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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Academic Arguments

Creating good arguments for your research

What is an Argument?

People usually think of arguments as disputes: children argue over a toy; roommates over the stereo; drivers about who had the right-of-way. Such arguments can be polite or heated, but they all involve conflict, with winners and losers. Academic arguments should be considered less as a prickly dispute and more as a thoughtful conversation with colleagues, a conversation in which you cooperatively explore a contestable issue that you all think is important to resolve or attempting to reach an agreement on the best answer to a hard question. 

Five Easy Pieces

Every written argument is built out of the answers to five questions:

1. What do you claim (thesis statement)?

2. What reasons support that claim?

3. What evidence supports those reasons?

4. Do you acknowledge this alternative/complication/objection, and how do you respond?

5. What principle (warrant) justifies connecting your reasons to your claim?

Other Helpful Skills

Polish some of the research skills that will be necessary for research, writing, and presentation across multiple academic disciplines.