How to Structure a Convincing Argument in 2023: The Ultimate Guide

Whether you’re writing an essay, having a debate, or making your case in a business presentation, knowing how to structure an effective argument is critical. A well-organized and logical argument will be far more persuasive than one that is disjointed and vague.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll outline the key elements of a strong argument structure. You’ll learn techniques to make your claims compelling, address counterpoints, and arrange your reasoning in a cohesive flow. Follow these tips to argue more successfully and strengthen your critical thinking abilities.

The Key Parts of an Effective Argument Structure

An argument has several essential components. Make sure your own arguments contain all of these key pieces:

  • Claim – The main contention or thesis that you want to prove. This is your starting point and the heart of your argument.

  • Evidence – Facts, examples statistics or testimony used as proof to back up your claims. Evidence gives your argument legitimacy.

  • Reasoning – The logical chain of analysis that connects your evidence to your claim. This shows why your proof matters

  • Counterarguments – Opposing views or weaknesses acknowledged but refuted or diminished This bolsters credibility

  • Conclusion – Final summary reiterating why your argument is correct based on the reasoning and evidence.

I’ll explore each of these elements in detail, including tips and examples for strong execution. Keep these core pieces in mind as you craft your arguments.

Making a Persuasive and Defensible Claim

The claim sets the stage for your argument. It’s the central statement you want your audience to accept, so making a clear and well-defined claim is critical.

When writing your claim:

  • Make your claim concise and specific. Don’t ramble or make vague declarations.

  • Base your claim on an issue that is debatable, not obviously true. There must be room for reasoned disagreement.

  • Avoid emotional or inflammatory language. Use an objective tone.

  • Consider your audience’s values, assumptions and tendencies. This can help frame your claim persuasively.

  • Make an active claim, not a passive observation. “The government should adopt universal healthcare” is active, while “universal healthcare has pros and cons” is passive.

Let’s say your argument claims that smartphones make people less social. Your claim could be:

“The rise of smartphone usage has decreased the amount of genuine human interaction and damaged social skills.”

This claim is direct, focused, and makes a strong argumentative point. Claims like this give your argument direction while inviting analysis and discussion.

Providing Convincing Evidence and Reasoning

With your claim established, now you must support it with compelling proof. Evidence and reasoning work together to justify your central premise.

Evidence provides the tangible backing for your arguments. Common forms of evidence include:

  • Facts and statistics – Hard numbers from scientific studies or surveys.

  • Quotes and testimony – Expert perspectives from authorities on a topic.

  • Examples – Specific anecdotes and case studies related to your claim.

  • Historical accounts – Records of past events that support your reasoning.

Make sure the evidence you choose directly links with your claim. Citing unrelated facts won’t be very convincing. Also rely more heavily on expert testimony, verifiable data, and empirical studies rather than personal anecdotes which could be questioned.

Reasoning is the logic that explains how your evidence connects to and validates your claim. Outline the analysis process step-by-step to show your audience why the evidence matters.

For example, with a claim that smartphones reduce social skills, your reasoning could be:

  • Evidence: A Stanford study found a 40% decline in empathy among college students between 1979 and 2009, coinciding with the rise of mobile technology.

  • Reasoning: The study demonstrates a strong correlation between smartphone adoption and decreased empathy, a key social skill. This suggests overuse of phones is damaging interpersonal emotional intelligence.

Laying out this syllogistic thinking helps strengthen the argument. Make sure to clearly explain how the evidence relates back to the original claim.

Acknowledging Counterarguments

Any strong argument must anticipate counterarguments – reasons why a reader might disagree with your claim or reject your evidence. Briefly acknowledging and diminishing these counterpoints can actually boost your credibility and show you’ve earnestly considered alternatives.

When presenting counterarguments, be fair in how you represent differing views. Display each opposing position accurately and with nuance before refuting it.

For example, you could weaken the counterargument that “social media connects people” by differentiating between superficial online connections and intimate in-person friendships. Discuss how the evidence shows the value of real social skills over digital communication.

Handling counterarguments respectfully makes your argument well-rounded. Don’t ignore critics – thoughtfully address their perspectives. This balance strengthens your reasoning.

Finally, conclude your argument by reinforcing the most compelling evidence and summarizing why your claim is correct. Tie everything together to leave a lasting impact.

An effective conclusion:

  • Directly restates your central claim

  • Highlights the strongest points and facts in your favor

  • Discredits any lingering doubts or counterarguments

  • Creates memorability through a call to action, warning, or impactful statement

In your smartphone social skills argument, the conclusion could point to the concerning implications of these trends for young people and the importance of mitigating technology’s anti-social effects.

Ending powerfully drives your arguments home. The conclusion represents your last chance to reiterate your most persuasive points and cement agreement around your claim.

Putting the Pieces Together

Now that we’ve covered the core components, here are some tips for organizing your argument cohesively:

  • Funnel structure – Start broad with background context, then steadily narrow down to your specific claim and supporting reasoning. This intuitive flow eases readers in.

  • Best evidence last – Build up to your strongest facts and examples so they’re fresh when readers make their final judgment.

  • Theme repetition – Reinforce your main claim and reasoning themes throughout the argument. Consistent reinforcement improves persuasiveness.

  • Paragraph focus – Devote each paragraph to a distinct point, like one piece of evidence or one counterargument. This organizational structure aids readability.

  • Transitions – Use transition phrases between sentences and paragraphs to link ideas smoothly. Examples: “Therefore…”, “In contrast…”, “Building on that…”

Following these principles creates a tightly structured, cohesive piece. Arrange your argument components strategically for maximum impact.

Examples of Well-Structured Arguments

To see these argument structures in action, here are two examples of effective argument framing and sequencing:

Example 1

Claim: Mandatory childhood vaccination programs violate civil liberties.

  1. Background: Describe rise in mandatory vaccination laws; acknowledge public health benefits but focus on valid liberty concerns.

  2. Analysis: Argue mandatory vaccination violates bodily autonomy and parental rights. Provide legal evidence of rights violations.

  3. Counterargument: Note public safety defense of mandatory policies, but highlight how education programs could achieve same goals without coercion.

  4. Examples: Detail two cases of parents forced by courts to vaccinate children against religious beliefs.

  5. Conclusion: Mandatory vaccination policies take away civil liberties. Parent education enables safety and freedom. Reiterate best evidence and restate claim.

Example 2

Claim: Shakespeare’s works were written by someone else.

  1. Background: Discuss Shakespeare’s life and legacy; note doubts over authorship.

  2. Reasoning: Argue how plays demonstrate education, travel and knowledge unlikely for a commoner. Discuss mysterious identity.

  3. Evidence: Show examples of anachronisms in plays revealing deep knowledge of law, medicine, royalty, sailing, etc. beyond Shakespeare’s modest means.

  4. Counterargument: Address view that Shakespeare had access to learn these subjects. Point to improbability he could have comprehensively studied them all.

  5. Conclusion: Restate claim and maintain the weight of the evidence proves Shakespeare did not possess the expertise displayed across all the work attributed to him.

These examples demonstrate effective ways to sequence and structure arguments centered around a clear claim. Try implementing similar flows in your own persuasive writing.

Common Argument Pitfalls to Avoid

While crafting your arguments, beware of these common missteps that can undermine your credibility:

  • Making claims without any evidence or reasoning to back them up

  • Using unreliable, biased, or outdated sources as evidence

  • Providing evidence and facts unrelated or tangential to the claim

  • Ignoring or failing to address strong counterarguments

  • Minimizing nuance in a complex issue to try to force simplicity

  • Drawing unjustified conclusions from evidence that don’t follow logically

  • Failing to explain the significance of evidence and how it connects to the overall claim

  • Allowing emotions rather than logic to drive reasoning

  • Lacking organization between paragraphs and ideas

A strong argument requires making thorough, reasoned judgments supported by facts. Avoid falling into traps like these that derail objectivity.

Start Applying These Techniques to Strengthen Your Arguments

Now that

how to structure an argument

Difference Between an Argument and an Explanation

Readers of social science literature sometimes have a difficult time distinguishing between an argument and an explanation. The former is, as noted earlier, a combination of assertions supporting a central claim; the latter is a description of the circumstances or an interpretation of given information. Thus, one cannot use an explanation to support a claim. For instance, one might say that the increase in teen pregnancy in the United States can be explained by the permissive media culture, willingness to take risks in sexual relations, or moral decline. Although these explanations are certainly interesting and may even be true, they are not evidence. One would need to go further and try to provide some sort of empirical evidence to support the claim.

Structure of an Argument

Understanding the structure of arguments is important because it enables a reader to critique various works effectively. Arguments consist of two main parts: conclusion and evidence.

In this common argument, one concludes that Socrates is mortal because he is human (as humans are, in fact, mortal). In this example a single conclusion/claim is drawn from a single premise. However, most of the arguments readers of academic literature encounter are a lot more complicated with numerous reasons given in support of an assertion, and the assumptions that may hold them together may be difficult to uncover.

A slightly more complex example might look like this:

The most important part of the analysis for the critical reader is to determine whether the reasons given really support the main point. For instance, one may ask whether violating important principles of international law by keeping GITMO open would really undermine the United States’s reputation.

Structuring an argument

How do you structure an argumentative essay?

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction.

What are the parts of an argument?

An argument consists of several parts, a thesis statement, transitions between introduction, body and conclusion, paragraphs that provide evidence supporting the argument, evidence and a conclusion. 1st paragraph: Thesis Statement Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion

How do you structure an argument?

There are many ways to structure an argument. In the western academic tradition, however, the most common is to begin with an introduction that clarifies your topic and announces your thesis statement. From there, present each reason and the evidence for it in logical order.

What are the different types of argument structures?

With this in mind, there are three main types of structures to consider when forming an argument: The Toulmin method is an argumentative structure first outlined by author Stephen Toulmin. This method focuses on supporting the various key claims of an argument using factual evidence. The Toulmin method uses the following structure:

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