30 Academic Argument

Information Creation is a Process

Academic Argument

“Nearly all scholarly writing makes an argument. That’s because its purpose is to create and share new knowledge, so it can be debated in order to confirm, dis-confirm, or improve it.” Most scholars undertake the peer-review process to get published in a scholarly journal or book. They might also share their research and new information through conference presentations, which may be published more formally in the conference proceedings.

Likewise, your student research project should make an argument. “Making an argument means trying to convince others that you are correct as you describe a thing, situation, relationships or phenomenon and/or persuade them to take a particular action.”

Although students present their research to a smaller audience (instructor and peers), the creation process is the same. It doesn’t matter if the format is a term paper or a presentation, your final product is to make an argument for your audience. Moreover, you should use sources that will help you develop the elements, or components, of the argument. (22)

Components of an Argument

“In a research report, you make a claim , back it with reasons based on evidence acknowledge and respond to other views, and sometimes explain your principles of reasoning” (Booth et al 114). Let’s look at these components a little closer.

  • The argument stems from the research question and investigation. Your claim or thesis is the answer to your question, which you state up front at the beginning of your report.
  • The reasons support the claim, usually in short summary sentences.
  • Evidence supports the reasons why your claim is valid. Evidence could be results from studies or what others have said in scholarly articles.
  • An acknowledgement is a statement of objections, counter-arguments, or alternative solutions to your argument.
  • A response is a refutation (sometimes a concession) to each acknowledgement of opposition to your argument. (1)

Argument Plan/Outline

Once you have gathered enough sources to meet your research needs (using the BEAM Research Model), you would want to organize your thoughts in the form of an argument plan or outline. There are various ways to accomplish this. The Roman numeral outline is one popular graphic organizer. Each heading and subheading could correspond to one paragraph or develop over multiple paragraphs.

  • Introduction—most arguments and research projects begin with an introduction. Your research question will not actually appear in your final product, but your answer to it (thesis/claim) will appear towards the end of the introduction. Background and context for the topic could be given in the introduction or expounded in a larger overview (see Roman Number II).
  • Overview of Topic
    • Background, history (Sources)
    • Previous methods used (Sources)
    • Context of research (Sources)
  • Reason 1/Supporting Argument 1 (add a Roman numeral for each new reason)
    • Supporting Evidence 1 (Source)
    • Supporting Evidence 2 (Source)
  • Reason 2/Supporting Argument 2
    • Supporting Evidence (Source)
  • Counter-arguments–sources that don’t agree with you (add a Roman numeral or subheading letter for each new counter-argument).
    • Counter-argument 1
      1. Supporting Evidence (Source)
      2. Response to Counter-argument 1 (Refute or concede to opposition)
    • Counter-argument 2
      1. Supporting Evidence 1 (Source)
      2. Supporting Evidence 2 (Source)
      3. Response to Counter-argument 2
  • Conclusion—restates the claim/thesis. Presents conclusions. Explains why your argument is important and suggests further research.

For each heading and subheading, you should identify which source(s) provide information for that section. The outline/argument plan may even help you realize areas of your investigation that need further research or more sources to support your argument. (1)


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