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Organizing Your Argument

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1 Organizing Your Argument
Rationale: Welcome to “Organizing Your Argument.” This presentation is designed to introduce your students to the elements of an organized essay, including the introduction, the thesis, body paragraphs, topic sentences, counterarguments, and the conclusion. The twenty-one slides presented here are designed to aid the facilitator in an interactive presentation about constructing a well-organized argument. This presentation is ideal for the introduction of argument to a composition course, the beginning of a research unit, or the assignment of a written argument. This presentation may be supplemented with OWL handouts, including “Developing an Outline” (, and “The Paragraph” ( Directions: Each slide is activated by a single mouse click, unless otherwise noted in bold at the bottom of each notes page. Writer and Designer: Jennifer Liethen Kunka Contributors: Muriel Harris, Karen Bishop, Bryan Kopp, Matthew Mooney, David Neyhart, and Andrew Kunka Developed with resources courtesy of the Purdue University Writing Lab Grant funding courtesy of the Multimedia Instructional Development Center at Purdue University © Copyright Purdue University, 2000. A presentation brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab Purdue University Writing Lab

2 What is an argument? An argument involves the process of establishing a claim and then proving it with the use of logical reasoning, examples, and research. Activity: This slide offers a definition of the term “argument.” The facilitator may invite the audience to offer answers to the title question. Students often assume that building an argument is simply a confrontational activity designed to denigrate the opposition’s position. The facilitator may choose to explain to students that the focus of a strong argument should be upon a cohesive explanation of claims effectively paired with correlating evidence. Click mouse to reveal the answer to the question. Purdue University Writing Lab

3 Why is organization important in building an argument?
Guides an audience through your reasoning process Offers a clear explanation of each argued point Demonstrates the credibility of the writer Key Concept: Organization is an important component in any argument. Not only does a clear sense of organization guide the reader through the reasoning process, but it also demonstrates the credibility of the writer--that the writer has a clear conception of the issues involved and has the ability to offer a well-crafted response to the topic. An argument that has a confusing organization--that jumps from point to point without establishing connections between topics--is less likely to be convincing to its audience. Click to reveal each item. Purdue University Writing Lab

4 Organizing your argument
Title Introduction Thesis statement Body Paragraphs Constructing Topic Sentences Building Main Points Countering the Opposition Conclusion Rationale: This slide illustrates the topics covered in this presentation, as well as the ordering of the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion within an argument. Purdue University Writing Lab

5 Title--why do you need one?
Introduces the topic of discussion to the audience Generates reader interest in the argument Key Concept: The title is often an overlooked component in the development of arguments. Indeed, the title provides the first words the audience encounters upon reading the paper. The title should introduce the topic of the argument as well as generate interest in reading the argument. Click to reveal each listed item. Purdue University Writing Lab

6 Creating a Title Try to grab attention by
offering a provocative image picking up on words or examples offered in the body or conclusion of the paper asking a question Avoid titles that are too general or lack character Key Concepts: This slide offers suggestions for creating a title that builds upon the topics discussed within a paper. A brief, provocative image can invite the reader to find out more about the topic. Picking up on significant words or phrases offered throughout the paper can contribute to a sense of unity within the argument. Asking a question can also provoke a response from the reader; however, students should be aware that such questions should be answered within the course of the argument. Unanswered questions can indicate a weakness in the argument of the topic. Titles that are too general or lack character do not invite the reader to delve into the first paragraph and begin reading. Purdue University Writing Lab

7 Road Rage: Curing Our Highway Epidemic
Considering Titles Imagine you just wrote a paper offering solutions to the problem of road rage. Which do you consider to be the best title? Road Rage Can’t Drive 55 Road Rage: Curing Our Highway Epidemic Activity: The facilitator may have students consider which title for a paper on road rage is the most effective. “Road Rage” provides little to entice the reader, though it does introduce the topic. “Can’t Drive 55,” while offering an interesting image, would better fit a paper on the speed limit than on road rage, which is defined by more than speeding. Also, “Can’t Drive 55” is unoriginal (a title from a popular Sammy Hagar song). The third choice is the best selection here: it both introduces the topic and provides an interesting analogy to describe the seriousness of the problem. Purdue University Writing Lab

8 What is an introduction?
Acquaints the reader with the topic and purpose of the paper Generates the audience’s interest in the topic Offers a plan for the ensuing argument Key Concept: The introduction continues upon the tasks of the title--it both introduces the topic and generates audience interest in reading the entire paper. The introduction also indicates the purpose of the paper--to inform, persuade, call to action, etc.--as well as offers a plan for the ensuing argument. Click mouse to reveal answers to questions. Purdue University Writing Lab

9 Methods for Constructing an Introduction
personal anecdote example-real or hypothetical question quotation shocking statistics striking image Activity: The facilitator may ask students about effective methods for beginning an introduction, and then reveal responses by clicking the mouse. Key Concepts: A personal anecdote illustrates the writer’s involvement within the topic, as well as moves the topic from the abstract to the real. Examples, both real (have happened) and hypothetical (have the potential to happen) can also help to illustrate the problem. Posing an interesting question can also generate reader interest; however, the question should be answered within the course of the paper. A quotation can provide a branch for discussion. Quotations, however, should be made relevant to the topic of the paper. An explanation of shocking statistics or the presentation of a striking image can also invite the audience to continue reading the paper. Click mouse to reveal each listed item. Purdue University Writing Lab

10 What is a thesis statement?
The MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCE in your paper Lets the reader know the main idea of the paper Answers the question: “What am I trying to prove?” Not a factual statement, but a claim that has to be proven throughout the paper Key Concept: A definition of a thesis statement is offered in this slide. The facilitator may choose to emphasize to students the difference between a claim that has to be proven and a statement of fact. Click mouse to reveal answers to the question. Purdue University Writing Lab

11 Role of the thesis statement
The thesis statement should guide your reader through your argument. The thesis statement is generally located in the introduction of the paper. A thesis statement may also be located within the body of the paper or in the conclusion, depending upon the purpose or argument of the paper. Key Concept: This slide discusses the role of the thesis statement in the paper. Thesis statements are often located in the introduction, thereby setting up for the reader the claims of the argument. However, theses may also be located in the body paragraphs or in the conclusion, depending upon the writer’s purpose, audience, topic, and mode of argument. Activity: Additionally, the facilitator may also wish at this point to discuss strategies for constructing a thesis statement for a current class assignment. Purdue University Writing Lab

12 Which thesis statement is the most effective for an argument about the need for V-chips in television sets? Parents, often too busy to watch television shows with their families, can monitor their children’s viewing habits with the aid of the V-chip. To help parents monitor their children’s viewing habits, the V-chip should be a required feature for television sets sold in the U.S. This paper will describe a V-chip and examine the uses of the V-chip in American-made television sets. Activity: The facilitator may ask students to identify the most effective thesis statement from the three listed examples. The first example, while a well-phrased informative sentence, offers a factual statement rather than an argumentative claim that needs to be proven. The third example also fails to provide an effective claim about the value of the V-chip. The second example is the strongest argumentative thesis; it clearly articulates the writer’s position on the issue and suggests that the writer will proceed to prove this claim throughout the rest of the paper. Purdue University Writing Lab

13 Body Paragraphs and Topic Sentences
Body paragraphs build upon the claims made in the introductory paragraph(s) Organize with the use of topic. sentences that illustrate the main idea of each paragraph. Offering a brief explanation of the history or recent developments in your topic within the early body paragraphs can help the audience to become familiarized with your topic and the complexity of the issue. Key Concepts: This slide explains the function of body paragraphs within an argument-to continue proving the claim posited in the thesis statement. Clearly stated topic sentences within each paragraph can help writers to focus their arguments around their thesis statements. The facilitator may also suggest that students offer a synopsis of the topic, including the history of the issue and recent changes in current events that affect the topic. Purdue University Writing Lab

14 Body Paragraphs Paragraphs may be ordered in several ways, depending upon the topic and purpose of your argument: General to specific information Most important point to least important point Weakest claim to strongest claim Key Concepts: Body paragraphs may be ordered in various patterns, depending upon the purpose, audience, and topic of the argument. This slide offers participants options for organizing their work. Activity: The facilitator may choose to offer suggestions on organizing patterns for a current argumentative assignment. Purdue University Writing Lab

15 Offering a Counterargument
Addressing the claims of the opposition is an important component in building a convincing argument. It demonstrates your credibility as a writer--you have researched multiple sides of the argument and have come to an informed decision. Key Concepts: Concerned with asserting the importance of their own claims, writers sometimes overlook the importance of considering the views of the opposition within their own arguments. Countering oppositional claims demonstrates to the audience that the writer has carefully considered multiple components of the issue and has reached an educated decision. If a writer finds that the opposition cannot be countered effectively, he or she may need to reevaluate his or her own opinions and claims about the argument. Purdue University Writing Lab

16 Offering a Counterargument
Counterarguments may be located at various locations within your body paragraphs. You may choose to build each of your main points as a contrast to oppositional claims. offer a counterargument after you have articulated your main claims. Key Concept: Counterarguments may be located at various points within a paper. It is important, however, that the writer offer a convincing response to the claims of the opposition. Activity: The facilitator may choose to offer specific tips to students about counterarguing in a current argumentative assignment. Purdue University Writing Lab

17 Counterarguing effectively
Consider your audience when you offer your counterargument. Conceding to some of your opposition’s concerns can demonstrate respect for their opinions. Remain tactful yet firm. Using rude or deprecating language can cause your audience to reject your position without carefully considering your claims. Key Concepts: This slide suggests the importance of considering the audience in offering a counterargument. If a writer is trying to argue about the dangers of second-hand smoke to a group of smokers, the writer needs to offer his or her opinion in such a way that the opposition can see the rationality of his or her claims. If the writer instead chooses to rant about how much he or she dislikes smokers, it is doubtful that the audience will feel any sympathy with the argued position and will reject the argument. The facilitator may choose to emphasize that tact and audience consideration are very important elements of effective counterarguments. Purdue University Writing Lab

18 Incorporating research into the body paragraphs
Researched material can aid you in proving the claims of your argument and disproving oppositional claims. Be sure to use your research to support the claims made in your topic sentences--make your research work to prove your argument! Key Concepts: Writers sometimes fall into the trap of letting research material overwhelm the paper, rather than using sources to prove their own argumentative claims. It is important to be selective when using source material; just because a source may relate to your topic does not mean it will necessarily be useful or relevant to proving your claims. Offering clear topic sentences that articulate claims relating to the thesis can be a useful strategy for offering a frame to researched material. Sources can then be used to back the claim provided in the topic sentence. Purdue University Writing Lab

19 Conclusion -- The Big Finale
Your conclusion should reemphasize the main points made in your paper. You may choose to reiterate a call to action or speculate on the future of your topic, when appropriate. Avoid raising new claims in your conclusion. Key Concepts: The conclusion is also an important paragraph in a paper--it provides the last words that a writer will present to his or her audience. Therefore, it should have a lasting impact. The conclusion should work to reemphasize the main claims of the argument, articulating the importance of the argued position and, when appropriate, the reader’s need to take action on the issue. Writers should also avoid raising new claims in concluding paragraphs--there is no more room to argue points comprehensively or convincingly. Such new points would be better repositioned within the body paragraphs. Click to reveal each point. Purdue University Writing Lab

20 Organizing your argument
Title Introduction Body Paragraphs Constructing Topic Sentences Building Main Points Countering the Opposition Conclusion Rationale: This slide reemphasizes the main points covered in this presentation. Activity: The facilitator may at this time choose to field questions about the organization of an argument. Purdue University Writing Lab

21 Where can you go for additional help with organizing your argument?
Purdue University Writing Lab Heavilon 226 Grammar Hotline: (765) Check our web site: brief questions: Rationale: As the presentation concludes, the facilitator can remind students that they can come to the Writing Lab for extra help with organizing their arguments. Click mouse after the title question. Purdue University Writing Lab Purdue University Writing Lab

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