Planning an Argument

If it's An Argument, What Type is it?

There are three basic types of arguments- Persuasive, Defensive, and Offensive-out of which extended versions can be constructed by combining various elements from each. Although they have different goals, each type has two common requirements: a clearly stated position, or claim, and authoritative evidence that an audience will find acceptable.

Knowing which type of argument to write depends a great deal on how you assess your audience and what your instructor asks for in the assignment. Here is a brief overview of each type and some hints about what to look for in the assignment.

Persuasive

Persuasive arguments are geared toward uninformed and under-informed audiences who have either vague ideas, or none at all, on an issue. With a strong enough argument they may be persuaded to your way of thinking.

To identify this type of argument, look for keywords in the assignment that asks you to define an issue and persuade or convince others that your stated position is valid.

Defensive

Defensive arguments are geared toward informed audiences that are familiar with an issue and comprehend that you are taking a position in its regard. They do not need an argument that raises the issue; rather, they need one that clearly supports your position.

To identify this type of argument, look for keyword phrases in the assignment that ask you to "state an opinion," "take or defend a position," or "support a claim."

Offensive

Offensive arguments are geared toward informed audiences who are fence-sitting on an issue or opposed to your point of view entirely and need a heavy-hitting offense to convince them otherwise. They will expect to hear strong refutations, or rebuttal, of other arguments.

To identify this type of argument, look for two-sided, keyword phrases in the assignment that invite you to "agree or disagree," phrases that set up clear options or stances on an issue or ask you to investigate or explore opposing viewpoints.

Note: Offensive and persuasive arguments are often combined and the distinction is not often made in the actual assignment.

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Introduction