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  When to Use Argumentation    

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

3. Statistics

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.)

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