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Argumentation

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Argumentation

True argumentation is perhaps the most important mode of communication in the academic and professional world. When used effectively, argumentation is how people debate and share ideas. When people study the types of argumentation, they are better able to deconstruct and understand the arguments of others and make more persuasive claims.

What Is the Definition of Argumentation?

The word “argument” has negative connotations from emotional experiences in personal relationships. As a result, the word “argue” is often equated with the word “fight.” However, argumentation does not mean quite the same thing in the context of rhetoric.

Rhetoric is any choice a communicator makes in an attempt to persuade their intended audience. Every time people speak or write, they have a purpose—whether to persuade, inform, or entertain—and rhetoric is the heart of effectively achieving this purpose. Rhetorical modes are all the possible ways of organizing communication. A few examples of rhetorical modes include cause and effect, narration, description, and illustration.

In the rhetorical sense, an argument is a reason, or several reasons, meant to persuade an audience of the truth or validity of an action or idea. It does not necessarily imply disagreement or tension among those debating. Argumentation is a rhetorical mode used when someone is clearly arguing in support of a particular point of view.

Argumentation Techniques

Traditionally, argumentative techniques are put into two categories: inductive and deductive. You’ve probably heard of deductive reasoning, but it’s important to understand both ways of presenting an argument.

Argumentation, Inductive Reasoning, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Inductive reasoning in argumentation uses clues to come to a conclusion.

Inductive Reasoning in Arguments

Inductive arguments consider several factors and form a generalization based on those premises. These factors, or "clues" if you're Sherlock Holmes, provide a sufficient reason to believe the generalization is accurate. Inductive reasoning moves from specific details to a broad, generalized conclusion.

Let’s say you sat outside your school and counted the number of people wearing sandals. Suppose you counted several hundred students wearing tennis shoes and other close-toed shoes and only twenty wearing sandals. In that case, you might use inductive reasoning to come to the generalization that students prefer to wear closed-toed shoes at your school.

Deductive Reasoning in Arguments

On the other hand, deductive arguments start with a general principle and use that to draw a specific logical conclusion. The premises of deductive reasoning guarantee by necessity that the conclusion is true. Deductive reasoning moves from generalizations to specific conclusions.

Deductive reasoning looks like:

A = B (general principal)

B = C (general principal)

So A should = C (specific conclusion)

All dolphins are mammals (factual premise). All mammals give birth to live young (factual premise). Therefore, dolphins give birth to live young (a specific conclusion that must be true by necessity).

People use deductive reasoning all the time; they just don’t know to call it that because it is one of the most natural ways to present an argument.

Rhetorical Argument Structure

Understanding the structure of an argument is important not only to craft a good one yourself but also to analyze others’ arguments.

A solid argument contains two basic parts: conclusion (or main claim) and premise.

Albert Einstein was human (premise) → Albert Einstein was mortal (conclusion)

In this example, a single conclusion is drawn from a single claim. Most arguments, especially those in academic literature, are much more complex than this, with several premises supporting a conclusion that may not be as obviously connected.

Consider the following example:

  • The United States should close Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp

    • Keeping the detention camp open hurts America’s standing in the international community

      • America is violating principles of international law by keeping the camp open

      • Violating international law makes America disregard the law, ultimately undermining America’s reputation and making it difficult to be a leader in international affairs.

    • The United States of America should not participate in anything that would seriously compromise its reputation in the international community.

      • America should not do anything that would make it difficult to be a leader in international affairs.

      • If America’s reputation were diminished, it would be more difficult to influence international human rights policies.

      • America should not make it more difficult to influence international human rights policies.

Conclusion

The conclusion is the main claim being offered by the argument. There may be many smaller claims you’re asked to accept in an argument, but the conclusion is the central claim of the entire argument.

Think about the Guantanamo Bay argument: which piece is the conclusion? It’s the main claim, which is that America should close Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. The main claim is not always positioned at the beginning, as in this example, though. Because it’s not always easy to tell which claim is the conclusion, here are some keywords and phrases that indicate a conclusion:

  • Therefore

  • So

  • As a result

  • Consequently

  • Thus

Premises

A premise is not the main claim but a reason offered so the audience might believe the main claim. Consider the example about Guantanamo Bay again; several claims were being made (for example, keeping the camp open hurts America’s international standing) as reasons to believe the main claim.

Some keywords and phrases that indicate it’s a premise include:

  • Since

  • If

  • Because

  • For these reasons

The most important part of analyzing an argument—whether it’s someone else’s or your own—is making sure the premises truly support the main argument. It would be much easier to do this if people clearly identified their premises and conclusions, but that’s unlikely to be the case all the time.

People don’t typically talk or write this way, so you need to be able to follow the line of argument to determine the validity of its points. One tip for doing this is to know what types of arguments you're likely to see.

Types of Argumentation

There are three basic types of arguments a person can use. Each has a specific approach to persuading the audience of the claim, and they’re based on what that audience needs to be convinced.

ArgumentationTypesofArgumentationStudySmarterFig. 2 - Argumentation comes in different forms.

Classical Argumentation

The classical argument model is the most commonly used and widely understood in Western culture. It was developed by Greek philosopher and rhetorician Aristotle—which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the Aristotelian method—and it supposes that there are three ways to appeal to an audience.

In the classical model of argumentation, you can appeal to the audience’s emotions, logic, or the author's credibility. Aristotle called these pathos, logos, and ethos, respectively.

Ethos

Ethos is where the speaker or writer uses their authority or standing to convince the audience to do or think something.

Frances Seymour and Nancy Harris, two experts at the World Resources Institute, explain that tropical deforestation has devastating consequences, not just for those ecosystems but also for the planet.1

By invoking the names of experts—or anyone respected as an authority on a subject—the speaker is able to build a powerful argument in their favor. The average person doesn't dare to argue with an expert in their field. Including quotes from experts or notable figures in favor of your argument is always a great way to harness the power of ethos.

Logos

Logos is a style of argumentation that appeals to the logical side of the audience. This is the most commonly used academic writing and speaking method, where logic is held in the highest regard.

According to BBC News, in 2020, the rate of deforestation in Brazil surged to its highest level since 2008, with a total of 11,088 square km (4,281 sq miles) destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020.

Using statistics and data is an excellent way to appeal to the audience's logical side. This information helps prove your point without you having to provide much of an explanation. The facts speak for themselves, as they say.

Pathos

Pathos appeals to the audience’s emotional connection to the topic. Emotions are a powerful force, and when used properly, they can be used to persuade people to act or think a certain way.

Every year our rainforests shrink, killing thousands of innocent animals, and the damage will likely worsen unless we act now to preserve the future of our planet and all its living creatures.

Here, the speaker uses the audience's emotions to try and persuade them to activity. By appealing to the audience's feelings toward innocent animals, the speaker will be more likely to motivate someone to do something.

Rogerian Argumentation

The next style of argumentation is the Rogerian method. This style was introduced by psychologist Carl Rogers, and its goal is to find the middle ground between the two extremes of an argument.

This is an especially effective way to present an argument when two poles of opposition are extremely far apart. As the person presenting the argument, you know if you lean to one side of the argument, you’ll lose the interest of 50 percent of the audience, and if you swing to the other side, you lose the other 50 percent.

Simply put, to use the Rogerian method, you must acknowledge the validity and pitfalls of both sides of an argument. Bridge the gap between the two by looking for a way to compromise. You can do this by looking at what they do agree on.

While opponents of homeschooling believe some parents choose to educate at home out of fear or extremist beliefs, proponents say homeschooled children are healthy, advanced learners thanks to their education at home. The pivotal element seems to be whether the child’s individual needs and learning style are taken into account, regardless of the adults involved and their preference for the situation. Ensuring safety and educational support is the most important priority as society continues to wrestle with this topic.

The last statement is what bridges the gap between anti-homeschoolers and pro-homeschoolers; everyone can agree that a child’s safety and education should be the top priority.

Toulmin Argumentation

The last method of argumentation is the Toulmin technique, developed by philosopher Stephen Toulmin. This method focuses on gathering the strongest evidence for the conclusion. The Toulmin method is constructed around the following three fundamental pieces of an argument: the claim, the grounds, and the warrant.

The Claim - the main argument (conclusion)

The Grounds - the evidence and data that support the claim (premise)

The Warrant - the connection that can be drawn between the claim and the grounds

The claim: Schools should not offer soda in the cafeteria

The grounds: in order to protect student health

The warrant: because soda contains excessive amounts of sugar, which can lead to obesity and put children at risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Sometimes the warrant is not specifically stated. This is called an implicit warrant. In the above example, the last statement could have been left off because many people understand that soda contains a lot of sugar which will have negative health implications. Other times, it is helpful to explicitly state the warrant because it strengthens the argument.

ArgumentationImportanceofArgumentationStudySmarterFig. 3 - Argumentation is an important skill in the workplace and school.

What Is the Importance of Argumentation?

The art of argumentation is important for all students to learn; it teaches how to reason systematically in support (or critique) of an idea. Many academic essay assignments are structured around argumentation as a rhetorical mode and will ask you to choose a stance on a topic and argue for it.

By practicing argumentation, you’ll also learn to evaluate conflicting claims which is key to rhetorical analysis. Rhetorical analysis is an essential skill as placement exams often ask students to thoroughly analyze pieces of text, many of which present a particular argument.

Learning the art of argumentation also gives you a better understanding of making your claims more persuasive, earning you higher marks on essays and other academic assignments.

Argumentation - Key Takeaways

  • Argumentation is a rhetorical mode used when someone is clearly arguing in support of a particular point of view.
  • In the rhetorical sense, an argument is a reason, or several reasons, meant to persuade an audience of the truth or validity of an action or idea.
  • Traditionally, argumentative techniques are put into two categories: inductive or deductive.
  • Arguments are structured with two basic parts: the conclusion (the central claim) and the premises (a reason or series of reasons) offered to support the conclusion.
  • There are three types of argumentation:
    • Classical
    • Rogerian
    • Toulmin

1. Frances Seymour and Nancy Harris, 'WRI Experts Offer Perspective on Tropical Deforestation in Science Journal,' World Resources Institute, 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions about Argumentation

Argumentation is a rhetorical mode used when someone is clearly arguing in support of a particular point of view.

The difference between argumentation and rhetoric is that argumentation is a type of rhetoric. 

An example of argumentation is choosing your favorite author and presenting that choice, along with reasons why they are a good choice as a favorite author to a particular audience. 

Rhetorical argumentation is a reason, or several reasons, meant to persuade an audience of the truth or validity of an action or idea.

The types of argumentation are classical, Toulmin, and Rogerian.

Final Argumentation Quiz

Question

True or false: Argumentation always implies emotional conflict.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

Traditionally, argumentative techniques are put into two categories: ________ or ________. 


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Answer

Inductive or deductive

Show question

Question

Which line of reasoning looks for "clues" or reasons that will support the main claim?

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Answer

Inductive reasoning

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Question

The following is an example of what technique of argumentation:
All spiders have eight legs. Tarantulas are spiders. Therefore, Tarantulas have eight legs.

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Answer

Deductive

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Question

A good argument contains two basic parts, which are...

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Answer

The conclusion and premises

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Question

_________ in the main claim offered by an argument.

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Answer

The conclusion

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Question

True or false: The conclusion is not always offered at the beginning of an argument.

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Answer

True

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Question

  • Therefore

  • So

  • As a result

  • Consequently

  • Thus

Are all examples of words that indicate...

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Answer

The conclusion of an argument

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Question

There was a time when people couldn't conceive of talking with a person from another country from the comfort of their own home. The internet is a good thing because it allows us to connect to just about anyone around the globe. Global interaction is a good for commerce, and it also helps eliminate national egocentrism.


In the example above, "Global interaction is good for commerce" is an example of...

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Answer

A premise

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Question

Which type of argumentation is missing from the list below?

Classical

Rogerian

________

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Answer

Toulmin

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Question

Which type of argumentation includes three appeals to the audience?

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Answer

Classical

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Question

Which type of argumentation looks for compromise between two extreme poles of opposition?

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Answer

Rogerian

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Question

When using a Toulmin approach to argumentation, you must include the claim, the grounds, and the _________.

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Answer

Warrant

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Question

_ _ are all the possible ways of organizing communication


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Answer

Rhetorical modes 


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Question

True or false. An argument necessarily implies disagreement or tension among those debating. 


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Answer

False


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Question

Which type of reasoning moves from specific details to broad, generalized conclusions? 


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Answer

Inductive reasoning


Show question

Question

Which type of reasoning looks like this?

A = B (general principal)

B = C (general principal)

So A should = C (specific conclusion)


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Answer

Deductive reasoning

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Question

_ is the main claim being offered by the argument. 



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Answer

The conclusion 

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Question

What is a premise?


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Answer

A reason offered so the audience might believe the main claim.  

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Question

These words indicate:

-Since 

-If 

-Because 

-For these reasons 


Show answer

Answer

A premise 


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