How to write an Argument
Are you arguing a point with someone? maybe you feel you're starting to loose? Here's my guide to writing an argument with a view to being able to stand your ground if not fight back.
So why did I write it? Well I do read a number of topics in here some are interesting and others are just entertaining but I rarely post because it seems the discussions just end up as shouting matches repeating the same old reterics and getting nowhere so I thought this might help. Most of what is in here is based on my Critical Thinking A-level written from memory, it is not the be all and end all but it is a start. And a bonus for you still at school it should also help you if you want to write better analyses in English class.
This guide will show you some of the things that you will need to do to make a valid logical argument, and pick apart the arguments of others. There is a whole lot more to learn than there is her but if you can follow the ideas here and use them it might be that much easier to persuade someone to your side and once you've mastered this you can move onto more subtle ideas.
Step one: Know your Fallacies
I think this is the most important part of constructing a well written logical argument. If you know your fallacies you can use them to your advantage, and disprove others with nothing more than what they have said.
So what is a Fallacy? Well simply put it's a common mistake that means a well thought argument might have a gaping hole to pull it apart from.
I look at them as though there are 4 main types, Logical fallacies, Statistical fallacies, Extrapolation fallacies and Personal fallacies, but wiki has many more divisions and sub-divisions.
These boil down to a series of steps with an obvious flaw
These tend to be down to a misuse of numbers, or human bias.
All I can say is beware they can be misleading, try to dig to the bottom of the maths and be sceptical when taken out of context. Here giving examples makes this harder to understand
These are attacking an opposing stand by ridiculing it or extending it to silliness.
And finally Personal Fallacies:
These are used to attack evidence and people rather than arguments, sometimes this is a stable place to stand but at other times I recommend you avoid these.
Step two: Get your Evidence Right
If your going to argue in posts I give the following as a way of delivering evidence:
I feel this is the best way of giving evidence, if you can pick out one or two sentences that provide the relevant ideas and allow others to look up the source and read the rest it makes you more credible. I think this because firstly you have read the source carefully and aren't pasting a wall of text or a link for others to look for the relevant bit and secondly you're using a source as it was intended so are not accidentally contradicting yourself by saying one thing but providing counter evidence.Originally Posted by source_name
Example: "*points at bible* it says gay people are bad" Verses "In Leviticus (chapter verse) it says a man who lies with another man should be stoned"
Both of these are bad because I'll look up the a nearby verse, rape is bad but should the girl not choose to marry her rapist she should be stoned to death, how can you justify believing in the first statement whole heartedly and be equally opposed to the second mere verses away.
That said I feel the first is worse because I could point out the new testament preachings of equality and love for all thy neighbours. Where as the person with the book chapter and verse might have a concept of what the rest of the chapter is about and isn't blindly following the ideas others have planted in his head.
So what is good evidence and what is not, well good evidence has multiple sources, if you want to argue a point on psychology one paper is ok but having a dozen studies with the same results is better. Good evidence is also unbiased, if your going to look at news papers ask what does the writer have to gain from the story, the papers will sensationalise stories to get sales. Also understand they might have an agenda so try and balance out far right media with far left media.
It's not good to put all your faith in a single source but some evidence is better than no evidence. Similarly being able to give someone first hand evidence is better than spouting something you've found out third hand, but third hand is better than nothing.
Step three: for the sake of Balance
Always try and think from your opponents view, it'll help you get to a ending position easier.
Example: Some people like white chocolate as it's sweet and creamy however I understand why people might prefer the rich taste of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is also a little bitter and hard, I'm not a fan of bitter tastes which is why I prefer white chocolate.
Here I had a list of facts about peoples thoughts on chocolate and then I added a justification for which side of the line I fall.
You can do the same for any argument if you take your time to think it through once you have that understanding picking the holes in the arguments becomes that much easier. You see where they used fallacies to their advantage and where they slipped up and used them to their peril.
I like to think of good Arguments I've had were like swiss rolls, they started you on a simple premise and were flat, I moulded them into what shape I wanted them to take (rolls it up), and then I deconstructed my own arguments for my opponents (unrolls it), effectively picking holes in my own argument. I then added some new information that let me put my argument back together (like the jam) and I rolled the whole thing back up, and I took it apart again (unrolling), finally I added the last missing piece (the cream) and rolled it back together one last time. This leaves you in a very strong position as you've discussed both sides of the argument almost equally and come down on one side of the fence. You can do this once or over and over and each time will put you in a stronger position because it shows the opposition that the problems in the argument are not insurmountable.
Step Four: Writing the argument
Now your ready to start writing you have evidence a plan of what to say and how it might be attacked, you can put fingers to keyboard. As you write I suggest you follow these tips
If your analysing someone else's work treat it like any other source, pick out single lines not even paragraphs, it strengthens your position, especially if you can use evidence in support of yourself.
Avoid quote wars you're discussing a topic with a group of people, don't turn it into an argument with one person by only quoting them and debunking their work and waiting for them to argue back. If you end up having a discussion that ignores everyone else's opinions because you and someone else are engaged in you quote them, they quote you so you quote them, I suggest you stop quoting. If they're not engaged enough to be part of the discussion as a whole without the quotes they've lost the argument. Quote Wars annoy everyone in a discussion and don't progress the argument if you can't stop quoting at least move it out of threads and into PMs.
Don't repeat just yourself if you've been argued against find new things to say, new evidence and if you need to change your perspective a little. An argument is nothing if not a learning aid.
Remember to PEE in discussions, make a Point, provide some Evidence and then Explain why the evidence proves your point. It'll make the arguments simple to write and easier to follow and once you've got it down you know where fallacies usually turn up (in explanations). Point Evidence Explanation
If things becoming difficult to follow dumb it down and KISS it better. If you can't be concise at least try not to waffle and cloud issues, but at all times think KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Don't get emotional if you're crying at or angry with someone you've let them win take a step back and reread everything and start your argument again it'll help you make a stance that is defensive and strong, ranting or whining doesn't help you.
Avoiding fallacies, while helping others see their own, strengthens your position, so learn them inside and out.
Cite reasonable evidence it gives you credibility.
Be balanced then pick your side it'll help persuade others if they think you've looked at all the facts and then made your decision, even if you actually did it the other way round.
Avoid Quote Wars or at least be considerate enough to move them to private messaging.
Keep refreshing your argument with new stuff, don't stick to the same old stuff repeated in new ways.
Finally remember to PEE, KISS and keep away from emotional arguments
So there you go, that's step one in learning to write an argument, now you need some practice and to go and look up more for yourself. Happy arguing.