Top 12 Best Practices for Writing an Argumentative Paper [And Making Arguments in General].

1.    Always propose a solution, even if you’re arguing against something. (If you’re arguing against something, you can propose several possible solutions. Also, when proposing a solution, it is appropriate—and effective—to add a call to action.)
2.    Always concede something, no matter how small. It lends legitimacy.
3.    Demonstrate an understanding of the viewpoints of others. Show that you understand the issue from other angles.
4.    For every point you make, provide evidence that supports that point. On average, most argumentative papers cite a source ever 250 words or so. On a six- to eight-page paper, that’s five or six sources.
5.    Things that can be quantified (or felt through the five senses) often provide the strongest evidence supporting an argument, followed by two or more experts confirming your point of view.
6.    Your goal is not to win. Your goal is to persuade, with logical evidence and the use of rhetoric (ethos, pathos, and logos) that what you propose is the best solution to a problem. Your goal is to convince your audience that your ideas or course of action will solve a problem.
7.    Show how your proposed solution will provide the greatest benefit over all other solutions.
8.    Avoid logical fallacies.
9.    Use your personal experience for pathos, and, to a lesser extent, ethos, but don’t consider it reliable for logos. The experience of one person usually doesn’t make for a strong logical argument for issues that affect a large amount of people.
10.    Don’t be afraid of the proverbial “we.” It’s inclusive and it’s powerful.
11.    Remember the power of these two human emotions: Love and Fear. You can imagine them as Comfort and Danger. You can image them as Peace and War. At any rate, most rhetoric relies on the masterful understanding of these two basic emotions.
12.  When constructing a thesis statement, be specific about the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of the issue. Particularly the Why.

And don’t forget all you have learned already about writing, and include deft use of: a.) active voice, b.) sensory detail, and c.) the differences between statements of fact, emotional conditions, statements of opinion, and calls to action.

Neglected Warriors: Editorial, New York Times

Par for the Course: Commentary, Slate Magazine

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~ by ashstephanie on December 3, 2009.

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