Planning an Argument

Organizing an Argument

Formal methods for organizing and presenting an argument have existed in Western culture since before the time of Aristotle. One of the oldest is still in use today. Organized along the lines of ancient classical rhetoric, it has six parts:

  1. An Introduction establishing the author as knowledgeable and trustworthy, and the issue as one worthy of debate.
  2. A Brief Narrative providing context and background.
  3. A Position Statement containing a thesis or claim and an outline of the reasons that support taking the position.
  4. The Argument Itself containing the supportive evidence backing each reason the position is being taken
  5. Refutations that invalidate the opposing arguments
  6. A Conclusion summarizing the argument and reflecting back on or reiterating key points made in the introduction

Just because it's ancient doesn't mean it's carved in stone, however; there are other ways to organize an argument. Some people begin by writing up everything they are going to include and organizing later; others work out the order for each section ahead of time. Either way, when the time comes, it's probably best to work from an outline.

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Introduction