Chapter 4 Understanding and Composing Researched Arguments

Cynthia Kiefer and Serene Rock

4.0 Introduction

head with brain wheel cogs and clock
Thinking by LAFS from the Noun Project

In Chapter 4 brings together and further develops your academic composing, metaliteracy, and rhetorical knowledge and skills. The content in the chapter assumes some previous experience with college research and writing, so after a brief introduction to argument, the chapter will focus on two major projects: the synthesis project and the solution proposal project. In the first project, you will analyze and synthesize two different perspectives on the same issue through a synthesis paper or project to sharpen your critical thinking and analytic skills. In addition, the arguments analyzed and compared in the project’s source material serves as a model of the different ways writers develop and support their arguments with rhetorical appeals, evidence, rhetorical language choices, and explanatory commentary.  The second project asks you to develop a proposal solution in an argument in which you immerse yourself in researching a current narrowed issue or problem, provide background to the problem, explain why it is a problem and must be addressed now, and provide feasible solutions to the problem. The second project also includes several suggestions for creating related digital projects to share your knowledge and solutions with your peers and others.

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, you will :

  • identify features and types of argument.
  • apply your rhetorical knowledge and skill  when analyzing varying perspectives on the same topic.
  • compose a formal academic written synthesis paper or project comparing two different texts with opposing perspectives on the same issue.
  • create a research question related to an issue or problem in a state, national, or global context/s.
  • conduct a thorough research process and select the most relevant, credible key sources.
  • select and narrow sources to detail in a formal,  written Annotated Bibliography.
  • create an “explainer” video on your argument’s topic  (what is happening and background to the problem).
  • create and narrow an argumentative stance (position) on a researched topic.
  • plan, organize, and draft a formal proposal argument paper or project.
  • apply feedback from peers, tutors, and instructors on written and digital compositions
  • create an infographic containing a call to action, focused your argument’s proposal.

Aligned English 102 Course Competencies:

  • Write for specific rhetorical contexts, including circumstance, purpose, topic, audience and writer, as well as the writing`s ethical, political, and cultural implications. (MCCCD #1)
  • Organize writing to support a central idea through unity, coherence and logical development appropriate to a specific writing context. (MCCCD #2)
  • Use appropriate conventions in writing, including consistent voice, tone, diction, grammar, and mechanics. (MCCCD #3)
  • Find, evaluate, select, and synthesize both online and print sources that examine a topic from multiple perspectives. (MCCCD #4)
  • Integrate sources through summarizing, paraphrasing, and quotation from sources to develop and support one`s own ideas. (MCCCD #5)
  • Identify, select and use an appropriate documentation style to maintain academic integrity. (MCCCD #6)
  • Use feedback obtained through peer review, instructor comments, and/or other sources to revise writing. (MCCCD #7)
  • Assess one`s own writing strengths and identify strategies for improvement through instructor conference, portfolio review, written evaluation, and/or other methods. (MCCCD #8)
  • Generate, format, and edit writing using appropriate technologies. (MCCCD #9)


4.1 Understanding Features and Types of Arguments

two people sitting down talking, one with questions overhead and one with points they are making overhead
fahmionline, the Noun Project

This section assumes you have some knowledge and experience with argument, but just to make sure we share a common understanding, the content in this section will provide sufficient background to refresh and expand your knowledge of argument and academic argument vocabulary terms.

4.1.1 Features of ACADEMIC Argument

A clear and arguable position: You must present a reasonable argument for which both evidence and opposing or alternate views (counterarguments) exist.  If few would disagree with you or you cannot find any evidence of a credible opposing view, you should consider rethinking and revising your position.  A common error occurs when students try to present a statement of fact as an argumentative position.  See the examples at the end of this section to learn how an idea or statement of fact can be developed and revised to become an effective thesis statement.

An obvious organizational structure: A solid argument takes planning. If your argument is disorganized or the thesis and/or the key reasons are unclear or placed in a confusing order, your argument and supporting content may not be taken seriously. Taking the time to plan the essay with a rough phrase-form outline including your citations will save you hours of time when you start writing.

Although many teachers begin to teach some version of argument with the writing of a thesis statement, in reality, good argument begins with looking at the data that are likely to become the evidence in an argument and that give rise to a thesis statement or major claim. A thesis statement arises from a question, which in turn rises from the examination of information or data of sort. — George Hillocks, former professor emeritus at the University of Chicago in the Departments of Education and English Language
and Literature

Necessary background information: You must present the issues, history, or larger contexts that provide the foundation for understanding your argument so that your readers (and you) can comprehend and see the urgency in the specific argument you are making. That is, you must acknowledge the current rhetorical context and provide a sense of the argument’s importance or .

Viable reasons for your position: Your argument offers valid reasons for your position for which you provide relevant evidence. These reasons usually become the key points expressed in your topic sentences.

Convincing evidence: You present convincing, credible, relevant researched evidence including facts, statistics, surveys, expert testimony, anecdotes, and textual (i.e. such as history, reports, analyses) evidence. You may also include personal testimony if you have direct experience you can provide as evidence, but primarily, you are providing researched evidence. (Think logos, ethos, pathos, Kairos when selecting your evidence. Varying evidence types will help you vary the rhetorical appeals and create a more balanced argument and greater audience appeal.)

Appeals to readers’ values: Effective arguments appeal to readers’ emotions, values, wants, and needs. You might appeal to your readers’ sense of compassion or justice through a compelling narrative/anecdote, for example. (Think pathos and ethos when appealing or acknowledging your audience’s concerns or possible thoughts.)

A trustworthy tone: Through a confident tone, clear focus, knowledgeable voice, and well-researched, credible evidence, you can develop readers’ confidence in your credibility. (Convey to your audience that you possess internal ethos!) Also, vague or shallow evidence and writing that is unedited and/or too informal in tone will reduce your audience’s trust in your argument.

Careful consideration of counterarguments: You present your awareness of opposing views about your argument to address the audience’s needs or expectations and to reinforce your internal ethos with their trust. If you do not address the “yeah, but” or “what about” in your readers’ or listeners’ minds,  your argument may not be taken seriously and, even worse, your audience will think you have not researched your topic well enough or that you underestimate their existing knowledge.   You should some points the opposition makes and others through evidence when you can.

Appropriate use of patterns of development to present your argument: Your argument reflects application of the most effective patterns of development (i.e. exemplification, explanation, analysis, classification, comparison/contrast, definition, description, narration), with which to develop the content supporting your reasons (typically your reasons are the discussion points or topic sentences for your body paragraphs).

Example:  Can a statement of fact evolve into a strong argumentative thesis statement?

When presenting your stance in an argumentative thesis statement, make sure you have stated an argument and not a simple statement of fact or an expository thesis statement like you would write for a report.

Statement of Fact: Some social media users develop unhealthy attitudes about their body image because of the constant portrayal of “ideal” body types they encounter online.

Expository Thesis Statement: Excessive social media use can cause unhealthy physical and mental conditions, particularly for girls and young women.

Overarching Point Argumentative Thesis Statement: Social media users should restrict themselves from the exposure to unrealistic photos and from the portrayal of the “ideal” body type in order to prevent the development of significant health issues.

Argument Thesis Statement with Broadcasting of Discussion Points (Reasons/Minor Premises): Social media users should restrict themselves from the exposure to unrealistic photos and from the portrayal of the “ideal” body type in order to prevent harmful physical and mental health conditions linked with excessive social media use.

Proposal Solution Argument Thesis Statement: To help users moderate their exposure to unrealistic photos and “ideal” body types associated with harmful physical and mental health conditions,  social media companies should provide users with informative public service announcements focused on healthy body image,  display advertising promoting healthy body images and attitudes, and develop filters and messaging preferences to help end users control their media stream content.

THESIS TIPS: When you compare the statements above, it is clear that a solid expository or argumentative thesis statement can contain factual information, but it must be a more complex idea that requires more development and evidence.  The simple statement of fact above does not pass the “so what?” or “why?” test. When a thesis makes a claim about what a person or organization should do, think, or say, you are in the realm of argument.  A useful strategy  for developing a strong argumentative thesis statement is to answer this question: Who should do what and why?


Using a questioning can help you generate (“invent”) an academic argument. Just as you pre-research a possible argument topic to see what others are saying about it (“the current conversation” in public discourse) or just bubble map or list to generate some ideas or list some research questions, you also need to “interrogate” the argument you are forming before you go too far with your research. In fact, working through these questions about the argument will help you identify holes in the argument you can address with specific research questions for your next round of rhetorical research.


Questions are at the core of arguments. What matters is not just that you believe that what you have to say is true, but that you give others viable reasons to believe it as well—and also show them that you have considered the issue from multiple angles. To do that, build your argument out of the answers to the five questions a rational reader will expect answers to.  In academic and professional writing, we tend to build arguments from the answers to these main questions:

  1. What do you want me to do or think?
  2. Why should I do or think that?
  3. How do I know that what you say is true?
  4. Why should I accept the reasons that support your claim?
  5. What about this other idea, fact, or consideration?
  6. How should you present your argument?

When you ask people to do or think something they otherwise would not, they quite naturally want to know why they should do so. In fact, people tend to ask the same questions. As you make a reasonable argument, you anticipate and respond to readers’ questions with a particular part of argument:

1. The answer to What do you want me to do or think? is your conclusion: “I conclude that you should do or think X.”

2. The answer to Why should I do or think that? states your : “You should do or think X because . . .”

3. The answer to How do I know that what you say is true? presents your support: “You can believe my reasons because they are supported by a thorough review of the available information and this carefully selected, credible evidence . . .”

4. The answer to Why should I accept that your reasons support your claim? states your general principle of reasoning, called a : which is/are assumptions and/or values the author holds and possibly the audience holds as well).  “My specific reason supports my specific claim because whenever this general condition is true, we can generally draw a conclusion like mine.” “I know people in my audience value the importance of X, just as I do.”

5. The answer to What about this other idea, fact, or conclusion? acknowledges that your readers might see things differently and then responds to their counterarguments.

6. The answer to How should you present your argument? leads to the point of vieworganization, and tone that you should use when making your arguments.

As you have noticed, the answers to these questions involve knowing the particular vocabulary about argument because these terms refer to specific parts of an argument.  The remainder of this section will cover the terms referred to in the questions listed above as well as others that will help you better understand the building blocks of argument.

Source of this argument questioning heuristic:  Devries, Kirsten. “Chapter 3 Argument.” Critical Reading, Critical Writing: A Handbook to Understanding College Composition, Howard Community College (MD), License CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

4.1.3 Types of Arguments

Aristotelian Argument

Most likely in your first semester of college English, you composed a simplified Aristotelian argument essay in which you researched a controversial issue and formed an argumentative position on the issue.  You wrote an introduction leading into your thesis statement (major premise), provided two to three reasons as discussion points (minor premises) which became the focus of the essay’s body paragraphs. You also provided a counterargument presenting an opposing view and offered both a   and a of that view.  The basic argument process is reviewed for you in this brief description below:


Claim: What do you want the reader to believe?

The thesis in an argument paper is often called a claim. This is a statement of position, a thesis in which you take a stand on a controversial issue. A strong claim is one that has a valid counter-claim — an opposite or alternative that is as sensible as the position that you take in your claim.

Background: What background information about the topic does the reader need?

Before you get into defending your claim, you may need to offer some context to your argument. Some of this context may be offered in your intro paragraph, but often there are other definitions, history about your topic or the controversy that surrounds it, or other elements of the argument’s contextual that need additional space in your paper. This background can go after you state your claim.

Reasons: Why should a reader accept your claim?

To support your claim, you need a series of “sub-claims” or reasons. Like your claim, this is your thinking – your mini-argumentative points that support the core argumentative claim. This is NOT evidence. This is not data or statistics or quotes. A reason should be your idea that you use to support claim. We often say that three reasons – each distinct points – make for a well rounded argument structure.

Evidence: What makes your reasoning valid? To validate the thinking that you use in your reasons, you need to demonstrate that your reasons are not only based on your personal opinion. Evidence can come from research studies or scholarship, expert opinions, personal examples, observations made by yourself or others, or specific instances that make your reason seem sound and believable. Evidence only “works” if it directly supports your reason — and sometimes you must explain how the evidence supports your reason (do not assume that a reader can see the connection between evidence and reason that you see).

Counterargument: But what about other perspectives?

In a strong argument, you will not be afraid to consider perspectives that either challenge or completely oppose your own claim. In a counterargument, you may do any of the following (or some combination of them):

  • summarize opposing views
  • topic sentence makes it clear that you are making the shift to the counterview: “Opponents of X (your argument) believe/think/feel . . .
  • explain how and where you actually agree with some opposing views
  • acknowledge weaknesses or holes in your own argument

You have to be careful and clear that you are not conveying to a reader that you are rejecting your own claim; it is important to indicate that you are merely open to considering alternative viewpoints. Being open in this way shows that you are an ethical arguer – you are considering many viewpoints.

Response to Counterargument:

Just as it is important to include counterargument to show that you are fair-minded and balanced, you must respond to the counterargument that you include so that a reader clearly sees that you are not agreeing with the counterargument. Failure to include the response to counterargument can confuse the reader.

**It is certainly possible to begin the argument section (meaning, after the Background section) with your counterargument response instead of placing it at the end. Some people prefer to have their counterargument first; some prefer to have the counterargument response right before the conclusion.

Excerpted with minor edits from Emilie Zickel’s  Pressbook, English 102: Reading, Research and Writing. 

Rogerian Argument

The Rogerian approach to argument is based in the work of Carl Rogers, one of the founders of Humanistic Psychology.  Humanists are ” concerned with the fullest growth of the individual in the areas of love, fulfillment, self-worth, and autonomy” (“Humanist Psychology”).  In the field of learning and rhetoric, the “Rogerian” approach is focused on personal growth, developing a sense of personal fulfillment, and  finding common ground with others. This concept of finding common ground with others who hold opposing views or perspectives is a contrast to the traditional Aristotelian argument as discussed in the previous subsection or the Toulmin argument, discussed in the next subsection.

A Rogerian argument presents the opposing view without bias or negative tone and finds subclaims or points within the opposition argument that have merit or align with your own position on the issue.  If you understand the issue well enough you could authentically present two or more stances on the issue, you are demonstrating that you have brought an open mind to the issues and are probably trustworthy in presenting your own argument and the opposing view. That is, you will have validated your internal ethos to your audience.  As you present the opposing argument and consider the supporting evidence, your goal is to work your way toward common ground; that is, the reasons and/or evidence both sides can agree upon, at least to some degree.  Even if you do not actually write or present a formal Rogerian Argument, working through an outline of the opposition’s case with an open mind for the purpose of finding common ground and determining where your arguments diverge will help you more effectively develop your own argument and present a counterargument authentic to the oppositions’ views.

The Rogerian argument analysis expands your knowledge and understanding of an issue far beyond a simple pro/con understanding of the issue and may lead you to developing a more sophisticated, complex qualified argument. Processing your argument through the filter of a Rogerian perspective could also help you avoid some argumentative pitfalls. For example, more fully understanding and finding common ground with the the opposing views may help you prevent these argumentative pitfalls:

  •  taking too hostile a position against an opposing argument, thus alienating your audience.
  • not acknowledging the values, wants, or needs the opposing argument fulfills for your intended audience, thus you never address them yourself.
  • writing a weak, uniformed counterargument to your own argument leading to audience mistrust of your internal ethos.

To give a Rogerian argument argument a try, follow these guidelines:

  • summarize the opposing viewpoints
  • determine if the opposing view’s argument is reasonable
  • present their arguments and supporting points or premises accurately
  • assess the evidence that provides backing for the value or ideal driving the argument
  • determine if the author’s assumptions are valid
  • keep your tone respectful while acknowledging the “holes” or missing evidence in the oppositions argument
  • acknowledge your shared concerns (the “common ground”)
  • follow up with support for your own argument
  • compose a stronger counterargument based on what you know about the opposing argument’s support
    • the opposition’s valid supporting points with which you found common ground
    • the weaknesses in the opposing view’s argument

As mentioned in Chapter 1, the combative or direct argumentative approach may be rejected by some audiences as too one-sided or may even culturally alienate an audience completely. Even if you do not use a pure Rogerian approach when structuring your own argument, applying the Rogerian mindset to the opposing side’s argument as a productive exercise just might help you find the common ground on which to base a stronger argument of your own.

Ready to learn more about Rogerian argument? This brief video below provides more explanation of the Rogerian argument  and  includes a specific outline for writing a Rogerian argument or analysis.


Caption and Credit: Valerie Bronstein Connors, Professor at American River College.  “How to write a Rogerian structured essay with a delayed thesis and common ground.”  YouTube. 25 Nov, 2019,

Toulmin Argument

Toulmin Argument was developed by philosopher, Stephen Toulmin. Toulmin is best known for his work on argumentation which moved argument out of classical logical reasoning based on syllogisms to what he termed “practical arguments”  based on justification rather than abstract proofs.  Key elements of the Toulmin Model are the claim, the grounds or evidence, the rebuttal, the conclusion, the warrant, the backing, and qualifiers.


from Writing and Rhetoric by Heather Hopkins Bowers, Anthony Ruggiero, and Jason Saphara. This content  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


The claim or thesis must be very clear and concise because it sets up the entire paper. Questions that a good claim might answer are:
  • What issue/topic are you writing about?
  • Why are you writing about it? What has happened or needs to happen?
  • How will you write about the issue? What will the major points of your paper be?
  • Why should we care about this argument? How will you get the attention of the average person? This is often referred to as the greater purpose or warrant in that in takes the argument and broadens its appeal to readers by generalizing it.
  • Other points that might be included:
  • Who is being addressed if relevant?
  • When or time period if relevant to issue?
  • Where if the location is relevant to issue?

So now that we know what the parts are we can practice building a thesis. Here is a way to get started:

  • What issue: Social Media
  • Why write about it: Dangers to Young Adults
  • How will I write about it:  Provide evidence that shows the dangers of social media by examining the time young adults spend on social media, cyber bullying and teen suicide.
  • Why should we care about this argument: it is the responsibility of adults to ensure that young adults are kept safe and out of harms way.

So the basic starting thesis would look something like this:

Social media has become a serious danger to young adults which can be seen through an examination of the amount of time spent on social media sites, the occurrences of cyber bullying and the increase of teen suicides leading to younger generations being sacrificed to technology.  
This is your starting thesis so nothing is set into concrete yet…and its okay to modify it as you conduct your research or find better points to use to proves your claim.
The claim or thesis is found in the introduction section or the first paragraph of the essay. Other items that may be included in this paragraph may include a grabber to capture the reader and make them want to read on. Also background information for the reader on the issue. Not everyone has the same understanding of a term so it may need to be explained. In our example of Social Media, this term may mean different things to different people so that should be explained in the introduction. This will also help in the presentation of the claim/thesis.


The next part of our argument and the most in depth is the evidence that supports our claim. We are basically saying in our argument that the reader should agree with us because of XYZ where XYZ is the evidence. It is often said that the heart of any argument is the evidence. The key is to use evidence that is accurate, current, fair or unbiased which makes it credible to support the claim.  Also, the evidence has to be presented accurately because the reader is simply not going to believe you unless you are some form of subject matter expert, which you probably are not, so we need to have the experts speak for you.
Here is an example for you to judge which sounds more credible:
(A) As to the dangers of the flu, Dr. Jones, a specialist in contagious diseases from the University of XYZ states that, “10 out of 15 people have the potential for catching the flu and 2 out of 15 can potentially have a life threatening reaction.”
(B) As to the dangers of the flu, I read where a lot of people have the potential to catch the flu and some might even die.
So which would you pick? Well (A) of course…I hope. Remember that Logos-Ethos-Pathos discussion earlier? The Logos is the numbers or percentages. Ethos is established by the medical degree and position of the source provider. Pathos or emotional aspect deals with life and death or the safety and well being of individuals. You take this evidence and incorporate it within your body paragraphs and include an introductory sentence which usually ties back to the claim and a concluding sentence which ties back to that greater purpose or warrant we discussed. If you do this you will have a great evidence paragraph.
Often times it is asked how many evidence paragraphs should one have? The usual answer is as many as you need to prove your claim. However in Composition you will be limited to a certain number of pages or word count for the entire paper so you will have to choose the best or strongest evidence possible that you can fit within these confines.


Another part of this basic argument is called a rebuttal. IT USUALLY CONTAINS two PARTS: (1) addresses the main opposing point of view to the writer’s position. This demonstrates that you understand what that position is and helps develop your own credibility as the writer. (2) After you discuss the opposing view, next you provide evidence that casts doubt on that view suggesting that the other position might not be correct. The evidence does not have to prove that the other side is completely wrong; it only needs to suggest that there may be some doubt with the point of view based upon the evidence offered.
Rebuttal Example: (Part 1) Many individuals believe that social media has improved communications skills through the abundance of methods to communicate such as instant messages, texting and chat rooms. (Part 2) Although part of this may be correct, Dr. Jones from Independent University department of on line studies states that, “Increasing ways to communicate as also brought more ways to bully or ridicule as well. Overall there has been a 15% increase in the number of reported bullying type incidents.”


As with any other essay, there will be a conclusion that reminds the reader what the point of the paper was, summarizes your essay and clearly shows how you proved your claim. Critical thinking should also be demonstrated by showing how your topic is connected to other issues or has deeper underlying causes that should be explored. For example, let’s say your essay was about the obesity epidemic. One way to critically look at this might be to link the unhealthy eating habits to a society that requires you to work more in order to be successful to societal norms and therefore is forcing the way of life and therefore contributing to the epidemic.
Other areas that may be required in the Toulmin argument are up to the instructor’s discretion. Some of these areas might be:


Warrant: is the basic/common or underlying principle that your essay can be linked to. It usually ties back to the WHY CARE aspect in the thesis or claim. For example, let’s say that your essay was about the dangers of social media use by young adults. So everyone may not care about social media use, but most people would care about keeping young adults safe and away from danger because that is a natural instinct embedded in the human psyche. You may also want to look at the Maslow’s basic needs (things we ALL need) to get a better understanding as well. See below.
Image result for maslow triangle
Citation: McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 21). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from
So safety and security becomes the main principle of the essay so that we can keep audience size as large as possible. You want this concept or “need” to resonate throughout the essay. The reader should always feel its presence even when not mentioned directly. There will never be a way to get EVERYONE to agree or care about the issue you are writing about; however, a well established warrant WILL increase the size of your audience in most cases.


The Backing is simply evidence that supports the warrant and only the warrant. So in the example just given it would support the fact that we should do everything in our power to keep young adults safe, but not address the social media issue. Remember that not everyone may care about social media but they will probably care about the safety and security issue.
An example of backing in this case might look like:
It is an inherent nature to want to protect fellow human beings from harm or danger. Oftentimes people will subject themselves to danger in order to protect their family or younger people in general. In a PEW study conducted in 2015, it showed a “10% increase in injuries to older people in the act of protecting another family member and a 7% increase in protecting a non family member.”
Remember to support your warrant and not the idea of the essay. In argument there are very few certainties but MANY possibilities.  Explore them to find the idea or concept that will really resonate for your audience.


Qualifiers is referring to primary language and its use in making statement. They are words used to soften your position to make the proposed fix more acceptable. It suggests that the writer knows that there are other possibilities or contingencies rather than discussing them with certainty.
Suppose your initial claim suggested that we remove ALL of X from XYZ. Your qualifier may be that we remove only certain forms of X rather than all of them depending on the conditions present.
So for example let’s take a statement: All job searchers that take the most time to prepare for an interview always get the job.
Can this really be said with certainty? Probably not because there will be exceptions. So words like All, most time and always need to changed to some or a few, or other words that would acknowledge the fact there will be other exceptions.
Remember to check the assignment sheet for exactly what your instructor wants in your Toulmin argument!

The diagram below reflects the elements of Toulmin’s practical argument. The diagram illustrates how warrants and the back of warrants provide the connection between evidence and a conclusion. help contextualize a fact or link a fact to a conclusion. Creating a diagram such as this will help you create a solid basis on which to justify your argument.  Probably the most important elements of the Toulmin model  are the warrant and the backing. If you are not sure what warrant/s (shared audience knowledge, values, or assumption/s) link your evidence (grounds for the argument) to the conclusion, you may not be supporting your conclusion with the most effective evidence.

“Toulmin argumentation can be diagrammed as a conclusion established, more or less, on the basis of a fact supported by a warrant (with backing), and a possible rebuttal.”  Image by Chaswick Chap, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Toulmin Argument for Analyzing Arguments

The Toulmin argument elements can be used to structure or test your argument or to better analyze the quality of another writer or speaker’s argument.  This list will give you Toulmin terminology and a sense of how the elements work to use the model to analyze another person’s argument.

  • Claim: The author wants me to believe/accept their conclusion that  . . .
  • Support/subclaims: The reasons I should believe this are  . . .
  • Evidence or Grounds: What evidence does the author provide and does the warrant sufficiently link this to the author’s claim (conclusion)?
  • Warrants: Why is this claim important to the author? (assumptions and/or values the author holds):
  • Backing for Warrants: What evidence does the author give to remind me of warrants and make me want to accept them?
  • Rebuttal: Are other positions shown? Are they refuted or discussed?
  • Qualifier: Is there anything which suggests the claim might be limited (sometimes, probably, possibly, if)?

Finally, if you want to view or listen to an entertaining discussion of the Toulmin Model of Argument, this video will both inform and entertain you.


Credit:  “The Toulmin Method of Argumentation | THUNK.” YouTube, 29 Nov. 2016,

4.1.4 Other Types of Academic Arguments 


by Heather Hopkins Bowers, Anthony Ruggiero, and Jason Saphara, in Writing and Rhetoric, Colorado State University, Pueblo. Licensed CC-BY 4.0.

Sometimes writing instructors assign specific types of arguments. These  arguments have different purposes and will require different writing strategies. These purposes and strategies require writers to assume different roles. If assigned one of these arguments, you may find yourself investigating a cause, defining a term, evaluating a product, or solving a problem. You’ll still be arguing and using rhetorical principles to make these arguments, but you’ll need to consider your role as you compose your argument.

Causal Arguments

In a causal argument, a writer must argue about a problem’s or controversy’s cause. Causal arguments are difficult because most controversial issues have complicated causes. Many people will also tend to believe causes that correspond to their political beliefs when considering causes. Consider the various explanations for school shootings. Some will insist the problem is the easy availability of firearms while others will insist that shooters are inspired by violent video games and entertainment. When making a causal argument, a writer should consider their biases and rely on evidence to support their claims.

In a causal argument, writers may be tempted by logical fallacies. For example, it’s important to remember the correlation is not equal to causation. If two events happen at the same time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one event caused the other. We only have to consider an extreme example to see this. Imagine someone saying, “John wrecked his car last night when the moon was full, and Jim did the same. The full moon must have affected their driving.” While most people wouldn’t believe this, we can investigate other possible causes. Were there poor road conditions? Were Jim and/or John drunk? Driving unsafely? People will make similar errors when one event follows another. To avoid making these mistakes, writers should consider alternative causes when making a causal argument; these are opposing views that should be considered. If you find an alternative explanation stronger than your initial version, then you should make that your paper’s conclusion.

Definition Arguments

This type of argument may seem puzzling. How do we argue about a word’s definition? Isn’t that what dictionaries are for? For most definition arguments, the real argument isn’t the precise meaning of the word. Instead, the argument is about the implications of that definition and how the definition may be applied to specific situations. Consider the word “obscene.” One dictionary defines “obscene” as “offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency.” A writer may want to argue that Playboy is obscene. Or that a recent controversial film is obscene. By making this kind of argument, the writer would suggest some course of action: the obscene material should be age-limited, should be condemned, or should be banned. In this kind of paper the author would make claims about “accepted standards” and “offensive or disgusting” as they apply to the potentially obscene item.

Many popular arguments rely of definitions. Determining whether something is obscene or offensive is just one popular item. As part of the War on Terror, we’ve argued about the meaning of “torture” and its justification. Many death penalty arguments rely upon the terms “cruel and unusual punishment.” The Iraq war inspired many arguments about “just” and “unjust” wars, as did the Vietnam war did decades earlier.

Evaluation Arguments

You may be more familiar with evaluation arguments than you realize. If you’ve ever read a movie, restaurant, or other product review, you’ve read an evaluation argument. As online shopping and social media have expanded, you may have even written your own evaluation argument on Amazon, Google, or Yelp.  A good evaluation argument will rely upon clear criteria. “Criteria” (singular “criterion”) are the conditions by which you make your evaluation; these conditions could be used to evaluate any thing that’s in the same category. A restaurant review may be based upon the food quality, price, service, and ambiance of the restaurant. An evaluation should also consider the specific category of what’s being evaluated: one shouldn’t evaluate a local pub with the same criteria as a fine dining establishment. By establishing a narrow category, the writer can write a more accurate evaluation.

A writer should strive to be fair when writing a review. You’ve probably seen a one-star Amazon review that says something like “The product arrived three days late.” This probably isn’t a fair review of the product, as its makers may have had no role in the product’s untimely delivery. When directing praise or blame in an evaluation consider how much to weigh each criteria and even the criteria against each other. Audience is important for a review. For example, a writer reviewing a horror movie for a horror fan website would probably offer a different review than a writer for The New York Times. 

Evaluation arguments aren’t only used with products or services. Evaluation arguments are useful for supporting or opposing public policies or proposed laws. A community may propose several solutions to deal with a school district’s budget woes. A teacher from that district may write a guest editorial arguing for the best policy, or write an article criticizing a poor choice.

Proposal Argument (Problem/Solution)

Proposal arguments require the writer to perform two tasks: argue that there is a problem, and then propose a solution to that problem. Usually, the problem will be a local problem: Pueblo, Colorado has a high teen pregnancy rate. It’s good to focus on a smaller community because national or global problems or much more complex. In the United States, many states have varying laws and approaches to problems, so arguing about a problem is difficult. Additionally, Portland, Oregon may suffer from different problems than Portland, Maine. Writing an argument that addresses those complexities is often beyond the capability of most first year students and beyond the scope of the short papers assigned in a composition class.

Proposals have two separate arguments. The first is the problem: it’s not enough to label an issue a problem; a writer must prove that the problem is severe to an audience. Take, for instance, the opioid crisis. A writer may need to convince community members who aren’t addicts why the crisis is a problem for their community, so it’s not enough to discuss how addiction hurts addicts. Showing how the community is harmed by the crime associated with addiction might motivate a community to solve the problem. The key to establishing a problem is showing that the problem is severe to the audience because a proposal is asking readers to fix the problem.

The second argument is the solution. Explain what the solution is and how it solves the problem. A writer should establish that their solution is the best solution. The best solution is the cheapest solution that best addresses the problem. “Cheapest” here refers not just to monetary costs. While monetary costs are important, there are other costs. What are the labor costs of the solution? How will people’s lives be changed? How might people be angered by the solution or its implementation? “Addressing the problem” is an acknowledgment that most proposals won’t completely solve a problem. The goal is a reasonable solution that eliminates most of the harm, or the most serious harm, caused by the problem. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of proposals is considering the unintended consequences of a solution. These can be positive or negative. Writers should ask “What happens next?” of their solutions. Will a solution that lowers teen pregnancies also improve the dropout rate in the school district? Will it also require more resources be moved from other school programs?

Key Takeaway: What are Key Features of Argument?

With this brief introduction, you can see what rhetorical or academic argument is not:

  • An argument need not be controversial or about a controversy. (It could, for example, promote a solution that most would agree is needed.)
  • An argument is not a mere fight supported with beliefs and emotional reasoning.
  • An argument does not have a single winner or loser.
  • An argument is not a mere opinion.
  • An argument is not a statement of fact.

Furthermore, you can see what rhetorical argument is:

  • An argument is a claim asserted as true. (That is, you state your argument as fact. You avoid “I think” or “it seems to me” which would weaken your stance. That’s one reason most academic arguments are written in third person, formal point-of-view.)
  • An argument is arguable.
  • An argument must be reasonable.
  • An argument must be supported with reasons and supporting evidence.
  • An argument in a formal essay is called a thesis.  Supporting arguments (minor premises) can be called topic sentences.
  • An argument can be explicit or implicit. (Directly stated or inferred)
  • An argument must be adapted to its rhetorical situation.

Source of this Key Takeaway:  Devries, Kirsten. “Chapter 3 Argument.” Critical Reading, Critical Writing: A Handbook to Understanding College Composition, Howard Community College (MD), License CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

4.2 How Logical Reasoning, Rhetorical Appeals, and evidence Work to support an Argument


Black and white outline of head with thinking wheel inside. Created by Srinivas Agra from the Noun Project
Created by Srinivas Agra from the Noun Project

Now that you understand the basic features, and types of argument more fully, you are ready to dig a more deeply into understanding how effective arguments are developed. This requires critically analyzing the viewpoints of others–and yourself–using logical reasoning to test the ideas and assumptions on which an argument is founded. The first subsection below will give you the thinking tools to do that. In addition, examining how you and other rhetors use a balance of rhetorical appeals and types of relevant, effective, and ethically presented evidence to support their arguments will help you develop stronger argument by applying your rhetorical awareness, skills,  and knowledge to the greatest effect in delivering the argument.

Key Vocabulary

  • Conclusion—a claim that is asserted as true.  One part of an argument.
  • Premise—a reason behind a conclusion.  The other part of an argument.  Most conclusions have more than one premise.
  • Statement—a declarative sentence that can be evaluated as true or false.  The parts of an argument, premises and the conclusion, should be statements.
  • Standard Argument Form—a numbered breakdown of the parts of an argument (conclusion and all premises).
  • Premise Indicators—terms that signal that a premise, or reason, is coming.
  • Conclusion Indicator—terms that signal that a conclusion, or claim, is coming.
  • Support—anything used as proof or reasoning for an argument.  This includes evidence, experience, and logic.
  • Warrant—the connection made between the support and the reasons of an argument.
  • Counterargument—an opposing argument to the one you make.  An argument can have multiple counterarguments.
  • Complex Arguments–these are formed by more than individual premises that point to a conclusion.  Complex arguments may have layers to them, including an intermediate argument that may act as both a conclusion (with its own premises) and a premise (for the main conclusion).

Source: Devries, Kirsten. “Chapter 3 Argument.” Critical Reading, Critical Writing: A Handbook to Understanding College Composition, Howard Community College (MD),

4.2.1 LOgicAL Reasoning: What is a syllogism?*

The following content is from: “Chapter 4: Making Mistakes in Reasoning.”  Introduction to Ethics,  Lumen Learning, n.d.,

The term is applied to the distinctive form of argument that is the application of deductive reasoning. A syllogism includes two premises that are compared against each other in order to infer a conclusion.

The following is an example of a syllogism:

  • Major Premise: No insect is warm-blooded.
  • Minor Premise: The wasp is an insect.
  • Conclusion: No wasp is warm-blooded.
    In this syllogism members of a category do not possess a certain characteristic (major premise). An individual is in that category (minor premise). Therefore, that individual cannot possess the characteristic (conclusion).


The example syllogism in the previous section is a categorical syllogism. In a categorical syllogism, the major premise will state something that will be taken as an absolute (categorical) starting point, and the minor premise will be examined against this absolute starting point in order to infer the conclusion.

Examples of categorical statements:

  • All raccoons are omnivores.
  • No insect is warm-blooded.
  • Some mammals are omnivores.
  • Some mammals are not omnivores.


A categorical syllogism can be fallacious either because a premise is untrue or because the relationship between the major and minor premise does not support the conclusion.

Untrue premise leading to a fallacious conclusion:

  • Major premise: All swimming vertebrates are fish.
  • Minor premise: The whale is a swimming vertebrate.
  • Conclusion: The whale is a fish.

In fact, not all swimming vertebrates are fish so the conclusion that the whale is a fish is unsound.

Relationship between major and minor premise does not support conclusion:

  • Major premise: Some instructors lack a sense of humor.
  • Minor premise: Kim is an instructor.
  • Conclusion: Kim lacks a sense of humor.

Certainly somewhere in the world an instructor must lack a sense of humor, so let us agree that the major premise is true. Let us also agree that the Kim in the minor premise is an instructor. Still, the conclusion is unsound because it is impossible to determine whether Kim belongs to the group that lacks a sense of humor. A major premise that

states that only some members of a group have a characteristic can never set the stage for concluding that any particular member of the group has that characteristic.


An alternative name for the if/then syllogism is the , but you may find it handy to use the if/then label because the characteristic sign of such a syllogism is the ‘if/then’ in the major premise. Here are the two common forms:

If/Then Syllogism Form #1 If/Then Syllogism Form #2
  • Major premise: If A then B.
  • Minor premise: A is true.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, B is true
  • Major premise: If A then B.
  • Minor premise: B is not true.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, A is not true
  • Major premise: If the price of steel goes up then car production goes down.
  • Minor premise: The price of steel goes up.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, car production goes down.
  • Major premise: If student scores rise then the state pays a bonus to the school district.
  • Minor premise: The state did not pay a bonus to the school district.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, student scores did not rise.
Example: We can test an IF/THEN syllogism for faulty logic.

Premise:  If a voter votes in person and presents an ID, then their vote is a valid vote.

Minor Premise: Jenny voted in person and presented an ID.

Conclusion: Therefore, Jenny’s vote is valid.

This IF/THEN or hypothetical syllogism presents a fallacy in logic because the major premise suggests that all people who vote in person with an ID are who they say they are. That may not be true.  Jenny may not, in fact be Jenny, but her sister or other voter of close resemblance, ethnicity, and age.

Note: these last two syllogisms were created by Cynthia Kiefer  to illustrate how a syllogism can help writers test the soundness of logic on which they base their arguments. 

Here’s another syllogism with an actual statistic in the minor premise:

Premise:  If a voter votes by a mail-in ballot, then their vote is not a valid vote.

Minor Premise: Ninety percent of Arizonans voted in 2020 with  mail-in ballots (Medina, par. 3).

Conclusion: Therefore, almost 90 percent of the votes in Arizona were not valid.

Is it true that 90% of voters are not who they say they are (that’s assumption behind the premise) and their votes shouldn’t count?  No. Were they counted? Yes, according to the Arizona Republic. The syllogism’s major premise does not hold up as “true.”  Testing your major premise and the assumptions underlying it can help you see the flaw in your logical reasoning. Once you understand how to determine if you are operating from a valid premise that your audience will accept, you can ensure your argument is based in a sound premise.

When is an if/then syllogism a fallacy?

Remember that a syllogism may be fallacious if a premise is false. In the case of the either/or fallacy, the major premise must accurately capture a logical relationship—that is, the ‘if’ must actually be a condition for the ‘then’. An if/then syllogism also may be fallacious if the major premise oversimplifies matters by identifying only one condition when in fact several are necessary.

Example of a fallacious if/then syllogism:

  • Major premise: If her overall GPA is 2.0 then she will graduate.
  • Minor premise: Her overall GPA is 2.0.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, she will graduate.

What if the student’s major has a GPA requirement as well? For example, a department may require a 2.5 GPA for all courses taken for the major.

 from “Chapter 4: Making Mistakes in Reasoning.”  Introduction to Ethics,  Lumen Learning, n.d., License: Public Domain: No Known Copyright

4.2.3 Rhetorical Appeals in Argument


This content is provided by Emilie Zickel in English 102: Reading, Research, and Writing. This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. In this selection, we have added additional content to the section on the ethical appeal.

Logos: Appeal to Logic

Rhetoric pertains to how authors use and manipulate language in order to persuade an audience.

To be rhetorically effective (and thus persuasive), an author must engage the audience in a variety of compelling rhetorical appeals. We can classify these as Logos, Pathos, and Ethos.

Logic. Reason. Rationality. Logos is brainy and intellectual, cool, calm, collected, objective.

Logically sound writing often includes many examples to support a point – and those examples come from citation of credible data and statistics, reference to sound theories, reference valid research conducted by credible organizations.

Logical appeals rest on rational modes of thinking, such as

  • Comparison : you compare one thing (with regard to your topic)  to another, similar thing to help support your claim. It is important that the comparison is fair and valid – the things being compared must share significant traits of similarity.
  • Cause/effect thinking : you argue that X has caused Y, or that X is likely to cause Y to help support your claim. Be careful with the latter – it can be difficult to predict that something “will” happen in the future.
  • Deductive reasoning: you start with a general claim/example and then use it to justify a in a smaller claim
  • Inductive reasoning: you use several specific examples or cases and use them to make a larger generalization
  • Exemplification: use of many examples to support a single point

Pathos: Appeal to Emotions

Pathos is deeply human – an author using pathetic appeals wants the audience to feel something: anger or pride or joy or rage or happiness. Pathetic appeals rest on emotion-based modes of communication . To engage the audience on an emotional level, the author may

  • add expressive descriptions of people, places or events that helps the reader to feel or experience those events
  • include vivid imagery of people, places or events that helps the reader to feel like he or she is seeing  those events
  • share personal stories that help the reader feel connected to the person being described
  • use vocabulary or sentence structure that revolves around a particular emotion: sadness, happiness, fear, joy, anger, disgust, horror.
  • try to include any information that will evoke an emotional response from the audience. This could involve making the audience feel empathy or disgust for the person/group/event being discussed,  or perhaps connection to or rejection of the person/group/event being discussed.

Pathos-based strategies are any strategies that get the audience to “open up” to the topic or to the author. Emotions can make us vulnerable, and rhetors can use this vulnerability to get the audience on his or her side.

Ethos: Appeal to Values/Trust/Authority or Expertise

Ethical appeals have two facets.

External ethos is supported when a rhetor cites an expert or moral authority. For example, if you quote a scholarly researcher with expertise in a field, you are creating ethos. Sometimes that expert also conveys information within the quote from an expert, so this support serves two function. One the one hand, an ethical appeal also taps into the values that the audience holds, for example, patriotism, tradition, justice, equality, dignity for all humankind, self preservation, or other specific social, religious or philosophical values (Christian values, socialism, capitalism, feminism, etc). These values can sometimes feel very close to emotions, but they are felt on a social level rather than only on a personal level. If an author can evoke the values that the audience cares about in his or her argument, then he or she has a chance of persuading that audience because the audience will feel that the author is making an argument that is “right” (in the sense of moral “right”-ness).

This sense of referencing what is “right” in an ethical appeal connects to the  moral character of the speaker/author – the author’s internal ethos. The author may draw attention to who he or she is as a way to engage the audience (i.e., “Because I support this – and you all you trust me because we share the same values! – you should, too”). If an author can present his or her moral character, one that the audience trusts because they (author and audience) share values,  then he or she has a chance of persuading that audience. In this sense, the audience will feel that the author is the right person to make this argument and should therefore be believed. Another way to build your audience’s sense of your internal ethos is to use rhetoric and evidence responsibly. Your argument should reflect sound reasoning and sufficient and highly credible ethos. That is, how you use external ethos, logos, and the emotional appeals in presenting your argument reflects your internal ethos or trustworthiness.

In building ethical appeals, we see authors

  • referring either directly or indirectly to the values that matter to the intended audience
  • using reasoning or logic that relies on these values
  • using language, phrasing, imagery or other writing style common to people who hold those values – tapping into the discourse community of people with those values
  • doing anything else that shows the audience that the author understands and shares their values

4.2.4 Evidence in Argument



This section is from A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing by Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

In a strong essay, the author or writer’s own thesis and reasoning drive the argument, and then credible, valid evidence is used to support that reasoning. Arguments, in particular, are interactions between writer and audience. The author wants to persuade the audience to accept his or her claim, so he or she tries to provide sufficient compelling evidence that will sway the audience to his or her perspective.

Research questions might be easy to come up with. Claims or thesis statements can be easy to come up with.  Even reasons or ideas to support the thesis or claim may be fairly easy to come up with. But for your ideas in a paper to be valid, for them to be accepted by a reader, they must be supported and developed with solid, credible, sufficient, accurate, relevant and compelling evidence.

Evidence is not simply “a bunch of quotes”. Nor is evidence a bunch of facts or statistics from an article, no matter how credible that article may be. For evidence to truly work in the sense of supporting an thesis/claim, it has to be accurate, sufficient to prove your point, directly related to the reason, ethically chosen, current, and credible. That is a lot to think about. It is certainly more than “a quote that looks good”.

Here are some things to think about avoiding when attempting to develop a strong source-based essay. Just as understanding what logical fallacies are so you can avoid them in your own writing, understand what weak evidence is can help you to avoid falling into the trap of using it in your own work.

Failures in evidence occur when a reader says, “I do not accept your evidence”. Here is why that might happen:

  • The evidence that you have provided is inaccurate: You’ve misread information or misquoted; you are not interpreting the quoted material in an accurate manner
  • The evidence that you have provided is insufficient: You are using just a small piece of evidence to support your reasoning. You need more. You probably have a “generalization” fallacy.
  • The evidence that you have provided is unrelated to the reason: Your evidence does not clearly or directly relate to the point that you are trying to make.
  • The evidence that you have provided is incomplete or too narrowly chosen: You have “cherry picked” certain examples or pieces of information to the exclusion of others, so while you do have evidence to support your point, you are also neglecting a lot of other information
  • The evidence that you have provided is old: The information that you are citing is not relevant anymore. It is outdated!
  • The evidence that you have provided does not come from an authoritative source: The source of your evidence is not credible; the person being cited is not an authority on the topic

One of the bigger issues with evidence is not so much with the evidence itself, but with the way that you integrate it into the paper. A reader needs to understand clearly how and why the evidence you chose relates to the point that you are making. As noted in Section 4.4. evidence must always be explained. Whenever you integrate evidence into your papers, it is important to answer the question “How does this evidence support the point that I am making?”.  Never assume that the reader sees what you see in evidence. Always make it as clear as possible how the evidence supports the reason. It may be useful to you to draft your papers with Section 4.4 ready for reference so that you can avoid the pitfall of evidence with no explanation.


4.3 composing the Synthesis Paper or Project

two talking heads side by side
Negotiate by Silviu Ojog

4.3.1 What is synthesis?

When you write a paper based on research, you typically blend a variety of evidence from multiple sources. That is, you your research and integrate it into your argument or report to support your claims and subclaims. most of you have had experience synthesizing information this way. We use synthesis across many genres and for different purposes.  In another type of synthesis, you may have used synthesis in analysis or critique papers, comparing how two different authors critique a performance, film, or literary piece or two different poems about the same concept.

In composition and rhetoric courses, a common form of synthesis paper instructors assign to students is the argument analysis of two different viewpoints on the same issue. The arguments students analyze are typically written as newspaper editorials, commentary pieces, and viewpoint essays. Instructors may assign the argumentative pieces, or you may select your own on a topic you find most interesting.

4.3.2 Identifying Opposing Viewpoints on Key Topics

Some instructors will assign text sets for a synthesis essay project while others will ask you to research and select your own source material for a synthesis assignment. If you are asked to select your own viewpoint texts for a synthesis essay, take time to carefully consider the sources and the authors’ biases and motivations  for their arguments.

From debates about which sports team are the best to whether self-driving cars are the transportation of the future, there are as many viewpoints as there are ice cream flavors exist.

On the topic of ice cream flavors, my opinion is that cookies and cream is the tastiest. Why do I think it is the best?  First, it is made with Oreo cookies, my favorite chocolate cookie. However when it comes to ice cream, I prefer a vanilla to a chocolate base, and cookies and cream’s base flavor is a creamy vanilla.  On the surface, these are pretty solid argumentative points for a low stakes ice cream debate based on my flavor preferences, and my explanation would probably satisfy your curiosity without a need for further evidence or explanation.

However, let’s complicate the frozen dessert conversation. What if you were to learn that I was employed by Nabisco as the Oreo product sales manager for the western region? Do you think this information is important? How might this fact influence my preference for cookies and cream ice cream? Would you wonder if it is my favorite because I really do love Oreos, or because if I pump it up enough to people I talk to, it will help my job as an Oreo sales manager?[1]  Regardless, knowing what my job is could help YOU determine if you think my opinion is an honest representation of my flavor preferences or based on a or I might have (like selling more Oreos and Oreo products!).

Of course, this is a simplified example of the way personal connections to a topic bias our perspectives and bias our opinions, but you can see how even a harmless topic like ice cream
can quickly get muddled when we introduce the element of bias and/or a motivated agenda. Understanding the basis of  a given opinion or viewpoint can help you determine theRemember, most people are sales managers of their opinions, whether their opinions were logically derived and based on credible evidence or whether they are based on their emotional beliefs or personal benefit. of the argument. Remember, most people are sales managers of their opinions whether those opinions were logically derived and based on credible evidence or whether they are based on their emotional beliefs or personal benefit. One might be selling Oreo cookies or one might be “selling” one’s opinions about voting rights legislation.

Using the Opposing Viewpoints Database to Locate Contrasting Viewpoints on Key Issues and Controversies

The Opposing Viewpoints library database, is a great resource where you can find articles with differing viewpoints and opinions on various topics. Watch the video to learn how to find these articles.

4.3.3 How to analyze the two positions

Annotate Both Arguments First

  • Note the argumentative claim/thesis.
  • Note the supporting reasons
  • Note the types of evidence used
  • Write questions in the margin
  • Write brief critical remarks down as they occur to you
  • Note any unclear passages
  • Note effective or ineffective rhetorical language choices
  • Write a summary of the author’s argument in fewer than six sentences.

Perform an Informal Rhetorical Analysis of Your Source Material in a Second Round of Annotation

  • Note the use of ethos, pathos, logos, Kairos.  Does the evidence seem to support the appeal the author is trying to make?
  • Note whether or not the argument is balanced
  • Note any fallacies or inconsistencies with a question mark
  • Note evidence you would expect, but is not included.  (That is, noting what is not there.)
  • Note what the author does that makes you think the author is responsible and trustworthy

Use the Toulmin Model Diagram from Section 4.1.3

  • Diagram the elements of the argument 
  • Does the warrant and the backing provide a convincing link from the evidence (the “grounds”)?

Analyze the Logical Soundness of the Arguments Presented Using Syllogisms

More complex and controversial topics such as healthcare and climate change are breeding grounds for opinions filled with underlying agendas, biases, and emotional reasoning. As a rhetorical researcher and critical thinker, you must understand how to critically read, listen to, and analyze  a range of viewpoints with an impartial eye. Some of these viewpoints will
be based on valid premises and credible evidence while others will be based on personal, political, religious, or economic biases or agendas that distort the foundational premises you would expect of a valid  argument. When assessing and comparing several two viewpoints on the same issue, a critical thinker and rhetorically aware person will not “buy” arguments based on  illogical or unsound premises,“In the rhetorical paradigm, what constitutes information cannot be divorced from the community/audience. the purpose, and the structure of a disciplinary threshold concept.”  —  Joshua Hill in Teaching​ Information Literacy and Writing Studies : Volume 1 (40) emotional reasoning, and/or provably incorrect, insufficient, and/or unethical evidence.

For example, if a person presents an argument that all voters must vote in person with ID or not have their vote counted, they are working from a warrant or assumption that  a vote made in person is less likely than a mail-in vote to be fraudulent.  This leads them to the major premise that the only valid vote is one made when a person is physically present. Does that premise stand up to critical analysis? Is it true that votes made in person with an ID are the only valid votes?  Since mail in voting has been successful and stood up to voting audits embedded in each state’s counting processes every year in many states for over ten years, the warrant is flawed and the major premise is not true. The argument falls apart because the argument’s basic assumptions and premise do not hold up to logic based on available and credible evidence.

The following two syllogisms illustrate the faulty premise at play in these examples.

  • Major premise: All people who vote in person cast a valid vote.
  • Minor premise: Jenny cast her vote in person.
  • Conclusion: Jenny’s vote is valid.

This categorical syllogism presents a fallacy in logic because the major premise suggests that all people who vote in person are who they say they are. That may not be true. Jenny may not, in fact be Jenny, but her sister.

We can test an IF/THEN syllogism as well.

  • Premise:  If a voter votes in person and presents an ID, then their vote is a valid vote.
  • Minor Premise: Jenny voted in person and presented an ID.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, Jenny’s vote is valid.

This IF/THEN or hypothetical syllogism presents a fallacy in logic because the major premise suggests that all people who vote in person with an ID are who they say they are. That may not be true. As explained above, Jenny may not, in fact be Jenny, but her sister or other voter of close resemblance, ethnicity, and age.

Here’s another syllogism with a different premise:

  • Premise:  If a voter votes by a mail-in ballot, then their vote is not a valid vote.
  • Minor Premise: According to the Arizona Republic, the “overwhelming majority of voters in the state cast their ballots by mail, with nearly 90 percent doing so last year amid the coronavirus pandemic  . . .”
  • Conclusion: Therefore, almost 90 percent of the votes in Arizona were not valid.

Is it true that 90% of voters are not who they say they are (that’s assumption behind the premise) and their votes should not count? The syllogism’s major premise does not hold up as “true.”  Testing your major premise and the assumptions underlying it can help you see the flaw in your logical reasoning. Once you understand how to determine if you are operating from a valid premise, your audience will accept, you can ensure your argument is based on a sound premise.

It is important to learn about and contrast alternative viewpoints and opinions because

  • It will help you to more fully understand all of the nuances associated with the topic. Most issues are not simply right versus wrong.
  • It will help you develop your own opinion on the topic since you’ll likely read about a new aspect you haven’t thought about before.
  • You will be able to defend your opinion because you will be well-aware of what the counter arguments are.


4.4 Using Recursive metaliteracy Processes to Compose a SOLUTION Proposal Argument

recursive circle with rocket spinning off
Solution by SBTS

Because the overarching purpose of Claim Your Voice is to help you develop the to use your academic literacies to address real-world issues and achieve your academic, career, and personal goals, the key argument assignment for this chapter is centered on proposing a solution or set of solutions to solve or reduce the negative effects of a current  problem or issue.  Writing a solution proposal argument, as discussed in Section 4.1 in “Argument Genres” generally has two key arguments. First, you establish that there is a significant problem and argue that this problem necessitates action. You use deep research to provide evidence that there is a problem and current solutions are not adequate to address it.  Then, the second part of the argument is focused on your proposed a solutions or set of solutions during which you make a clear call to action. This is a in depth project designed to engage you in a variety of activities that will take your writing, reading, research, and metaliteracy knowledge and skills to a new level.  In this set of assignments, you will have the opportunity to develop your proposal and seek multiple points of feedback through a series of assignments, both written and digital.

4.4.1 Begin with a Research Question AND A REVIEW OF THE toPICS’ MEDIA ECOLOGY 

Write a Research Question

Writing your a research question should begin with a current issue you have identified and some invention exercises.

Once you have worked through some pre-researching and writing, generate a list of questions. What do you know, for sure, that you do not know?  At this point, conduct some informal pre-researching online and in the library databases to learn what the public discourse is saying about that issue.  Once you have a little more information and have ascertained that sufficient information and resources are available to research the issue in depth, proceed with developing your research questions. As you learned in Chapter 3, a good research question should begin with a “How,” “In what way?,”or “Why?” question.

At this point, please return to Chapter 3  to 3.3.3 and 3.3.4 and follow the process for developing your research question and keyword research strings.

As you being researching, another useful process for understanding your topic as it is discussed in public discourse and research material is to perform a media ecology assessment. What kind of source material is available? Is the topic getting a lot of attention right now? What is going on?  The assignment below will help you see a full range of the media ecosystem in which your topic is discussed (or not!).


Assignment for Discussion Board Post or Small Group Sharing


  1. To understand the realm of information surrounding your topic.
  2. To broaden your scope of how information systems from various mediums

Quote to Chew On

“Media ecology is distinct from communication studies proper in its focus on the integration, interdependence, and dynamism of media and technology in human affairs. It assumes that the symbol systems and technologies people use to think with, communicate, and represent our experiences play an integral role in how we create and understand reality.” (Milberry, “Media Ecology,” Oxford Bibliographies, 2016).

Post Description

Consider what you know about the media ecology surrounding your topic. (Read the complete introduction defining and describing the term “media ecology” (Links to an external site.) on Oxford Bibliographies.) In order to get an idea of the realm information around your topic, this post assignment asks you to post your research question, then state the kinds of information from different types of media sources across a wide assortment of disciplines.

Assignment Structure

  1. RESEARCH QUESTION: Write out your current research question.
  2. Go to Google News and search your issue. List three articles that offer current information relevant to your topic (author, article title, article venue, date) with a brief description.
  3. List the title of two academic journals in which recent articles on your topic are likely to be found. (Use Academic Search Premier db and/or Google Scholar (Links to an external site.) to identify the title of the journal. You can always search the title on Wikipedia which will tell you more about that journal.)
  4. List the title of two books written in the last five years with the authors’ names/credibility that address your topic (you can use e-book databases, the library catalog, etc.).
  5. Search the Credo Database and the Gale Reference database and list two specific reference articles (use the Works Cited bib) about your topic. Also state what disciplines are represented in/associated with the article.
  6. List two Twitter accounts (@so and so with the account title) in which this topic is dominant. Next to each Twitter account, explain who the account holder is (establish ethos) and what you think their perspective is.
  7. List two Podcasts (title and name of key podcaster) in which this topic is dominant. Next to each Podcast title, explain who the account holder is (establish ethos).
  8. List two blogs with their titles and authors where an informed discussion on your topic is taking place. (You can also go to other channels such as Reddit, but keep in mind that we are looking for expertise in the contributors that you can defend.)
  9. List the title and the URL of two resource pages from a government source (.gov) where a researcher might find more information related to your topic.
  10. List the title and description of at least two films, documentaries, pieces of music, art, or other creative venue in which your issue is a topic.

WRITE A REFLECTION PARAGRAPH: After you have completed this pre-research assignment, write a paragraph or two reflection on this exercise. What did you learn? What did you notice about the media ecology around your issue? Does the issue have public resonance? Does the issue cross several disciplinary areas? Do you believe a further investigation of this issue is warranted? Why? How might you narrow your issue or change your research question/s?

4.4.2 Create a Working Thesis

If you have created a strong series of research questions, your answers to those questions should help generate your thesis. Because a project like this is complex, you probably have two major research questions: one to build the argument supported by reasons and evidence that some action, plan or policy must be implemented. The second research question is probably more focused on finding solutions. Typically, the question “Who/what organization should do what and why?” will help you generate a solid proposal argument thesis statement.

Example: Proposal Argument Thesis Statements

Practical Argument: Social media companies should develop artificial intelligence filters and personalized messaging to help endusers restrict themselves from the exposure to unrealistic images and marketing portraying “ideal” body types in order to prevent the development of significant mental and physical health disorders.

Policy: In order to prevent the weaponization of space, governments across the world must develop and agree on a policy in line with the principles of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (OST) and the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space Treaty, The Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT).

4.4.3 Plan and Propose Your Solution proposal Argument


Identify and select a current major issue, define or frame the problem, and present feasible solutions, policies, or approaches to solve and/or at least reduce the impact of the problem in a well-developed academic essay. Follow MLA guidelines for the essay format, citations and Work Cited.

Where to begin: Research a current societal, scientific, legal, medical, political, environmental, cultural, or other significant issue. The issues can be local, national, or global in scope, but should be narrowed to a specific issue within the larger issue once you have thoroughly researched it. Learn about the background history of how the issue evolved over time and identify the issue’s relevant causes and effects. As you review the relevant research on the narrowed topic, begin to explore current solutions. What actions have stakeholders taken to address the problem? Why hasn’t the problem been solved by the stakeholders? You will discover your original solutions or approaches to the problem by critiquing the current solutions and approaches. Look for gaps – what is NOT being done that could be done. Consider solutions from other fields that have helped address similar problems. “Think out of the box,” as the cliché goes.

General Writing Criteria:

  • Use MLA format; Include in-text citations and Works Cited page (both REQUIRED for credit).
  • Write in a formal, academic tone using “academic register” (write in third person using formal diction, specific word choice (diction), no clichés, and no slang).
  • Carefully revise and edit – Writing Center is open through the last day of classes. After that, contact me for Monday and Tuesday appointments.
  • Follow the outline organizational structure provided.
  • Write clear, grammatically correct thesis and section topic sentences.
  • Support your claims with 8-12 credible, relevant, carefully evaluated sources (database articles, well-chosen web articles, credible media sources).
  • Cite from a minimum of three (3) library database sources.
  • Make sure each body section / discussion point features a topic sentence and relevant cited evidence from 2-4 sources, blended coherently.
  • Use transitional words and phrases to guide the reader as you develop and support your argument.
  • Apply the feasibility heuristic* to your solutions – make sure you solutions would pass!
    • Is it doable? What would it take to implement the solution?
    • Is it worth doing? What does a cost/benefit analysis reveal about the feasibility of the solution?
    • Would it work? How do you know?

Revising Your Written Argument

Seek Feedback and Revise at Several Points Along the way.

  • Peer feedback
  • Writing Center tutors
  • Instructor Coaching
  • How to seek feedback

4.4.5 Compose Digital Projects to Develop and Share Your Argument

Digital Literacy and Real World Applications

By conducting one or more digital projects during the proposal solution process, you can engage with your topic more deeply while educating and seeking feedback from your peers. Two digital projects to consider during the proposal solution paper process are the Explainer Video and the Infographic.  These two forms of  digital communication are very popular in the business world and in organizations as a means of efficiently and effectively connecting with their clients and end consumers or to general public awareness.

Explainer Video Project

Prompts: Create an explainer video in which you communicate the seriousness of a problem so that your viewer will recognize its exigence. OR, create an explainer video in which you “sell” your solution as being the best approach to solving the problem. If you make the video at the beginning of the problem after you do your initial research, then making a video to create a sense of exigence and a call to action could help you connect to the topic and gather feedback from your audience. If you are creating the video while you write the paper or afterwards, then creating a pitch explainer video is a better choice.

An “explainer video” is a short video of less than two minutes that quickly communicate and pitch a service or product.

Here are two popular explainer videos to give you the idea. One features humans and the other animation. Obviously, you might do something like create a video starring yourself or your peers, integrate Google slides, home made memes, and/or basic animations. Every though you are not selling a product or service, what you are doing is providing background information on your solution proposal topic that generates exigence, that communicates that something must be done. Or, you are explaining and “selling” your solution to the problem. Doing either in two minutes will be a challenge, but a fun one! “Email Does Not Have to Suck.” Youtube, 5 Nov. 2015,


Video Citation: “What is Airbnb? Travel Tips.” Youtube, Airbnb, 24 Nov. 2014,

Vyond offers examples and gives tips on creating explainer videos that will help you develop your explainer video.  This project does not have to be complicated or sophisticated, but it does have to display rhetoric at work.

Infographic Project

Prompt: Use a tool such as Piktochart to create an infographic that provides compelling information leading to call to action that your problem must be solved or that your solutions must be implemented. An infographic has to be highly visual and easy to ready at a distance.  Piktochart’s website offers videos and helpful documentation.

4.5 Chapter Conclusion

Key Takeaways

  • Analyzing arguments using comparison and synthesis is an effective way to learn about and more deeply understand arguments.
  • Arguments come in many genres including the Aristotelian argument, the Rogerian Argument, the Toulmin Argument, and Proposal Argument to name a few.
  • Evidence and rhetoric work together to achieve effective rhetorical appeals.
  • Evidence must connect with the audience’s wants, needs, values, and/or expectations through a warrant (or set of assumptions) the audience can understand and relate to your claim.
  • Working with your topic, research and arguments in different digital modalities provide a platform for publicly sharing your ideas and eliciting feedback.

Works Cited or Integrated

Bowers, Heather Hopkins, Ruggiero, Anthony, and Jason Saphara. “Argument Genres.” in Writing and Rhetoric, Colorado State University, Pueblo. Licensed CC-BY 4.0.

“Carl Rogers.” Wikipedia. n.d.,

“Chapter 4: Making Mistakes in Reasoning.”  Introduction to Ethics,  Lumen Learning, n.d., License: Public Domain: No Known Copyright

Connors, Valerie Bronstein. “How to write a Rogerian structured essay with a delayed thesis and common ground.”  YouTube, 25 Nov, 2019,

Devries, Kirsten. “Chapter 3 Argument.” Critical Reading, Critical Writing: A Handbook to Understanding College Composition, Howard Community College (MD), License CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Gomez, Manuela A. “Chapter 4: Making Mistakes in Reasoning.”  Introduction to Ethics,  Lumen Learning, n.d.,

Hillocks, George. “Teaching Argument.” English Journal,   p. 26.

“Humanist Psychology.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 May. 2020,

Medina, Jennifer. “Arizona G.O.P. Passes Law to Limit Distribution of Mail Ballots.” Arizona Republic,  11 May 2021,

Veach, Grace. Teaching​ Information Literacy and Writing Studies : Volume 1,  First Year Composition Courses. Purdue University Press, 2019. Print.

Veach, Grace. Teaching​ Information Literacy and Writing Studies : Volume 2, Upper-Level and Graduate Courses. Purdue University Press, 2019. EBSCOhost,

Zickel, Emilie. “Basic Argument Components.” English 102: Reading, Research and Writing, 2017, This book is licensed under a Creative Commons as CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. by Emilie Zickel. It is an adaptation of About Writing: A Guide by Robin Jeffrey, which is licensed as CC-BY 4.0. “Email Does Not Have to Suck.” Youtube, 5 Nov. 2015,

Vyond Team. “What Is An Explainer Video? (Plus 5 Great Examples).” Vyond,

“What is Airbnb? Travel Tips.” Youtube, Airbnb, 24 Nov. 2014,




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