Argumentative & Analytical Essays
Argumentative essays are a particular sort, combing Aristotelian philosophy with modern ideas. The art of argumentation is not an easy skill to acquire. Many students believe that if one has an idea or opinion, one can argue it effectively. The student is surprised when others don't agree because the argument seems so effective. Student writers of argumentation often forget that the main goal is to persuade the reader to accept their argument without protest. Name calling is simple, ignoring the research of others, and easier still to accept one's own argument as fact, even if the writer has not corroborated or verified her research, or often true of first-year student writers, never questioned beliefs inherited from others.
If you want to know what you think, write an argumentative essay. One of the first things you discover is that you must become an expert on the issue. No matter how strongly you feel about a position, don’t insist upon making an unwinnable argument. If you are assigned a topic upon which you must take a position and persuade and prove your position, beware of those issues that are generally improvable: the rightness of the death penalty, global warming, the existence of ghosts or human spirits, the date of birth of Jesus of Nazareth. If you read one side, read the other. Too many students only read the side that they already believe in. The mentioned issues cannot be won for good reason: each touches on matters of faith and beliefs that for many people are unshakable and deeply private.
As a lawyer, I made sure that I fully understood the legal support for my opponents case and arguments, at least as well as they did, if not better. If the opposing lawyer wanted to put a specific expert on the witness stand to testify in her client’s case, I investigated and researched the expert until I knew more than my opponent did about the expert. In many cases, this enabled me to reveal things about the expert that destroyed his credibility, seriously harming the credibility of the entire case of my opponent and not just the expert. For example, I knew an expert had a felony conviction within the relevant past and had been issued his license to practice only on probation for his first five years of practice. When I asked the expert at trial, in front of a jury, if he had ever been convicted of a felony crime, his reply was “No.” He mistakenly believed that because eleven years previously he persuaded a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, the penalties for the felony conviction did not apply. Felony penalties attach even if the conviction is deemed an infraction. I confronted him with certified copies of his conviction and asked the court to admonish him about the legal penalty for perjury and remind him that the penalties remained attached, and he turned very red but answered that he had been convicted of a felony. The jury thought he was a liar and a criminal, both of which was true. I asked them to disregard his testimony and they did, leaving the plaintiff with no expert medical witness to prove his case. The jury awarded him nothing.
Features of Analytical Argumentation
Create a clear analysis before adding argumentation. You need to understand the meaning of the text and interpret it, adding your unique ideas about the relationship between the parts of the text, before you can add argumentation. This type of essay is not the same as a philosophy course argumentative essay.
Within your analysis of a text, state your argument clearly and firmly but without adjectives and adverbs or insisting that your position is right. In your thesis sentence(s), be clear expressing your argument. Using the first person weakens an argument. Avoid equivocating in your thesis.
Make your argument convincing. An argument must be supported by factual or textual evidence that convinces readers. The student writer of an analytical argumentative essay should seek to use scholarly sources use them fairly. Do not use partial quotations out of context or inaccurately paraphrase an author simply because you want to think the scholar’s work should support your position.
Be rational and sensible. If your reader becomes immediately skeptical of your argument, there may be a flaw in your reasoning. Review your reasoning to see that it shows fairness and rational deduction. If you foresee counter-arguments or objections to your argument, you can make those part of your essay and defeat opposition before it rears up to bite you.
Don’t use words for which you don’t have a firm grasp. Misused words can be enormously counter-productive, regardless of your best intentions, if your reader has a superior vocabulary and superior abilities at argument. If you aren’t sure about a word or its usage, look it up on the Oxford English Diction.
Argumentative and Analytical Research Papers
Our professor selects the text which you will analyze and in which you are to find issues upon which you can base arguments. This will not be an “argumentative essay,” per se, because you are not choosing a topic which will then be the subject of argument.
Begin your library research. Start with the card catalogue or computer subject headings. Use the periodical index. Review books (this does not mean to read book reviews) for chapters applicable to your research. Study the bibliographies in articles or in or on the back of the books. Oftentimes, the very best sources are found this way. Make a copy (at least relevant pages) of the works you might use. This will save you time later, should you need to return to the library. This will prevent you from returning to sources you've already checked.
Write the outline (review it), rough draft (revise it), and the final paper (then revise it). Revise for everything, from punctuation to ideas.
List of Words Important to the Pedagogy of Teaching &
How to Write an Analytical Argumentative Essay
You are writing a full explanation of the problem and arguing for your viewpoint to be accepted. Work in your own interview and questionnaire in the body of the paper where they make the most sense. Once your paper has been written, check every quotation in it for accuracy. Your instructor may require that every quotation or paraphrased source be photocopied and included when you hand in your essay. All quoted or paraphrased lines should be highlighted or underlined on the copy.
- Ad hoc—a specific action taken to address a specific problem. It can also refer to something (like a speech) that is improvised or impromptu—i.e., created for the moment.
- Ambiguity—refers to a claim’s having more than one interpretation, or an argument that is unclear. Ambiguity can be either intentional or unintentional, depending on whether or not the author is trying to keep certain information away from his audience. Although ambiguity has been used as a rhetorical device, it should generally be avoided in argumentative essays.
- Analogy—in the art of argumentation, analogy is a method of reasoning based on comparisons wherein, by comparing two or more things that are alike in several respects, an author explains or clarifies some unfamiliar or difficult idea by showing how it is similar to a more familiar one. Analogies can be literal or figurative. A literal analogy compares two items or ideas that are similar in their most basic aspects and equal in value. A figurative analogy, on the other hand,
compares ideas that are not similar and are not equal in value.
- Analyze—the close examination of an argument in order to uncover its essential feature(s) or meaning(s), or to highlight its strengths and weaknesses.
- Appeal—in rhetoric, an appeal is a persuasive strategy, and there are three types used in a arguments to support claims, or respond to opposing arguments: logos (logic), ethos (credibility), and pathos (sympathy). Good arguments will generally use a combination of all three appeals to make its case, but not always.
- Argument (Argue)—in an argumentative essay, this is the basic premise that the essay is written to prove—in fact, a thesis is often a brief explanation of an essay’s argument. When one argues a particular point, he or she uses inductive
and/or deductive reasoning to develop or support a particular claim.
- Claim—the main argument or observation made in a piece of writing. Claims may be simple or complex, have one or several parts, or be contingent on certain factors.
- Clarity—in writing, this refers to the intelligibility of language and/or claim.
- Coherence—refers to the quality of a piece of writing in which all the parts contribute to the effective development of a central idea, theme, or argument.
- Connotation/Denotation—Connotation refers to the associations, implications, and attached meanings of a word or phrase, which is different from its literal or dictionary meaning, which is its denotation.
- Counter Example —an illustrated exception to a proposed general rule; or an example that shows that another is not true.
- Counterargument/ Counter-argue—when an author considers a possible argument against his or her own thesis or aspect of reasoning. Because counter-arguing allows an author to anticipate doubts and pre-empt objections that a skeptical reader might have, it is a good way to test ideas during the drafting stage of essay-writing. Counter-arguing can also be effectively used in a finished essay, because it illustrates that the author has comprehensively researched and carefully weighed all alternatives before choosing to argue for one.
- Critical Thinking—purposeful, reflective reasoning and analysis used to explore questions about and solutions to issues, or to form an argument(s). It is also the process of evaluating propositions or hypotheses, and making judgments about them on the basis of well-supported evidence. Critical thinking is used to verify the accuracy and validity of data and evaluate evidence in order to determine the cause or solution of a problem.
- Deductive Reasoning—a form of logic that moves from generalities to specifics; logical reasoning that begins with a general premise, applies it to a certain case, and then draws conclusions about specific situations based on that application. The scientific method, where one conducts an experiment that tests a hypothesis, is a form of deductive reasoning.
- Ethos—the fundamental values and beliefs of a speaker or author; the character or emotions of the writer reflected in the speech or writings. In rhetoric, it is the form of persuasion based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the writer.
- Evaluate—to determine the value of an argument or idea through careful examination.
- Evidence—Facts, observations, or writings by other scholars that are presented in an essay in support of an assertion.
- Example—an illustrative instance that proves a general principle, argument, or thesis statement. See also: evidence.
- Exegesis (Exegetical)—a critical interpretation of a religious text; a close reading in order to determine the meaning of such a text. It can also refer to the explication of literary texts like poetry.
- Fallacy (of logic)—an incorrect conclusion derived from faulty reasoning.
- Generalization—a statement or belief based on a limited amount of information. Although it is one of the most basic forms of inductive reasoning, it should be used sparingly when writing essays.
- Inductive Reasoning —a form of logical reasoning that moves from specifics to generalities; i.e., the formulation of general statements based on observed patterns in data, simple repetition, and/or specific experiences.
- Inference (Infer)—a conclusion derived from specific information; synonymous with deductive reasoning. To infer can also refer to the act or process of deriving a conclusion based only on what one already knows; i.e., to make an assumption
based on personal observation alone.
- Invalidity—the quality referring to an argument whose premises are true, but whose conclusion is false, or does not logically follow the premises.
- Logic—also known as logical reasoning, this is the science of sound reasoning. Based principally on inductive or deductive reasoning, logic is the method by which one examines premises and conclusions, constructs syllogisms, and avoids logical fallacies.
- Logos - the internal consistency and clarity of an argument; it can also refer to a form of persuasion that uses an appeal to logical arguments, thus requiring one to draw one’s own conclusion(s) based upon the argument presented.
- Non-sequitur—Latin phrase meaning “it does not follow.” This term describes a conclusion that is illogically derived from its premise.
- Objection—opposition or protest. In logical reasoning, an objection is a reason arguing against a premise or claim. An objection to an objection is known as a rebuttal. See also: claim, counterargument, premise.
- Objective—an author’s aim; the goal intended to be attained when presenting an argument. See also: argument, claim, proposition, statement.
- Objectivity—a quality in writing characterized by the absence of the author's opinions or feelings about the subject matter; a distanced and unbiased perspective; judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by one’s emotions and/or personal prejudices.
- Pathos—persuasion that uses appeals to an audience’s feelings, values, or emotions; sympathy used to persuade.
- Persuasion—also known as argumentation, persuasion is one of the four modes of discourse (which include description, narration, and exposition) used to persuade an audience of a particular belief and/or to provoke action. Persuasion is a rhetorical technique that enlightens a listener about an alternative point of view; one that appeals to his or her emotions, then attempts to change his or her opinion on a subject. See also: appeal, argument, ethos, pathos, proposition, rhetoric.
- Proposition—the content or meaning of an assertion, which may be taken as being true or false. Also known as a statement, a proposition is to be shown by the use of an argument, and most often serves as an introduction by saying, in effect, what the argument is going to show.
- Rationalize—to defend or explain; to make something rational; to justify. Rationalize can also mean to employ logic or reason; to structure something along systematic lines, or according to scientific principles.
- Redundancy—the presence of more items in a message than the reader or listener needs to understand it. The unnecessary and usually ineffective repetition of a word, phrase, or idea. "He is a kind person and is really nice to others" is an example of a redundant expression. Although some repetition of one’s argument is necessary in crucial parts of an argumentative essay, excessive repetition should be avoided.
- Red Herring—a distracting element that draws attention away from the issue being discussed.
- Refutation—a discrediting of arguments that are contrary to one’s own.
- Straw Man—a false representation; a weak argument (usually a misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument) presented so it can be easily refuted.
- Subjectivity—a quality in writing that is characterized by representations based on an author’s feelings and/or opinions. Subjectivity also refers to the property of perceptions, arguments, and language that is based on a subject's point of view, thus influenced by a particular bias. Subjective writing expresses the author's personal feelings about his subject, and may or may not include factual information.
- Syllogism—a three-part form of deductive reasoning in which two premises (a major and a minor one) lead to a conclusion. For example the argument, “All girls are smart. I am a girl. Ergo, I am smart” is a simple syllogism.
- Synthesis—the combination of ideas into a complex but understandable whole. Sometimes, an instructor may ask a student to work on the synthesis of an argument, and that usually means that the student should make sure that all parts
of the argument, (i.e., the evidence presented, the conclusions drawn from such evidence, organization of discussion, and so forth) are working together to clearly present that argument in the work.
- Validity—a quality (usually used describe deductive arguments) that refers to the degree to which information being used is appropriate, meaningful, and useful.
Beginning with your outline, first outline the essay as if it was to be an analytic essay. As you complete the prewriting steps, be alert for text writer missteps – claims that are unsupported, personal opinion as a statement without supporting facts, argument based upon a fallacy, poor reasoning, irrational ideas, beliefs stated as facts and any other reasoning or concepts that, for some reason, you suspect. Figure out why you suspect it. Where was it said that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope? The Bible – Romans. Where is it said that God helps those who persevere? The Koran.
Writing an essay that requires elements of analysis and argument requires thought about essay structure. An argument may be analytic, e.g., exploratory, or persuasive. Analysis allows the student to identify parts of the text (e.g., an advertisement, personal essay, news article or fiction) to be studied regarding their relationships. There are different forms of claims available in texts:
Claims involving values or judgment – These claims are the sort a student would create and may have been in a text (nonfiction or fiction) and usually involves discussions of a logical, ethical or emotional nature. These are usually the subject of analytic essays. Knowing right from wrong; good from bad; beauty or ugliness; absoluteness or comparisons; and others. What the student thinks and feels is important because each student will make a value judgment about an act, statement, or expression of value, based upon what she thinks and how she feels about the issue or topic. For example, in Sherman Alexie’s “Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” Alexie implies certain judgments about the values maintained by Spokane Indian Native American tribal members. That is why a student would write a claim for an essay stating something to the effect of: “An Indian youth can overcome the tribal expectation of ignorance and illiteracy by exercising his personal desire to learn to read generated by his adoration of his literate father.” This claim poses opposite values against each other: the tribal expectation of ignorance and illiteracy versus personal desire to learn to read.
In Annie Dillard’s “Death of a Moth,” she discusses the unanimous response of her writing class that they wanted to be professional writers by using similes to describe how committed a person must be to become a professional writer. The similes include: a hollow saint, a flame-faced virgin gone before God, a poet who burned his brain out producing a thousand poems, and the shell of a burned building showing a glimpse of shadows. Each simile must be interpreted correctly before it can be related to the student commitment to become a professional writer. Students must look up the meanings of some of these words to do this effectively. Many misunderstood the meaning of a “hollow saint,” which is a saint who has lost his faith and therefore cannot truthfully lead others to faith. A flame-faced virgin gone before God refers to the idea that a female’s place is to produce children and if she dies before doing so, she has failed in the reason she exists. The poet who burned his brain out has written poetry for quantity and not quality, thus failing to meet a primary goal of poetry – showing high quality of a wordsmith. Similarly, a student who does not make the commitment to read and write and continually practice, all of her life, to become a skilled writer, cannot become a professional writer.
Claims of involving facts – Simply put, a statement of fact is true or false. If the factual statement is qualified or conditioned upon some additional fact or facts, it may become arguable as well. Informative (news reporting) or expository (oral or written discourse that is used to explain, describe, give information or inform) texts, like news, magazine, or non-fiction essays use facts the writer believes the reader needs to know. Not commonly used in analytic writing, factual claims in a written work can be examined but in a limited way. If the facts are verified by studies or data, it becomes difficult to argue falsity unless the data or studies were intentionally skewed or misquoted by the writer. An advertisement might fall into this category but use caution because the call of the prompt is what should govern your response.
Policy claims – Texts or essays identifiable as using policy claims can be so identified as such by the use of words like should, may, or ought. For example: Students should student and prepare for an exam essay if they want a passing grade. When two or more people discuss what to do, they are creating a policy claim. This might apply to voters, congress, the senate, assembly, corporate boards, student body government, and other groups.
An analysis must be completed before an argument may be created. Identifying an argumentative claim may be the basis for analysis. An essayist might appeal to the reader’s logic, pathos, or ethos, or all or some of these. Fallacies might be used to argue certain textual claims or assertions made by a text author. The ones listed above are only a few of those available.