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The Argumentative Essay“. . .a writer tries to persuade readers to adopt his or her point of view about a given issue.” “. . .the underlying aim ofargumentative essays is to use words to make a difference.” drawn from Section 7 of Scribner
A good persuasive argument. . .. . .conveys a reasonable conclusion--oftencalled a thesis or a claim--about acontroversial topic.. . .presents supporting evidence that isalways incorporated, explained anddocumented clearly and precisely..
Furthermore, a goodArgumentative Essay. . . . . .considers and often presents the conflicting point of view about the controversy. . . .reflects thorough research
Things to consider: Your audience Why is this subject important? Answer the position of the other side refute concede Build your own position.
Think of your audience; youdo not want to invite yourreaders opposition or hostility. you need to show a real concern about how your readers might think about a given subject Also you need to consider how they might react to the way you think about that subject. All audiences within our western academic culture respond to logic and reasonableness.
Logical Thinking Usinginductive and deductive reasoning
Inductive Reasoning . . .used to attribute causes to events or circumstances rather than to determine the truth about them with absolute certainty. Your generalizations about causes may be right or wrong, but you cannot be certain because inductive thinking depends on probability. Probability refers to the likelihood, rather than to an absolute conviction, that something is true. Errors in inductive reasoning typically involve oversimplification.
An example of inductivereasoning If you break out in hives every time you eat chocolate, you most likely will generalize from those specific instances and reason that eating chocolate caused the hives in you .Be aware that observations need to be accurate: You may consider whether you are allergic to other things besides chocolate. (Did the pizza with anchovies you ate before the chocolate dessert have something to do with your reaction?)
Elements of Inductive Reasoning begins with a specific observation continues with additional specific observations arrives at a general claim or a reasonable conclusion that is based on available evidence attributes causes to events or circumstances, resulting in a hypothesis that can be tested further (an educated guess). offers probability rather than certainty
Deductive Reasoning occurs when you take a general principle or truth and apply it to a more specific instance. Deductive thinking is syllogistic reasoning. A syllogism is an argument arranged in three parts: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
MAJOR PREMISE When Gabriele drinks coffee she alwaysgets a headache. [Fact] MINOR PREMISE Gabriele is drinking coffee. [Fact] CONCLUSION Gabriele will get a headache.The premises can be facts orassumptions. A major premise stipulates a general principle (e.g., that all spiders have eight legs), and a minor premise reflects a specific instance (e.g., that the creature on your desk has six legs).
A syllogism is valid when the conclusion follows logically from the premises. When the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises, a syllogism (along with the argument it states) is invalid, even if the premises are facts, as in the following example. MAJOR PREMISE: When Gabriele drinks coffee she always gets a headache. [Fact] MINOR PREMISE: Gabriele has a headache. [Fact] CONCLUSION: Gabriele must have been drinking coffee.
When a premise is an assumptionrather than a fact, you must be ableto support the premise withevidence. MAJOR PREMISE If you wear Gap clothes to school, you will be accepted by the schools most popular group. [Assumption] MINOR PREMISE Jose wears Gap clothes to school. [Fact] CONCLUSION Jose will be accepted by the schools most popular group.
Since the major premise of thisexample rests on a shakyassumption (it cannot besupported with evidence), theargument is not true. But thestructure is valid. In most instances, wearing Gap clothes (or any other brand or type of clothing) does not ensure automatic popularity. Other factors, such as academic or athletic ability, sense of humor, physical characteristics, friends, and others, influence acceptance.
Elements of DeductiveReasoning DEDUCTIVE REASONING begins with a general idea or major premise continues with an additional minor premise applied to a particular case concludes with a specific statement derived from the premise
Further Elements of DeductiveReasoning DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS can be true or false, depending on how true or false the premise is can be valid or invalid, depending on the structureof their syllogisms when true, provides certainty rather than probability
Checklist of Common LogicalFallacies Non sequitor: A statement that does not follow logically from another. Hasty generalization: A conclusion based on insufficient evidence. Stereotyping: Assuming without sufficient evidence that members of a group think or behave alike. Either-or thinking: Limiting possible explanations to two.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Assuming thatan event is caused by another simplybecause one event occurs after the other.Begging the question: Assuming as truewhat needs to be proven.Circular reasoning: Asserting the samepoint in different words.Special pleading: Arguing withoutconsidering opposing viewpoints.Red herring: Introducing an irrelevant ordistracting consideration into an argument.
Appeal to ignorance: Assuming somethingis true because the contrary cannot beproven.Ad populum: Appealing to the prejudices ofan audience.Ad hominem: Attacking a personscharacter rather than addressing the issue athand.False analogy: Making an illogicalconnection based on irrelevant similarities.
Audiences respond if you adopt afair-minded and reasonable tone inyour arguments. Therefore avoid. . . . . .exaggeration and anger For example, never use name-calling as a tactic (you should not refer to your opposition as stupid or ludicrous). . . .wording that sounds pompous or borrowed. . . .wording that overstates your case and thereby distorts the truth.
Be thorough. . .Look at the whole controversy so that youdo not overlook important evidence. Jumping to conclusions tends to lead tousing evidence that supports preliminaryand, perhaps, unfounded bias for aparticular solution. Ignoring other points of view can onlyweaken your argument by suggesting toreaders that you have considered no otherposition except your own.
A thesis should reflect thoughtfulness: The topic, in this example, is how best to use a highschools library budget. One special interest groupin the community wants to build new storage spacefor books that few people consult; the other groupwants to weed out the older books and spend mostof the money for new books. These two groups arelocked in a standoff, recognizing no middle ground. The library must create additional space so that its collection can be supplemented .
Although our local library has a significantproblem with dwindling storage space, gaps inthe social studies, science, and fictioncollections make it imperative that additionalbooks be purchased. Placing low-circulationbooks into secondary storage at an alternativelocation and a concerted effort by the librarianto replace bulky periodicals with microfilm cancreate sufficient space for supplementing thecollection for five more years.
Guidelines for Developing anArgumentative Essay Select a controversial subject that interests you. Consider other points of view. Be fair to all sides of the argument during research by doing the following: As your evidence begins to lead you to a particular conclusion, search for contradictory evidence. Question your own evidence just as you question other investigators conclusions.
Avoid jumping to conclusions, and never be satisfied d if your evidence leads to only one way of seeing your topic. Try to imagine how your audience will interpret your evidence. Let the principles of logic guide your effort. Write a short account explaining what youhave discovered about your controversy .Sketch out the various points of view.Based on the evidence you have gatheredformulate a tentative thesis, one that youwill reconsider and modify as you do morereading, writing, and analysis.
Make a tentative outline of how you thinkyou will develop your argument, listing themajor and support ideas, or premises, andthe order in which you will present them.Keep in mind that the way you organizeyour evidence will help determine just howconvincing your argument will be. Write a draft beginning, and then developthe middle of your essay. Write an ending.Present your argument to your work groupor to another classmate. Ask your readers toresist your argument and to indicate weakspots
A Review of the mainFeatures of the Argumentative Essay It presents supporting evidence that is always incorporated, explained, and documented clearly and precisely. It presents the conflicting points of view. It reflects thorough research. It conveys a reasonable conclusion.