To win an argument, you need facts, conviction and direction. An effective argument will convince readers or listeners of your convictions. There are five basic components to create an effective argument. There are ways to strengthen an argument and to find the potential weaknesses of each point before publishing your paper or presenting your argument to an audience.

Tip

The parts of an argument include claims, counterclaims, reasons, evidence, warrant, acknowledgment and response.

Components of an Argument

Simply put, a claim is on what your argument is based upon. It is not a known and accepted argument, such as “the sky is blue.” Instead, it is a statement about which listeners or readers of a formal paper will want to know more and will want to hear your reasons for believing this claim to be true. Counterclaims are rebuttals to a previous claim. Reasons support claims. Evidence backs up your reasons with statistics, facts based on published research and other concrete proof. A warrant is the general principle that connects your reasons to the claim and is generally known by the audience to whom you are presenting your argument. Acknowledgment and response are when the reader or audience confronts you with counterclaims or support of the argument.

Claim and Counterclaim

Both a claim and counterclaim are needed to present a good argument. A claim is your main point. A formal paper would present a claim as what you believe to be true about a specific subject or topic. Your knowledge and research back up your claim. An opinion is weak, whereas a claim is strong with support from other sources. A counterclaim is the opposite thought about the claim. For instance, if the argument is that fruit is healthy, the counterclaim could be that the sugar content in fruit makes the food group unhealthy. Counterclaims must be provable and supported by reasons and evidence. Knowing the counterclaims when you are planning an argument will prepare you to be able to make your argument when it is challenged by a counterclaim.

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Potential Weaknesses and Strengths

For a stronger argument, erase all ambiguity. To do this, you must familiarize yourself with your subject beyond the basic reading or research. Understand the origin and results of the claim that you are making in your argument. A convincing argument is made by someone who shows passion and conviction for the claim and a thorough knowledge of the subject and any related topics.

Understand the opposite positions as well when you form your position on the claim, and you will have a stronger case to present when counterclaims arise. Ensure that all of your evidence is clear and factual. This one area is where many arguments can be torn down by those with counterclaims. To further strengthen your argument, approach the counterclaim before the other side can present their position. If counterclaims to your claim are abundant and obvious, then revealing them from your perspective can strengthen your argument.

Informal Toulmin Method

British philosopher Stephen Toulmin created the informal method of reasoning, which posits that data, claim and warrant make up the grounds of an argument. Each is necessary to support an argument that is well thought out. The grounds are basically the evidence that is used to prove a presenter’s claim. The principle that connects the grounds to the claim is the warrant. All three together are vital to create the rhetorical analysis. An example of the Toulmin method is, “Virginia was born in Washington, D.C., so Virginia must be an American.”

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.