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Developing an argument

This resource will introduce you to the notion of an academic argument, and explain how to develop and express an argument using paragraphing.

What is an argument?

An argument in an academic context is a claim that needs to be supported by evidence. It is a point of view formulated, often in response to a question, by critically assessing the information or ideas relevant to your particular topic. There is likely to be a variety of perspectives and research on any given topic, so there is generally not a ‘right’ answer. In order to create a sound academic argument, it is important that you clearly decide what your standpoint will be in relation to the question. To do this, you will need to read extensively to understand the key positions and relevant research in the field. Once you take a position in relation to the question, you will need to break your argument down into different points. You need to gather and give evidence that is convincing, relevant to the claim, and conveys the complexity of the issue by contrasting, analysing and bringing together different points of view.

Developing an argument

  • Background: In order to give your work relevance you must be able to identify what has already been said about the topic you are discussing. This is a short orientation to the topic and a case for your point of view.
  • Thesis statement: From the onset of your writing, you must be able to state your argument clearly in your introduction. You must also set out a clear structure and break down of the points you wish to make.
  • Thesis confirmation:
    • Lays out evidence: Your argument must be supported by evidence from reputable academic writings such as peer reviewed journals.
    • Divides argument into smaller points: Generally speaking, each paragraph must be dedicated to one point or breakdown of your argument. (preview in the introduction)
    • Open to discussion: Your argument should also allow discussion and acknowledge some of its own weaknesses and possible bias. While each point you make must be defended by academic evidence, it can also be challenged and contrasted to give further depth and nuance to your position.
  • Summation: Your conclusion effectively and coherently summarises your points and highlights how these points bolster your claims. It also rephrases your claim and leaves room for further debate or discussion.

Image transcription
Top level: Claim - Your position on the topic
2nd Level: Reasons - Justification of your point
2nd Level: Evidence - Gathered from your reading
2nd Level: Alternatives & Responses - Points of rebuttal

 

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a group of sentences that discuss a particular point of your argument. Paragraphs form the body of your essay, which fully develops your argument that was outlined in your introduction. Your writing is divided into paragraphs to signpost to your reader a change of point or a new stage in your argument. Ideally, each paragraph contains one main idea. A good paragraph has a clear structure that logically and coherently guides your reader through the discussion. The general structure of a paragraph is as follows:

  • Topic Sentence: Main point in the paragraph
  • Supporting Sentence(s): Justification/explanation of the point
  • Supporting Sentences: Evidence from your reading
  • Supporting Sentences: Comment/analysis of the evidence
  • Concluding Sentence(s): Link to the main idea and the next paragraph
      

Example:

Violent video games can have profound cognitive impacts on the social development of adolescents and pre-adolescents. There has been significant research into the cognitive effects of the depiction of violence within film and television that has proven that media can be a powerful detriment to social behaviour (Bushman & Huesmann 2006). However, there has been relatively little investigation into video games and their effects, not only in depiction of violence but also allowing players to control and perpetrate those violent acts. Bastian argues that the direct involvement of players perpetrating acts of violence can negatively impact on both adolescent social skills and perceptions of their own humanity (2012). Through an in-depth analysis of recent mass shootings perpetrated by young adults, Mcgrath also found a direct correlation between the perpetrators actions and their inspiration from first person shooter games (2012). Thus, an empirical connection can be drawn between violent video games and a young adult’s tendency to commit violent acts. However, as Tortolero states, although video games only rarely lead to expressions of aggression, they are often associated with heightened levels of depression and anxiety among both adolescents and pre-adolescents (2014). It is thus essential to not only recognise the effects of video games influencing violent expressions of aggression in the real world but more importantly their negative effects on general mental health.
  

Now let's look at how that paragraph is broken down into sections
  

  1. Topic Sentence: Main point in the paragraph
    Violent video games can have profound cognitive impacts on the social development of adolescents and pre-adolescents.
      
  2. Supporting Sentence(s): Justification/explanation of the point
    There has been significant research into the cognitive effects of the depiction of violence within film and television that has proven that media can be a powerful detriment to social behaviour (Bushman & Huesmann 2006). However, there has been relatively little investigation into video games and their effects, not only in depiction of violence but also allowing players to control and perpetrate those violent acts. 
      
  3. Supporting Sentences: Evidence from your reading
    Bastian argues that the direct involvement of players perpetrating acts of violence can negatively impact on both adolescent social skills and perceptions of their own humanity (2012). Through an in-depth analysis of recent mass shootings perpetrated by young adults, Mcgrath also found a direct correlation between the perpetrators actions and their inspiration from first person shooter games (2012).
      
  4. Supporting Sentences: Comment/analysis of the evidence
    Thus, an empirical connection can be drawn between violent video games and a young adult’s tendency to commit violent acts. However, as Tortolero states, although video games only rarely lead to expressions of aggression, they are often associated with heightened levels of depression and anxiety among both adolescents and pre-adolescents (2014).
      
  5. Concluding Sentence(s): Link to the main idea and the next paragraph
    It is thus essential to not only recognise the effects of video games influencing violent expressions of aggression in the real world but more importantly their negative effects on general mental health.
      

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