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Organizing Your Argument - Purdue University

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Editor's Notes

  1. Rationale: Welcome to “Organizing Your Argument.” This presentation is designed to introduce your students to the elements of an organized essay, including the introduction, the thesis, body paragraphs, topic sentences, counterarguments, and the conclusion. The twenty-one slides presented here are designed to aid the facilitator in an interactive presentation about constructing a well-organized argument. This presentation is ideal for the introduction of argument to a composition course, the beginning of a research unit, or the assignment of a written argument. This presentation may be supplemented with OWL handouts, including “Developing an Outline” and “The Paragraph”. Directions: Each slide is activated by a single mouse click, unless otherwise noted in bold at the bottom of each notes page. Writer and Designer: Jennifer Liethen Kunka Contributors: Muriel Harris, Karen Bishop, Bryan Kopp, Matthew Mooney, David Neyhart, and Andrew Kunka Updated by H. Allen Brizee, 2007. Design Contributor and Revising Author: Veronika Maliborska, 2014; Garrett Iván Colón, 2023 Developed with resources courtesy of the Purdue University Writing Lab Grant funding courtesy of the Multimedia Instructional Development Center at Purdue University © Copyright Purdue University, 2000, 2007.
  2. Activity: This slide offers a definition of the term “argument.” The facilitator may invite the audience to offer answers to the title question. Students often assume that building an argument is simply a confrontational activity designed to denigrate the opposition’s position. The facilitator may choose to explain to students that the focus of a strong argument should be upon a cohesive explanation of claims effectively paired with correlating evidence.
  3. Key Concept: Organization is an important component in any argument. Not only does a clear sense of organization guide the reader through the reasoning process, but it also demonstrates the credibility of the writer--that the writer has a clear conception of the issues involved and has the ability to offer a well-crafted response to the topic. An argument that has a confusing organization--that jumps from point to point without establishing connections between topics--is less likely to be convincing to its audience.
  4. Rationale: This slide illustrates the topics covered in this presentation, as well as the ordering of the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion within an argument.
  5. Key Concept: The title is often an overlooked component in the development of arguments. Indeed, the title provides the first words the audience encounters upon reading the paper. The title should introduce the topic of the argument as well as generate interest in reading the argument.
  6. Activity: The facilitator may have students consider which title for a paper on road rage is the most effective. “Road Rage” provides little to entice the reader, though it does introduce the topic. “Can’t Drive 55,” while offering an interesting image, would better fit a paper on the speed limit than on road rage, which is defined by more than speeding. Also, “Can’t Drive 55” is unoriginal (a title from a popular Sammy Hagar song). The third choice is the best selection here: it both introduces the topic and provides an interesting analogy to describe the seriousness of the problem.
  7. Key Concept: The introduction continues upon the tasks of the title--it both introduces the topic and generates audience interest in reading the entire paper. The introduction also indicates the purpose of the paper--to inform, persuade, call to action, etc.--as well as offers a plan for the ensuing argument.
  8. Activity: The facilitator may ask students about effective methods for beginning an introduction. Key Concepts: A personal anecdote illustrates the writer’s involvement within the topic, as well as moves the topic from the abstract to the real. Examples, both real (have happened) and hypothetical (have the potential to happen) can also help to illustrate the problem. Posing an interesting question can also generate reader interest; however, the question should be answered within the course of the paper. A quotation can provide a branch for discussion. Quotations, however, should be made relevant to the topic of the paper. An explanation of shocking statistics or the presentation of a striking image can also invite the audience to continue reading the paper.
  9. Key Concept: A definition of a thesis statement is offered in this slide. The facilitator may choose to emphasize to students the difference between a claim that has to be proven and a statement of fact.
  10. Key Concept: This slide discusses the role of the thesis statement in the paper. Thesis statements are often located in the introduction, thereby setting up for the reader the claims of the argument. However, theses may also be located in the body paragraphs or in the conclusion, depending upon the writer’s purpose, audience, topic, and mode of argument. Activity: Additionally, the facilitator may also wish at this point to discuss strategies for constructing a thesis statement for a current class assignment.
  11. Activity: The facilitator may ask students to identify the most effective thesis statement from the three listed examples. The first example, while a well-phrased informative sentence, offers a factual statement rather than an argumentative claim that needs to be proven. The third example also fails to provide an effective claim about the value of the V-chip. The second example is the strongest argumentative thesis; it clearly articulates the writer’s position on the issue and suggests that the writer will proceed to prove this claim throughout the rest of the paper.
  12. Key Concepts: This slide explains the function of body paragraphs within an argument-to continue proving the claim posited in the thesis statement. Clearly stated topic sentences within each paragraph can help writers to focus their arguments around their thesis statements. The facilitator may also suggest that students offer a synopsis of the topic, including the history of the issue and recent changes in current events that affect the topic.
  13. Key Concepts: Body paragraphs may be ordered in various patterns, depending upon the purpose, audience, and topic of the argument. This slide offers participants options for organizing their work. Activity: The facilitator may choose to offer suggestions on organizing patterns for a current argumentative assignment.
  14. Key Concepts: Concerned with asserting the importance of their own claims, writers sometimes overlook the importance of considering the views of the opposition within their own arguments. Countering oppositional claims demonstrates to the audience that the writer has carefully considered multiple components of the issue and has reached an educated decision. If a writer finds that the opposition cannot be countered effectively, he or she may need to reevaluate his or her own opinions and claims about the argument.
  15. Key Concept: Counterarguments may be located at various points within a paper. It is important, however, that the writer offer a convincing response to the claims of the opposition. Activity: The facilitator may choose to offer specific tips to students about counterarguing in a current argumentative assignment.
  16. Key Concepts: This slide suggests the importance of considering the audience in offering a counterargument. If a writer is trying to argue about the dangers of second-hand smoke to a group of smokers, the writer needs to offer his or her opinion in such a way that the opposition can see the rationality of his or her claims. If the writer instead chooses to rant about how much he or she dislikes smokers, it is doubtful that the audience will feel any sympathy with the argued position and will reject the argument. The facilitator may choose to emphasize that tact and audience consideration are very important elements of effective counterarguments.
  17. Key Concepts: Writers sometimes fall into the trap of letting research material overwhelm the paper, rather than using sources to prove their own argumentative claims. It is important to be selective when using source material; just because a source may relate to your topic does not mean it will necessarily be useful or relevant to proving your claims. Offering clear topic sentences that articulate claims relating to the thesis can be a useful strategy for offering a frame to researched material. Sources can then be used to back the claim provided in the topic sentence.
  18. Key Concepts: The conclusion is also an important paragraph in a paper--it provides the last words that a writer will present to his or her audience. Therefore, it should have a lasting impact. The conclusion should work to reemphasize the main claims of the argument, articulating the importance of the argued position and, when appropriate, the reader’s need to take action on the issue. Writers should also avoid raising new claims in concluding paragraphs--there is no more room to argue points comprehensively or convincingly. Such new points would be better repositioned within the body paragraphs.
  19. Purdue students in West Lafayette, IN may visit the On-Campus Writing Lab in Krach Leadership Center, 2nd Floor. Worldwide users may call the grammar hotline with short questions. Worldwide users may also visit the Purdue OWL to access a large library of writing resources.