
—I think Virginia Woolf is better than James Joyce.
—The governor is a bad man.
Argument/Arguable claim:
—Twinkies taste better than other snack cakes because of their texture, their creamy filling,
and their golden appearance.
—Dance music has become popular for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of
the music;rather, the clear, fast beats respond to the need of people on amphetamines to
move, and to move quickly.
—Virginia Woolf is a more effective writer than James Joyce because she does not rely on
elaborate language devices that ultimately confuse and alienate the reader.
—The governor has continually done the community a disservice by mishandling money,
focusing on frivolous causes, and failing to listen to his constituents.
What are the differences?
—An argument is supported by evidence, which can be debated/challenged. Opinion is
supported by more opinion (and ultimately you end up with something along the lines of
“Well, just because, okay?”).
—A claim can be substantiated with research, evidence, testimony, and academic reasoning.
—A claim is something more than statement and support: an arguable claim also goes on to
address the “so what?” question, the implications and why we should care in the first
—Remember that not all claims are created equal, and though a claim may be arguable, the
best claims are focused, specific, complex, and relevant.
In arguing a claim, you should always consider potential counterclaims and
counterarguments. For instance, in response to the above claim about the Seahawks,
someone might say: “You?re wrong. The Hawks defensive problems last year were a result
of poor coaching on the part of the defensive coordinator.” This counterclaim denies the
validity of my claim. Usually, it?s important to address counterclaims in your writing.
Examples of Complex Claims
Following are examples of argumentative claims written by 100-level English students at
UW. Each is drawn from the winning essays published by e.g., the UW?s journal of 100-level
Courtesy the Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Adapted from UW Expository Writing Program handouts
Page 3 of 4
“Despite the mystery surrounding this famous speech, its contents can be understood in
terms of what Mary Louis Pratt calls a „contact zone.? In Pratt’s article Arts of the Contact
Zone, she introduces this zone as the chaotic space in which cultures collide. Essential
features of the contact zone include autoethnography, the representation of one’s own
culture that responds to representations made by others, and transculturation, the selective
absorption of the dominant culture by a marginal group. These features of autoethnography
and transculturation emerge prominently in Chief Seattle’s speech, shedding more insight
on the interactions between the Native Americans and the Euro-Americans; however, in the
context of the unique circumstances surrounding the text, Seattle’s speech ultimately
demonstrates the inherent dangers of representation and misrepresentation in the contact
“Rapid technological advancements and an influx of media in today’s society have connected
us in more ways than ever thought possible. Television, movies, newspapers, magazines,
the internet, and other forms of the media all contribute to the highly connected global
society. This intricate network of communication has vastly expanded our sphere of
knowledge and understanding in the cultural context. Through television and the internet,
we can access news and events in other countries minutes after they happen. Through
pictures and stories, we can learn about the various cultures and practices all the way
across the world. However, with this expanded access also come certain limitations. Often
overlooked is the fact that the information has been filtered through numerous entities, only
allowing us to see through the eyes of the creator, greatly limiting our perceptions of the
world. Sometimes subtle and unintentional, other times blatantly obvious and highly
structured, the influences of the media present society with a constructed reality, as each
article, be it a news story, photograph, or even voice, is strategically selected and presented
to convey a certain message. This process becomes destructive when it begins to shape our
opinions, perceptions, and ideologies, especially concerning other cultures.”
NOTE: Remember that others are reading your paper and that even the choice of one word
can affect their response to it. Try to anticipate their response, and choose your words
accordingly. The original is reflective of an opinion, whereas the revision is appropriate for
an academic argument.
Original: The media’s exploitation of the Watergate scandal showed how biased it was
Revision: The media’s coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that perhaps those in
the media had already determined Nixon?s guilt.
In addition to being more specific, the revision does not force the reader to defend the
media. In the first example, though, the statement is so exaggerated that even the reader
who is neutral on the issue may feel it necessary to defend the media. Thus, the writer of
the original has made his job of persuading the reader that much harder.
Courtesy the Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Adapted from UW Expository Writing Program handouts
Page 4 of 4
Top 6 Myths About Claims for Academic Arguments
Myth #1: A claim should be general so that lots of evidence in the text will support
its argument.
Correction: Usually, a really broad claim can only be supported by really broad evidence,
which ends up describing rather than arguing. So be specific, be concrete, be focused. Think
carefully about what you are trying to argue, what the stakes of your argument are, and
use relevant quotes from your supporting material to help you generate a specific claim.
Myth #2: A claim shouldn’t include everything the paper is going to say because
then it “gives it all away” and eliminates the suspense.
Correction: An argument essay is not a mystery novel—you want to be clear about where
you are going with your argument so the reader can follow and understand and believe you.
This is not to say that you need to make your claim an obvious road map nor does it have
to be paragraphs long. State what it is you are trying to do, what it is you are trying to
argue, and how you plan to accomplish it. The rest of your paper can flesh out your main
claim with subclaims, specific quotes, telling details, examples, and evidence.
Myth #3: A claim should never be longer than a sentence.
Correction: While your claim will tell you where you need to go, don?t feel trapped inside the
five-paragraph essay. Do present the information in a reasonable manner and place
emphasis appropriately so the reader knows what is important and what is not.
Myth #4: You can present the essay you are reading and working from and the
present your ideas. The connection between them will be obvious.
Correction: Don?t confuse a claim, an argument for a thesis statement or a topic sentence.
Your claim may fit into one sentence or it may require more space to fully outline, develop,
and express. Depending on the length of your essay and the complexity of your argument,
your claim should fit the project at hand.
Myth #5: A claim should present a theme and provide 3 examples of that theme.
Correction: Remember that the essays you read for your assignments are in support of your
ideas, your argument. How can you apply relevant material and ideas and methods and
critiques drawn from an essay to your own claim? Writing is all about making connections
and making explicit the ways your ideas mix, mingle, and reciprocate other writers? ideas.
Obviously, proper citation and attribution must be maintained.
Myth #6: A claim should be true or correct beyond a doubt so the reader “buys”
the argument.
Correction: Constructing an argument and substantiating a claim is rarely entirely black-orwhite, on-or-off, all or nothing. Argumentative writing is about being able to articulate a
position and argue it using academic evidence. In fact, in your research you may find
yourself disagreeing with sources at one point and agreeing with them later in the same
essay. Arguments are often a mixture of assertion, acknowledgement, confirmation,
refutation, and concession. Complex claims rarely have a single right or wrong answer;
rather they are provocations, analyses, explications, or applications of concepts, theories,
and ideas.
Courtesy the Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Adapted from UW Expository Writing Program handouts
cademic Argument: Evidence-Based
Defense of a Non-Obvious Position
Adapted from Jerz’s “ Literacy Weblog” by Dennis G. Jerz, Associate Professor
of English: New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University
Definition of the Academic Argument
An academic argument is an evidence-based defense of a non-obvious position on a complex issue
(Jerz). Therefore, quality arguments require deep thinking about problems to arrive at more than
surface-level pro/con or for/against conclusions.
Dialing in our Understanding: How Arguments Differ from Other Essay Types
Arguments Differ from Personal Essays
Personal essays rely on personal experience whereas academic arguments rely on research, the
analysis and synthesis of ideas from multiple sources, and opposing positions.
Arguments Differ from Expository Essays (Essays that Explain Something)
Expository essays seek to explain something without considering opposition.
* Analysis is the act of taking something apart (like a reading) to understand its key ideas,
assumptions, and the quality of evidence and reasoning it contains, for example.
Synthesis is the act of putting things together (like ideas or concepts from readings) in new
ways to create new ideas and ways of thinking about problems.
In this course, our focus is on producing academic arguments because 1. Arguments rely on research. This expands our knowledge and extends the scholarly
2. Arguments respond to opposition which is an important “test” of how well the writer’s
position holds up. When we’re reading an author’s work, we’re likely to think, “Yeah, but…”
multiple times. We want the writer to respond to such points of opposition or we’re left
with many unfulfilled questions, especially when issues are complex and important.
Academic arguments –
? Rely on evidence from credible sources, in the form of direct quotations, summaries,
paraphrases, and statistical data and other facts
? Rely on sound reasoning (the logical way ideas and evidence relate to each other)
? Explain, define, analyze, and synthesize
? Present and respond to multiple oppositional positions related to a given main claim
Academic Arguments are Public Conversations
Academic Arguments are Scholarly Conversations
Academic arguments are scholarly conversations that investigate main claims. Because these are
conversations, academic argumentation is a public not a personal form of writing. In an academic
setting, once a writer has placed his or her ideas on the table, everyone is allowed to discuss or
dispute them according to common rules of evidence gathering and reasoning.
Therefore, Academic Arguments aren’t Based on Personal Beliefs or Preferences
Arguments based on personal beliefs, preferences, or opinions can’t be debated because everyone is
entitled to their personal beliefs. If someone believes dogs go to heaven, I must respect their belief,
as I respect their autonomy. I can only hope my dogs go there, too. But, there’s no basis in fact for
informed, well-reasoned debate.
We cannot argue about preferences. If you like onion rings, great! Enjoy them. Why would anyone
want to talk you out of it? Instead, academic arguments must rely on evidence and reasoning that
anyone can question and dispute.
Because we can’t argue about these things academically, doesn’t mean they’re not important or
shouldn’t be valued. It just means there are other venues to share such beliefs and opinions.
A successful academic argument is, therefore, not a squabble, a difference of opinion, or a
clash of values or beliefs.
How do writers find topics and draw conclusions for successful academic papers?
Writers look for topics that credible experts disagree about.
They begin by investigating topics with an open-mind.
They narrow their focus so they can investigate an idea fully, given the length of the work
they’re writing.
In our course, we are preparing for later academic work and developing the ability to look at
focused topics in new ways; find areas of difference and common ground between sides;
investigate and promote positions that aren’t necessarily black and white; and develop positions as
new evidence is found.
The Qualities of Successful Academic Arguments
They support clearly identified, and focused main claims.
They include necessary context, including the opposing sides, to provide necessary
background for the reader. They assume a reader who hasn’t read what the class or the
writer has read.
They are supported by subclaims (the individual points a writer needs to make to support
the overall main claim or point). These subclaims are, in turn, supported by credible
evidence and sound reasoning.
They are focused so an idea can be fully explored.
They are opposed by actual (not made-up or conjectural) sources that are credible.
They uncover new insights that can help readers think through problems in new ways.
Academic Arguments REQUIRE Credible Opposition
An academic argument is NOT simply an involved explanation of an important problem (no
matter how important the problem is). Without actual, expert opposition there is no
argument because arguments require disagreement.
An academic argument is part of a discussion that respects multiple viewpoints as long as
those viewpoints are credible. If opposing positions are not credible, they are not to be
considered by the writer.
If NO credible challenges by experts exist, argumentation is not possible. Finding, quoting,
and engaging with credible opposing evidence is part of the task of an academic writer.
Arguing against poor opposing sources that are not credible undermines the writer’s
credibility. Strong arguments can withstand strong opposition; weak ones can’t.
If the writer’s position on a topic is so strong that he or she cannot imagine that a rational
person would disagree with them, then the writer should pick a different topic.
If the evidence is overwhelmingly on the writer’s side, the law is on their side, public opinion
is on their side, and morality, ethics, and common sense are all on their side, then the writer
isn’t actually making a debatable argument. Reasonable, informed people already agree.
There’s no basis for argument.
Modern Languages Association (MLA) Edition
Section I: MLA Formatting
Why Formatting Matters
Document File Types
MLA Document Formatting
MLA Source Citations
Section I Review
Section II: Embedding Sources
Quotations, Paraphrases, Summaries
Introducing Authors
Correcting Word Salads
Section II Review
Section III: Mechanics
Title Mechanics
Quotation Mechanics
Section IV: Academic Conventions
Present Tense
Tone and Word Choice
Addressing Readers & Referring to Yourself
Authorial Command
Section III-IV Review
Table of
Section V: Argument Elements
Essay Elements
Making Logical Connections
Section V Review
Section VI: Using a Checklist
The End: You Made It!
I’m going to devote a few slides to the question of why MLA formatting and citation
rules matter because these may seem less important than the ideas contained in
papers. Later, we’ll discuss essay elements. First, I want to establish that all are
critically important. Let’s begin with some initial thoughts as to why MLA essay
formatting matters.
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