There are many reasons why a writer’s argument may be weak. Here are just a few possibilities:
- The author’s argument is undermined by one or more logical fallacies
- The author does not adequately consider the rhetorical situation at hand
- The author misuses rhetorical appeals
- The author presents a claim but lacks sufficient evidence
- The author incorporates evidence but it is irrelevant or unrelated to the thesis/research question
- The author thoroughly explains his or her argument but does not address the counter argument
One way to ensure that an argument is strong is to use a format known as the Toulmin Method. This provides an outline of the sections of the argument and ensures that the writer has properly addressed the demands of strong argumentation. Use this outline as a skeleton for the paper. Each of the parts of the outline would be expanded into the different sections of the paper. Below is a brief outline of the Toulmin Method, along with some examples.
Claim: The thesis or overall argument.
Example: Mashed potatoes are superior to baked potatoes.
Data: Evidence gathered to support the claim.
Example: Mashed potatoes lower the rates of heart disease.
Warrant: Explanation of how the data or evidence supports the claim.
Example: Mashed potatoes are clearly a healthier option than baked potatoes, making them a better food choice.
Backing (if necessary): additional reasoning/explanation to support the warrant and the data provided.
*Keep in mind: You should repeat the process of providing data and warrants (along with additional backing) several times throughout the course of your paper. These examples make up your body paragraphs.
Counterclaim: Another opinion that refutes your main claim (also known as the opposing side).
Example: Many claim, however, that baked potatoes are superior to mashed due to the amount of toppings and sides available for baked potatoes.
Rebuttal: In this section of the paper, you answer the counter argument and demonstrate why it is erroneous.
Example: It is true that there are many more toppings available for baked potatoes than mashed potatoes. However, there is no reason why someone could not use those same toppings for mashed potatoes. This fact gives baked potatoes no advantage over baked. Therefore, mashed potatoes maintain their superiority over baked potatoes.
Think about the Toulmin method when organizing an argument. These points are meant to serve as an outline of the paper. Remember that the claim (or thesis) must be supported by data. Each data point or piece of evidence must be accompanied by an appropriate explanation or warrant (and additional backing, if necessary) to explain how that data supports your claim. Also, be sure to address and refute the counter argument to show consideration of the opposing side but also know how to show that an argument is superior.