Purdue University North Central Writing Center Handout
AN ATTEMPT TO PERSUADE THROUGH LOGIC. It
aims to produce an effect: to win belief, to stimulate action, to earn
respectful consideration, to change opinion. Some writing assignments,
especially in freshman composition courses, are designed to give experience in
the writing process and, therefore, do not demand formal research outside the
experience of the writer. In most
other university courses, however, assignments in argument are for the purpose
of analyzing someone else’s writing in order to take a position on an issue.
Make sure that you know what is
required of you.
certain that your topic involves a suitable issue; that is, it is a significant
and controversial subject.
the issue thoroughly, considering all sides.
This may involve going to the library to research points you do not
understand, acquiring facts essential to the controversy, consulting authorities
on the subject, either through books and articles or in person, depending upon
open mind when investigating the issue. Do
not take a side on the controversy until you know the pros and cons.
opinion on the issue. Because your
reader must know which side of the issue you wish him or her to support, you
must express your opinion clearly and accurately in a thesis statement.
That statement is a promise to your reader that you will prove the
validity of your conclusion in the succeeding paragraphs.
argument stands on reasonable and adequate evidence (the materials in support of
the thesis or, in other words, the evidence which led you to take a position
either for or against). Make a list
of points which, when added together, equal your thesis statement.
Remember: Do not use unacceptable,
emotional, or insupportable points, and stick to the issue.
the concrete evidence necessary to support the points on your list.
Check your outline! Is the
evidence relevant to the point you wish to make? Does it contribute to proving your thesis?
Is the evidence specific and clearly stated?
have consulted outside sources, have you the information necessary to follow the
style of documentation demanded by your instructor?
failure to cite your sources is plagiarism—an offense serious enough to
result in failure of the course or, in extreme cases, expulsion from the
are satisfied that your argument is convincing, complete, and clearly organized,
you must now consider the opposition!
Since all serious controversies have compelling evidence on both side,
you cannot ignore the opposing evidence nor can you deny its existence. Make an outline of the
compose an effective “Their side,” you must be knowledgeable and fair.
That means that you cannot distort, slant, or quote out of context.
You must recognize the validity of any opposing points without reducing
the effectiveness of your own argument.
two outlines side-by-side. What
points on the opposing side will you have to deal with?
How can you counter them? [Note:
It is usually a good idea to deal with the opposing view at the beginning
of the argument by making any necessary concessions or by countering each point
of opposition logically, rationally, and briefly.
you do not want to insult a reader who holds the opposite view; you want
to persuade that reader to change his or her mind on the basis of the evidence
method of dealing with the opposing view is to introduce the controversy by
briefly outlining the opponent’s side and then stating that, in spite of those
assumptions, most of the evidence suggests your thesis.
With this technique, you are then free to deal with each point of
opposition, subordinating it to what you see as more compelling evidence.
begin writing, plan your introduction carefully. Your reader needs to know what you are writing about and have
some idea of the scope, focus, or thesis of your essay.
Although you should present your thesis statement early, you may need to
introduce the topic first by providing background material to establish common
ground, by defining terms, by setting the scene, etc.
are satisfied that your introductory paragraph accomplishes your purpose, follow
your outline, presenting the evidence which supports each point of your
have completed the development of your argument, you will need to write a
conclusion. In a short paper, that
may be: simply a restatement of the thesis in light of the evidence you have
presented, a return to something said in the first paragraph, a glance at the
wider implications of the issue, an anecdote which illustrates your thesis, or a
brief summary of your argument (not usually effective in a short paper).
paper aloud, checking for style and clarity. When you are satisfied that it reads well, proofread,
checking for sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing.
If your paper includes documentation of sources, check for accuracy of
content and form.