An academic argument is a formal argument constructed according to the specific conventions of the academic discipline in which it is presented. A literature argument, for instance, will typically include evidence from the literary text in question; a biology argument will include data from field or laboratory research.
Before beginning your argument, ask your instructor what academic conventions you will be expected to follow. Though many elements will remain the same, the norms for stating a claim or position, organizing the argument's evidence, structuring and styling its presentation and citing its sources will differ from one discipline to the next and from context to context.
Common to all academic arguments, however, are the following:
- The claim must be arguable: A disagreement or a number of legitimate points of view must exist regarding the claim. If everyone in the audience is in agreement there really isn't anything to argue over.
- The argument must be rational: An argument must be based in fact not emotion. The claim must be meticulously considered, the evidence thoroughly researched and carefully selected; the audience correctly assessed.
- The logic must be cohesive: A claim must be argued linearly, step-by-step, with appropriate transitions revealing the logic that ties one point to the next. If a minor point doesn't add to the main point, it doesn't belong.
Credit must be given where credit is due: All outside sources must be documented (e.g., footnotes, endnotes, and in-text citations) using a citation format approved by the academic discipline into which the argument falls.