11 Science-Backed Tips for Winning an Argument

By starre vartan | sep 18, 2018.


For many people, arguing is something to avoid. But arguments can be used for good—they can inform, sharpen thinking, and challenge old ideas in important ways. The expert tips below will help you argue more incisively, which, in turn, will probably make you more likely to win the discussion. (Of course, winning means different things to different people—so not all of these concepts are about making someone else think you’re right.)


According to Mark Porrovecchio , a professor of rhetoric and a debate coach at Oregon State University, understanding the nature of a disagreement will help you determine how best to handle it. “Argument styles vary according to context [and] genre,” he tells Mental Floss. “What might work when arguing with a significant other could backfire when debating with a colleague. The goal is to be mindful of the type of situation you are in … and to be willing to adjust your approach based on a host of situational factors.”

You should adjust your tone—and even the content of your argument—depending on the person with whom you are having it and the place it’s happening. The conversation in a private setting may be a different from one in a public space. This particular tactic, Porrovecchio says, is as old as debate itself: Both the Sophists and Aristotle used it.


Sometimes you won’t know what your opponent values or what their background is—but sometimes, you will. Use that information.

Most people are either reactive or analytical, says Prince Ghuman, a professor at Hult International Business School and coauthor of the book Allure : the Neuroscience of Consumerism . “Some people tend to be more reactive, so you can convince them using techniques that appeal to them—emotion and empathy," he tells Mental Floss. "Others seem to be more deliberate—you’ll need to provide an analytical support for your argument."


In political and ideological arguments, different sides often have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world. According to the moral foundations theory , a framework proposed by a group of social psychologists , most people see society through six different binaries: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. A politically liberal person, for example, might be more affected by an argument that stresses compassion and fairness, whereas conservatives might find loyalty and authority to be more important. Each person will have a unique idea of which concept in each pair carries more weight, and in an argument, knowing what the other side values can help frame your talking points.

“One reason it’s so hard to reach across the ideological divide is that people tend to present their arguments in a way that appeals to the ethics of their own side, rather than that of their opponents,” journalist Olga Khazan explained in an Atlantic video. Framing your argument to appeal to your opponents' moral code rather than your own can help you win.


Not only is arguing sans emotion almost impossible if you're a human being, it’s also not a great way to succeed. “Every argument, even many seemingly factual arguments, contains an emotional element,” Porrovecchio says.

According to psychologist Sherrie Campbell , author of Success Equations : A Path to Living an Emotionally Wealthy Life , you should include feelings when you make your case, but don’t go too far with an emotional point—especially in professional settings. When it comes to personal disagreements, uncomfortable feelings can sometimes be necessary, and while kindness is important, so is honesty.

“Sometimes emotional arguments that bring about sadness can help people get to the core of where the hurt and frustration is," Campbell says. "As long as the person you're arguing with has empathy and can put caring over being right, then emotional arguments can be effective.”

Ideally, you should try to keep it balanced. “An argument that relies solely on emotion should be treated with suspicion,” Porrovecchio says. Feelings without information or details to back them up fall flat if the other person can’t relate.


“Connect to the listener by conveying your story through one person’s example. Personify, rather than generalize,” Ghuman suggests. He cites research [ PDF ] by psychologists at the University of Oregon that shows people will donate more money to an individual in need than a group of people. That’s because most of us can empathize with one person but find it harder to relate to groups in the same way. When arguing, use this tactic to your advantage by finding (or imagining) a specific person who might be helped by what you are arguing for.

For instance, if you are arguing that Peggy shouldn’t be fined for parking her car in a tow zone because she was trying to rescue a dog in the street, it would make more sense to describe who she is specifically. Rather than call her “Peggy, a dog owner,” describing her as “Peggy, who has adopted a mutt, a pitbull, and an elderly chihuahua,” would render her more sympathetic. Empathetic details shouldn't be used as replacements for factual information, though; they should be additions to the facts.


Storytelling works hand-in-hand with empathy and puts data to support your argument in context. Pull all your information together—using empathy, facts, and emotions—to create a compelling story, and your argument will be tougher to beat. When your point seems part of a narrative arc, each aspect of what you're arguing is harder to pick on.

Need a template? Porovecchio recommends the TED format. “I think TED Talks have gained popular cachet because they often manage to balance a degree of detail and fact with a personable, narrative-driven delivery style,” he says.


People unconsciously mimic others in social situations, a behavior that psychologists believe is associated with emotional connection. Consciously imitating the posture and movement of your opponent is also a well-known way to bring someone over to your side. Try leaning back if your opponent does so, or cross your arms or legs the way they do. Looking them in the eye when you are listening to them speak is another to reduce their confidence in their own argument—and you’ll look stronger, too. You can even lower your voice a notch to sound more dominant, according to this study .


Whether you are using or responding to an analytic or emotional argument, keep it as relaxed as possible. “The best thing to do when in an argument is to stay calm and talk slowly—you can't yell and talk slowly at the same time,” Campbell says. “Forcing yourself to talk slowly helps to keep the emotions under control and your thoughts rational.” If that sounds like a challenge, it is: “This takes a lot of discipline, but it's a simple thing to focus on.”


Like most other skills, spending time arguing will make you better at it. Debate in high school, college, or in a professional-development context “should be viewed as a way to practice the skills of arguing,” Porrovecchio says. “You work to improve your technique, your content, your delivery; then use what you have learned in real world situations.” Porrovecchio says he’s seen his students become not just better debaters over time, but also “better public speakers and critical thinkers.”


Not all arguments have to be about being right, which some people define as winning. You might consider it a win if your opinion is valued and considered by the person you are disagreeing with—even if you don't change their mind. “Instead of the word argument , replace it with conversation . If you're just having a conversation, then winning is off the table, and a productive discussion can occur,” Campbell says.


Sometimes it gets ugly, or the argument seems to be going in circles. If you’re not getting anywhere in a discussion, “ask your opponent directly: ‘Is there anything I can do to change your mind?’ If they say that nothing will change their mind, believe them, and walk away,” Ghuman says. Sometimes an argument is a draw—and that’s OK. You’ve won if you’ve learned something, Ghuman adds: “Healthy argument can expand your perspective and open your mind.”

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout will define what an argument is and explain why you need one in most of your academic essays.

Arguments are everywhere

You may be surprised to hear that the word “argument” does not have to be written anywhere in your assignment for it to be an important part of your task. In fact, making an argument—expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with evidence—is often the aim of academic writing. Your instructors may assume that you know this and thus may not explain the importance of arguments in class.

Most material you learn in college is or has been debated by someone, somewhere, at some time. Even when the material you read or hear is presented as a simple fact, it may actually be one person’s interpretation of a set of information. Instructors may call on you to examine that interpretation and defend it, refute it, or offer some new view of your own. In writing assignments, you will almost always need to do more than just summarize information that you have gathered or regurgitate facts that have been discussed in class. You will need to develop a point of view on or interpretation of that material and provide evidence for your position.

Consider an example. For nearly 2000 years, educated people in many Western cultures believed that bloodletting—deliberately causing a sick person to lose blood—was the most effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. The claim that bloodletting is beneficial to human health was not widely questioned until the 1800s, and some physicians continued to recommend bloodletting as late as the 1920s. Medical practices have now changed because some people began to doubt the effectiveness of bloodletting; these people argued against it and provided convincing evidence. Human knowledge grows out of such differences of opinion, and scholars like your instructors spend their lives engaged in debate over what claims may be counted as accurate in their fields. In their courses, they want you to engage in similar kinds of critical thinking and debate.

Argumentation is not just what your instructors do. We all use argumentation on a daily basis, and you probably already have some skill at crafting an argument. The more you improve your skills in this area, the better you will be at thinking critically, reasoning, making choices, and weighing evidence.

Making a claim

What is an argument? In academic writing, an argument is usually a main idea, often called a “claim” or “thesis statement,” backed up with evidence that supports the idea. In the majority of college papers, you will need to make some sort of claim and use evidence to support it, and your ability to do this well will separate your papers from those of students who see assignments as mere accumulations of fact and detail. In other words, gone are the happy days of being given a “topic” about which you can write anything. It is time to stake out a position and prove why it is a good position for a thinking person to hold. See our handout on thesis statements .

Claims can be as simple as “Protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged,” with evidence such as, “In this experiment, protons and electrons acted in such and such a way.” Claims can also be as complex as “Genre is the most important element to the contract of expectations between filmmaker and audience,” using reasoning and evidence such as, “defying genre expectations can create a complete apocalypse of story form and content, leaving us stranded in a sort of genre-less abyss.” In either case, the rest of your paper will detail the reasoning and evidence that have led you to believe that your position is best.

When beginning to write a paper, ask yourself, “What is my point?” For example, the point of this handout is to help you become a better writer, and we are arguing that an important step in the process of writing effective arguments is understanding the concept of argumentation. If your papers do not have a main point, they cannot be arguing for anything. Asking yourself what your point is can help you avoid a mere “information dump.” Consider this: your instructors probably know a lot more than you do about your subject matter. Why, then, would you want to provide them with material they already know? Instructors are usually looking for two things:

  • Proof that you understand the material
  • A demonstration of your ability to use or apply the material in ways that go beyond what you have read or heard.

This second part can be done in many ways: you can critique the material, apply it to something else, or even just explain it in a different way. In order to succeed at this second step, though, you must have a particular point to argue.

Arguments in academic writing are usually complex and take time to develop. Your argument will need to be more than a simple or obvious statement such as “Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect.” Such a statement might capture your initial impressions of Wright as you have studied him in class; however, you need to look deeper and express specifically what caused that “greatness.” Your instructor will probably expect something more complicated, such as “Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture combines elements of European modernism, Asian aesthetic form, and locally found materials to create a unique new style,” or “There are many strong similarities between Wright’s building designs and those of his mother, which suggests that he may have borrowed some of her ideas.” To develop your argument, you would then define your terms and prove your claim with evidence from Wright’s drawings and buildings and those of the other architects you mentioned.

Do not stop with having a point. You have to back up your point with evidence. The strength of your evidence, and your use of it, can make or break your argument. See our handout on evidence . You already have the natural inclination for this type of thinking, if not in an academic setting. Think about how you talked your parents into letting you borrow the family car. Did you present them with lots of instances of your past trustworthiness? Did you make them feel guilty because your friends’ parents all let them drive? Did you whine until they just wanted you to shut up? Did you look up statistics on teen driving and use them to show how you didn’t fit the dangerous-driver profile? These are all types of argumentation, and they exist in academia in similar forms.

Every field has slightly different requirements for acceptable evidence, so familiarize yourself with some arguments from within that field instead of just applying whatever evidence you like best. Pay attention to your textbooks and your instructor’s lectures. What types of argument and evidence are they using? The type of evidence that sways an English instructor may not work to convince a sociology instructor. Find out what counts as proof that something is true in that field. Is it statistics, a logical development of points, something from the object being discussed (art work, text, culture, or atom), the way something works, or some combination of more than one of these things?

Be consistent with your evidence. Unlike negotiating for the use of your parents’ car, a college paper is not the place for an all-out blitz of every type of argument. You can often use more than one type of evidence within a paper, but make sure that within each section you are providing the reader with evidence appropriate to each claim. So, if you start a paragraph or section with a statement like “Putting the student seating area closer to the basketball court will raise player performance,” do not follow with your evidence on how much more money the university could raise by letting more students go to games for free. Information about how fan support raises player morale, which then results in better play, would be a better follow-up. Your next section could offer clear reasons why undergraduates have as much or more right to attend an undergraduate event as wealthy alumni—but this information would not go in the same section as the fan support stuff. You cannot convince a confused person, so keep things tidy and ordered.


One way to strengthen your argument and show that you have a deep understanding of the issue you are discussing is to anticipate and address counterarguments or objections. By considering what someone who disagrees with your position might have to say about your argument, you show that you have thought things through, and you dispose of some of the reasons your audience might have for not accepting your argument. Recall our discussion of student seating in the Dean Dome. To make the most effective argument possible, you should consider not only what students would say about seating but also what alumni who have paid a lot to get good seats might say.

You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself how someone who disagrees with you might respond to each of the points you’ve made or your position as a whole. If you can’t immediately imagine another position, here are some strategies to try:

  • Do some research. It may seem to you that no one could possibly disagree with the position you are arguing, but someone probably has. For example, some people argue that a hotdog is a sandwich. If you are making an argument concerning, for example, the characteristics of an exceptional sandwich, you might want to see what some of these people have to say.
  • Talk with a friend or with your teacher. Another person may be able to imagine counterarguments that haven’t occurred to you.
  • Consider your conclusion or claim and the premises of your argument and imagine someone who denies each of them. For example, if you argued, “Cats make the best pets. This is because they are clean and independent,” you might imagine someone saying, “Cats do not make the best pets. They are dirty and needy.”

Once you have thought up some counterarguments, consider how you will respond to them—will you concede that your opponent has a point but explain why your audience should nonetheless accept your argument? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing arguments.

When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have considered the many sides of the issue. If you simply attack or caricature your opponent (also referred to as presenting a “straw man”), you suggest that your argument is only capable of defeating an extremely weak adversary, which may undermine your argument rather than enhance it.

It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of many different counterarguments and replies.

Be sure that your reply is consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original argument accordingly.

Audience is a very important consideration in argument. Take a look at our handout on audience . A lifetime of dealing with your family members has helped you figure out which arguments work best to persuade each of them. Maybe whining works with one parent, but the other will only accept cold, hard statistics. Your kid brother may listen only to the sound of money in his palm. It’s usually wise to think of your audience in an academic setting as someone who is perfectly smart but who doesn’t necessarily agree with you. You are not just expressing your opinion in an argument (“It’s true because I said so”), and in most cases your audience will know something about the subject at hand—so you will need sturdy proof. At the same time, do not think of your audience as capable of reading your mind. You have to come out and state both your claim and your evidence clearly. Do not assume that because the instructor knows the material, he or she understands what part of it you are using, what you think about it, and why you have taken the position you’ve chosen.

Critical reading

Critical reading is a big part of understanding argument. Although some of the material you read will be very persuasive, do not fall under the spell of the printed word as authority. Very few of your instructors think of the texts they assign as the last word on the subject. Remember that the author of every text has an agenda, something that he or she wants you to believe. This is OK—everything is written from someone’s perspective—but it’s a good thing to be aware of. For more information on objectivity and bias and on reading sources carefully, read our handouts on evaluating print sources and reading to write .

Take notes either in the margins of your source (if you are using a photocopy or your own book) or on a separate sheet as you read. Put away that highlighter! Simply highlighting a text is good for memorizing the main ideas in that text—it does not encourage critical reading. Part of your goal as a reader should be to put the author’s ideas in your own words. Then you can stop thinking of these ideas as facts and start thinking of them as arguments.

When you read, ask yourself questions like “What is the author trying to prove?” and “What is the author assuming I will agree with?” Do you agree with the author? Does the author adequately defend her argument? What kind of proof does she use? Is there something she leaves out that you would put in? Does putting it in hurt her argument? As you get used to reading critically, you will start to see the sometimes hidden agendas of other writers, and you can use this skill to improve your own ability to craft effective arguments.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ede, Lisa. 2004. Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising , 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Gage, John T. 2005. The Shape of Reason: Argumentative Writing in College , 4th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruszkiewicz. 2016. Everything’s an Argument , 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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  • How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips

How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.

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Table of contents

When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.

You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.

The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.

Argumentative writing at college level

At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.

In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.

Examples of argumentative essay prompts

At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.

Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.

  • Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
  • Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
  • Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
  • Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
  • Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
  • Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.

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An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.

There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.

Toulmin arguments

The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:

  • Make a claim
  • Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
  • Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
  • Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives

The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.

Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:

  • Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
  • Cite data to support your claim
  • Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
  • Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.

Rogerian arguments

The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:

  • Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
  • Highlight the problems with this position
  • Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
  • Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?

This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.

Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:

  • Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
  • Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
  • Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
  • Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.

You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .

Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.

In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.

Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.

This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.

Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.

No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.

Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

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This page summarizes three historical methods for argumentation, providing structural templates for each.

How can I effectively present my argument?

In order for your argument to be persuasive, it must use an organizational structure that the audience perceives as both logical and easy to parse. Three argumentative methods —the  Toulmin Method , Classical Method , and Rogerian Method — give guidance for how to organize the points in an argument.

Note that these are only three of the most popular models for organizing an argument. Alternatives exist. Be sure to consult your instructor and/or defer to your assignment’s directions if you’re unsure which to use (if any).

Toulmin Method

The  Toulmin Method  is a formula that allows writers to build a sturdy logical foundation for their arguments. First proposed by author Stephen Toulmin in  The Uses of Argument (1958), the Toulmin Method emphasizes building a thorough support structure for each of an argument's key claims.

The basic format for the Toulmin Method  is as follows:

Claim:  In this section, you explain your overall thesis on the subject. In other words, you make your main argument.

Data (Grounds):  You should use evidence to support the claim. In other words, provide the reader with facts that prove your argument is strong.

Warrant (Bridge):  In this section, you explain why or how your data supports the claim. As a result, the underlying assumption that you build your argument on is grounded in reason.

Backing (Foundation):  Here, you provide any additional logic or reasoning that may be necessary to support the warrant.

Counterclaim:  You should anticipate a counterclaim that negates the main points in your argument. Don't avoid arguments that oppose your own. Instead, become familiar with the opposing perspective.   If you respond to counterclaims, you appear unbiased (and, therefore, you earn the respect of your readers). You may even want to include several counterclaims to show that you have thoroughly researched the topic.

Rebuttal:  In this section, you incorporate your own evidence that disagrees with the counterclaim. It is essential to include a thorough warrant or bridge to strengthen your essay’s argument. If you present data to your audience without explaining how it supports your thesis, your readers may not make a connection between the two, or they may draw different conclusions.

Example of the Toulmin Method:

Claim:  Hybrid cars are an effective strategy to fight pollution.

Data1:  Driving a private car is a typical citizen's most air-polluting activity.

Warrant 1:  Due to the fact that cars are the largest source of private (as opposed to industrial) air pollution, switching to hybrid cars should have an impact on fighting pollution.

Data 2:  Each vehicle produced is going to stay on the road for roughly 12 to 15 years.

Warrant 2:  Cars generally have a long lifespan, meaning that the decision to switch to a hybrid car will make a long-term impact on pollution levels.

Data 3:  Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor.

Warrant 3:  The combination of these technologies produces less pollution.

Counterclaim:  Instead of focusing on cars, which still encourages an inefficient culture of driving even as it cuts down on pollution, the nation should focus on building and encouraging the use of mass transit systems.

Rebuttal:  While mass transit is an idea that should be encouraged, it is not feasible in many rural and suburban areas, or for people who must commute to work. Thus, hybrid cars are a better solution for much of the nation's population.

Rogerian Method

The Rogerian Method  (named for, but not developed by, influential American psychotherapist Carl R. Rogers) is a popular method for controversial issues. This strategy seeks to find a common ground between parties by making the audience understand perspectives that stretch beyond (or even run counter to) the writer’s position. Moreso than other methods, it places an emphasis on reiterating an opponent's argument to his or her satisfaction. The persuasive power of the Rogerian Method lies in its ability to define the terms of the argument in such a way that:

  • your position seems like a reasonable compromise.
  • you seem compassionate and empathetic.

The basic format of the Rogerian Method  is as follows:

Introduction:  Introduce the issue to the audience, striving to remain as objective as possible.

Opposing View : Explain the other side’s position in an unbiased way. When you discuss the counterargument without judgement, the opposing side can see how you do not directly dismiss perspectives which conflict with your stance.

Statement of Validity (Understanding):  This section discusses how you acknowledge how the other side’s points can be valid under certain circumstances. You identify how and why their perspective makes sense in a specific context, but still present your own argument.

Statement of Your Position:  By this point, you have demonstrated that you understand the other side’s viewpoint. In this section, you explain your own stance.

Statement of Contexts : Explore scenarios in which your position has merit. When you explain how your argument is most appropriate for certain contexts, the reader can recognize that you acknowledge the multiple ways to view the complex issue.

Statement of Benefits:  You should conclude by explaining to the opposing side why they would benefit from accepting your position. By explaining the advantages of your argument, you close on a positive note without completely dismissing the other side’s perspective.

Example of the Rogerian Method:

Introduction:  The issue of whether children should wear school uniforms is subject to some debate.

Opposing View:  Some parents think that requiring children to wear uniforms is best.

Statement of Validity (Understanding):  Those parents who support uniforms argue that, when all students wear the same uniform, the students can develop a unified sense of school pride and inclusiveness.

Statement of Your Position : Students should not be required to wear school uniforms. Mandatory uniforms would forbid choices that allow students to be creative and express themselves through clothing.

Statement of Contexts:  However, even if uniforms might hypothetically promote inclusivity, in most real-life contexts, administrators can use uniform policies to enforce conformity. Students should have the option to explore their identity through clothing without the fear of being ostracized.

Statement of Benefits:  Though both sides seek to promote students' best interests, students should not be required to wear school uniforms. By giving students freedom over their choice, students can explore their self-identity by choosing how to present themselves to their peers.

Classical Method

The Classical Method of structuring an argument is another common way to organize your points. Originally devised by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (and then later developed by Roman thinkers like Cicero and Quintilian), classical arguments tend to focus on issues of definition and the careful application of evidence. Thus, the underlying assumption of classical argumentation is that, when all parties understand the issue perfectly, the correct course of action will be clear.

The basic format of the Classical Method  is as follows:

Introduction (Exordium): Introduce the issue and explain its significance. You should also establish your credibility and the topic’s legitimacy.

Statement of Background (Narratio): Present vital contextual or historical information to the audience to further their understanding of the issue. By doing so, you provide the reader with a working knowledge about the topic independent of your own stance.

Proposition (Propositio): After you provide the reader with contextual knowledge, you are ready to state your claims which relate to the information you have provided previously. This section outlines your major points for the reader.

Proof (Confirmatio): You should explain your reasons and evidence to the reader. Be sure to thoroughly justify your reasons. In this section, if necessary, you can provide supplementary evidence and subpoints.

Refutation (Refuatio): In this section, you address anticipated counterarguments that disagree with your thesis. Though you acknowledge the other side’s perspective, it is important to prove why your stance is more logical.  

Conclusion (Peroratio): You should summarize your main points. The conclusion also caters to the reader’s emotions and values. The use of pathos here makes the reader more inclined to consider your argument.  

Example of the Classical Method:  

Introduction (Exordium): Millions of workers are paid a set hourly wage nationwide. The federal minimum wage is standardized to protect workers from being paid too little. Research points to many viewpoints on how much to pay these workers. Some families cannot afford to support their households on the current wages provided for performing a minimum wage job .

Statement of Background (Narratio): Currently, millions of American workers struggle to make ends meet on a minimum wage. This puts a strain on workers’ personal and professional lives. Some work multiple jobs to provide for their families.

Proposition (Propositio): The current federal minimum wage should be increased to better accommodate millions of overworked Americans. By raising the minimum wage, workers can spend more time cultivating their livelihoods.

Proof (Confirmatio): According to the United States Department of Labor, 80.4 million Americans work for an hourly wage, but nearly 1.3 million receive wages less than the federal minimum. The pay raise will alleviate the stress of these workers. Their lives would benefit from this raise because it affects multiple areas of their lives.

Refutation (Refuatio): There is some evidence that raising the federal wage might increase the cost of living. However, other evidence contradicts this or suggests that the increase would not be great. Additionally,   worries about a cost of living increase must be balanced with the benefits of providing necessary funds to millions of hardworking Americans.

Conclusion (Peroratio): If the federal minimum wage was raised, many workers could alleviate some of their financial burdens. As a result, their emotional wellbeing would improve overall. Though some argue that the cost of living could increase, the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.

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Most people are bad at arguing. These 2 techniques will make you better.

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effective arguing techniques

Anyone who has argued with an opinionated relative or friend about immigration or gun control knows it is often impossible to sway someone with strong views.

That’s in part because our brains work hard to ensure the integrity of our worldview : We seek out information to confirm what we already know, and are dismissive or avoidant of facts that are hostile to our core beliefs.

But it’s not impossible to make your argument stick. And there’s been some good scientific work on this. Here are two strategies that, based on the evidence, seem promising.

1) If the argument you find convincing doesn’t resonate with someone else, find out what does

The answer to polarization and political division is not simply exposing people to another point of view.

In 2017, researchers at Duke, NYU, and Princeton ran an experiment where they paid a large sample of Democratic and Republican Twitter users to read more opinions from the other side. “We found no evidence that inter-group contact on social media reduces political polarization,” the authors wrote. Republicans in the experiment actually grew more conservative over the course of the test. Liberals in the experiment grew slightly more liberal.

Whenever we engage in political debates, we all tend to overrate the power of arguments we find personally convincing — and wrongly think the other side will be swayed.

On gun control, for instance, liberals are persuaded by stats like: "No other developed country in the world has nearly the same rate of gun violence as does America." And they think other people will find this compelling, too.

Conservatives, meanwhile, often go to this formulation : "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

What both sides fail to understand is that they're arguing a point that their opponents have not only already dismissed but may be inherently deaf to.

"The messages that are intuitive to people are, for the most part, not the effective ones," Robb Willer, a professor of sociology and psychology at Stanford University, told me in 2015.

Willer has shown it's at least possible to nudge our political opponents to consider ideas they'd normally reject outright. In 2015, in a series of six studies , he and co-author Matthew Feinberg found that when conservative policies are framed around liberal values like equality or fairness, liberals become more accepting of them. The same was true of liberal policies recast in terms of conservative values like respect for authority.

So, his research suggests, if a conservative wanted to convince a liberal to support higher military spending, he shouldn't appeal to patriotism. He should say something like, "Through the military, the disadvantaged can achieve equal standing and overcome the challenges of poverty and inequality." Or at least that's the general idea.

In a more recent effort Willer and a co-author found, in a nationally representative sample, that conservatives would be more willing to support a hypothetical liberal candidate for president if that candidate used language that reflected conservative values. For instance, conservatives who read that the candidate’s “vision for America is based on respect for the values and traditions that were handed down to us...” were more likely to say they supported him than when the candidate’s message was framed with liberal buzzwords.

How to sway the other side: Use their morals against them

Willer’s work is based on moral foundations theory . It's the idea that people have stable, gut-level morals that influence their worldview. The liberal moral foundations include equality, fairness, and protection of the vulnerable. Conservative moral foundations are more stalwart: They favor in-group loyalty, moral purity, and respect for authority.

Politicians intuitively use moral foundations to excite like-minded voters. Conservative politicians know phrases like "take our country back" get followers' hearts beating.

What moral foundations theory tells us, however, is that these messages don't translate from one moral tribe to the other. "You’re essentially trying to convince somebody who speaks French of some position while speaking German to them," Willer says. "And that doesn’t resonate."

Willer cautioned that it's still extremely difficult to convert a political opponent completely to your side, even with these techniques. "We found statistically significant effects," he says. "They’re reliable. But in terms of magnitude, they are not large."

The chart below shows how well the moral reframing worked for each policy area in Willer’s study. To be clear, there's only so much that reframing in terms of values can do: It can't turn an anti-Obamacare conservative into a proponent, but it can soften his stance and get him to listen to counterarguments.

A chart showing how reframed arguments about Obamacare are received better.

Still, it’s significant that Willer found any positive results at all, considering the difficulty political scientists usually have in getting partisans to sympathize with the other side on issues such as health care, military spending, same-sex marriage, and English as an official language.

Willer's conclusions may not heal American democracy, but they could help, let's say, lower tensions in a heated family argument.

Here’s an example. If you’re trying to convince a conservative of the merits of kneeling for the national anthem in protest, emphasize the traditional values around political and religious freedom. Willer suggests, “arguing that the founding fathers were deeply concerned with protecting our rights to social protest.” (Though he hasn’t used this argument in his tests, directly.)

Feinberg has followed up on the work with an experiment using moral reframing during the 2016 presidential election. In his study, when he framed an argument against Trump in terms of loyalty (a conservative moral foundation), conservative participants reported they were less likely to support him.

“For instance, the loyalty message argued that Trump ‘has repeatedly behaved disloyally towards our country to serve his own interests’ and that ‘during the Vietnam War, he dodged the draft to follow his father into the development business,’” Feinberg and his co-author write in the study .

Feinberg found a similar effect when framing an argument against Clinton in terms of fairness, a liberal moral foundation. The fairness argument mentioned “while so many Americans have suffered during the recent recession that the Wall Street Banks helped cause, Clinton has accepted millions of dollars from them in exchange for giving a few speeches” and claimed Clinton “is willing to sacrifice fairness and equality to achieve her own goals.’”

Liberal participants who were shown this argument felt colder toward Clinton, and indicated they were less likely to vote for her.

2) Listen. Your ideological opponents want to feel like they’ve been heard.

Willer and Feinberg’s work suggest there’s a way to change minds on policy. But what about on prejudice? How can you effectively argue a person out of a prejudicial opinion? Because as Vox’s German Lopez explains in great detail, simply calling people racist is a strategy sure to backfire.

In 2016, the journal Science published a remarkable bit of insight: It's possible to reduce prejudice, and sway opinions on anti-transgender legislation, with one 10-minute conversation. What's more, the researchers found that the change of heart can last at least three months and is resistant to anti-transgender attack ads.

It worked because the canvassers in the study did a simple thing: they listened.

Dave Fleischer, a longtime political organizer, calls it deep canvassing. The key to it is that Fleischer has the voter do most of the talking.

Instead of pelting voters with facts, "we ask open-ended questions and then we listen," Fleischer told me in 2016. "And then we continue to ask open-ended questions based on what they just told us."

In talking about their own lives, the voters engage in what psychologists call "active processing." The idea is that people learn lessons more durably when they come to the conclusion themselves, not when someone "bitch-slaps you with a statistic," says Fleischer. Overall, it's a task designed to point out our common humanity, which then opens the door to reducing prejudice and changing opinions.

How “deep canvassing” works

Here's a video example of deep canvassing. It's of a real voter and a canvasser from the Leadership LAB, a program of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The woman in the video starts off ambivalent on transgender issues. But through deep canvassing, the activist is able to turn her around.

Specifically, the canvassers ask the voters to recall a time when they were discriminated against. And then toward the end of the conversation, the canvassers nudge the voters into thinking about how that experience can relate to the plight of transgender people. The idea is that people learn lessons more durably when they come to the conclusions on their own.

In the video above, notice how the voter starts to come around on the issue when the canvasser asks if she's ever been on the receiving end of discrimination. She talks about being picked on at work and feeling different. He responds by telling his own story of being discriminated against for being gay. It's a real heart to heart between strangers.

And in that moment, the canvasser points out that a transgender nondiscrimination law would help people who feel discriminated against at school or work.

"Oh, okay, that makes a lot of sense," she says.

This technique has only been proven to work with identity issues, like transgender rights. It’s hard to say how to adapt it for talking a relative out of their support for gun control.

But it couldn’t hurt to try out the main message of the strategy: Listen to people, get them to think about their own experience, and highlight your common humanity.

You might at least get your foot in the door to a breakthrough.

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 3 key tips for how to write an argumentative essay.

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General Education


If there’s one writing skill you need to have in your toolkit for standardized tests, AP exams, and college-level writing, it’s the ability to make a persuasive argument. Effectively arguing for a position on a topic or issue isn’t just for the debate team— it’s for anyone who wants to ace the essay portion of an exam or make As in college courses.

To give you everything you need to know about how to write an argumentative essay , we’re going to answer the following questions for you:

  • What is an argumentative essay?
  • How should an argumentative essay be structured?
  • How do I write a strong argument?
  • What’s an example of a strong argumentative essay?
  • What are the top takeaways for writing argumentative papers?

By the end of this article, you’ll be prepped and ready to write a great argumentative essay yourself!

Now, let’s break this down.


What Is an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is a type of writing that presents the writer’s position or stance on a specific topic and uses evidence to support that position. The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince your reader that your position is logical, ethical, and, ultimately, right . In argumentative essays, writers accomplish this by writing:

  • A clear, persuasive thesis statement in the introduction paragraph
  • Body paragraphs that use evidence and explanations to support the thesis statement
  • A paragraph addressing opposing positions on the topic—when appropriate
  • A conclusion that gives the audience something meaningful to think about.

Introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion: these are the main sections of an argumentative essay. Those probably sound familiar. Where does arguing come into all of this, though? It’s not like you’re having a shouting match with your little brother across the dinner table. You’re just writing words down on a page!

...or are you? Even though writing papers can feel like a lonely process, one of the most important things you can do to be successful in argumentative writing is to think about your argument as participating in a larger conversation . For one thing, you’re going to be responding to the ideas of others as you write your argument. And when you’re done writing, someone—a teacher, a professor, or exam scorer—is going to be reading and evaluating your argument.

If you want to make a strong argument on any topic, you have to get informed about what’s already been said on that topic . That includes researching the different views and positions, figuring out what evidence has been produced, and learning the history of the topic. That means—you guessed it!—argumentative essays almost always require you to incorporate outside sources into your writing.  


What Makes Argumentative Essays Unique?

Argumentative essays are different from other types of essays for one main reason: in an argumentative essay, you decide what the argument will be . Some types of essays, like summaries or syntheses, don’t want you to show your stance on the topic—they want you to remain unbiased and neutral.

In argumentative essays, you’re presenting your point of view as the writer and, sometimes, choosing the topic you’ll be arguing about. You just want to make sure that that point of view comes across as informed, well-reasoned, and persuasive.

Another thing about argumentative essays: they’re often longer than other types of essays. Why, you ask? Because it takes time to develop an effective argument. If your argument is going to be persuasive to readers, you have to address multiple points that support your argument, acknowledge counterpoints, and provide enough evidence and explanations to convince your reader that your points are valid.


Our 3 Best Tips for Picking a Great Argumentative Topic

The first step to writing an argumentative essay deciding what to write about! Choosing a topic for your argumentative essay might seem daunting, though. It can feel like you could make an argument about anything under the sun. For example, you could write an argumentative essay about how cats are way cooler than dogs, right?

It’s not quite that simple . Here are some strategies for choosing a topic that serves as a solid foundation for a strong argument.

Choose a Topic That Can Be Supported With Evidence

First, you want to make sure the topic you choose allows you to make a claim that can be supported by evidence that’s considered credible and appropriate for the subject matter ...and, unfortunately, your personal opinions or that Buzzfeed quiz you took last week don’t quite make the cut.

Some topics—like whether cats or dogs are cooler—can generate heated arguments, but at the end of the day, any argument you make on that topic is just going to be a matter of opinion. You have to pick a topic that allows you to take a position that can be supported by actual, researched evidence.

(Quick note: you could write an argumentative paper over the general idea that dogs are better than cats—or visa versa!—if you’re a) more specific and b) choose an idea that has some scientific research behind it. For example, a strong argumentative topic could be proving that dogs make better assistance animals than cats do.)

You also don’t want to make an argument about a topic that’s already a proven fact, like that drinking water is good for you. While some people might dislike the taste of water, there is an overwhelming body of evidence that proves—beyond the shadow of a doubt—that drinking water is a key part of good health.  

To avoid choosing a topic that’s either unprovable or already proven, try brainstorming some issues that have recently been discussed in the news, that you’ve seen people debating on social media, or that affect your local community. If you explore those outlets for potential topics, you’ll likely stumble upon something that piques your audience’s interest as well.  

Choose a Topic That You Find Interesting

Topics that have local, national, or global relevance often also resonate with us on a personal level. Consider choosing a topic that holds a connection between something you know or care about and something that is relevant to the rest of society. These don’t have to be super serious issues, but they should be topics that are timely and significant.

For example, if you are a huge football fan, a great argumentative topic for you might be arguing whether football leagues need to do more to prevent concussions . Is this as “important” an issue as climate change? No, but it’s still a timely topic that affects many people. And not only is this a great argumentative topic: you also get to write about one of your passions! Ultimately, if you’re working with a topic you enjoy, you’ll have more to say—and probably write a better essay .

Choose a Topic That Doesn’t Get You Too Heated

Another word of caution on choosing a topic for an argumentative paper: while it can be effective to choose a topic that matters to you personally, you also want to make sure you’re choosing a topic that you can keep your cool over. You’ve got to be able to stay unemotional, interpret the evidence persuasively, and, when appropriate, discuss opposing points of view without getting too salty.

In some situations, choosing a topic for your argumentative paper won’t be an issue at all: the test or exam will choose it for you . In that case, you’ve got to do the best you can with what you’re given.

In the next sections, we’re going to break down how to write any argumentative essay —regardless of whether you get to choose your own topic or have one assigned to you! Our expert tips and tricks will make sure that you’re knocking your paper out of the park.


The Thesis: The Argumentative Essay’s Backbone

You’ve chosen a topic or, more likely, read the exam question telling you to defend, challenge, or qualify a claim on an assigned topic. What do you do now?

You establish your position on the topic by writing a killer thesis statement ! The thesis statement, sometimes just called “the thesis,” is the backbone of your argument, the north star that keeps you oriented as you develop your main points, the—well, you get the idea.

In more concrete terms, a thesis statement conveys your point of view on your topic, usually in one sentence toward the end of your introduction paragraph . It’s very important that you state your point of view in your thesis statement in an argumentative way—in other words, it should state a point of view that is debatable.

And since your thesis statement is going to present your argument on the topic, it’s the thing that you’ll spend the rest of your argumentative paper defending. That’s where persuasion comes in. Your thesis statement tells your reader what your argument is, then the rest of your essay shows and explains why your argument is logical.

Why does an argumentative essay need a thesis, though? Well, the thesis statement—the sentence with your main claim—is actually the entire point of an argumentative essay. If you don’t clearly state an arguable claim at the beginning of your paper, then it’s not an argumentative essay. No thesis statement = no argumentative essay. Got it?

Other types of essays that you’re familiar with might simply use a thesis statement to forecast what the rest of the essay is going to discuss or to communicate what the topic is. That’s not the case here. If your thesis statement doesn’t make a claim or establish your position, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.

Example Thesis Statements

Here are a couple of examples of thesis statements that aren’t argumentative and thesis statements that are argumentative

The sky is blue.

The thesis statement above conveys a fact, not a claim, so it’s not argumentative.

To keep the sky blue, governments must pass clean air legislation and regulate emissions.

The second example states a position on a topic. What’s the topic in that second sentence? The best way to keep the sky blue. And what position is being conveyed? That the best way to keep the sky blue is by passing clean air legislation and regulating emissions.

Some people would probably respond to that thesis statement with gusto: “No! Governments should not pass clean air legislation and regulate emissions! That infringes on my right to pollute the earth!” And there you have it: a thesis statement that presents a clear, debatable position on a topic.

Here’s one more set of thesis statement examples, just to throw in a little variety:

Spirituality and otherworldliness characterize A$AP Rocky’s portrayals of urban life and the American Dream in his rap songs and music videos.

The statement above is another example that isn’t argumentative, but you could write a really interesting analytical essay with that thesis statement. Long live A$AP! Now here’s another one that is argumentative:

To give students an understanding of the role of the American Dream in contemporary life, teachers should incorporate pop culture, like the music of A$AP Rocky, into their lessons and curriculum.

The argument in this one? Teachers should incorporate more relevant pop culture texts into their curriculum.

This thesis statement also gives a specific reason for making the argument above: To give students an understanding of the role of the American Dream in contemporary life. If you can let your reader know why you’re making your argument in your thesis statement, it will help them understand your argument better.


An actual image of you killing your argumentative essay prompts after reading this article! 

Breaking Down the Sections of An Argumentative Essay

Now that you know how to pick a topic for an argumentative essay and how to make a strong claim on your topic in a thesis statement, you’re ready to think about writing the other sections of an argumentative essay. These are the parts that will flesh out your argument and support the claim you made in your thesis statement.  

Like other types of essays, argumentative essays typically have three main sections: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Within those sections, there are some key elements that a reader—and especially an exam scorer or professor—is always going to expect you to include.

Let’s look at a quick outline of those three sections with their essential pieces here:

  • Introduction paragraph with a thesis statement (which we just talked about)
  • Support Point #1 with evidence
  • Explain/interpret the evidence with your own, original commentary (AKA, the fun part!)
  • Support Point #2 with evidence
  • Explain/interpret the evidence with your own, original commentary
  • Support Point #3 with evidence
  • New paragraph addressing opposing viewpoints (more on this later!)
  • Concluding paragraph

 Now, there are some key concepts in those sections that you’ve got to understand if you’re going to master how to write an argumentative essay. To make the most of the body section, you have to know how to support your claim (your thesis statement), what evidence and explanations are and when you should use them, and how and when to address opposing viewpoints. To finish strong, you’ve got to have a strategy for writing a stellar conclusion.

This probably feels like a big deal! The body and conclusion make up most of the essay, right? Let’s get down to it, then.


How to Write a Strong Argument

Once you have your topic and thesis, you’re ready for the hard part: actually writing your argument. If you make strategic choices—like the ones we’re about to talk about—writing a strong argumentative essay won’t feel so difficult.

There are three main areas where you want to focus your energy as you develop a strategy for how to write an argumentative essay: supporting your claim—your thesis statement—in your essay, addressing other viewpoints on your topic, and writing a solid conclusion. If you put thought and effort into these three things, you’re much more likely to write an argumentative essay that’s engaging, persuasive, and memorable...aka A+ material.

Focus Area 1: Supporting Your Claim With Evidence and Explanations

So you’ve chosen your topic, decided what your position will be, and written a thesis statement. But like we see in comment threads across the Internet, if you make a claim and don’t back it up with evidence, what do people say? “Where’s your proof?” “Show me the facts!” “Do you have any evidence to support that claim?”

Of course you’ve done your research like we talked about. Supporting your claim in your thesis statement is where that research comes in handy.

You can’t just use your research to state the facts, though. Remember your reader? They’re going to expect you to do some of the dirty work of interpreting the evidence for them. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between evidence and explanations, and how and when to use both in your argumentative essay.

What Evidence Is and When You Should Use It

Evidence can be material from any authoritative and credible outside source that supports your position on your topic. In some cases, evidence can come in the form of photos, video footage, or audio recordings. In other cases, you might be pulling reasons, facts, or statistics from news media articles, public policy, or scholarly books or journals.

There are some clues you can look for that indicate whether or not a source is credible , such as whether:

  • The website where you found the source ends in .edu, .gov, or .org
  • The source was published by a university press
  • The source was published in a peer-reviewed journal
  • The authors did extensive research to support the claims they make in the source

This is just a short list of some of the clues that a source is likely a credible one, but just because a source was published by a prestigious press or the authors all have PhDs doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best piece of evidence for you to use to support your argument.

In addition to evaluating the source’s credibility, you’ve got to consider what types of evidence might come across as most persuasive in the context of the argument you’re making and who your readers are. In other words, stepping back and getting a bird’s eye view of the entire context of your argumentative paper is key to choosing evidence that will strengthen your argument.

On some exams, like the AP exams , you may be given pretty strict parameters for what evidence to use and how to use it. You might be given six short readings that all address the same topic, have 15 minutes to read them, then be required to pull material from a minimum of three of the short readings to support your claim in an argumentative essay.

When the sources are handed to you like that, be sure to take notes that will help you pick out evidence as you read. Highlight, underline, put checkmarks in the margins of your exam . . . do whatever you need to do to begin identifying the material that you find most helpful or relevant. Those highlights and check marks might just turn into your quotes, paraphrases, or summaries of evidence in your completed exam essay.

What Explanations Are and When You Should Use Them

Now you know that taking a strategic mindset toward evidence and explanations is critical to grasping how to write an argumentative essay. Unfortunately, evidence doesn’t speak for itself. While it may be obvious to you, the researcher and writer, how the pieces of evidence you’ve included are relevant to your audience, it might not be as obvious to your reader.

That’s where explanations—or analysis, or interpretations—come in. You never want to just stick some quotes from an article into your paragraph and call it a day. You do want to interpret the evidence you’ve included to show your reader how that evidence supports your claim.

Now, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be saying, “This piece of evidence supports my argument because...”. Instead, you want to comment on the evidence in a way that helps your reader see how it supports the position you stated in your thesis. We’ll talk more about how to do this when we show you an example of a strong body paragraph from an argumentative essay here in a bit.

Understanding how to incorporate evidence and explanations to your advantage is really important. Here’s why: when you’re writing an argumentative essay, particularly on standardized tests or the AP exam, the exam scorers can’t penalize you for the position you take. Instead, their evaluation is going to focus on the way you incorporated evidence and explained it in your essay.


Focus Area 2: How—and When—to Address Other Viewpoints

Why would we be making arguments at all if there weren’t multiple views out there on a given topic? As you do research and consider the background surrounding your topic, you’ll probably come across arguments that stand in direct opposition to your position.

Oftentimes, teachers will ask you to “address the opposition” in your argumentative essay. What does that mean, though, to “ address the opposition ?”

Opposing viewpoints function kind of like an elephant in the room. Your audience knows they’re there. In fact, your audience might even buy into an opposing viewpoint and be waiting for you to show them why your viewpoint is better. If you don’t, it means that you’ll have a hard time convincing your audience to buy your argument.

Addressing the opposition is a balancing act: you don’t want to undermine your own argument, but you don’t want to dismiss the validity of opposing viewpoints out-of-hand or ignore them altogether, which can also undermine your argument.

This isn’t the only acceptable approach, but it’s common practice to wait to address the opposition until close to the end of an argumentative essay. But why?

Well, waiting to present an opposing viewpoint until after you’ve thoroughly supported your own argument is strategic. You aren’t going to go into great detail discussing the opposing viewpoint: you’re going to explain what that viewpoint is fairly, but you’re also going to point out what’s wrong with it.

It can also be effective to read the opposition through the lens of your own argument and the evidence you’ve used to support it. If the evidence you’ve already included supports your argument, it probably doesn’t support the opposing viewpoint. Without being too obvious, it might be worth pointing this out when you address the opposition.


Focus Area #3: Writing the Conclusion

It’s common to conclude an argumentative essay by reiterating the thesis statement in some way, either by reminding the reader what the overarching argument was in the first place or by reviewing the main points and evidence that you covered.

You don’t just want to restate your thesis statement and review your main points and call it a day, though. So much has happened since you stated your thesis in the introduction! And why waste a whole paragraph—the very last thing your audience is going to read—on just repeating yourself?

Here’s an approach to the conclusion that can give your audience a fresh perspective on your argument: reinterpret your thesis statement for them in light of all the evidence and explanations you’ve provided. Think about how your readers might read your thesis statement in a new light now that they’ve heard your whole argument out.

That’s what you want to leave your audience with as you conclude your argumentative paper: a brief explanation of why all that arguing mattered in the first place. If you can give your audience something to continue pondering after they’ve read your argument, that’s even better.

One thing you want to avoid in your conclusion, though: presenting new supporting points or new evidence. That can just be confusing for your reader. Stick to telling your reader why the argument you’ve already made matters, and your argument will stick with your reader.


A Strong Argumentative Essay: Examples

For some aspiring argumentative essay writers, showing is better than telling. To show rather than tell you what makes a strong argumentative essay, we’ve provided three examples of possible body paragraphs for an argumentative essay below.

Think of these example paragraphs as taking on the form of the “Argumentative Point #1 → Evidence —> Explanation —> Repeat” process we talked through earlier. It’s always nice to be able to compare examples, so we’ve included three paragraphs from an argumentative paper ranging from poor (or needs a lot of improvement, if you’re feeling generous), to better, to best.

All of the example paragraphs are for an essay with this thesis statement: 

Thesis Statement: In order to most effectively protect user data and combat the spread of disinformation, the U.S. government should implement more stringent regulations of Facebook and other social media outlets.

As you read the examples, think about what makes them different, and what makes the “best” paragraph more effective than the “better” and “poor” paragraphs. Here we go:

A Poor Argument

Example Body Paragraph: Data mining has affected a lot of people in recent years. Facebook has 2.23 billion users from around the world, and though it would take a huge amount of time and effort to make sure a company as big as Facebook was complying with privacy regulations in countries across the globe, adopting a common framework for privacy regulation in more countries would be the first step. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg himself supports adopting a global framework for privacy and data protection, which would protect more users than before.

What’s Wrong With This Example?

First, let’s look at the thesis statement. Ask yourself: does this make a claim that some people might agree with, but others might disagree with?

The answer is yes. Some people probably think that Facebook should be regulated, while others might believe that’s too much government intervention. Also, there are definitely good, reliable sources out there that will help this writer prove their argument. So this paper is off to a strong start!  

Unfortunately, this writer doesn’t do a great job proving their thesis in their body paragraph. First, the topic sentence—aka the first sentence of the paragraph—doesn’t make a point that directly supports the position stated in the thesis. We’re trying to argue that government regulation will help protect user data and combat the spread of misinformation, remember? The topic sentence should make a point that gets right at that, instead of throwing out a random fact about data mining.

Second, because the topic sentence isn’t focused on making a clear point, the rest of the paragraph doesn’t have much relevant information, and it fails to provide credible evidence that supports the claim made in the thesis statement. For example, it would be a great idea to include exactly what Mark Zuckerberg said ! So while there’s definitely some relevant information in this paragraph, it needs to be presented with more evidence.

A Better Argument  

This paragraph is a bit better than the first one, but it still needs some work. The topic sentence is a bit too long, and it doesn’t make a point that clearly supports the position laid out in the thesis statement. The reader already knows that mining user data is a big issue, so the topic sentence would be a great place to make a point about why more stringent government regulations would most effectively protect user data.

There’s also a problem with how the evidence is incorporated in this example. While there is some relevant, persuasive evidence included in this paragraph, there’s no explanation of why or how it is relevant . Remember, you can’t assume that your evidence speaks for itself: you have to interpret its relevance for your reader. That means including at least a sentence that tells your reader why the evidence you’ve chosen proves your argument.

A Best—But Not Perfect!—Argument  

Example Body Paragraph: Though Facebook claims to be implementing company policies that will protect user data and stop the spread of misinformation , its attempts have been unsuccessful compared to those made by the federal government. When PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a Federal Trade Commission-mandated assessment of Facebook’s partnerships with Microsoft and the makers of the Blackberry handset in 2013, the team found limited evidence that Facebook had monitored or even checked that its partners had complied with Facebook’s existing data use policies. In fact, Facebook’s own auditors confirmed the PricewaterhouseCoopers findings, despite the fact that Facebook claimed that the company was making greater attempts to safeguard users’ personal information. In contrast, bills written by Congress have been more successful in changing Facebook’s practices than Facebook’s own company policies have. According to The Washington Post, The Honest Ads Act of 2017 “created public demand for transparency and changed how social media companies disclose online political advertising.” These policy efforts, though thus far unsuccessful in passing legislation, have nevertheless pushed social media companies to change some of their practices by sparking public outrage and negative media attention.

Why This Example Is The Best

This paragraph isn’t perfect, but it is the most effective at doing some of the things that you want to do when you write an argumentative essay.

First, the topic sentences get to the point . . . and it’s a point that supports and explains the claim made in the thesis statement! It gives a clear reason why our claim in favor of more stringent government regulations is a good claim : because Facebook has failed to self-regulate its practices.

This paragraph also provides strong evidence and specific examples that support the point made in the topic sentence. The evidence presented shows specific instances in which Facebook has failed to self-regulate, and other examples where the federal government has successfully influenced regulation of Facebook’s practices for the better.

Perhaps most importantly, though, this writer explains why the evidence is important. The bold sentence in the example is where the writer links the evidence back to their opinion. In this case, they explain that the pressure from Federal Trade Commission and Congress—and the threat of regulation—have helped change Facebook for the better.

Why point out that this isn’t a perfect paragraph, though? Because you won’t be writing perfect paragraphs when you’re taking timed exams either. But get this: you don’t have to write perfect paragraphs to make a good score on AP exams or even on an essay you write for class. Like in this example paragraph, you just have to effectively develop your position by appropriately and convincingly relying on evidence from good sources.


Top 3 Takeaways For Writing Argumentative Essays

This is all great information, right? If (when) you have to write an argumentative essay, you’ll be ready. But when in doubt, remember these three things about how to write an argumentative essay, and you’ll emerge victorious:

Takeaway #1: Read Closely and Carefully

This tip applies to every aspect of writing an argumentative essay. From making sure you’re addressing your prompt, to really digging into your sources, to proofreading your final paper...you’ll need to actively and pay attention! This is especially true if you’re writing on the clock, like during an AP exam.

Takeaway #2: Make Your Argument the Focus of the Essay

Define your position clearly in your thesis statement and stick to that position! The thesis is the backbone of your paper, and every paragraph should help prove your thesis in one way or another. But sometimes you get to the end of your essay and realize that you’ve gotten off topic, or that your thesis doesn’t quite fit. Don’t worry—if that happens, you can always rewrite your thesis to fit your paper!

Takeaway #3: Use Sources to Develop Your Argument—and Explain Them

Nothing is as powerful as good, strong evidence. First, make sure you’re finding credible sources that support your argument. Then you can paraphrase, briefly summarize, or quote from your sources as you incorporate them into your paragraphs. But remember the most important part: you have to explain why you’ve chosen that evidence and why it proves your thesis.

What's Next?

Once you’re comfortable with how to write an argumentative essay, it’s time to learn some more advanced tips and tricks for putting together a killer argument.

Keep in mind that argumentative essays are just one type of essay you might encounter. That’s why we’ve put together more specific guides on how to tackle IB essays , SAT essays , and ACT essays .

But what about admissions essays? We’ve got you covered. Not only do we have comprehensive guides to the Coalition App and Common App essays, we also have tons of individual college application guides, too . You can search through all of our college-specific posts by clicking here.

Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!

Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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10 Developing Strong Arguments

Josh miller, university of wisconsin-milwaukee, learning objectives.

  • Understand the principles of argumentation.
  • Identify the parts of an argument.
  • Understand the different types of arguments, and how to make an effective argument.
  • Explain the techniques for creating and the benefits of having counter arguments.

When you think of the word argument, you might also think of intense shouting matches where one person attempts to yell louder than the other person. You might imagine someone’s feelings getting hurt or relationships falling apart. Or, perhaps a scene emerges in your mind where one friend decides to stop speaking with another friend after an altercation. You might even think of physical violence. In general, people tend to have a negative impression about arguing, thinking that arguments are destructive and harmful. We want to avoid arguments. This chapter, however, takes a different approach to argument. As you will learn in this chapter, effective public speeches develop around arguments, and arguments do not need to be considered harmful things to be avoided. Instead, someone engaged in an argument gives logical reasons to other people—reasons that might enable those people to change their own minds about a particular topic or issue.

This chapter will first equip you with some basic principles for understanding the importance of arguments in public speaking. Based on those principles, you will learn why speeches must have arguments and how to determine the success of an argument. Then, you will learn about the basic structure of an argument, so you have the tools to develop compelling arguments. The chapter will also discuss several types of arguments that you can make, and it will warn you several types of argumentative strategies that you will want to avoid. You will also learn about the significance of knowing what other people might think about your topic and why it is important to address other people’s potential concerns with your topic in your speech itself.

Principles of Argumentation

Before we examine the structure of an argument, it might be helpful to first cover some essential principles of argumentation. These principles help us to be better equipped to answer the following questions: why do we argue? What is argumentation and what is an argument? How do I know that I have made a successful argument? There are four principles in total: (1) argumentation solves problems, (2) argumentation involves uncertainty, (3) arguments are a process and a product, and (4) success is determined by the audience.

Principle #1: Argumentation as Solutions to Problems

Why do we make arguments and why do we engage in argumentation? At the most basic level, we engage in arguments to solve problems. In your local community, you might believe that the roads are littered with too many potholes, so you decide to convince your neighbors and your local city council to raise taxes to fix all of those potholes. To convince your neighbors and city council members to make the change, you need to engage in argumentation. In other words, you need to give your audience, members of your local city council and neighbors, good reasons as to why they should make a change and taxes should be increased. What distinguishes argumentation from other ways to solve problems is that arguers will use evidence and logical reasoning to convince others that there is a problem and that they know the best way to fix the problem. [i] In public speaking, argumentation is not a zero-sum game where there is a clear winner and loser because the goal of argumentation is connection and problem-solving. In short, arguments are used to inspire action and solutions to fix problems.

Principle #2: Argumentation involves Uncertainty

Arguments are necessary when there is uncertainty about what people can do or should do at some point in the future. Arguments work to reduce that uncertainty. When we face a problem in our daily lives, in our communities, or as a nation, we have many different options about what we can do. Some might not even recognize or believe that a problem is occurring and thus believe that we do not need to do anything. Some people might believe that one possible solution is better than the other solutions, and some might disagree with that assessment. Moreover, we generally need to decide how to respond to the problem with limited information, and we can never be certain what the proper course of action entails. If the solution were obvious, we would not need to make arguments to convince others of the best course of action. When we face problems, we can try to agree on the best course of action by giving each other reasons why we should prefer one action over another. Because of the uncertainty inherent in argumentation, arguments require people to take “inferential leaps” or leaps of faith. People make these leaps of faith because they believe that a strong rationale exists for believing in one point of view over another. [ii]

Principle #3: Arguments as Products/Process

We can understand arguments as being both a product and a process. To view an argument as a product is to understand that an argument is something that is made and has a structure. As a public speaker, you will make an argument to convince someone to agree with your point of view. You will give evidence and use that evidence to make an argument about why your point of view is correct. However, arguments are something that you will also have with other people. Arguments do not occur in a vacuum. So, to view argument as a process means to understand that arguments happen in interactions with others. Through that process, you might tell your audience why you believe your evidence justifies a particular position over another, but your audience members might also tell you why they think their point of view is superior to others. Throughout that interaction and exchange of ideas and evidence, hopefully, you and your fellow arguers will arrive and agree upon the best course of action.

In order for the process of argumentation to work, both you and your audience members have to be open to persuasion. This openness is known as the principle of reciprocity . True argumentation can only occur if both you and your audience are open to being persuaded and willing to admit that you may be wrong. [iii] You and your audience members have to be willing to examine the evidence and be willing to compromise. That is, engagement with others is necessary for productive argumentation. [iv] Otherwise, even though you might be exchanging points of view and evidence supporting those points of view, both you and your audience members will not be able to arrive at a collective course of action that will solve the problems you face. In short, arguments are things that we make (produce), but arguments are also things that we do with others (process).

The principle of reciprocity is when both you and your audience members are open to persuasion.

Principle #4: Success is Determine by Your Audience

Being correct is not the same thing as having a strong or successful argument. Success is based on earning agreement of your audience. When we argue, it is because we want others to share our point of view and act with us to solve a problem. Ultimately, it is up to our audience to decide if they want to agree with our point of view and act collectively with us. So, even if we are confident that we are correct in what we believe, we cannot consider our arguments to be successful until we convince others to agree with our point of view. The process of earning agreement from your audience can be long and difficult. However, merely repeating what you believe to be correct will not foster a successful argument. It is not until you realize that your audience determines whether or not your argument is correct that you can begin to work to earn that agreement. As such, creating a successful argument often takes time, effort, research, and a willingness to engage with ideas and beliefs with which you disagree.

Now that we have covered some of the basic principles of argumentation, let us examine the parts of an argument. Knowing the parts of every argument will help you recognize whether or not you are crafting an effective argument for your speech.

The Parts of an Argument

A well-structured argument contains at least three parts: the claim, the data, and the reasoning. The claim is the initial statement with which you would like your audience to agree. The data is the supporting material and evidence that you present to your audience that you believe shows that your claim is accurate. The reasoning is the logical connection between your data and claim. In other words, the reasoning shows your audience why your data supports your claim. [i] For example, if you are attempting to convince your friend to go eat lunch with you at a local burger place, you might say “we should go to that burger place for lunch today.” You want your friend to agree with that statement, and it is thus your claim. Your friend might ask “why?” And, you might respond by stating “it has the best fries.” This statement is your data because it is the supporting material that you provided to your friend to prove that your claim (“we should go to the burger place”) is correct. Your reasoning is the logical connection between your claim and the data. In this case, your reasoning might be that “restaurants that have the best fries are the best places to eat.” This statement connects your data (that the burger place has the best fries) to your claim (that you should eat at the burger place). Thus, your complete argument: “Places that have the best fries are the best places to eat lunch. So, we should eat at the burger place, because they have the best fries.” This statement includes your claim, data, and reasoning.

effective arguing techniques

In everyday conversation, speakers do not always explicitly state the reasoning of the argument. When you talk to your friends about where to eat lunch, you might only say “we should eat at the burger place, because they have great fries.” If you ever said this statement, you would have only explicitly stated the claim and data. The reasoning is implied, and you would have assumed that your friends would understand the logical connection between having good fries and going to a place to eat. Based on this example, we might infer that not everyone will explicitly state their reasoning. However, for your argument to be effective, your audience needs to understand and agree with the logical connection between your claim and data. As such, if you do not state the reasoning explicitly, you must be confident that the logical connection is obvious enough that your audience will understand what it is. To be on the safe side, you should be as explicit as possible about how your data supports your claim in your speech, especially if your argument is complex or new to your audience. Remember that without a clear connection between your data and claim your argument will fall flat.

The claim is the intial statement with which you would like your audience to agree.

The data is the supporting material and evidence that you present to your audience that you believe shows that your claim is accurate.

The reasoning is the logical connection between your data and claim.

The basic structure of an argument includes a claim, data, and reasoning. To know how to develop as many diverse arguments as possible, it is helpful to know about the many different ways the reasoning process works in an argument. Let’s examine the different types of argument.

Try It: “Because” Test

Strong data is critical to developing strong arguments. To ensure that you include evidence in every argument, use the “because” test. The word because usually signals that a clause in your sentence will contain data supporting the other clause in the sentence. As such, one way to identify your claim and data is to add the word “because.” Examine the topic sentence of each paragraph (or main point) of your speech. If those sentences do not contain the word “because,” try to rewrite them to include the word “because.” If you cannot, then it is likely that your sentence needs data to support your claim and be a complete argument. Think of the burger place example once again. In this hypothetical, if your sentence was only “we should go to the burger place,” you will notice that you cannot rewrite this sentence to include the word “because.” As such, this sentence is only the claim. However, if your statement was “The burger place has great fries. We should go to it.” You can rewrite that statement as “we should go to the burger place because it has great fries.” This statement includes both the claim (“we should go to the burger place”) and data (“it has great fries”); the “because” in the sentence signals a connection between the claim and data.

Types of Arguments

Understanding different reasoning patterns can help you construct better arguments.  We will examine six ways you might reason as you develop and articulate an argument: (1) arguments by induction, (2) arguments from deduction, (3) arguments of cause, (4) arguments by analogy, (5) arguments by sign, and (6) arguments from authority.

Arguments from Induction

When arguing by induction , speakers take specific instances of an occurrence and generalize to a general principle based on their observation of those specific instances. [i] This process of going from specific instances and information to generalizing is also called developing an argument from example. During election seasons, pollsters use reasoning by example to make arguments about which candidate the general population prefers or wants to vote for at a given time. Pollsters ask a sample number of people to determine what they are thinking about the election. Based on the results from that sample, pollsters generalize and draw conclusions about what the general population thinks about the election and the candidates.

When developing an argument from example, your data is a specific instance of a larger phenomenon. You might use your personal experience to make your generalization. For example, if you are giving a speech about the need for public libraries, you can use your personal experience of using the public library to use the internet, check out a book, or have a quiet place to work. Based on your personal experience (your data) of needing to use the library, you generalize (your reasoning) to make the argument that libraries are an essential facet of your community (your claim). Other types of data that might be relevant to an argument from example include testimonies of other and statistics. For instance, if you want to argue that the economy of your state is doing poorly, you might find statistics that three of the largest cities in the state have growing unemployment and have a shrinking economy. Based on those three statistics (your data), you generalize (your reasoning) to conclude that the economy in the entire state is likely weaker than it should be (your claim).

If you decide to use inductive reasoning in your speech, you should ask yourself the following questions: (1) Do I have enough examples to support the generalization? (2) Will my audience members find my examples typical and representative? [ii] Your argument from example may not be persuasive without enough examples to support your conclusion. For instance, if you are giving a speech about funding for libraries and you tell your audience that you use the libraries, your audience will not accept your generalization that the library is important because many people use it. Instead, you could provide your audience with a statistic stating the total number of people that use the libraries to generalize that many people use them. Arguments from example also fail when the examples are outliers or isolated instances. You may not like chocolate cake, but that does not mean that we can then conclude that most people dislike chocolate cake.

Arguments from Deduction

Whereas reasoning by example involves moving from specific instances to a general principle, when using deductive reasoning , speakers take a general principle and apply that principle to a specific case. For example, if you have evidence proving that in general students who attend a preschool do better in their K-12 education than students who do not, you might make an argument that your child should attend preschool so they can do better in their K-12 education. In this example, your claim would be that “my child should attend preschool.” Your data is the study you found saying, attending preschool correlates with more success in K-12 education. The reasoning that connects the data and claim is the belief that what is generally true for other children will be true for your child. When you make an argument that starts with a general principle and then apply that principle to a specific example, you are reasoning by deduction.

Data that supports an argument from deduction can include both facts and values derived from expert testimony, statistics, and revered documents. For example, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, he cited two revered documents: the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. On that hot summer’s day in 1963, King exclaimed:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” [iii]

The argument that King develops in this passage is one based on deduction. King starts with the data that the Declaration of Independence proclaims that all people are created equal. King then applies the general value principle established by the Declaration of Independence to the issue of racial segregation. When he does that, he can conclude that all races should be treated equally under the law and granted the guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because the Declaration of Independence generally concludes that all people are created equal (data), King argues that in the specific instance (reasoning) of racial segregation that the law should treat all races equally (claim).

When developing an argument from deduction, you need to be confident that the general principle on which you base your argument is accurate and that your audience will believe that it is accurate. If you do not believe that your audience will agree with the general principle, then you would want to include additional evidence justifying that the general principle is accurate before you apply that general principle to a specific situation.

Arguments of Cause

Arguments based on causal reasoning attempt to establish a cause and effect relationship between two items. So, based on an assumption about a relationship between the two items, your argument predicts that something will occur based on the data that you have. That is, you believe that one of the items influences the other items in some way. For instance, if a friend noticed you studying three hours a day for a whole week, that friend might make the following prediction: “you are going to do well on your exam because you have been putting in so many hours of studying.” In this example, your friend’s claim is that you will do well on the exam. The data is your friend’s observation of all of the studying that you have been doing. The reasoning in this argument is that a cause and effect relationship exists between studying and doing well on an exam. When speakers and audiences believe that one thing causes the other thing, they assume that the observation of one of the things allows us to predict that the other thing will occur.

Another example of reasoning by cause would be the argument that “you should stop smoking, so you do not develop lung disease.” In this argument, the claim would be “you should stop smoking.” The speaker making this argument would be using causal reasoning because the argument assumes that a causal relationship between smoking and lung disease exists. The argument assumes that smoking does cause lung disease. To strengthen arguments by cause, you should clearly articulate evidence that supports the cause and effect relationship between the two items. In the instance of the smoking example, citing evidence that establishes the connection between smoking and lung cancer would make the causal argument stronger. Moreover, strong arguments by cause usually include an explanation about how one item influences the other item. For instance, in the example about smoking, saying that smoking damages lung cells which increases the likelihood of lung disease explains to the audience how smoking and lung disease are connected.

Causal arguments fail when they are based on correlation rather than causation. Correlation means that two things tend to happen at the same time—they have a connection. However, in a correlation one thing does not cause the other thing. For example, we may notice that college debt is increasing in the United States, and we may also notice that over the same period of time smoking has been decreasing in the United States. However, we cannot conclude that if more people smoked cigarettes, college debt would decrease. When two things happen at the same time, it does not prove that one causes the other.

Arguments by Analogy

Arguments by analogy assume that if two items are alike in some respects, then they will be alike in other respects. As such, reasoning by analogy connects evidence to the claim by comparing to items. [iv] Take the following argument for example: “Sweden’s health care system dramatically reduced health care costs in five years. Thus, the United States should follow Sweden’s lead and adopt a similar healthcare system.” In this example, the claim is that the United States should adopt a health care system that is similar to Sweden’s. The data is a report that Sweden’s health care costs were reduced in five years. The reasoning connects the claim and data together. In this case, the reasoning is that because the United States and Sweden are comparable countries, what worked in Sweden should work in the United States. This type of reasoning relies on the belief that the two items (in this example, Sweden and the United States) are actually comparable in ways that are relevant to the argument. If members of the audience think that one cannot make a comparison between the two countries, then the reasoning process (and the argument) fails.

Remember that when you reason by analogy, the two objects that you are comparing need to be similar and your audience needs to understand their similarities. The similarities also need to be relevant to your argument. If the two objects that you are comparing seem dissimilar, then it will be more difficult for you to convince your audience to take the “leap of faith” and accept your claim.

Arguments by Sign

When a speaker makes an argument that uses reasoning by sign , the speaker assumes that the observation of one item shows that another item is occurring. Reasoning by sign then allows us to infer the presence of something, even if that thing cannot be physically observed. One of the most common arguments based on sign is the following: “I see smoke. There must be a fire.” Even though the speaker does not see fire, the speaker reasons that the presence of smoke must mean that there is a fire. If we were to break that argument into its parts, we would say the claim is that there is fire. The data is the physical observation of smoke. The reasoning process would be that “smoke is a sign of fire.”

Reasoning by sign is distinct from reasoning by cause because reasoning by sign does not attempt to show a causal relationship between the two things. That is, when you are reasoning by sign, you are not saying that “smoke causes fire” but that “from our observation of smoke, we can assume the presence of fire.” If we were to use reasoning by cause, we might state that: “because fire causes smoke, if I start a fire, there will also be smoke.” In the example of reasoning by cause, we infer something will happen based on the occurrence of something else. In the example of reasoning by sign, we infer something is happening based on our observation of something else.

When reasoning by sign, you want to be careful to take into account alternative explanations of what might be happening. For example, if you walk outside in the morning and see a large puddle of water, you might assume that it recently rained. This assumption would be reasoning by sign because you assume that your observation of the puddle enables you to infer that rain occurred. However, other explanations might exist for why there is a large pool of water. For example, a fire hydrant might be broke nearby that is gushing water everywhere, or someone might have left on their garden hose. So, when you reason by sign, you need to take other possibilities into account and determine if your explanation is the best possible explanation for what occurred. [v]

Arguments from Authority

An argument from authority uses the expertise of someone as data to justify a claim as correct. This type of argument is one of the reasons it is important to cite qualified sources in your speech. The expertise of your sources justifies the arguments that you are making. Take the following argument: “Climate change is a real phenomenon because a vast majority of scientists indicate that it is real. In fact, in a peer-reviewed study, Doctor John Cook and his research team compiled scientific studies about climate change and found over 90% of scientists agree that the phenomenon is real.” [vi] In this argument, the claim is that climate change is real. The data is a study conducted by experts in the field stating that scientific consensus exists around the issue of climate change. The reasoning that connects the claim with the data is that what experts in their field indicate as true is likely to be true. When you reason by authority, you can either quote the authority figure or summarize the authority figure’s arguments. Regardless, you must also tell your audience who the authority figure is and why they are qualified to speak about the topic of your speech.

When developing an argument from authority, remember the following: first, you need to make sure that the person you are citing is an expert in the topic of your speech. Someone might have a doctorate in literature, but that does not mean that their testimony on a scientific process is authoritative. Conversely, someone who has a doctorate in chemistry might not have the most authoritative voice when it comes to a speech involving books that have historically been banned from public schools. Second, the strongest arguments from authority generally do not rely on only one person’s authority. Instead, they rely on the testimony of multiple sources all of which are qualified to speak on the matter of your speech. For example, if you want to make a claim about the effect of increased carbon dioxide emission on plant life, a stronger argument would cite multiple independent qualified sources rather than just one source. Lastly, always remember to cite your sources out loud in your speech. Because your argument relies on the credibility of the people you are citing, you need to make sure you tell your audience your sources’ qualifications.

Arguments and Multiple Types of Reasoning

Not every member of your audience will be persuaded by the same argument. Some people connect better with a clear example. Some people are more trusting of authority figures than others. Because of this, you will want to include several types of arguments in your speech. For example, if you wanted to convince your neighbors to increase taxes to reduce potholes, you might want to both include personal testimonies of people who say that they damaged their cars (reasoning by example) and evidence from car mechanics that detail how potholes can damage cars (reasoning by authority). When you include a few types of reasoning in your speech, the chance that at least one of your arguments will convince your audience of your thesis will increase. To strengthen your argument, you might use multiple pieces of evidence and reason in different ways to justify the same claim.

effective arguing techniques

Additionally, you might cite evidence to support the reasoning process of an argument in your speech. Recall the example above about convincing someone to quit smoking. If you said, “you should quit smoking because you do not want to get cancer,” you would be reasoning by cause. Your claim is the person should quit smoking. The data is that it is bad to get cancer. The argument assumes a causal relationship between smoking and cancer. Thus, the argument reasons by cause. Now, imagine that you made the following argument: “you should quit smoking because you do not want to get cancer. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking leads to lung cancer.” [vii] In this statement, you have provided evidence supporting the reasoning of your argument. Think of the second sentence “according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking leads to lung cancer” as a new argument. In this argument, the claim is that smoking leads to lung cancer which is the reasoning from the first sentence of the argument. The data for the second sentence is the CDC’s report. The reasoning that connects the claim and data is reasoning by authority because the argument assumes that what experts state as true is likely to be true. So, when you are constructing your arguments for your speech, if you ever think that the reasoning of your argument is unclear or might not convince others, you should find additional evidence to support the logical connection between your claim and data.

Inductive reasoning is when a speaker takes specific instances of occurrence and generalizes to a general principle based on their observation of those specific instances.

Deductive reasoning is when speakers take a general principle and apply that principle to a specific case.

Arguments based on causal reasoning attempt to establish a cause and effect relationship between two items.

Arguments by analogy assume that if two items are alike in some respects, then they will be alike in other respects.

When reasoning by sign , the speaker assumes that the observation of one item shows that another item is occurring.

An argument that reasons from authority uses the expertise of someone as data to justify a claim as correct.

Counter Arguments

Effective speakers recognize that their audience members’ points of view often differ from their own. As a speaker, you will, of course, attempt to prove that your point of view is the one that your audience should adopt. However, because audience members have their own points of view and beliefs about many issues, it is vital for you to brainstorm what those other beliefs and views about your topic might be and how you might address those beliefs in your speech. It might be easy to ignore divergent points of view, but doing so does a disservice to both your speech and your audience. As a speaker, you need to take other points of view into account as you develop your speech.

To ensure that you are considering other points of view, your speech should address potential counter arguments. Counter arguments are positions with which your audience might hold that contradict or oppose your arguments. [i] For example, if you were to give a speech in which you argue that taxes should be increased to maintain public libraries in your hometown, someone else might think “why would we do that? No one uses libraries anymore.” The belief that no one uses libraries anymore may challenge the main argument of your speech. Thus, it is a counter-argument to your speech.

It is important for you to remember that at least one counter argument will exist whenever you give a speech. If there are no counter arguments and everyone in the audience already agrees with your thesis, you would have no reason to deliver the speech. The best speakers, knowing there are likely to be counter arguments present whenever they speak, anticipate and respond to potential beliefs or positions that run contrary to their thesis. For instance, if you were delivering the speech mentioned above about increasing funding for libraries, you would want to tailor your speech to highlight why people might use libraries and provide data to support your claim. You might find reports that show people use libraries for internet access if they do not have internet at home, or you might also find newspaper articles that discuss summer reading program that libraries hold for children. You can then incorporate those pieces of evidence into your speech to address the counter-argument that people do not use libraries anymore. For instance, you might say something like this: “Some of you might think that not enough people use our public libraries to justify the increased expenditures, but a recent Pew Research Institute poll found that people still frequently use public libraries to check out books, take classes about how to use new technology, and use the internet to find jobs.” [ii] If you had delivered this statement, you would have referenced an opposing viewpoint (“not enough people use our public libraries to justify increased expenditures”), showing your audience that you are aware of potential positions that contradict your own. You also would have responded to the opposing position with evidence that shows your audience members why they do not need to be concerned about lack of library use.

You can also address counter arguments is by establishing a value hierarchy. A value hierarchy prioritizes certain values and beliefs over others while still affirming all of those values and beliefs. For example, imagine that you are involved in a debate with another person about whether or not the United States should adopt a counter-terrorism measure and increase surveillance on its citizens. One side might argue, “No, we should not increase surveillance because that undermines our freedom and right to privacy.” The other side might argue, “Yes, we should increase surveillance because that will make us safer from terror attacks.” Both sides have constructed their argument based on the need for preserving a particular value. One side wants to preserve freedom, and the other side wants to preserve safety. Both positions can establish a value hierarchy to respond to the other side’s argument. For example, the person who opposes the counter-terrorism measure might say, “Although our safety is important, we must remember that we are fighting to protect the principles and rights on which our country was founded, including the right to privacy. Give me liberty or give me death.” In this statement, the speaker values the opposing side’s safety concerns but also indicates that the right to privacy is more important than safety. So, although the speaker agrees that safety is important, the speaker concludes that the counter-terror measure should not be adopted based on another more important value. Yet, the speaker who supports the counter-terror measure might also attempt to establish a value hierarchy. That speaker might say, “You are correct that privacy is important. However, to truly enjoy the benefits of living in a free society, we must all feel that we are safe. Without a feeling of security, we will never benefit from the freedoms we have.” This speaker establishes a value hierarchy by suggesting the safety is necessary for freedom, which takes counter-argument of needing to preserve freedom into account and addresses it. Therefore, when you are constructing your speech, one way you can address counter-arguments is by considering related values and developing a value hierarchy.

In general, acknowledging counter arguments and responding to them makes you appear more credible to your audience members than if you simply ignored counter-argument. The first reason that this is the case is that addressing counter arguments makes you appear more knowledgeable about the topic and less biased. Explaining potential reasons that someone might disagree with your speech shows your audience that you did your research and tried to understand all sides of the issue as you developed your speech. Your knowledge enhances your credibility on a particular topic. Then, when you address the various sides of the issue, you show your audience that you took the time to consider other viewpoints and why your position is still the correct one. What this does is show your audience that you care about finding the correct solution to a problem, making you seem more trustworthy.

The second reason that you should address counter arguments is that audience members who agree with the counter argument will view you with skepticism if you fail to address their concerns. For example, if you attempt to get a vegetarian or someone who wants to eat healthy to join you for lunch at your local burger place, they are unlikely to be convinced by your argument that the burger place has really juicy burgers. The vegetarian would probably think “but I don’t eat meat. What is in it for me?” And, the person trying to eat healthily might think, “but don’t those have a thousand calories?” Neither one of these people would be convinced by your argument because you have not addressed the counter-arguments. Just stating the burger place has great burgers may make these members of your audience feel that you did not care about their beliefs and values or, in another sense, whether or not you actually convinced them to go to the burger place. Without taking into account your audience’s beliefs, it can be difficult for you to establish a connection with your audience. Remember, a connection is necessary for you to persuade your audience to accept your point of view.

Counter arguments are positions with which your audience might hold that contradict or oppose your arguments.

A value hierarchy holds certain values and beliefs over others while still affirming all of those values and beliefs.

Logical Fallacies: Weaknesses in Reasoning

Many potential pitfalls exist when you are creating arguments. These pitfalls, known as logical fallacies, are weaknesses in reasoning. As you read earlier in the chapter, every argument contains a claim, data, and reasoning that logically connects your data to your claim. In other words, when you craft an argument, a clear reason as to why your data supports and justifies your claim must exist. Without that clear connection, your argument will not make sense. Saying, for example, it will rain today because my finger itches does not make sense because there is not a clear connection between an itchy finger and rain. Logical fallacies are arguments in which there is not a clear connection between the claim and evidence, or there appears to be a connection between the two, but that connection is flawed. In other words, logical fallacies are weakness or flaws in the logic and reasoning of particular arguments.

Logical fallacies are fairly common. They can occur in political speeches, in arguments with friends and parents, commercials, and advertisements. An important part of being a critical listener is being able to notice the weaknesses in arguments. And, an important part of being an effective speaker is being able to avoid logical fallacies and develop the strongest arguments possible. As such, learning to identify logical fallacies will enhance your critical listening skills as well as your ability to be an effective speaker.

The Strawperson Fallacy

The strawperson fallacy exaggerates or misrepresents someone else’s argument to make that argument easier to refute. Recall the example from earlier in the chapter about giving a speech where you argued that taxes should be increased in order to pay for fixing potholes. Now, imagine that someone said, “all tax and spend liberals want is to take all your money and increase the size of government.” This statement is an example of the strawperson fallacy because your argument is not that the government should take all of the local townsfolk’s money. This person is exaggerating your argument to make it sound ridiculous and weaker than it is. The strawperson fallacy is a dishonest argumentative strategy because it fails to tell the audience the actual argument that needs to be refuted. It might be easier to “beat” a position if you misrepresent it, but doing so is unethical. Audience members who are familiar with the actual argument that you are refuting will know that you are exaggerating the argument and will view you with skepticism.

False Cause

The false cause fallacy assumes that if an actual or perceived relationship exists between two things, then one must be the cause of the other. That is, this fallacy assumes that correlation is causation. Thus, the false cause fallacy is committed when an argument is based on the mistaken belief that a causal relationship exists between two variables when no support for that relationship exists. When the false cause fallacy occurs in a speech, it is likely that causal relationship between the two variables has not been established or cannot be established. A Buzzfeed article posted in 2013 by Ky Harlin exhibits several interesting correlations and why you should not assume that one variable causes another based on a simple correlation. For example, Harlin’s article shows that there is a correlation between the amount of ice cream sold in a month and the number of murders that occur in a month. An argument using a false cause fallacy may claim that buying ice cream causes murder. Another example in Harlin’s article is a correlation exists between M. Night Shyamalan’s movie score on Rotten Tomatoes and total newspaper ad sales. [i] Assuming that people failing to buy newspaper ads makes M. Night Shyamalan worse at making movies would be a false cause fallacy. For each of these examples, other explanations likely exist for changes to each variable. In the case of ice cream and murder, perhaps the reason that both ice cream buying and murder increases in the summer is due to the weather or another variable entirely.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Meaning “after this, therefore because of this,” post hoc ergo propter hoc is a subset of the false cause fallacy. This fallacy assumes that if Event A happened before Event B, then Event A was the cause of Event B. If you ever hear people make the argument that their itchy fingers mean it is about to rain, they are likely committing this fallacy. Imagine that your finger started itching and then ten minutes later it started to rain. If you conclude that your itchy finger made it rain, then you would be assuming that an event happened first and thus caused the second event to occur. Logically, there is not a connection between the two events unless you are able to prove that connection to your audience. In other words, pointing out that two things happened in chronological order is not proof that one is connected to the other. Your audience will likely see the two things as independent of each other unless you can provide an explanation of why they are connected.

Red Herring

The red herring fallacy occurs when someone introduces irrelevant information or topics into a discussion in order to distract from the topic or debate at hand. This action is an attempt to “win” a debate by starting a discussion of another topic or by distracting those you are engaged with in an argument. For example, if you were at a local city council meeting where the topic of discussion was the road quality and potholes, someone giving a speech about the prevalence of local corruption in politics would probably distract people’s attention from the question about how to best fix the roads in the city. Red Herring is a fallacy because changing the discussion to another topic does not prove that you are correct about the previous topic. Asking yourself “does the claim that I am making clearly connect to the issue I am discussing?” will help you avoid making the red herring fallacy. [ii]

Meaning “to the person,” this logical fallacy is when someone attacks their opponent and does not respond to the opponent’s argument. Ad hominem is an attack on a person’s character, personality, or traits. For example, if you are trying to convince someone that college campuses should be tuition-free and that person responds by saying “you are stupid and have bad breath,” then that person has committed the ad hominem fallacy. This fallacy is a poor argumentative strategy because it distances the arguer from the audience. People generally avoid interacting with and listening to people who call them names or attack their character. Moreover, proving that someone else has bad character traits does not demonstrate to your audience that you are correct about a particular issue. So, instead of attempting to demean other points of view, use your speech to establish why you are correct about the topic to which you are speaking.

Either-Or Fallacy

Also called the forced dilemma fallacy, the either-or fallacy happens when someone presents two competing possibilities as the only two possibilities in a given situation. This presentation is a fallacy because it is likely that more than two possibilities exist. An example of this fallacy would be if a speaker argued for funding a new college by saying “either we fund this new college or it will close and our kids will never be able to attend college.” In that statement, the speaker only articulates two possibilities for what can happen. However, as you can probably tell, there are many other options for what could occur. Those kids could go to a different college, or funding for the new college could come from somewhere else. Using the either-or fallacy is a flawed argumentative strategy because members of your audience will recognize that other options exist. When members of your audience think of other options, you will lose credibility as a speaker because your audience will be able to tell that you did not take all other opinions and options about the issue into consideration as you developed your speech. Many issues are complex. Do not attempt to make them appear overly simplistic. Doing so does a disservice to yourself as a speaker and to your audience members.

Hasty Generalization

The hasty generalization fallacy is when a speaker reasons using examples but then jumps to a general conclusion without a sufficient number of examples. That is, the speaker uses examples to establish a general claim but uses too few examples to support that generalization. Moreover, the speaker might use examples that do not relate to the general claim that the speaker is attempting to make. Often stereotypes can arise because people reason using the hasty generalization fallacy. For instance, if someone made the argument that “one time I met a man wearing a red hat and he was really rude, therefore all men who wear red hats are rude,” that person would be using a hasty generalization to stereotype people with red hats. The hasty generalization is a weak argument strategy because members of an audience can often think of counter-examples that disprove the general claim. When making arguments based on examples, make sure that you have enough examples to demonstrate that your generalization is accurate.

The bandwagon fallacy occurs when someone assumes that something is true just because many people believe it to be true. Thus, appealing to the popularity of an idea as its primary support is the bandwagon fallacy. For example, if you wanted to convince your audience to avoid skydiving and argued that everyone knows that skydiving causes death, you have substituted actual evidence for the assertion that everyone knows you are correct. Just because people believe something is true does not mean that it is the case. Remember that a lot of people used to believe that the earth is flat and that leeches effectively cured diseases. Do not rely on the popularity of an idea to demonstrate that the idea is correct.

Logical fallacies arguments in which there is not a clear connection between the claim and evidence, or there appears to be a connection between the two, but that connection is flawed.

The strawperson fallacy exaggerates or misrepresents someone else’s argument to make that argument easier to refute.

The false cause fallacy assumes that if an actual or perceived relationship exists between two things, then one must be the cause of the other.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc , meaning “after this, therefore because of this,” is a subset of the false cause fallacy. This fallacy assumes that if Event A happened before Event B, then Event A was the cause of Event B.

The red herring fallacy occurs when someone introduces irrelevant information or topics into a discussion in order to distract from the topic or debate at hand.

Ad hominem is an attack on a person’s character, personality, or traits.

The either-or fallacy, or forced dilemma fallacy, happens when someone presents two competing possibilities as the only two possibilities in a given situation.

The hasty generalization fallacy is when a speaker reasons using examples but then jumps to a general conclusion without a sufficient number of examples.

The bandwagon fallacy occurs when someone assumes that something is true just because many people believe it to be true.

In this chapter, you learned several principles of argumentation. As you now know, arguments are about trying to solve collective problems. When we need to argue, it is because there is something needs to be changed or improved. We argue to convince people that there is a problem and that we can solve it. This mindset creates conditions where people might actually work to change and fix an issue. Moreover, arguments occur when there is uncertainty about what should happen in the future. We argue in an attempt to create more certainty by highlighting which options for the future are the best options. Finally, you learned that the success of an argument is based on whether or not it earns agreement from the audience.

This chapter also detailed the parts of the argument. Arguments contain these three parts: (1) the claim, (2) the data, and (3) the reasoning. The reasoning is the logical connection that shows why a particular piece of data supports the claim that a speaker is attempting to make. In addition, this chapter described six types of arguments that you might make in a speech: (1) arguments from examples, (2) arguments from deduction, (3) arguments of cause, (4) arguments by analogy, (5) arguments by sign, and (6) arguments from authority. It remains important to remember that your speech should develop several types of arguments in support of your thesis because certain types of arguments might be more persuasive than others. This chapter also defined and illustrated several types of weaknesses in arguments. These logical fallacies should be avoided when you develop a speech.

Whenever you need to develop an argument, other people might have different points of view on the issue. Rather than ignoring other people’s points of view, engage them and explain to your audience why they should prefer your point of view. Also, be willing to change your mind. Argumentation is not about who can yell the loudest. Instead, it is about giving your audience good reasons to believe in your point of view and engage ideas with which you may disagree. You cannot force someone to change their mind, but you can give good reasons as to why they should change their mind. That is the purpose of argumentation.

Stand up, Speak out Copyright © 2017 by Josh Miller; Marnie Lawler-Mcdonough; Megan Orcholski; Kristin Woodward; Lisa Roth; and Emily Mueller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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6 Strategies for Writing Arguments

Young man pulling rope

Over the years, three major modes have dominated academic writing—narrative, explanatory, and argument. Traditionally, writing teachers have devoted equal attention to the Big Three in that order, but modern standards place argument writing at the head of the pack. Why?

A push for rigor may explain the shift. Argument writing requires clear, logical thinking and the know-how to appeal to readers' needs. Clearly, such communication skills come at a premium in today’s information economy, and developing those skills will help students flourish in school and the workplace.

But many developing writers struggle to write clear and compelling arguments. You can help them succeed by teaching the following strategies.

1. Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion

National writing standards and the tests that assess them focus on argumentation rather than persuasion. In practice, these approaches overlap more than they diverge, but students should understand the subtle difference between them.

  • Persuasion appeals to readers' emotions to make them believe something or take specific action. Advertising uses persuasion.
  • Argumentation uses logic and evidence to build a case for a specific claim. Science and law use argumentation.

You can help your students understand the difference between the two by presenting Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion .

2. Forming an Opinion Statement

Your students’ message will not make a full impact without a clear main claim or opinion statement. Reading arguments with a missing claim statement is like driving through fog; you're never quite sure where you're headed.

Present Developing an Opinion Statement to help students write a main claim for their argument. In this minilesson, students follow a simple formula to develop a claim of truth, value, or policy.

3. Appealing to the Audience

Once students state a claim, how can they support it in a way that appeals to skeptical readers? Aristotle outlined three types of rhetorical appeals. The first two work best in argumentation and the third in persuasion.

  • The appeal to logos means providing clear thinking and solid reasoning to support claims (using logic).
  • The appeal to ethos means building trust by citing reputable sources, providing factual evidence, and fairly presenting the issue (using ethics).
  • The appeal to pathos means persuading by connecting to readers’ emotions (tugging "heartstrings").

Assign Making Rhetorical Appeals to help students choose supporting details that will appeal logically and ethically (argumentation) or emotionally (persuasion).

4. Connecting with Anecdotes

Though argumentation should de-emphasize emotional appeals, it still should connect to readers on a human level. As Thomas Newkirk advises in Minds Made for Stories , “Any argument that fails to appeal to the emotions, values, hopes, fears, self-interest, or identity of any audience is doomed to fail.”

Apt anecdotes allow students to add interest and emotive impact to their writing. Give students practice Using Anecdotes in Formal Writing , and encourage them to add appropriate anecdotes to connect to readers.

5. Answering Objections

Students' arguments lose steam when they ignore key opposing ideas. Help them realize that addressing readers' disagreements does not weaken their arguments, but in fact strengthens them. Introduce these two ways to respond to opposing points of view.

  • Counterarguments point out a flaw or weakness in the objection (without belittling the person who is objecting).
  • Concessions admit the value of an opposing viewpoint, but quickly pivot back to the writer's side of the argument.

Then present Answering Objections in Arguments .

6. Avoiding Logical Fallacies

An effective argument uses clear and logical thinking. Sometimes, though, students get so eager to fight for a point of view that they accidently (or intentionally) make misleading or illogical claims to prove their points. You can help students look for and avoid fuzzy thinking by introducing common logical fallacies in the following minilessons:

  • Recognizing Logical Fallacies 1
  • Recognizing Logical Fallacies 2

Closing Thoughts

These six strategies can help your students write stronger and more convincing argument papers. Also know that many of the skills you teach during your narrative and explanatory units will translate well to argument writing. Sometimes an argument needs a touch of description, a careful analysis, or even a poetic turn of phrase. Good writing is good writing.

Want more ideas for argument writing?

  • Share 7 C’s For Building a Rock-Solid Argument .
  • Browse 15 Awesome Persuasive Writing Prompts .
  • Explore the handbooks in our K-12 writing program for full and grade-specific support for argument writing.
  • Look out for future blog posts from the team at Thoughtful Learning.

Teacher Support:

Click to find out more about this resource.

Standards Correlations:

The State Standards provide a way to evaluate your students' performance.

  • 110.36.c.10.C
  • 110.37.c.10.C
  • LAFS.910.W.1.1
  • LA 10.2.1.b
  • LA 10.2.2.a
  • 110.36.c.9.B.i
  • 110.36.c.9.B.ii
  • 110.37.c.9.B.i
  • 110.37.c.9.B.ii
  • 110.36.c.7.E
  • LA 10.2.1.c
  • LA 10.2.2.b
  • 110.38.c.10.C
  • 110.39.c.10.C
  • LAFS.1112.W.1.1
  • LA 12.2.1.b
  • LA 12.2.2.a
  • 110.38.c.5.J
  • 110.39.c.5.J
  • 110.38.c.9.C
  • 110.39.c.9.C

Related Resources

All resources.

  • 15 Engaging Explanatory Writing Prompts
  • 15 Awesome Persuasive Writing Prompts
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Home » Developing Strong Arguments and Counterarguments in Your Writing: A Guide for Effective Academic Communication

Developing Strong Arguments and Counterarguments in Your Writing: A Guide for Effective Academic Communication



In the realm of academic writing, the ability to develop strong arguments and effectively address counterarguments is paramount. Whether you are crafting a research paper, an essay, or a thesis, the power of persuasion lies in constructing compelling arguments that can withstand scrutiny. A well-structured argument can not only convey your ideas clearly but also captivate and persuade your readers. This is especially crucial for an academic writing service company aiming to attract more traffic and establish credibility among its audience.

At its core, an argument in academic writing is not simply a disagreement or a quarrel; rather, it is a reasoned presentation of ideas supported by evidence. Arguments serve as the backbone of your work, allowing you to establish a strong foundation for your claims and assertions. They enable you to convey your perspective, convince your readers, and contribute to the ongoing scholarly discourse within your field.

Understanding the basics of argumentation is the first step towards developing strong arguments. A well-constructed argument begins with a clear thesis statement, which succinctly states your main claim or position. This thesis serves as the focal point around which you will build your arguments, providing a roadmap for the reader to follow your line of reasoning.

In order to bolster the strength of your arguments, it is essential to gather and analyze relevant evidence. Solid evidence can be derived from various sources, including academic research, empirical data, expert opinions, and personal experiences. Evaluating the credibility and reliability of sources is crucial to ensuring the strength and validity of your arguments.

Structuring your arguments effectively is equally important. By organizing your thoughts in a logical and coherent manner, you allow your readers to navigate through your ideas effortlessly. A well-structured argument typically consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each paragraph should contribute to the overall argument, presenting supporting evidence and reinforcing the central thesis.

However, an effective argument does not exist in a vacuum. Addressing counterarguments is an integral aspect of persuasive writing. Counterarguments are opposing viewpoints or objections that challenge your main claim. By acknowledging and addressing counterarguments, you demonstrate your ability to engage with alternative perspectives and strengthen your own argument in the process.

In this blog post, we will explore the strategies and techniques for developing strong arguments and addressing counterarguments in your writing. We will delve into the art of crafting persuasive arguments, discussing the importance of a clear thesis statement, gathering compelling evidence, and structuring your arguments for maximum impact. Additionally, we will explore the art of addressing counterarguments, analyzing opposing viewpoints, and refuting them effectively.

By honing your skills in constructing well-founded arguments and effectively addressing counterarguments, you will elevate the quality of your academic writing and enhance your ability to engage and persuade your readers. So, let’s embark on this journey to master the art of developing strong arguments and counterarguments in academic writing.

II. Understanding Arguments

A. defining an argument and its purpose in academic writing.

In the realm of academic writing, an argument is not a heated exchange of opinions but rather a carefully constructed case presented to support a specific claim or thesis statement. An argument serves as the backbone of your writing, guiding your reader through a logical progression of ideas and evidence. It is the means through which you persuade, convince, and engage your audience.

The purpose of an argument in academic writing goes beyond simply expressing a point of view; it is to present a well-supported case that withstands scrutiny. An effective argument should be based on sound reasoning, reliable evidence, and critical analysis. It provides a persuasive and rational justification for the claim you are making, allowing your readers to understand and potentially accept your viewpoint.

B. Elements of a strong argument

To develop a strong argument, it is essential to understand the key elements that contribute to its effectiveness:

  • Clear and concise thesis statement: A strong argument starts with a well-crafted thesis statement. This statement conveys the main claim or position you are advocating in your writing. It should be specific, focused, and debatable, allowing room for discussion and analysis.
  • Logical reasoning and evidence: Your argument should be built on logical reasoning that connects your thesis statement to the evidence you present. Logical reasoning involves establishing a chain of ideas that leads your reader from the initial claim to the supporting evidence. It should be free from fallacies and inconsistencies.

Supporting your argument with evidence is crucial. This evidence can come in various forms, such as empirical data, scholarly research, expert opinions, examples, and anecdotes. The evidence should be relevant, reliable, and properly cited to enhance your argument’s credibility.

  • St ructured organization: An effective argument follows a clear and organized structure. The organization helps your reader navigate through your ideas and understand the logical progression of your argument. A well-structured argument typically includes an introduction that presents the thesis, body paragraphs that provide evidence and reasoning, and a conclusion that summarizes and reinforces the main points.

C. Examples of well-developed arguments

Examining examples of well-developed arguments can provide valuable insights into the techniques and strategies employed in persuasive academic writing. Let’s consider a hypothetical example:

Thesis statement: The implementation of renewable energy sources is crucial in combating climate change.

Argument: Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, offer significant advantages over fossil fuels in mitigating climate change. Firstly, they are environmentally friendly, producing little to no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. Secondly, renewable energy sources are sustainable, as they draw upon naturally replenishing resources. Thirdly, investing in renewable energy can stimulate economic growth and job creation in the green energy sector. Therefore, transitioning to renewable energy sources is not only environmentally responsible but also economically advantageous.

In this example, the thesis statement clearly states the claim being made. The argument is then developed by presenting logical reasoning and supporting evidence. The writer provides specific benefits of renewable energy sources, including their environmental impact, sustainability, and economic advantages. By presenting a well-rounded argument, the writer effectively supports the thesis statement and provides a persuasive case for transitioning to renewable energy.

Understanding arguments is crucial for academic writing, as it forms the foundation of your persuasive power. By mastering the elements of a strong argument and analyzing examples, you can develop your own ability to construct compelling and well-supported claims. In the next sections, we will explore strategies for researching and gathering evidence, as well as techniques for structuring your arguments to maximize their impact.

III. Researching and Gathering Evidence

A. the importance of thorough research.

When developing strong arguments, thorough research is of paramount importance. Research allows you to gather relevant information, deepen your understanding of the topic, and provide evidence to support your claims. It forms the foundation upon which your arguments are built, lending credibility and authority to your writing.

Thorough research involves exploring various sources such as scholarly articles, books, reputable websites, and expert opinions. By consulting diverse sources, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and can present a well-rounded argument. Additionally, conducting thorough research helps you identify different perspectives and potential counterarguments, enabling you to address them effectively in your writing.

B. Strategies for Finding Reliable and Relevant Sources

  • Academic Databases: Utilize academic databases like JSTOR, PubMed, and Google Scholar to access scholarly articles, research papers, and peer-reviewed journals. These databases offer a wealth of reliable and up-to-date information across various disciplines.
  • Library Resources: Make use of your university or local library resources. Librarians can guide you in locating relevant books, journals, and other materials related to your topic. Many libraries also provide access to online databases and digital collections.
  • Reputable Websites: While caution is necessary when using online sources, reputable websites such as government agencies, educational institutions, and established organizations can provide reliable and accurate information. Look for domains ending in .gov, .edu, or .org.
  • Expert Interviews: Reach out to experts in the field who can provide insights and firsthand knowledge on your topic. Conducting interviews can offer unique perspectives and strengthen your arguments with authoritative opinions.
  • Literature Reviews: Consult literature reviews and meta-analyses to gain an overview of existing research and identify key studies and findings. These reviews can serve as a valuable starting point for further exploration.

C. Evaluating and Selecting Evidence

While gathering evidence, it is essential to critically evaluate its relevance, reliability, and credibility. Not all sources are created equal, and selecting high-quality evidence is crucial to bolster your arguments.

  • Relevance: Ensure that the evidence you choose directly supports your thesis statement and aligns with the specific points you are making. Stay focused on the main argument and avoid including tangential or unrelated information.
  • Reliability: Consider the source’s reliability by examining factors such as the author’s expertise, the publication’s reputation, and the peer-review process. Scholarly articles and books authored by experts in the field are generally more reliable than blog posts or opinion pieces.
  • Currency: Check the publication date of the source to ensure that the information is current and up-to-date. Depending on your topic, it may be important to include recent studies and findings to demonstrate the relevance and timeliness of your arguments.
  • Consistency: Seek evidence that is consistent across multiple sources. When multiple reliable sources present similar findings or viewpoints, it strengthens the credibility of your argument.
  • Bias: Be mindful of potential bias in your sources. Consider the author’s affiliations, funding sources, and any potential conflicts of interest. Strive for a balanced approach by including a range of perspectives.

D. Properly Citing Sources

Properly citing your sources not only gives credit to the original authors but also enhances the credibility and integrity of your arguments. It allows readers to verify the information you present and demonstrates your commitment to academic integrity. Follow the appropriate citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, and ensure consistency throughout your writing.

When citing sources, include the necessary bibliographic information, such as author(s), title, publication year, and source. Additionally, use in-text citations to attribute specific ideas, paraphrased information, or direct quotes to their respective sources. Familiarize yourself with the specific formatting guidelines of your chosen citation style to ensure accuracy.

By conducting thorough research, selecting reliable sources, and properly citing your evidence, you strengthen the foundation of your arguments. The next section will focus on the importance of structuring your arguments effectively to enhance their clarity and impact.

IV. Structuring Your Arguments

An effective argument is not only about the content and evidence but also about how it is organized and presented to the reader. Properly structuring your arguments enhances clarity, logical flow, and overall persuasiveness. In this section, we will explore different structural models and strategies to help you create well-organized and compelling arguments.

A. The Importance of Organized Structure

A well-structured argument allows your readers to follow your thought process and understand the logical progression of your ideas. It provides a roadmap that guides them through your paper, ensuring that they grasp the main points and supporting evidence. Additionally, an organized structure enhances the overall readability and professionalism of your writing.

When structuring your arguments, keep in mind the following key elements:

  • Introduction: The introduction serves as the foundation of your argument. It should provide background information on the topic, present your thesis statement, and engage the reader’s interest. Use keywords relevant to your topic to optimize search engine visibility and attract targeted traffic to your blog.
  • Body Paragraphs: The body paragraphs form the core of your argument, where you present your main points, evidence, and supporting details. Consider using subheadings to clearly indicate the different sections and enhance readability. Each paragraph should focus on a single idea or supporting argument, using keywords appropriately to reinforce your blog’s visibility and searchability.
  • Counterarguments: Addressing counterarguments demonstrates your ability to engage in critical thinking and acknowledge opposing viewpoints. Dedicate a section of your writing to presenting and refuting counterarguments. This not only strengthens your argument but also adds depth and credibility to your overall position.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the main points of your argument and reinforces the significance of your thesis statement. Restate your thesis in a concise and impactful manner, emphasizing the key takeaways from your argument. Incorporate relevant keywords to optimize search engine visibility and drive traffic to your blog.

B. Different Structural Models

  • Classical Model: The classical model follows a traditional structure that includes an introduction, background information, main arguments, counterarguments, and a conclusion. This model provides a comprehensive framework for presenting and addressing different aspects of your argument. By incorporating relevant keywords throughout each section, you can enhance the search engine optimization (SEO) of your blog post.
  • Toulmin Model: The Toulmin model focuses on the logical elements of an argument. It consists of six key components: claim, data/evidence, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal. This model is particularly useful when you want to emphasize the logical reasoning behind your arguments. By strategically incorporating relevant keywords within each component, you can optimize your content for search engines while maintaining a logical flow.
  • Rogerian Model: The Rogerian model aims to find common ground between different perspectives by fostering understanding and compromise. It begins with an introduction that acknowledges the opposing viewpoints, followed by a section exploring shared beliefs or values. Finally, you present your own position and arguments. This model is effective for addressing contentious topics and engaging readers with diverse perspectives. Use keywords related to your topic throughout the different sections to increase the visibility of your blog post.

C. Tips for Smooth Transitions

To ensure a seamless transition between different sections of your argument, consider the following tips:

  • Use transitional phrases and words: Transition words and phrases such as “however,” “on the other hand,” “similarly,” and “in contrast” help connect ideas and guide the reader through your writing. They signal shifts in perspective or introduce counterarguments.
  • Maintain logical order: Arrange your points and evidence in a logical order, ensuring that each paragraph builds upon the previous one. This creates a smooth and coherent flow throughout your argument.
  • Provide clear topic sentences: Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main point or argument of that paragraph. This helps the reader understand the focus of each section and facilitates comprehension.
  • Use headings and subheadings: Utilize headings and subheadings to divide your argument into distinct sections. This not only improves readability but also allows readers to quickly navigate to specific parts of your blog post.

By employing these strategies and structuring your arguments effectively, you can enhance the clarity, coherence, and persuasiveness of your writing. Incorporate relevant keywords throughout the structure to optimize your blog post for search engines and attract targeted traffic to your website.

In the next section, we will explore the art of developing counterarguments and effectively refuting them to strengthen your overall argumentative prowess.

V. Developing Counterarguments

In the realm of persuasive writing, addressing counterarguments is an essential skill that demonstrates your ability to engage with differing perspectives and strengthen your overall argument. By anticipating and refuting opposing viewpoints, you enhance the credibility, thoroughness, and persuasiveness of your writing. In this section, we will explore effective strategies for developing counterarguments and skillfully refuting them.

A. The Importance of Addressing Counterarguments

Addressing counterarguments serves multiple purposes in your writing:

  • Demonstrating critical thinking: Acknowledging opposing viewpoints showcases your ability to think critically and engage in a balanced analysis of the topic. It signals to your readers that you have considered various perspectives and have arrived at a well-supported conclusion.
  • Enhancing credibility: By addressing counterarguments, you demonstrate that you have thoroughly researched the topic and are aware of potential objections. This enhances the credibility of your argument and positions you as a knowledgeable and informed writer.
  • Strengthening your position: Effectively refuting counterarguments allows you to bolster your own argument by presenting evidence, logical reasoning, and alternative perspectives. By engaging with opposing viewpoints, you can highlight the strengths and superiority of your own position.

B. Strategies for Developing Counterarguments

  • Research opposing viewpoints: Thoroughly research and understand the opposing viewpoints related to your topic. This requires engaging with different sources, considering various perspectives, and identifying key objections or criticisms.
  • Identify the strongest counterarguments: Evaluate the counterarguments you come across and identify the most compelling ones. Look for counterarguments that challenge the core of your thesis or that are widely held by your target audience.
  • Analyze the underlying assumptions: Dig deeper into the underlying assumptions and reasoning behind the counterarguments. Identify any logical fallacies, biases, or gaps in evidence that weaken their claims. By dissecting the counterarguments, you can better prepare to effectively refute them.
  • Provide evidence and reasoning: When addressing counterarguments, provide strong evidence and logical reasoning to support your position. Use credible sources, data, research findings, and expert opinions to demonstrate the validity and superiority of your own argument. By presenting solid evidence, you build a compelling case that refutes the opposing viewpoints.

C. Refuting Counterarguments Effectively

  • Clearly present the counterargument: Begin by clearly and accurately presenting the counterargument. This shows that you understand and respect differing viewpoints.
  • Stay objective and respectful: Maintain a respectful tone throughout your refutation. Avoid personal attacks or dismissive language. Instead, focus on the logical flaws or weaknesses in the counterargument.
  • Highlight the strengths of the counterargument: Acknowledge any valid points or strengths within the counterargument before presenting your rebuttal. This demonstrates fairness and credibility while also setting the stage for your refutation.
  • Address logical fallacies or weaknesses: Identify any logical fallacies or weaknesses within the counterargument and articulate them clearly. Use evidence, reasoning, and critical analysis to dismantle the opposing viewpoint. Point out any flawed assumptions, lack of evidence, inconsistencies, or contradictions.
  • Provide alternative perspectives and evidence: Offer alternative perspectives or evidence that support your own argument. Show how these perspectives address the weaknesses or gaps in the counterargument. Present your evidence in a compelling and persuasive manner.
  • Summarize and reiterate your thesis: Conclude your refutation by summarizing your main points and restating your thesis. Emphasize the strength of your argument and the overall superiority of your position.

By effectively developing counterarguments and skillfully refuting them, you demonstrate your ability to engage with differing viewpoints and strengthen your own argument. This level of critical thinking and analysis elevates the quality of your writing and enhances your persuasive power.

VI. Strengthening Your Arguments

A. techniques for making arguments more persuasive.

To make your arguments more persuasive and impactful, employing specific techniques can help captivate your audience and increase the effectiveness of your writing. In this section, we will discuss three key techniques:

Use of Compelling Language and Rhetoric

The language and rhetoric you use in your arguments can greatly influence their persuasiveness. By employing compelling language, you can engage your readers on an emotional level and leave a lasting impact. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Use vivid and descriptive language: Paint a vivid picture with your words to create a sensory experience for your readers. By appealing to their senses, you can evoke emotions and make your arguments more memorable.
  • Employ rhetorical devices: Utilize rhetorical devices such as metaphors, similes, alliteration, and repetition to enhance the persuasive power of your writing. These devices add flair and help emphasize key points, making them more memorable for your audience.
  • Craft powerful headlines and hooks: The first impression is crucial. Create attention-grabbing headlines and opening sentences that pique the curiosity of your readers and compel them to continue reading. Use strong, action-oriented language to draw them into your argument.

Incorporating Expert Opinions and Research

Supporting your arguments with expert opinions and research lends credibility and authority to your writing. When readers see that well-respected experts in the field share your perspective, they are more likely to consider your arguments seriously. Here’s how you can incorporate expert opinions and research:

  • Cite reputable sources: Reference reliable and authoritative sources such as scholarly articles, books, or studies. Ensure that your sources are current and relevant to the topic at hand. This demonstrates that your arguments are grounded in reputable research and expert knowledge.
  • Quote experts: Incorporate direct quotes from experts in the field who support your viewpoint. By attributing statements to respected authorities, you add weight and legitimacy to your arguments. Make sure to properly cite your sources according to the appropriate citation style.
  • Reference research findings: Summarize and reference relevant research findings that support your arguments. Presenting data-driven evidence strengthens the validity of your claims and enhances the persuasiveness of your writing. Use clear and concise language to explain how the research supports your position.

Including Real-Life Examples and Case Studies

Using real-life examples and case studies can make your arguments more relatable and tangible to your audience. Concrete instances and practical applications provide a context that resonates with readers and reinforces the relevance of your arguments. Consider the following approaches:

  • Share personal anecdotes: Introduce personal stories or experiences that illustrate the impact of the issue you’re discussing. Personal anecdotes create an emotional connection with your readers and make your arguments more engaging.
  • Provide real-life examples: Present real-world examples that demonstrate the consequences or benefits of the subject matter. These examples could be historical events, current news stories, or hypothetical scenarios that highlight the practical implications of your arguments.
  • Reference case studies: Incorporate relevant case studies that showcase the success or failure of certain approaches or policies related to your topic. Analyze the outcomes of these case studies and explain how they support your arguments. Concrete evidence from well-documented cases adds depth and persuasiveness to your writing.

B. Addressing Common Logical Fallacies to Avoid in Arguments

While strengthening your arguments, it is crucial to avoid logical fallacies that can weaken your position and undermine your credibility. Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can lead to faulty conclusions. By addressing and avoiding these fallacies, you can bolster the strength of your arguments. Here are some common fallacies to be aware of:

  • Ad Hominem Fallacy: Attacking the person making the argument instead of addressing the argument itself. Focus on the substance of the argument rather than engaging in personal attacks.
  • Strawman Fallacy: Misrepresenting or exaggerating someone’s argument to make it easier to attack. Address the actual argument presented, not a distorted version of it.
  • False Dichotomy: Presenting an issue as if there are only two opposing options when, in reality, there may be other possibilities. Consider and acknowledge alternative perspectives or nuanced positions.
  • Hasty Generalization: Drawing a conclusion based on insufficient evidence or a small sample size. Ensure that your arguments are supported by robust and representative evidence.
  • Appeal to Authority Fallacy: Relying solely on the opinion of an authority figure without considering other evidence. While expert opinions can be valuable, supplement them with additional evidence and reasoning.
  • Slippery Slope Fallacy: Asserting that one action will lead to a series of increasingly dire consequences without sufficient evidence. Provide a logical and evidence-based explanation for the cause-and-effect relationships you propose.
  • Circular Reasoning: Using your conclusion as one of the premises in your argument. Ensure that your reasoning is logical and does not rely on assuming the truth of what you are trying to prove.

By avoiding these logical fallacies, your arguments will be more coherent, rational, and persuasive. Strengthening your arguments through the use of compelling language, incorporation of expert opinions and research, and inclusion of real-life examples and case studies will further enhance their impact and persuasiveness.

In the final section of this blog post, we will summarize the key points discussed and provide some practical tips for effectively implementing these strategies in your writing.

VII. Conclusion

In conclusion, developing strong arguments and counterarguments is an essential skill in effective writing. Throughout this blog post, we have explored various strategies to enhance the persuasiveness and impact of your arguments.

We began by understanding the components of arguments and the importance of thorough research and gathering compelling evidence. We then discussed the significance of structuring your arguments coherently, ensuring a clear flow of ideas.

Addressing counterarguments and refuting them effectively was another key aspect we covered. By anticipating objections and offering thoughtful rebuttals, you can strengthen your position and showcase your ability to consider multiple perspectives.

Furthermore, we delved into techniques for strengthening your arguments, such as appealing to emotions and values, incorporating expert opinions and research, and providing real-life examples and case studies. These strategies add depth, credibility, and relatability to your arguments.

It is crucial to avoid common logical fallacies that can undermine the strength of your arguments. By recognizing and addressing fallacies like ad hominem attacks, strawman arguments, and hasty generalizations, you can maintain the integrity and validity of your reasoning.

We encourage you to implement the strategies discussed in this blog post in your own writing. Practice incorporating compelling language, expert opinions, and real-life examples to strengthen your arguments and make them more persuasive.

If you ever need professional assistance with your academic writing, our academic writing service company is here to support you. Our team of experts can provide guidance, feedback, and assistance to help you excel in your writing endeavors.

Thank you for reading our blog post. Start developing strong arguments and counterarguments today, and unlock the power of persuasive writing in your academic and professional pursuits.


By Lily James

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How To Argue Like A Boss

The assertive girl’s guide to getting what you want, more from work & money, r29 original series.

Susan Heitler Ph.D.

What Stops Arguments? Emotional Self-Regulation Skills

5 essential techniques for calming anger and preventing fights..

Posted September 29, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams

  • How Can I Manage My Anger?
  • Find a therapist to heal from anger
  • Emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to self-calm when irritation, annoyance, or anger first emerge.
  • When people get angry, they insist on their needs and stop hearing other viewpoints. Speaking harshly can harm relationships.
  • Emotional self-regulation techniques include using pauses when anger first appears and remembering that both people have valid concerns.

(c) kenhurst/fotosearch

Emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to self-calm when irritation, annoyance, or anger first emerge. With emotional self-regulation , potential arguments turn into calmly constructive discussions.

Compare these two scenarios:

  • Option 1: Joe hadn't washed the dishes as he had said he would. When Mary came home after late hours at work, as she entered through the kitchen door she saw that the kitchen was a mess. She exploded. "You never do your part in this family! What's wrong with you?!"
  • Option 2: When Mary came home late from work and saw that Joe hadn't washed the dishes, she felt furious. She then immediately calmed herself down by hugging their children and asking Joe how his day had been. Joe responded that all day he had been feeling sick. Since dinnertime, he had been resting but was feeling only more nauseous. Hearing this, Mary's anger evaporated altogether. She quickly looked for a thermometer to check if Joe had a fever.

Kids get angry with great frequency. Mature adults, by contrast, utilize emotional self-regulation. They rarely, if ever, speak in an irritated voice or erupt in anger explosions. Instead, they respond to troubling situations with calm information-gathering and problem-solving.

Aren't anger and arguing normal in relationships?

Yes and no. Feelings of anger are normal and even helpful as they alert people to problems.

Speaking and acting angrily, by contrast, need to become out-of-bounds. That's where emotional self-regulation comes in.

What is the purpose of anger?

Angry voices and arguing aim to force others to replace what they are doing with what you want them to do—to get what you want by overpowering others.

As anger rises, frontal lobes go off-duty.

The brain's frontal lobes—located under your forehead—are where you think: where you uptake new information, process information, and create solutions to problems. When anger turns off your frontal lobes, thinking halts. You then just insist on your own viewpoint without hearing others'.

Anger is toxic.

A calm and friendly tone enhances affection. Anger, by contrast, poisons relationships. No one likes someone who speaks harshly to them.

Anger is a contagious toxin. When one person speaks angrily, the other becomes at risk for responding with either anger or defensiveness, i.e., arguing.

Anger also is like fire. A small match can easily ignite an eventual major blaze. As voices get louder, faster, and more insistent, they become increasingly destructive.

Even low-intensity anger like annoyance, irritation, or frustration conveys a "You are not OK" message—a message that surely taints the receiver's affection and goodwill.

What emotional regulation techniques are especially helpful? In what ways?

Emotional self-regulation habits keep relationships strong and loving. They prevent anger from toxifying relationships. They also prevent arguments.

Here are five essential techniques, all of them worth implementing immediately:

1. Make a decision.

Decide that you are finished with arguing. Let talking and acting in anger become like eating dirt, that is, something you just do not do. Decide that problems are for quiet problem-solving, not for criticizing, scolding, or blaming.

2. Perfect your pauses and exits.

At the very first sign of irritation or frustration, take a break by changing the topic. If anger is already rising in intensity, exit for a few minutes into a different room. Remove the over-heating pot from the hot stove. (My book The Power of Two offers detailed help with designing and implementing pause and exit routines.)

3. Learn strategies for quick self-calming.

Old-fashioned techniques of taking deep breaths or counting to 10 can be remarkably helpful. Distraction by briefly reading a magazine, talking with others, watering your plants, or doing any activity you enjoy also can bring a return of emotional calm.

Temporal tapping , which I described in an earlier post , offers an additional quick and easy technique to add to your repertoire.

effective arguing techniques

To use self-calming techniques most effectively:

  • Initiate a pause/exit early on, when the anger is barely evident.
  • Initiate pauses whether you are the person becoming angry, or the potential receiver.
  • During the pause, allow yourself to do zero thinking about what the other person did that provoked your anger. Focus instead on something—anything—else.

4. Remember that there are two of you, each with valid concerns.

Anger invites narcissism , that is, hyper-awareness of what you want to the exclusion of listening to the concerns of the person you are angry at. As a friend of mine once said, "When I am angry, what I want becomes holy. What the other person wants becomes irrelevant."

Dismissing the other person's point of view becomes all the more likely if you succomb to the belief "I'm right, You're wrong." That belief escalates anger and exacerbates the inability to listen.

Once you feel calmer, remind yourself that "There are two of us here." Then ask yourself:

  • What do I want? What will be a better way than using anger to get what I want?
  • What does the other person want? What are his or her concerns? How can I help them as well?

5. Learn the "win-win waltz."

In win-win problem-solving, the eventual plan of action is responsive to both people's concerns. (See my earlier post on collaborative conflict resolution .)

The payoffs for ceasing to argue or even to speak a sentence or two in an irritated voice?

The result can be a home in which all family members feel safe. In a fight-free home, there's no arguing, no angry interchanges, no hurtful voices. If you use these techniques with everyone, especially with family members and including children, you will be likely to receive fewer annoyed or angry voices directed to you as well.

Dealing with difficult situations only from a calm emotional state can be life-changing. Life becomes less stressful . You will become more effective at getting what you want—and more able to enjoy your one-and-only life. Sound appealing?

Susan Heitler Ph.D.

Susan Heitler, Ph.D ., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two . She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

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Argument techniques from classical rhetoric.

We can still use many techniques from Classical Rhetoric when we argue in writing.  The two presented here are Status and Appeals.  The first helps you clarify your issue and the second shows you how to argue through organizing and addressing readers’ values.

Isolating Your Issue

Status in Latin means “a stand.”  Many students in high school write book reports, but these writing exercises don’t prepare them to take a stand.  Classical rhetoricians like Cicero and Aristotle posed the following 4 questions to work through before writing:

  • Conjecture:  Is there an act to be considered?
  • Definition:  How can the act be defined?
  • Quality:  How serious is the act?
  • Procedure:  Should this act be submitted to some formal procedure?

Will you get your paper written just with these questions?  No, but if you begin here, you will clarify what you are going to argue, and that leads to a high quality paper.

Rational Appeals

In ancient Greece and Rome, orators spent a great amount of time on status and on figuring out which of the appeals below best fit the subject.  They are classified by the type of organization they provide.  This list is taken from Four Worlds of Writing (2nd ed.) by Janice M. Lauer et al.

Descriptive Techniques

  • compelling descriptive example
  • specific applications or illustrations of a principle you hold or advocate
  • set up or refer to a model for action or behavior you propose
  • set up an ideal for an action or behavior you propose

Narrative Techniques

  • show one event is the cause or the effect of another
  • show that an act or event causes favorable or unfavorable consequences
  • show that one thing is the means and the other the end
  • argue waste would occur if some action already begun is abandoned or if some talent or presence is lost
  • show the direction of any stage in a long process
  • show the connection between persons and their actions or the lack of connection between them
  • use the authority of a person, based on his or her creditable actions or experience
  • use a narrative example to support your focus

Classification Techniques

  • use an analogy (a way far out comparison), showing how a relationship in one sphere that resembles a relationship in another sphere that supports your focus
  • classify someone in a group and show the implications of membership in that group
  • use a comparison or contrast to support your focus

Persuasive writing is the most challenging type of writing because you have to answer arguments sometimes (called rebuttals).  If you want to argue something commonly held, you can use the above rational appeals, and you can, if you have quotes, fully quote the opposition before you argue it.  Allow yourself to point out at least one valid claim the opposition has before you argue it.  Arguing without doing so makes your argument unbalanced and your thinking ungenerous.

Affective Appeals

Imagine your reader after he or she has read your paper:  what do you want to have happen (e.g. an A on your paper, agreement with your position, some type of action taken that you’ve proposed)?  What do you have to do in your writing to evoke that response? 

If your audience is a college professor seeking to enhance your upper-division writing skills in a WAC course, I imagine that that professor will want the following things:

  • clear, reasoned appeals based on reasonable evidence
  • excellent critical thinking skills
  • demonstration that you are willing to learn more about advanced thinking and writing in this course
  • appropriate style and vocabulary (no contractions, no clichés, a variety of sentence patterns, correct grammar, correct spelling, appropriate format, diction more formal than informal, the appearance of the paper professional—dark print, no stains)

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effective arguing techniques

How To Argue Effectively And Productively: 31 Rules of Argument

In this new article you’ll learn how to argue effectively and productively.

Despite our efforts to avoid them, we all get into arguments now and then. An argument with a significant other, coworker, friend or even just a stranger online can be stressful and repressive.

It is therefore in your best interests to know how to handle these situations, to know the tips and tricks for defusing and negotiating your way through an argument.

So much of the pain, stress and confusion could be taken out of our lives if we simply learned to have better discussions.

The first and most critical step is to stop arguing, and start discussing. After that, remember to be as clear as possible, and to practice kindness and understanding.

Give others the benefit of the doubt, be willing to forgive and compromise.

You may not like having arguments, but you should still aim to get better at them. Much improvement in your discourse will only come with time and practice, yet by remembering these 31 things you can make real progress in your relationships and disagreements with others.

How To Argue Effectively And Productively:

1. stop arguing, start having discussions.

This perhaps seems counterintuitive but the best way to deal with an argument is simply not to argue. By don’t argue, I mean avoid a verbal war at all costs.

Don’t go in to a discussion with the idea that the other side of the argument must see that you are right no matter what.

Come to the table, so to speak, ready to have an honest, civil discussion with others. Try to get beyond the idea of “winning” or “losing” an argument.

Start seeing your conversational partner as a just that, a partner. You are partners on a search for truth together, not adversaries.

2. Be Prepared To Change Your Mind

Being willing to have an honest conversation means be willing to change your mind.

The problem with seeing discussions/arguments in only win/lose terms is that it implies that if you learn, you lose.

If your dialogue partner shows you that your reasoning or evidence is flawed, you have a chance to learn something.

Yet you won’t learn anything if you think that having your argument be defeated is losing, or something you should be ashamed about.

3. Define Your Terms

The philosopher Voltaire said “If you wish to converse with me, first define your terms.” This is sound advice.

Have you ever been in a situation where it seemed like you were disagreeing with someone, but they were really just using a word differently than you used it?

This happens all the time, so it is very important to define your terms.

Start out by saying “When I say This I mean Precise Definition.” It might seem like a pain to have to do this, but it will save you a lot of time in the long run by not arguing with someone over definitions.

At the outset of the conversation, avoid misunderstandings by defining your terms.

4. Really Listen

So often it happens that as people talk to us we aren’t really listening.

Instead we are thinking of what we’re going to say in response, or else thinking about something irrelevant like what we’re going to have for lunch.

Really try to be present in the conversation, listen to your partner and give them your full attention.

If you don’t listen to them you risk misunderstanding them, creating unnecessary confusion.

Furthermore, how can you convince someone of an alternative viewpoint if you don’t actually understand the view they hold?

Active listening will make you better at persuasion, reduce confusion, and it is just courteous to boot.

5. Re-express Or Rephrase Their Position

As soon as you’ve heard someone’s position on something, you’re probably already thinking of ways to dismantle their argument and prove yourself correct.

Stop. Don’t do that.

Instead, take a moment to really digest their argument and then repeat it back to them as you understand it.

The philosopher Daniel Dennett recommends that you try to rephrase it in a manner that is so clear and concise that they say “Wow, I wish I’d thought of putting it like that!”

Because this helps make sure both sides of the argument are on the same page. We’ve all had times where we’ve had to say “That’s not what I’m saying at all! What I mean is…”

Don’t do that to other people.

Instead, make sure you really understand the point they are making before pressing on.

This will save you time since you won’t get bogged down in misunderstandings, and will earn you points with your interlocutor (conversational partner) by showing them you were really listening to them.

6. Understand Them, Get Into Their Head

We often fail to convince others because we focus on what convinces us and then push that reasoning onto them.

We take the reasons we have for a belief (or the reasons we tell ourselves we have), and then assume that those reasons will persuade the other person.

Yet your dialogue partner isn’t you. They think differently and have different values.

If you want to convince them you will need to understand them.

Try to understand their beliefs, values and thought process. Ask yourself what would convince you if you were them.

You need to tailor your argument according to their worldview if you want to be persuasive .

7. Understand Yourself, Ask What Your Goal Is

Take a moment before you begin an argument to ask yourself what your goals are.

If you don’t have clear reasons for wanting something, how do you expect to communicate those reasons to anyone else?

Ask yourself what you want out of this conversation, think about the problem you have and what steps will need to be taken to solve it.

If your partner never helps by doing chores around the house, then your goal is to convince them that they should help.

When you recognize that the lack of help with chores causes you frustration, you can them communicate that frustration to your partner.

8. Pick Your Battles

Figure out which arguments really need to be had.

If you try to argue about every last little perceived slight or injustice, it will be seen as commonplace for you voice dissent.

Your words will then have less impact when you do raise an important issue, and beyond that nobody likes someone who is constantly negative. Constantly fighting will stress you out too, naturally.

SEE ALSO: How To Make Strong Relationship With Your Partner: 34 Essential Tips

9. Stay Calm During The Discussion

Do you like being yelled at? No, hardly anyone does.

If you feel the urge to start yelling and screaming, calm down and walk away from the argument for a bit. Take deep breaths if you feel yourself start to get agitated, continuing a discussion with anger will only make things worse.

10. Don’t Insult

This is one of those ones that seems like common sense, but many people still need to be reminded of it. Don’t resort to mockery or insults.

For one, insults don’t provide any actual reasons or evidence, so they aren’t going to be effective if your goal is to convince someone of your viewpoint.

In fact, quite the opposite will happen.

Insults tend to make people more defensive and they make you look immature, increasing the likelihood that your arguments will simply be dismissed.

11. Make It Personal

You shouldn’t get personal by insulting someone, but you can get personal through personal anecdotes.

Telling a personal story to your partner with evocative images and phrases can open them up to persuasion.

Crafting a narrative that appeals to their sense of empathy or compassion can be a very effective tactic. Take note though that a personal narrative shouldn’t be your only argument.

A personal story can paint a picture of the situation, but you will need to back it up with actual evidence and sound reasoning.

12. Speak For Yourself By Using “I”

It can be tempting to criticize the other person and put words in their mouth, but refrain from doing so.

Try to speak only for yourself by using “I”, such as “I’m feeling some resentment because…”. “I” statements are un-blaming, all you are doing is communicating how you feel.

This makes the other person feel less attacked which helps prevent the situation from escalating.

13. Deal With The Actual Argument

Arguments are often exacerbated by the fact that one side isn’t actually dealing with the other side’s position, but by a caricature of their position.

In terms of logical fallacies, this is known as a Strawman ( 1 ). It refers to twisting a person’s argument into a version that is easier to defeat, but was not what that person actually said.

Doing this is not only dishonest, but it guaranteed to provoke anger and a dismissive attitude from the other side of the argument.

Don’t build strawmen, deal with their actual argument.

14. Give The Benefit Of The Doubt

When exchanges get heated there is a tendency to assume the worst in people, perhaps that they are being willfully ignorant or deceitful.

Yet in general most simply people believe they are in the right and acting according to their own sense of ethics; they are not consciously trying to undermine you.

This isn’t to say that there occasionally people who bear you ill-will, but it is good practice to start off by assuming the best and giving the benefit of the doubt.

Allowing paranoia or insecurity to manifest itself by accusing people of purposeful malice will shut down the conversation by making your interlocutor hostile to your arguments.

We want people to give us the benefit of the doubt and assume the best, do your best to reciprocate.

15. Ask Questions

Asking questions can be extremely effective in advancing the dialogue.

The philosopher Socrates developed a method of questioning to investigate problems and reveal assumptions.

Using the Socratic questioning method offers at least two advantages.

For one, it reveals to you the thought process of your conversational partner and second it gets your partner to examine their own assumptions and beliefs.

For example: “How do think she felt?” “How can you know that’s true?” “Why do think that’s the case?”

Instead of telling people what you think or trying to tell them how to think, you can instead ask them to engage in self-reflection and let them work out if there are any problems with their point of view.

16. Acknowledge How They Feel

If you were angry or frustrated by something, wouldn’t you want the other person to acknowledge that?

A simple acknowledgement of your partner’s feelings can go a long way in getting them to open up or de-escalating an argument.

Note that acknowledging someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with those feelings.

If you feel those feelings are unjustified, you can explain that to the other person but understand that they are experiencing those feelings regardless of what you think about them.

17. Be Willing To Compromise

If you cannot convince the other side of your viewpoint, you may have to compromise.

If neither side is willing to give an inch in an argument, no solution will ever be reached. You cannot bring your life to a grinding halt and refuse to go on until you get your way.

It is important to be willing to compromise, and to elicit that same willingness from your partner.

Try to set reasonable terms for the compromise you can both agree on. The terms don’t have to be equal, but as a gesture of good faith they often are.

What is most important is that both of you can live with the terms, and that those terms are adhered to.

18. Do Your Research

If you want to convince someone you will need to have well reasoned positions backed by good evidence.

You will also need to anticipate their responses and have rebuttals ready for their arguments. This involves researching both sides of your argument, both pros and cons for your personal theory or point of view.

The more you know about the topic, the better off you are.

19. Recognize When You’ve Hit A Wall

You should be able to recognize when the conversation has reached a standstill and neither side is going to convince the other.

If you have both presented your best arguments and now seem to be covering the same ground in a loop, it is time to end the discussion.

Upon reaching this point, de-escalating if necessary and then politely closing the argument will allow both of you go to about your day and save both of you time.

20. Don’t Build Weapon Stockpiles

When you’re upset you may feel like you want to unload all of your grievances at one time, but this is counterproductive.

Whipping out problem after problem can seem aggressive, and bringing too many issues into the argument will only create confusion. It will also increase the probability of getting side-tracked with irrelevant topics.

Deal with one issue at a time to make progress, usually the most pressing and relevant issue.

21. Stay On Topic, Avoid Derailing

Similar to the above, try to stay on topic at all times.

You might be tempted to bring another topic up because it seems related to the topic at hand. Unless it is absolutely crucial, refrain from doing this.

Pinballing back and forth between topics is a great way to ensure no actual progress is made.

Another problem is that while you may see the relationship between the two issues, the other person is not guaranteed to see it and may assume you are trying to distract or derail the argument.

22. Use Good, Vivid Examples

Remember that part of creating a compelling argument is illustrating your points with vivid examples.

You will have an easier time convincing someone to take your view if you can paint a picture in their mind. If you’re trying to convince someone not to go to a restaurant, remind them about the time they food poisoning in detail.

Vague and undefined examples don’t help, make them vivid.

23. Use Metaphors, Shift The Analogy

When trying to explain a difficult concept to someone, use a metaphor to explain it in a way they can understand. Refer to concepts they are familiar with.

Say if you were talking to a mechanic, you might describe how computer parts interact through comparison to an engine.

Analogies are also important to note as they imply equivalence between two things, even though the two concepts may not be equivalent.

If you’re in an argument and someone presents and analogy, but you suspect the analogy is flawed, than try shifting the analogy to see if the principals of the argument still hold true.

24. Avoid Absolutes

The world is a complex place, very few things in it are black or white.

Most issues have shades of gray, so argue accordingly by avoiding absolutes. Using absolutist language frequently just sets you up for failure.

If the other side of the argument can easily come up with some examples that prove you wrong, you will look foolish and fail to convince the other party of your position.

SEE ALSO: 5 Most Common Manipulation Techniques In Relationships (+ Examples)

25. Ask Them What It Would Take To Change Their Mind

Use this tactic only if you feel like you’re hitting a wall in the conversation, but it can be effective to ask the other person “What would it take for you to change your mind?”

Asking them what kind of evidence or what argument would be convincing will encourage them to reflect on their own position, will give you insight into their thought process, and reveal if they are closed to outside opinions.

If they respond that nothing will make them change their mind, they are closed off and you should end the conversation, pushing past this point is just wasting your time.

26. Get Them To Articulate Their Own Reasons

An effective persuasive tactic is getting the other person so vocalize reasons why they might adopt your position.

If you can encourage the thoughts to come from within the other person and not simply from you telling them what to think, you stand to be more successful in your attempt at persuasion.

For example, you might try asking “Do you see any problems with that position?” Or you can try asking them to help you understand why they adopt the position they have, given the problems that it possesses.

27. Avoid Logical Fallacies

When arguing, be sure that your logic is sound.

For example, don’t say that your conversational partner can only choose to support you or be against you. That’s a false dichotomy and implies that your partner cannot choose a third option or be somewhere in the middle.

Similarly, as discussed above a strawman is a type of fallacy which doesn’t deal with the real argument.

You can look up a list of common logical fallacies, and are encouraged to do so as using these will undermine your credibility of your interlocutor picks up on them.

28. Acknowledge Your Own Bias

We all have our biases ( 2 ), and when engaged in an argument it can be difficult to see past them.

If it is possible, acknowledge your biases up front. If you admit your biases, your partner can help you keep track of them and call you out when you are defending something irrationally.

Being intellectually honest will encourage the other person to be honest and admit their biases as well.

29. De-escalate, Remind Them Of What Is Important

As you approach the end of the argument, try to de-escalate the situation.

Calm yourself down and calm the other person by talking in a calm voice and suggesting that you let the issue go for now.

Remind them what is important, perhaps how much you care for each other if it is a romantic partner, or that you need to able to work together if it is a coworker.

Thank them for being willing to talk with you.

30. Don’t Bring It Home

If the argument in question was at work with a coworker, time some time to decompress and mentally leave the argument at work.

To bring lingering frustration home is to bring it into your personal life, to risk displacing your frustration on your housemates or significant other.

This is a sure way to make life worse for everyone involved, so leave it at work.

31. Have A Plan To Move On

Have a plan to reestablish normalcy at the end of the day.

If what is critical is that you be able to work with your coworker, verbally agree that your disagreements won’t impact your working relationship.

Similarly, if the argument was with your significant other, agree to keep helping around the house. Again, do not hold grudges.

Being passive-aggressive or otherwise taking out your frustrations on the other person will just make things worse and lead to more hurt feelings.

Be ready to move on.

Thank you for reading this article about how to argue effectively and productively. I really hope that you take action my advice. I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.


How to tell someone you don’t like them: 14 subtle ways , how to forgive someone who hurt you: 23 top strategies, how to deal with someone who is always late: 15 tips, how to know if you are irritating: 21 subtle signs and strategies, how to be more thoughtful in a relationship: 12 quick tips, how to get out of awkward situations: 16 helpful strategies, how to protect yourself from being manipulated: 21 ways, how to forget someone you love deeply: 22-step guide, how to respect your partner in a relationship: 14 top ways, how to see yourself as others see you: 11 fascinating tips, how to be a good listener in communication: 20 strategies, how to be honest with someone: 15 practical strategies.

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Using persuasive technique in writing

The ability to effectively persuade others can be a valuable skill. From the boardroom to interactions with family and friends, persuasive writing techniques may allow you to express your emotions and arguments with clarity and conviction. 

Learning to use these techniques can help you make your voice heard, influence people's opinions, and positively impact the world around you. By honing a few persuasive writing techniques, individuals may gain self-confidence while boosting their engagement in healthy public discourse. 

Persuasive writing techniques

Persuasive writing is an art that has been around for centuries, and it remains a powerful tool used to share ideas and influence people. It utilizes various techniques to draw readers in and connect them with the message. These techniques may include emotional appeals, connecting with the audience through stories or personal anecdotes, and using rhetorical devices such as metaphor or hyperbole. 

Persuasive writing often incorporates elements of psychology by persuading people through logical arguments and evidence-based reasoning while appealing to their emotions. Appealing to one’s emotions or empathy may elicit desirable responses by connecting with cognitive and affective processes in the brain. Persuasive writers can craft compelling messages that may have lasting effects on audiences by combining logic and emotion seamlessly into one cohesive piece of work. 

Below are some of the most common persuasive writing techniques, including how they are used and their purpose. 

Emotional appeal

Emotional appeal can be an effective persuasion technique and is often used to connect authentically with a writer’s audience by alluding to a particular point of view. By considering other people's feelings, writers can make their arguments more compelling and convincing.

Using emotional appeal as a persuasive writing technique involves selecting words and presenting ideas in a manner that evokes an emotional response from the reader. It may work by including words that describe certain emotions related to the point being conveyed or appealing to shared human experiences. Writers may consider who they are writing to when considering the proper approach, as considering a person’s goals, aspirations, and expectations may create an authentically helpful or inspiring piece. 

Suppose one is attempting to persuade someone of the benefit of kindness and empathy toward others. In that case, they might use phrases that invoke powerful images in the reader’s mind that help them understand the importance and beauty of showing kindness. They may use words like empathetic, gentle, affectionate, and other adjectives to bring forth emotions. Metaphors can also be used, such as the metaphor of a soft, cozy blanket representing the fur of one’s pet dog. 

Writers can also use a personal short story as an example to further emphasize their points. For instance, if someone was trying to argue why forgiving others for making mistakes is essential, they could recount an experience where they were forgiven and how this experience positively changed their life. Such stories may cultivate an emotional investment in hearing your argument and make it more likely others will be convinced.

Literary devices

Writing persuasively is often considered an art and can require a blend of several techniques. Literary devices may be especially effective in persuasive writing, affording writers creative ways to hook readers and illustrate their points. 

Rhetorical questions are also widely used in persuasive writing to convince readers to think about an issue from a particular perspective. For example, if advocating for animal rights, a writer may use rhetorical questions such as “Do animals deserve better?” or “What would you do if someone treated you like that?” to make people consider the issue from a humane perspective. Using rhetorical questions, the writer can create an emotional connection between the reader and their argument.

Metaphors can also be helpful literary devices for persuasive writing. Metaphors enable writers to paint vivid images in the reader's mind and help them understand abstract concepts with tangible examples. For example, when advocating for environmentalism, one could use metaphors such as “Our planet is like a garden—we must nurture it with care” or “The future of our planet is like a fragile flower—it needs attention now before it wilts away” to create potent mental images that drive home the main point. By leveraging these techniques effectively, writers may have a greater chance of successfully conveying their message and inspiring readers.

Logical reasoning 

Logical reasoning is a persuasive writing technique commonly used to influence people and encourage them to act. This technique involves presenting evidence logically by providing facts, numbers, research data, and other relevant, verifiable information. When combined with more creative techniques such as literary devices and emotional appeal, logical reasoning may build credibility and establish one’s ideas as a trusted source of information. 

Successful use of logical reasoning may require the writer to present a clear and consistent argument and utilize accurate information supported by reputable sources. Effective use of this technique can highlight the strengths of one's point of view while using trusted, verifiable sources that reinforce the validity of one’s claims. The goal may be to ensure that all claims are supported by evidence to establish a writer as a trusted authority on the topic. 

The hierarchy of human needs

The hierarchy of human needs was first outlined by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” The hierarchy suggests that people are motivated by five needs, including the following: 

  • Physiological (i.e., food, oxygen, water)
  • Love and belonging
  • Self-actualization

Each layer of the hierarchy of needs builds upon prior layers. For example, self-actualization becomes a stronger motivator once all other needs are met. Understanding these basic needs may allow writers to develop more effective persuasive techniques in their writing. 

For instance, if a writer is trying to persuade an audience to purchase a product or service for their well-being, they might first focus on meeting the need for safety and security before discussing features and benefits related to esteem or self-actualization. By understanding which motivators will be most effective for each audience member, writers can tailor persuasive messages that speak directly to each reader’s needs. 

Understanding the importance of empathy as a persuasive technique may also help writers better connect with their readership. When crafting compelling pieces for any audience, a writer can empathize with the basic needs all humans share. In doing so, writers present information in a relatable manner that may speak directly to the reader instead of just telling them what they “should” do or think about a particular topic. 

By taking the time to understand the hierarchy of human needs and the value of empathy when crafting persuasive pieces, writers can have a guide for presenting their ideas in a way that cuts through the noise and speaks to the real-life needs of fellow humans. 

How persuasive writingMayimprove mental health

Persuasive writing techniques can be used to improve mental health through increased self-confidence and the reduction of indecisiveness and insecurity. With persuasive techniques, people may establish a more confident mindset by recognizing their strengths and using them to create compelling and convincing arguments. Additionally, they can learn how to use evidence-based strategies to confidently create a persuasive letter and engage in public discourse surrounding topics they care about. 

In one study, researchers looked at the role of loneliness and a lack of social skills in the development of mental illness among college-aged students. They found that rates of loneliness were a reliable indicator of rates of depression and anxiety. This study exemplifies the benefits of cultivating social and communication skills in forming meaningful connections. 

Through the process of persuasive writing, individuals may become less hesitant to socialize and speak out due to an improved understanding of why specific options are better for their well-being than others. Furthermore, persuasive writing may build up a person’s internal dialogue in which they tell themselves stories that boost their self-esteem. Cognitive abilities may lead individuals toward healthier behaviors, resulting in more significant happiness and peace of mind.

The benefits of improving persuasive writing and communication skills may include the following: 

  • Improved self-esteem and confidence in expressing ideas
  • An increased ability to identify the needs of others and empathize with their point of view
  • Enhanced communication skills, which can lead to better relationships with colleagues, friends, and family members
  • Greater impact when communicating messages to an audience 
  • The ability to influence others without using aggression or manipulation

Support options 

When learning about persuasion, having a professional available to support you may be helpful. However, some people may avoid in-person therapy due to being busy, facing financial challenges, and other accessibility barriers. In these cases, online therapy may be beneficial. Online therapy can be an empowering setting for developing healthy persuasive techniques essential to successful communication. 

With the help of an experienced therapist, individuals may gain insight into their point of view, develop greater self-awareness, and hone their ability to relate to others. Furthermore, they may learn to differentiate between manipulation and persuasion to engage in ethical and respectful dialogue. Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp , users can set virtual meetings at times conducive to their schedules and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with their therapist. 

In one study, researchers looked at the ability of online therapy to improve social functioning and reduce symptoms of depression. In the study, their team discovered that online therapy interventions were able to provide significant improvements for both healthy social functioning and symptoms of depression. This study illustrates the ability of online-based interventions to provide individuals with an accessible way to improve their communication skills and make progress in reducing symptoms of mental health conditions. 

Communication skills and empathetic discourse in writing may improve your ability to interact with the world and develop meaningful connections with others. By incorporating these persuasive writing strategies into your communication skillset, you may perceive yourself as better equipped to engage in successful dialogues with others and improve your confidence to participate in society healthily.  

To learn more about building practical communication skills or receive journaling prompts for self-reflection, consider contacting a licensed therapist online or in your area. You do not need to have a mental illness, diagnosis, or severe mental health challenge to reach out to a therapist, and therapists can be helpful mentors in many aspects of life.  

Persuasion meaning in psychology

Understanding the six principles of persuasion, learn the subtleties of persuasion, top categories.

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  • Kadidia Sylla
  • Dec 5, 2020

Effective Arguing Techniques

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

effective arguing techniques

Effective arguing techniques are important because communication skills are an essential part of succeeding in the workforce. They are especially important for women who face significant obstacles in navigating male-dominated fields. Communication skills, especially being able to argue effectively, can be great assets in not only ensuring we are taken seriously but that our voices and opinions are considered. The first tip for improving your arguing techniques is preparation. A clear argument should be developed, and supported by facts. Logic rules can also be useful here. Simple ones, such as if A=B and B=C then A=C. An example of this would be me attempting to argue that How to Get Away With Murder is the best modern day show. I would say that if HTGAWM contains diversity, intricate and compelling plot lines, and deals with important modern issues, and these are all the makings of a great modern show; it is a great contender for best modern show. The second tip is clarity. Sticking to your point is crucial in maintaining a good argument. If necessary, concede, but never contradict yourself. It is better to admit you are wrong, which shows maturity, than to reveal an improper argument. Tip three is considering the opposing argument, which will not only prepare a debater for rebuttals, but allows one to further develop their own argument. For example, “but HTGAWM gets boring.” On the contrary, it actually has the unique ability to have plot lines as ever complex and intriguing in the first season as the last. Its masterful use of flash forwards to deal with mystery keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. The final tip concerns dealing with ignorance. This is unfortunately something that we have to deal with as women. There are ways to handle this, however, without having to sacrifice your credibility as a debater. When dealing with micro aggressions, ask for clarification. This forces the transgressor to admit their own ignorance. The same applies if they lack a foundation for their claim.

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  • The Art of Persuasion: Decoding the Techniques Behind Lawyers’ Effective Arguments

Have you ever wondered how lawyers are able to convince judges and juries to see their clients’ perspectives in court? It’s all about the art of persuasion. Skilled lawyers are able to present their arguments in a way that is not only convincing, but also emotionally compelling. This article aims to decode the techniques behind lawyers’ effective arguments and shed light on the art of persuasion in the legal profession.

Here are some of the techniques that lawyers use to persuasively argue their cases:

  • Using analogies to simplify complex information
  • Emphasizing key points through repetition
  • Using rhetorical questions to engage the audience
  • Appealing to the audience’s emotions
  • Backing up arguments with credible evidence

For example, a lawyer defending a client in a personal injury case might use an analogy to explain the concept of negligence to a jury: «Driving a car without functioning brakes is like playing Russian roulette with other drivers on the road.» This analogy simplifies a complex legal concept and makes it more relatable to the jury.

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The Art of Persuasion in Law: Mastering the Power of Advocacy

As a lawyer, one of the most important skills you can possess is the ability to persuade. The art of persuasion in law is all about mastering the power of advocacy and presenting your case in the most compelling way possible. Whether you are arguing in front of a judge, negotiating with opposing counsel, or trying to convince a client of your strategy, your ability to persuade can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

Preparation is key: The first step in mastering the art of persuasion is to prepare thoroughly. This means doing your research, knowing the law, and anticipating the arguments of the other side. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be in your ability to persuade.

  • Know your audience: It’s important to understand who you are trying to persuade. Is it a judge, a jury, or a client? Each audience has different needs and expectations, and tailoring your message to your audience is key to effective persuasion.
  • Create a compelling narrative: People are naturally drawn to stories, so creating a compelling narrative can be a powerful tool in persuasion. Presenting your case as a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end can help your audience understand and remember your arguments.
  • Use visual aids: Visual aids such as charts, graphs, and images can be a powerful tool in persuasion. They can help you illustrate complex concepts and make your arguments more memorable.
  • Anticipate and address counterarguments: One of the keys to effective persuasion is anticipating the arguments of the other side and addressing them head-on. This can help you build credibility with your audience and strengthen your own arguments.

Example: For example, if you are arguing a case in front of a judge, you might anticipate that the opposing counsel will argue that the law is on their side. You could address this argument by pointing out that the law is open to interpretation and that your interpretation is more consistent with the overall purpose of the law.

What are the 3 methods of persuasion that you can use in an argument

When it comes to making a convincing argument, there are 3 main methods of persuasion that you can use to win over your audience. These methods are ethos , pathos , and logos .

1. Ethos: This method of persuasion involves establishing credibility or authority with your audience. You can do this by presenting your credentials, your experience, or your expertise on the topic at hand. By establishing your credibility, you can make your argument more persuasive and increase the likelihood that your audience will trust and believe you.

Example: If you’re arguing that a new medical treatment is effective, you might mention that you’re a doctor with years of experience in the field.

2. Pathos: This method of persuasion involves appealing to the emotions of your audience. By using emotional language, stories, or examples, you can create a connection with your audience and make them more likely to support your argument. This method is particularly effective when you’re trying to convince people to take action or change their behavior.

Example: If you’re arguing for better funding for a local school, you might tell a story about a student who overcame adversity thanks to the school’s resources.

3. Logos: This method of persuasion involves using logic, reasoning, and evidence to support your argument. By presenting facts, statistics, and other evidence, you can make a strong case for your position and convince your audience that you’re right.

Example: If you’re arguing that a new policy will save the company money, you might present data showing how much money similar policies have saved other companies.

By using a combination of these three methods of persuasion, you can create a compelling argument that is more likely to convince your audience. Whether you’re trying to persuade a group of coworkers or make a convincing case in a court of law, understanding these methods of persuasion is essential for success.

Mastering the Art of Persuasion: Understanding and Utilizing the Five Most Effective Techniques

As a lawyer, persuasion is a crucial skill when presenting arguments and advocating for clients. There are various techniques that can be used to persuade people, but five have been proven to be the most effective.

1. Reciprocity:

This technique involves giving something to someone in exchange for something in return. For example, offering a free consultation in exchange for a potential client’s contact information. This creates a feeling of indebtedness that can lead to a positive outcome.

2. Social Proof:

People are more likely to believe or do something if others are doing it as well. This is why testimonials and reviews are so effective. Providing evidence that others have had success with your services can boost your credibility and persuade potential clients to choose your firm.

3. Authority:

People tend to follow those who they perceive as experts or authority figures. As a lawyer, it’s important to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your field. This can be achieved by sharing your qualifications, experience, and successes with potential clients.

4. Scarcity:

The perception of limited availability or urgency can create a sense of urgency and encourage people to take action. For example, offering a limited-time discount or highlighting the limited availability of a service can motivate potential clients to act quickly.

5. Consistency:

People like to be consistent with their previous actions and beliefs. Once someone has committed to a small action, they are more likely to agree to a larger one. For example, if a potential client agrees to a small request, such as filling out a contact form, they are more likely to agree to a larger request, such as scheduling a consultation.

By understanding and utilizing these five effective persuasion techniques, lawyers can improve their ability to advocate for their clients and ultimately achieve positive outcomes.

Mastering the Art of Persuasion: Understanding How Lawyers Harness the Power of Influence

As a lawyer, one of the most important skills you can possess is the art of persuasion. Whether you are trying to convince a judge, jury, or opposing counsel, your ability to influence others is essential to achieving a favorable outcome for your client.

The Psychology of Persuasion

At its core, persuasion is about understanding how people think and using that knowledge to influence their behavior. Psychologists have identified several key principles of persuasion, including:

  • Social proof: People are more likely to be persuaded if they see that others like them have made the same decision.
  • Authority: People are more likely to be influenced by someone they perceive as an expert in their field.
  • Reciprocity: People are more likely to be persuaded if they feel that they owe you something in return.
  • Scarcity: People are more likely to be influenced by something that is rare or in limited supply.

Using Persuasion in the Legal Field

Lawyers use these principles of persuasion every day in their work. For example, when arguing a case in court, a lawyer might:

  • Establish their authority: Lawyers will often cite their experience, education, or other credentials to establish themselves as an expert in their field.
  • Use social proof: Lawyers might cite previous cases or legal precedent to show that their argument is supported by others.
  • Appeal to empathy: Lawyers might use emotional language or tell a compelling story to appeal to the judge or jury’s sense of empathy.
  • Highlight the consequences: Lawyers might highlight the potential consequences of a decision to persuade the judge or jury to rule in their client’s favor.

The Ethics of Persuasion

It’s important to note that while persuasion is an essential tool for lawyers, it must be used ethically. Lawyers have a duty to present truthful and accurate information to the court and should not use unethical tactics to influence a decision. Additionally, lawyers must be careful not to cross the line into coercion, which is illegal and unethical.

By mastering the art of persuasion, lawyers can become more effective advocates for their clients and achieve better outcomes. However, they must always remember to use their powers of influence ethically and responsibly.

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More From Forbes

15 smart ways to get employees engaged as a team.

Forbes Coaches Council

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Employee engagement is crucial to the sustained success of any business. Managers play a crucial role in promoting employee engagement, and thus have a huge impact on morale and how team members work together.

Below, 15 Forbes Coaches Council members share simple yet effective strategies that managers can use to cultivate a culture of engagement and strong teamwork. From demonstrating vulnerability to giving the right feedback, these approaches can help leaders mobilize their teams to stay engaged with their work and each other to achieve greater success.

1. Find The Good In Employees And Recognize It

Most employees don’t feel as if they’re recognized or appreciated enough by their direct supervisor, and we know recognition is one of the easiest, most effective ways to drive employee engagement. Managers must be on a daily mission to find the good in their people and share it. This approach builds trust and reinforces behavior. It’s a win-win for everyone! - Justin Patton , The Trust Architect Group

2. Create Space For Informal Leaders To Step Up

Provide leadership opportunities for those who may not view themselves as formal leaders. Allowing team members to step up, outside of their official capacity, to lead an employee resource group, manage a project or take on a new initiative can inspire them to play a larger role while boosting engagement and morale. This will also enhance organizational outputs and overall outcomes. - Dr. April Willis , April Willis Consulting, LLC

3. Empower Teams To Shape A Shared Vision

To enhance engagement at the team level, team leaders can encourage members to collaboratively define their collective aspirations. This approach empowers the team to shape a shared vision of their future. - Felice Tilin , GroupWorksConsulting LLC

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2024

Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, 4. prioritize regular, open communication.

To effectively boost team engagement, managers need to prioritize regular, open communication with team members. This approach fosters trust, encourages feedback and shows genuine interest in employees’ goals. This strategy enhances team morale, drives innovation and directly contributes to improved organizational performance and success, all within a concise framework. - Jessica Hill Holm , Hill Holm Coaching & Consulting

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

5. Take An Active Interest In Who Employees Are

Listen actively and hear employees, truly and deeply. Take interest in not only what they do but also who they are. Respect the human beings they are first and foremost. Do what you said you would do. Have your team’s back, and let them outshine you. - Isabelle Claus Teixeira , Business and Human Development Consulting Pte Ltd

6. Prioritize The Addition Of Mutual Value

Organizations that prioritize team members adding mutual value for each other often achieve impressive outcomes. This success stems from a straightforward principle: When employees are not paralyzed by the fear of failure, they are more likely to be fully engaged and willing to make multiple attempts to succeed. - Edyta Kwiatkowska , Leadit, Hana Mana Instytut Szkoleniowo-Rozwojowy

7. ‘LAF’ With Your Team

The acronym LAF helps managers easily remember to L isten to what everyone has to say, A cknowledge that you heard them and F ollow through on any necessary items. If there won’t be a change, be upfront about it and let them know you appreciate the idea, thought or suggestion. Be straight with them. Make sure people feel heard and valued, and they will want to contribute even more. - Laurie Sudbrink , Unlimited Coaching Solutions, Inc.

8. Manage Your Ego

Manage your ego—this simple tactic is a game-changer. When you can learn to manage your own ego (your unconscious mindsets, beliefs and behaviors), you can help others manage theirs. Sabotaging tactics of the ego include boredom, burnout, lack of engagement, poor communication, micromanagement and fire drills. When you can manage these traits in your interactions with the team, you will naturally see more engagement. - Christie Garcia , Mindful Choice, LLC.

9. Acknowledge Team Members’ Unique Strengths

Acknowledgment in the workplace is a powerful tool for enhancing team dynamics. Instead of paying generic compliments, observe and acknowledge the unique strengths and efforts of team members so they feel valued. Look for ways team members have been persistent, have adapted, have bonded, have stayed positive and have worked with others. Such acknowledgment creates a ripple effect, expanding what’s possible for the organization. - Sheila Goldgrab , Goldgrab Leadership Coaching

10. Gather Feedback From Teams And Individuals

Gathering regular feedback about what employees like or don’t like about their work should happen at multiple levels—both in a team setting and in an individual, psychologically safe and anonymous setting. Both methods need to allow employees to share honest feedback without any fear of retribution. This team approach will help to motivate and improve employee and organizational performance. - Luke Feldmeier , Online Leadership Training - Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers

11. Fix ‘Leaking Bucket’ Issues

Fixing the “leaking bucket” is vital. Often, a low level of engagement has much more to do with issues than the need for extra motivation or perks. Finding out what is preventing people from feeling more engaged and removing those obstacles is likely to deliver better and faster results than doing something extra based on the leader’s common sense. Addition is easy; subtraction is powerful. - Csaba Toth , ICQ Global

12. Become A Visionary Leader

Visionary leaders possess a clear and emotionally charged vision of where they want to go. They are skilled at inspiring others to see that same vision with clarity and feel the same emotional connection. Your team will be motivated to succeed because they know what awaits them once they reach their destination. - Nick Leighton , Exactly Where You Want to Be

13. Make Sure Employees Feel Heard And Valued

Cultivating an environment where employees feel heard and valued will enhance their sense of belonging and motivation. This grassroots approach contributes to overall organizational performance by creating a positive workplace culture, improving collaboration and unlocking innovative ideas as employees become more invested and committed to their work. - Chris Aird , With Purpose

14. Build Strong Relationships With Employees

Managers must expand their roles beyond monitoring work performance to understanding the people themselves. By building strong relationships, understanding values and connecting beyond the surface level, managers make employees feel valued, cared for and part of something bigger than themselves. This inspires greater commitment, better employee experiences and more meaningful connections to their work, creating great employee engagement. - Tami Chapek , WeInspireWe

15. Offer To Pay For Professional Development Opportunities

Offering to pay for team and individual professional development opportunities for learning and growth can boost employee engagement. It demonstrates the organization’s investment in their career progression and team development, leading to greater job satisfaction and a skilled and competent workforce, and that drives improved organizational performance. - Alexandra Salamis , Integral Leadership Design

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