When to Use Argumentation
What is Argumentation?
Students, like everybody else, spend a good part of their time arguing. Every time a
person tries to prove a point to a friend, or support an opinion in class, or decide
with friends what to do on Saturday night, he is using argument.
When to Use Argumentation
1. To help someone else or oneself to make a decision.
a. Which party to go to
b. Which college to attend
2. To get someone else to follow a certain course-of action.
a. Vote for a certain candidate for a class officer
b. To take a certain class
3. To convince someone that your opinions are valid.
a. Your idea for a project is better than the teacher's.
b. A student lounge is necessary for creative thinking.
When Not to Use Argumentation
1. Never argue with a person who already agrees with you.
2. Do not argue about a subject if only one position can possibly be
taken in regard to it.
3. There is no need for argument when a fact can be established by
ex. Why argue about the length of a piece of string if there is a ruler
4. An argument about a matter of mere taste is useless, and
if an argument concerns merely what one likes or prefers,
then it is senseless to argue.
ex. Football is a better game than basketball.
Sue is prettier than Helen.
What to Include in an Argument
1. Every argument must have a proposition, a declaration of what the
argument is all about. It is simply a statement of your point of view or
opinion. This proposition states one of two things: that something is a fact,
or that something should be done.
If a proposition is stated carefully, it will contain only one topic. A good
example of a clear proposition is; “We should abolish compulsory school
attendance.” It contains only one idea. If this statement read “We should
abolish compulsory school attendance after elementary school and set up
work camps for boys and girls who do not want to continue in regular
2. Issues are the points which must be proved to prove the case, the points
on which there is a clash of opinions. These issues are the major points of
the proposition. For instance, if the proposition is "Examinations in high
schools should be abolished” some of the issues might be:
1. Examinations are not fair to the students
2. Examinations injure the health of pupils
3. Examinations cause loafing during the term and cramming at the
4. Examinations do not prepare for life.
5. Examinations encourage dishonesty.
The final thing that each good argument must have is evidence, provable facts and
reliable opinions, to support the issues. Here is a list of the kinds of facts or
opinions that you might use to prove your issues:
1. Common knowledge
2. Historical facts
4. Experimental proof
5. Statements from qualified authority
6. Concrete comparisons
What Not to Include in an Argument
There are always several ways to describe the same objects. Some
of them will make people respond favorably and others won't. Choose
your descriptive words carefully, especially in the proposition. Loaded
words and words with uncertain meaning should never be used in
ex. Washington was greater than Lincoln.
(the word "greater" is ambiguous here because
no one knows exactly what greater means.)