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Academic Skills Essentials: Developing an argument

Developing an argument

Have you been asked to develop an argument within an essay? Developing  and presenting an argument to defend a position is a common task in academic writing. Following the steps below can help you get the job done.

 

What are the steps to developing an academic argument?

  1. Clearly state your contention (the main point an argument is trying to prove, usually a belief outlined in the thesis statement of an introduction) in a thesis statement within your introduction.
  2. Identify the important reasons/premises of your argument.  A reason is evidence given to support the contention. Every reason has premises, and each must be true for the reason to support the contention.
  3. Identify possible objections (a ‘reason’ that a contention is false; evidence against a contention) to your argument.  
  4. Research evidence that supports your reasons and/or reduces objections.
  5. Structure your argument so your points logically lead to your conclusion.
  6. Clearly state your conclusion (the proven contention) bringing together your thesis statement and the supporting points.

Developing an argument flowchart

Activity

Try to identify the contention, reason/premise, objection, and conclusion in the statements below: 

1. Which is the contention or thesis statement? 

a) Australia has limited resources. 
b) First world countries should do more to reduce climate change. 
c) Despite limited resources, Australia should do more to reduce climate change. 
d) Australia is a first world country. 

2. Which is the supporting reason/premise? 

a) Australia has limited resources. 
b) First world countries should do more to reduce climate change. 
c) Despite limited resources, Australia should do more to reduce climate change. 
​d) Australia is a first world country. 

3. Which is the objection?

a) Australia has limited resources. 
b) First world countries should do more to reduce climate change. 
c) Despite limited resources, Australia should do more to reduce climate change. 
d) Australia is a first world country. 

4. Which is the conclusion? 

a) Australia has limited resources. 
b) First world countries should do more to reduce climate change. 
c) Despite limited resources, Australia should do more to reduce climate change. 
d) Australia is a first world country. 

Answers 
  • 1.b, 2.d, 3.a, 4.c 
Feedback 
  • Thesis: First world countries should do more to reduce climate change. 
  • Supporting Reason/Premise: Australia is a first world country.  
  • Objection: Australia has limited resources. 
  • Conclusion: Despite limited resources, Australia should do more to reduce climate change. 

In the argument, if the premise that 1) first world countries should do more to reduce climate change, and 2) that Australia is a first world country are accepted, then the conclusion that Australia should do more to reduce climate change logically follows. This argument is not modified by the objection that Australia has limited resources as no mitigating clause was placed within the contention of the thesis statement.