• Elements of Argument

    Elements of Argument

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The journey in argumentative writing begins with recognizing the distinction between informal and formal arguments. Informal arguments are typically verbal disputes in which opponents try to prove each other wrong. Listening and communication skills in these situations are minimal, with little effort given to understanding conflicting viewpoints. Opponents engaged in formal arguments, however, are not necessarily attacking or criticizing each other. Instead, opponents recognize and respect each other's position. Another distinction is that formal argumentative essays typically deal with complex issues. Through research and analysis, writers develop logical steps that assert, support, and defend claims in order to persuade a reader to adopt a new position or a different perception.  

Growing Intellectually

The gurus present an overview on the value of argumentative writing, its place in society, and how it affects personal growth. Experts comment on why they write and what it means for each of them.

Video Focus Points

Look for answers to these questions when watching the video: 

  • Why is argumentative thinking and writing important to individuals and to society?
  • What compels writers to write argumentively?


The Formal Argument

A formal argument is more than two people contradicting each other, as they often do in an informal argument. The gurus illustrate differences between informal and formal arguments in their conversation while the elements of formal argument are defined by expert writers and reemphasized in a short animation.

Video Focus Points

Look for answers to these questions when watching the video:

  • What is the form and structure of a formal argument?
  • What basic tools do writers use to build an argument?



Informal or Formal?

How do you determine whether an essay is informally based on emotions and opinions or more formally built on traditional elements? This activity looks at characteristics that distinguish informal from formal arguments.


A Working Thesis

The writer's group discusses the assignment to examine an unresolved event from the past through the lens of a basic rhetorical argument. In writing their essays, the students are to view the event from a present perspective, explore the connection between the past and present, and use the basic elements of argument to propose a resolution. Mitch begins by drafting a working thesis for his essay after narrowing a topic with the help of his girlfriend Angie. His position-based thesis statement communicates the main claim of the argument and provides a solid guideline for developing support for his argument.

Video Focus Points

Look for answers to these questions when watching the video:

  • How does the topic Mitch selects connect to general principles and precedents?
  • How does the focus of Mitch's essay change?
  • What does Mitch hope to prove in his argument?



Arguable Thesis Statements


An arguable thesis statement is essential to any good argument. But, what is arguable? Arguable thesis statements make assertions that could be challenged on various grounds. The examples in this activity are either arguable thesis statements because they invite or directly address opposing viewpoints or they involve a problem that prevents them from being arguable statements. 

The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.

—H. G. Wells