Argument Writing: Concepts and Terms

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1 Argument Writing: Concepts and Terms Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than her/his opinions or arguments. Example: "Who cares if the French oppose invading Iraq; they haven't won a war in centuries!" Ad populum: This is an emotional appeal that speaks to positive (such as patriotism, religion, democracy) or negative (such as terrorism or fascism) concepts rather than the real issue at hand. Example: "Sony. Ask anyone." Analogy: an extended comparison between that which is unfamiliar to something familiar for the purpose of illuminating the unfamiliar. Appealing to Authority: Invoking authority as the last word. Appealing to Emotion: Using emotion as proof. Appealing to Force: Using threats to establish the validity of the claim. Appeals: Resources writers draw on to connect and persuade readers (i.e. ethos, pathos, logos). Arguing from Ignorance: Arguing that a claim is justified because its opposite cannot be proved. Argument: A mode of writing intended to win the reader s agreement. An element of discussion and deliberation, activities that suggest group inquiry and a combined effort to arrive at deeper understanding, stronger resolution, and better decisions. Differs from persuasion by the fact that its goal is to discover truth versus changing someone s point of view. Argument of Policy: A series of argument to persuade the reader to take a specific action to eliminate or ameliorate a problem related to policy (i.e. city council, Congress, editorial). Participants may agree there is a problem, they disagree about the action to take. Assumption: a belief accepted as true and on which other claims are based.

2 Authority: knowledgeable about subject Background: information a writer provides to create the context for an argument. Backing: the evidence provided to support a warrant. Bandwagon: An everyone else is doing it appeal. Begging the Question: Making a claim and producing arguments that do not support the claim. It directly presumes the conclusion which is at question in the first place. This can also be known as a Circular Argument. Example: Paranormal phenomena exist because I have had experiences that can only be described as paranormal. Call for Action: An effective call for action shows that there are problems significant enough to warrant the change, even if that change causes inconvenience and costs money. Causal Argument: An argument that explains the effects of a cause or the cause of an effect. Ceremonial Argument: Addresses questions of praise and blame (i.e. grad speech or eulogy). Circular Argument: This restates the argument rather than actually proving it. Claim: This is another word for thesis or proposition. It answers the question: What point will this paper try to make? or What opinion is this author defending? Connotation: Associations that extend beyond the literal. Context: the entire situation in which the writing takes place (purpose, audience, influences). Conviction: belief that a claim is reasonable.

3 Contradiction: Presenting information that contradicts a claim. Counterclaim: The opposing position to the argument s claim. Criterion: the standards in evaluative arguments by which everything is measured to determine quality or value. Deductive: A process through which the claims provide conclusive proof for the conclusion. This method of reasoning goes from general to particular. Either/or Reasoning: Making an assumption that a reality can only be divided in two parts or extremes. Enthymeme: Pattern of rhetorical reasoning in a text that links a claim to a supporting reason. Cousin to the syllogism, but differs in two ways: (1) starting point is an assumption that the writer presumes the audience accepts and that the writer can build upon, (2) Because the writer presumes that the audience believes and accepts the assumption, that part of the argument is frequently not stated directly or explicitly. Example: All those who are equally responsible by law for their actions should receive equal rights under the law (this may not be universally accepted). Sojourner Truth has been called upon to take responsibility for her actions. Therefore, Sojourner Truth should receive the same rights as men do under the law. Epistemology: The branch of philosophy concerned with the limitations of knowledge. It addresses the questions: What is knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? How do we know what we know? Focus is on analyzing knowledge and how it relates to truth, belief, and skepticism about different knowledge claims. Equivocation: fallacy in which a lie is misrepresented as truth. Ethos: An appeal to ethics through competence and reliability. It is the self-image a writer creates to define a relationship with readers through authority or credibility. Evading the Issue: Talking around the issue rather than addressing it. Evidence and Reasons: Something that furnishes proof. The factual basis for an argument. Supports both the warrant and the claim. May include personal experience, anecdotes, facts, or authorities.

4 Example: Writer provides instances of a general idea. Fact Argument: An argument in which the claim can be proven with evidence or testimony. Fallacies: Errors in reasoning. False Analogy: Comparing unmatched elements. False Cause: Crediting an effect to a cause without evidence. Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. Gray: The complexity of the issue in an argument resides in the gray areas. If you reduce an argument to black and white or right and wrong, you only have a position. You cannot take a dogmatic stance or you risk showing that you don t understand the issue. Grounds: The evidence used to support a claim. Hasty Generalization: Drawing a conclusion from too few examples. Ideational Argument Epistemology: Emphasis is on developing ideas and using argument to develop ideas. Focus on classroom discussion and original ideas. Inductive: A process through which the claims provide some basis for the conclusion. This process of reasoning to conclusion looks at members to draw conclusions about an entire class. Inherency: refers to a barrier that keeps a harm from being solved in the status quo. Judgment Argument: An argument on the attribution of a quality or characteristic to a person, group, object, or concept (i.e. Does life begin at conception or only after birth? Can education be separate and still be equal for all?).

5 Line of Argument: strategy used in argumentation such as ethos, pathos, and logos. Logos: An appeal to reason through facts, statistics, quotes, data, etc. Metacommentary: Telling an audience how to interpret something you have said or written. In an argument, it is a way of telling your reader how to think about and process your claims or even how NOT to think about them. In argumentation, you make and support claims, but you also guide the reader in how to think about the evidence and claims. Necessary Reason: A cause that has to be present so an effect will occur. Non sequitar: it does not follow. A conclusion is made that does not follow from the premise. Oversimplification: Supplying a neat and easy explanation for something more complicated. Pathos: An appeal to emotion through vivid language, imagery, and tone. Persuasion: A mode of writing intended to influence people to change their mind or point of view. Potentially, there is a power dynamic in which one person is not aware of the argument. Plain Folks: Using average folks to make an appeal that they are just like us. Poisoning the Well: Overly committed to one position and explaining everything in light of that position. Policy Argument: Arguments that typically make a case to establish, amend, or eliminate rules, procedures, practices, and projects that are believed to affect people s lives. Post hoc: Making the assumption that because B follows A, B was caused by A.

6 Precedents: Past decisions or actions that establish patterns for future actions. Premise: A proposition or assumption that supports a conclusion. Propaganda: Advancing a point of view without reason or truth. Purpose: Your goal in writing the argument (i.e. inform, convince, explore ). Qualifiers: Usually adverbs that modify the verb in the claim or adjectives that modify a key noun (i.e. typically, usually, some, few, sometimes) in order to clarify the claims and protect credibility. Qualifiers are used to place limits on claims. Qualitative: Relies on criteria such as precedent, logic, tradition, and reason. Quantitative: Relies on criteria that can be counted or measured. Reason: A statement that expands the claim by giving evidence in support. Rebuttal: Disarming the opponents argument by disproving the validity of the counterclaim. Red herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them. Usually a detail or remark inserted into a discussion, either intentionally or unintentionally, that sidetracks the discussion. Rhetoric: The art of using language effectively. Rhetorical Analysis: an examination of how the elements of an argument work together to persuade. Rhetorical question: a device of argumentation or persuasion. A question is posed for effect. Its intent is to provoke thought. It is not intended to be answered. Significance of the Evaluation: What is at stake? Why does it deserve attention?

7 Slippery Slope: a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. Example: "We've got to stop them from banning pornography. Once they start banning one form of literature, they will never stop. Next thing you know, they will be burning all the books!" Social Argument Epistemology: Emphasis is on social engagement and interactions among students to encourage involvement in larger, social conversations. Solvency: the effectiveness of the plan in solving the problems of the status quo. Stock Issues: An approach in which one considers the need for change and proposes a solution that will eliminate or significantly reduce the negatives that define the need, after first considering the central policy question. A call for action that would change the status quo is the trigger for the debate. Stance: the writer s attitude toward the topic and the audience. Straw Man: This move oversimplifies an opponent's viewpoint and then attacks that hollow argument. Usually a person simply ignores the person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. Example: "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that." Support: Is evidence and backing. This might be examples, facts and data that aid in proving the claim's validity. Depending on whom your audience is, it may include emotional appeals, quotations from famous people or recognized experts, or statements based on the writer s personal credibility. The support in an argument answers questions about the claim such as How do you know this is true? and What is your opinion based on? Syllogism: A three-step form of reasoning that employs deduction. Major premise that is irrefutable. Minor premise that falls under the general category. Conclusion that logically follows from the major and minor premises. Example: All humans are mortal. Socrates is human. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. Testimony: Personal experience or observation used to support an argument.

8 Textual Argument Epistemology: Emphasis is on terminology and concern for structure and form. Thesis: The central idea in which everything else refers. The writer s point. Time Crunch: Creating the impression that immediate action is needed or the opportunity will be lost. Warranting: The assumption or principle that connects the data to the claim. The statements and facts that justify a belief or action. They may be inferences or assumptions that are taken for granted by the writer (and sometimes by the argument). Warrants connect (conspicuously or inconspicuously) the claim and the support; they derive from our cultural experiences and personal observations. A clear warrant is essential. The warrant is the value that gives your claim the right to exist. It says, you can disagree with my opinion, but know it has merit. It is the underlying principle. Claim: Don t eat that plant. Reason: It s poisonous Warrant: What is poisonous should not be eaten. Hillocks, Jr., G. (2011). Teaching Argument Writing Grades Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Lunsford, A. A., Ruszkiewicz, J. L., & Walters, K. (2007). Everything's an Argument (fourth ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martin's. Newell, G. E., & Bloom, D. (November 18, 2011). What Counts as Argumentative Writing: Constructing Definitions of Argumentative Writing in the High School Language Arts Classroom. Chicago, IL: NCTE Annual Convention. Smagorinsky, P., Johannessen, L. R., Kahn, E. A., & McCann, T. M. (2011). Teaching Students to Write Argument. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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