Parts of an Argument

Draft Your Position Statement

For all practical purposes, it's useful to view a position statement as a "work-in-progress," a statement that evolves or emerges as your research progresses. It's not necessary that you begin with an ironclad position. A vague idea will do.

As you learn more about your selected-or assigned-issue, you may find your stance changing. Keep an open mind in this regard: It will help you clarify and focus your final position on a narrow and arguable point. Following are some useful tips that will help you in the process.

Step One

Don't bore yourself. Choose a topic around which there are issues that interest you and don't worry about defining your position. A good topic is one that arouses passion in others as well as yourself. Consult your course notes and make a list of ideas that appear to have the most potential by answering a few simple questions:

Step Two

Do some broad preliminary research on your selected topic. Ask your instructor, as well as others in your field of study, for information and guidance. To grasp the complexities and nuances of the issues at hand, select a group of books and articles that approach your topic from different angles and study up on them.

Step Three

Note your reactions and opinions as they occur and develop or mature. In particular, you will want to note when previously held opinions change as a result of knowledge and insight gained from recent readings or discussion. Hone in on those opinions about which your feel the strongest or interest you the most.

Step Four

Begin drafting a preliminary statement. Keep in mind that your position must be arguable. When shaping it consider the following questions:

Step Five

Finally, the best advice is to be constantly aware of the arguments you wish not to address and continually refine your preliminary statement so as to exclude having to argue them. In other words, as you move toward completing your research, close and bolt all the doors you don't want the opposition stumbling through.

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