Academic Writing

Rhetorical functions in academic writing: Arguing and discussing

Introduction

An essential part of critical writing is arguing and discussing.

In academic writing, arguing and discussing is often part of a larger piece of writing. 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 read and learned. You need to evaluate arguments, weigh evidence and develop a set of standards on which to base your conclusion.

As always in academic writing, 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 (see Toulmin, 1958):

  • your claim (proposition, thesis, point, position) - your point of view, what you believe;
  • your reason(s) (explanations)- why you believe what you do;
  • your evidence (support or grounds) - the facts, data and examples that support your point of view; and
  • your argument (warrant) - how the evidence you have provided leads to the claim your are making.

A simple example would be:

  • your claim e.g. John is a good teacher;
  • your reasons e.g. He gets on well with his students;
  • your evidence e.g. I have seen him in class.
  • your argument Good rapport with students is essential for a good teacher.

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

Presenting an argument

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 final paragraph.

At its simplest your plan for writing 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

Reasons against the argument

State the position, the evidence and the reasons.

arrow d

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 view

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

Introduce the topic

Introduce the topic briefly in general terms,

and then state your own point of view.

Explain what you plan to prove in the essay.

arrow d

Reasons against the argument.

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

arrow d

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 essay 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 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 …

Further details

  • Evaluating other points of view

You will also need to present and evaluate other people's points of view.

See: Writing Functions 12: Evaluating

  • Providing support

You need to provide evidence to support your points of view and conclusions.

See: Writing Functions 20: Supporting

  • Illustrating and exemplifying ideas

You can use examples to support your conclusions.

See: Writing Functions 8: Examples

  • Giving reasons and explanations

And you will always give reasons and explanations for your claims and points of view.

See: Writing Functions 16: Reasons

  • Working with different voices

As you recognise and work with other people's points of view. Within all these opinions, you need to make yours clear.

See: Writing Functions 23: Voice

  • Synthesising

You will need to summarise other people's ideas, combine them and come to conclusions.

See: Writing Reporting Synthesis

  • Taking a stance

You need to make sure that your point of view shows through clearly.

See:Writing Functions 24: Stance

  • Comparing & contrasting

You will compare and contrast differenet ideas and your own, discussing advantages and diasadvantage.

See: Writing Functions 13: Comparing

  • Generalising

In all cases, points of view may be qualified and generalisations may be made.

See: Writing Functions 14: Generalising

  • Expressing degree of certainty

You may also have different degrees of certainty about your claims.

See: Writing Functions 15: Certainty

  • Drawing conclusions

At various stages during your argument, you will need to sum up and come to a conclusion.

See: Writing Functions 31: Concluding

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