The term argument
has certain negative connotations in everyday use. However, argument in its academic sense is very different. Academic argument involves taking a position on a subject and then defending the position you've taken with certain kinds of evidence. Academic arguments should always be made for or against ideas, not for or against people.
Academic arguments must always be well thought out and well constructed. Consider how you want to build each argument you make. Often, the basic parts for any argument you might build are the same. It is how you choose to put those parts together that gives each argument its particular look.
Claims and supports
The basic parts of an argument are a claim
and a support
. These terms are often exchanged with others (like position/assertion and evidence/reason), but their functions remain basically the same. A claim is simply a statement of opinion, implicitly your opinion, since you are the writer. A support, as the term suggests, supports, proves, or backs-up, the claim you've just made.
The web is very good for finding up-to-date information to support (or dispute) your claim. Do not
use the Internet to find or borrow claims that others have made and use them as your own in your research projects. Of course, research may shape the kinds of arguments you eventually make in your papers, but do not start off by surfing the web to find an argument to borrow. Your paper should be original to you, rather than derived from someone else's thinking.
|Did you know?
That web logs, or blogs, are a relatively new phenomenon, at least in terms of their becoming commonplace items in the news. Blogs are electronic journals, available for free to anybody who can connect to the internet. There are numerous web logs services, though a common one is Blogger. (Blogger is now owned by Google.)
Consider how a Blogger page looks, compared to a page from LiveJournal
. How might a web page's design influence how you seriously you take its contents? Would you use a blog as a source in an argument paper?
Bias refers to prejudice on the part of an author or source; it can be overt and easy to spot, or it can be much more difficult to identify. In many cases, an author or source may be biased without being entirely aware of it. It is your job as the critical reader—part of being a successful researcher—to identify bias.
Beyond that, you will have to decide what to do with the source that is biased. Do you simply not use it at all? It falls to you to decide whether the bias is so overt and obvious that the facts
really cannot be trusted, or whether to present the source as credible, but highlight the bias so your reader is well aware of it too. Often, biased sources can be used in pairs if the biases seem to offset each other.
Note how often bias and disputable facts go together in sources. The underlying biased attitude can cause authors to choose or interpret facts selectively, to make the data support the thesis. Think back to this case study from Part 1
, about disputed facts:
Gun-deaths per year in the United States: a fact-counterfact case study