It is easy to get carried away with a passionate defense of a point of view, neglecting sometimes to ground the argument in reliable premises and evidence. Building a strong arguments means offering a “set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion” (Weston, 2009, p. xi). The elements of an argument, in simple terms, are: a claim (what the writer hopes to prove or the primary intent/focus of the paper), reasons for making the claim, evidence to support the reasons, and warrants (or connections) which explain why the reasons and evidence are relevant to the claim.
While the basic premise seems simple, actually adhering to this structure when developing an extended argument, such as in a dissertation or long academic paper, is not always easy. It takes some discipline to guide an argument to a reliable conclusion. Paying critical attention to the elements which create a strong argument provides two benefits. First, as Booth (2009) notes, it helps us as writers better grasp our research material and avoid wasted time during the actual writing process. By mapping out an argument, we can help assess the quality and strength of each element from claim to reasons and evidence to the warrants that underscore the relevance between the claim and reasoning. When we are ready to compose the paper, it would, hopefully, be an easier process than launching into the writing without preparation. In other words, the better we plan arguments upfront, the more efficient the writing process from initial research to the finished paper. The claim, stated clearly and backed by reasons, evidence and warrants also act as an outline for the paper.
Second, solidly constructed arguments help the reader follow the line of thinking all the way to the conclusion; a well-formed argument makes for “better” reading. Try using the attached handout as a guide to creating an argument for your next paper.
Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (2008). The craft of research (3rd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Weston, A. (2009). A rulebook for arguments (4th ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.