Much of the writing we do at the college level is argument. An academic argument can be defined, simply, as a claim (opinion), supported by reasons and evidence, written in order to persuade someone. You write an argument in the form of a cover letter to persuade your potential employer to hire you. You make an argument in the form of a speech to your
parents to persuade them to let you borrow their car. You write an argument in the form of an e-mail to your professor to persuade her to accept your late homework (good luck!).
A successful argument, then, will generally do the following things:
A good argument needs to have a claim, reasons, and evidence, but those pieces also have to make sense logically. They have to be used well. Here’s an example.
Claim: I think it will rain tomorrow
Reason: because that’s what the weather forecast said.
Evidence: The meteorologist on Channel 5 said there is 85% chance of showers in
the afternoon tomorrow.
If the reason is relevant to the claim, then the claim is warranted:
Example: I think it will rain tomorrow because that’s what the weather forecast said.
Here the assumption is that the weather forecast is a good place to learn about whether or not it will rain. But if the reason is not relevant to the claim, then the claim is unwarranted: I think it will rain tomorrow because I burned my toast.
We don’t agree with the assumption that burning toast has anything to do with whether or not it will rain. So we don’t think this argument is a good one.
The handout below provides an overview of a typical way to organize your argument essay.