Speaking in Academic Contexts 

Rhetorical Functions in Academic Speaking: Arguing & discussing

In academic life, arguing and discussing is often part of a larger element of speaking. In arguing and discussing, you are expected to present two or more points of view and discuss the positive and negative aspects of each case. On the basis of your discussion, you can then choose one point of view and persuade your readers that you are correct. This means giving your opinions (positive and negative) on the work of others and your own opinions based on what you have learned. You need to evaluate arguments, weigh evidence and develop a set of standards on which to base your conclusion.

As always, all your opinions must be supported - you should produce your evidence and explain why this evidence supports your point of view. It is important to distinguish between your claim (proposition, thesis) - your point of view, what you believe;your evidence (support or grounds) - the facts, data and examples that support your point of view - and your reasons (warrant or argument) - why you believe what you do, how the evidence you have provided leads to the claim your are making. (See Toulmin, 1958).

There are two main methods of presenting an argument, and in general the one you choose will depend on exactly what the speaking task is(See Preparing: the Task and Organisation for more information).

a. The balanced view

In this case you present both sides of an argument, without necessarily committing yourself to any opinions, which should always be based on evidence, until the conclusion.

At its simplest your essay plan will be as follows:

Introduce the argument to the reader.

e.g. why it is a particularly relevant topic nowadays
or refer directly to some comments that have been voiced on it recently.

arrow d

Give reasons against the argument.

State the position, the evidence and the reasons.

arrow d

Give reasons in favour of the argument.

State the position, the evidence and the reasons.

arrow d

After summarising the two sides,
state your own point of view,
and explain why you think as you do.

b. The persuasive talk

This second type of argumentative talk involves stating your own point of view immediately, and trying to convince the reader by reasoned argument that you are right. The form of the talk will be, in outline, as follows:

Introduce the topic briefly in general terms,

and then state your own opinion.

Explain what you plan to prove in the talk.

arrow d

Give your reasons against the argument.

Dispose briefly of the main objections to your case. Provide evidence and your reasons.

arrow d

Give your reasons for your argument,

the arguments to support your own view,

with evidence, reasons and examples.

arrow d

Conclusion - Do not repeat your opinion again.

End your talk with something memorable

e.g. a quotation or a direct question.

Example

Read the following examples: Example 1Example 2

Exercise

Try this exercise: Exercise 1

Language

Presenting another point of view

Some people
X
In a study of Y, X

maintain(s)
say(s)
argue(s)
assert(s)
believe(s)
claim(s)
point(s) out
is/are of the opinion
seem(s) to believe

that

It is the view of X
The opinion of X is
It can be argued
It has been suggested
It might be said

According to X

Commenting on another point of view

Negatively

They
He
She
X
This

is/are
may be
seem(s) to be
would seem to be

somewhat
rather
-

mistaken.
wrong.
rigid.
inadequate.

 X's

approach
position
methods
beliefs

 

This
These views

is/are

open to doubt.
not always the case.
not necessarily true.
unlikely to be true.
highly debatable.
incorrect.
highly speculative.

cannot be upheld.

 

Serious

doubts
reservations

can
may

be raised against this.

 

I disagree with X when he

writes
says

that …

However, it is clear that …

One of the main arguments

against

X is that

 

One disadvantage of
Another point against
A further argument against
One other disadvantage of

X

is

One objection to this argument

Plus negative words: wrong, mistaken, false, erroneous, misplaced, inaccurate, incorrect, debateable, untrue, not the case.

Positively

I agree with X when he

writes
says

that …

 

X is certainly correct
X may be correct

when he

says

that …

in saying

 

One advantage of
Another point in favour of
A further argument supporting
One other advantage of
One of the main arguments in favour of

X

is  

…  

Plus positive words: correct, right, accurate.

Presenting own point of view

There are many reasons why …

It is

important
true
necessary
essential

to

remember
bear in mind
point out

that

 

The first thing
First of all,

we have
I would like

to consider

is

The first thing to be considered is

 

It is a fact
There is no doubt
I believe

that

The first reason why … is …

First of all, …

The second reason why … is …

Secondly, …

The most important …

In addition, …

Furthermore, …

What is more, …

Besides, …

Another reason is …

A further point is …

Qualification

In all cases points of view may be qualified and generalisations  may be made. You may also have different degrees of certainty about your claims.