Developing Your Argument

Arguments and ideas lie at the heart of most academic writing. Academic essays usually follow an established organisational structure that helps the writer to express their ideas in a clear way and the reader to follow the thread of their argument. Essay structure is guided by its content and argument so every essay will pose unique structural challenges, but the skill of getting a clear and articulate argument across is an important part of the writing process.

The structure of an argument

At the heart of all arguments is a claim - the main premise that you are interested in proving. Establishing your claim is one of the most important parts of any piece of academic work; an essay, a presentation, a dissertation, research paper or thesis. A good claim should be bold, exciting and most importantly, worth arguing over. A version of your claim will probably be included somewhere in your introduction.

Argument Model

To convince your reader of your claim, you will need to provide some proof. Your proof will be in the form of evidence, data, sources and examples all of which will need to be fully referenced in the appropriate style. However, it is important to recognise that relevant evidence does not automatically prove a claim. There is usually some work to be done to convince your reader that there is a connection - i.e. how and why does this evidence inform your thinking. This part of the argument is sometimes called a warrant.

It is also important to consider and actively seek out alternative points of view and potential objections. There is sometimes a tendency to be drawn to ideas that explicitly or implicitly support our own ways of thinking - the echo chamber - which can result in narrow or flawed arguments. By engaging deliberately with objections and building them into our own thinking, we can develop more nuanced and rounded arguments.

Your conclusion will draw on this process of research and thinking to present a balanced summary of the argument, using cautious language as appropriate to the strength of your findings. You may be able to use this as an opportunity to make some predictions or recommendations, suggest some practical applications, or identify openings for further research.

Download this template to map out your argument and use this list of logical fallacies to watch out for to avoid developing a flawed argument. 

Study Skills Hacks: Making an Academic Argument

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