Definition: A claim states your position on the issue you have chosen to write about.
Exercise: Which of the following sentences make(s) a good claim?
A good claim is not obvious. Why bother proving a point nobody could disagree with? A good claim is engaging. Consider your audience's attention span and make interesting claims which point out new ideas: teach the reader something new. A good claim is not overly vague. Attacking enormous issues whole leads only to generalizations and vague assertions; refrain from making a book-size claim. A good claim is logical; it emerges from a reasonable consideration of evidence. (Note: this does not mean that evidence has only one logical interpretation. Reasonable people often disagree.) A good claim is debatable. Claims that are purely factual and claims that are only opinion fail this requirement. A good claim is typically hypotactic (i.e., it uses subordinate clauses). Simple sentences rarely comprehend enough complexity to do justice to a well-conceived opinion.
1. Teachers are posed with many problems today.
2. Polls show that today more minorities own businesses than ever before.
3. We must strive with every ounce of our national vigor to ensure that America has a
bright future and that truth and justice will abide with us forever.
4. Ophelia is my favorite character in Hamlet because she is the most interesting.
5. If we can put humans on the moon, we can find a cure for the common cold.
6. Though they seem mere entertainment, Hollywood movies are actually responsible for
reinforcing cultural stereotypes in America.
Definition: the evidence which you cite to support your claim. Like a lawyer presenting evidence to a jury, you must support your claim with facts; an unsupported claim is merely an assertion.
Data can include:
- Facts or statistics: objectively determined data about your topic. (Note: just what constitutes "objective" may be open to debate.)
- Expert opinion: the media and our essays are full of learned opinions which you should cite frequently, both to support your argument and to disagree with. Authors must be quoted and properly cited in your paper.
- Personal anecdotes: the most difficult kind of data to use well, for doing so requires a persuasive argument that your own experience is objectively grasped and generalizable. Personal experience can, however, help bring an argument to life.
Definition: the warrant interprets the data and shows how it supports your claim. The warrant, in other words, explains why the data proves the claim. In trials, lawyers for opposing sides often agree on the data but hotly dispute the warrants. (And a defense attorney's failure to offer strong warrants may result in a warrant for the defendant's arrest.) A philosopher would say that the warrant helps to answer the question, "What else must be true for this proposition to hold?"
Exercise: Find warrants which will interpret the data to support the claim in the following passages:
A good warrant will be a reasonable interpretation of facts. A good warrant will not make illogical interpretive leaps. A good warrant will not assume more than the evidence supports. A good warrant may consider and respond to possible counter-arguments.
1. Claim: President Clinton should be applauded for his policies on minority owned businesses.
Data: The NYT reports that more minorities own businesses today than ever before.
2. Claim: Any American can grow up to be president.
Data: Bill Clinton came from a poor town in a poor state to be president.
3. Claim: The school system itself promotes racial tension in its effort to provide America's children with a good education.
Data: There's a lot of racial tension in many schools these days.
Now, go back and attack the warrant you have just formulated. How might the data be interpreted in ways that do not support the claims?
Organizing Your Argument
These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.
Contributors: Stacy Weida, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2017-06-19 09:33:00
How can I effectively present my argument?
Use an organizational structure that arranges the argument in a way that will make sense to the reader. The Toulmin Method of logic is a common and easy to use formula for organizing an argument.
The basic format for the Toulmin Method is as follows.
Claim: The overall thesis the writer will argue for.
Data: Evidence gathered to support the claim.
Warrant (also referred to as a bridge): Explanation of why or how the data supports the claim, the underlying assumption that connects your data to your claim.
Backing (also referred to as the foundation): Additional logic or reasoning that may be necessary to support the warrant.
Counterclaim: A claim that negates or disagrees with the thesis/claim.
Rebuttal: Evidence that negates or disagrees with the counterclaim.
Including a well-thought-out warrant or bridge is essential to writing a good argumentative essay or paper. If you present data to your audience without explaining how it supports your thesis your readers may not make a connection between the two or they may draw different conclusions.
Don't avoid the opposing side of an argument. Instead, include the opposing side as a counterclaim. Find out what the other side is saying and respond to it within your own argument. This is important so that the audience is not swayed by weak, but unrefuted, arguments. Including counterclaims allows you to find common ground with more of your readers. It also makes you look more credible because you appear to be knowledgeable about the entirety of the debate rather than just being biased or uninformed. You may want to include several counterclaims to show that you have thoroughly researched the topic.
Claim: Hybrid cars are an effective strategy to fight pollution.
Data1: Driving a private car is a typical citizen's most air polluting activity.
Warrant 1: Because cars are the largest source of private, as opposed to industry produced, air pollution, switching to hybrid cars should have an impact on fighting pollution.
Data 2: Each vehicle produced is going to stay on the road for roughly 12 to 15 years.
Warrant 2: Cars generally have a long lifespan, meaning that a decision to switch to a hybrid car will make a long-term impact on pollution levels.
Data 3: Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor.
Warrant 3: This combination of technologies means that less pollution is produced. According to ineedtoknow.org "the hybrid engine of the Prius, made by Toyota, produces 90 percent fewer harmful emissions than a comparable gasoline engine."
Counterclaim: Instead of focusing on cars, which still encourages a culture of driving even if it cuts down on pollution, the nation should focus on building and encouraging use of mass transit systems.
Rebuttal: While mass transit is an environmentally sound idea that should be encouraged, it is not feasible in many rural and suburban areas, or for people who must commute to work; thus hybrid cars are a better solution for much of the nation's population.