7. Making an Argument: Helping others follow your argument
As you switch from element to element in your argument essay or paper, you'll be making what are called rhetorical moves - taking subsequent steps to move your argument along and be persuasive. Your readers will probably know what you're doing because the elements in everyday oral argument are the same as in written argument. But why you're doing it, and with these particular resources, might be less clear.
You can help them follow your argument by inserting phrases that signal why you're doing what you're doing. Here are some examples:
- To state that what you're saying in your thesis is in opposition to what others have said: Many people have believed - but I have a different opinion.
- To move from a reason to a summary of a research study that supports it (evidence): Now let's take a look at the supporting research.
- To introduce a summary of a resource you've just mentioned: The point they make is...
- To acknowledge to an objection you believe a reader could have: At this point I should turn to an objection some are likely to be raising. Or, if the objection is that you're not being realistic: But am I being realistic?
- To move from the body of an essay to the conclusion: So in conclusion... The ideas and examples on this page are informed by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, They Say/I Say with Readings (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2012).
Phrases like these can grease the skids of your argument in your readers' minds, making it a lot easier for them to get it. Instead of getting stuck on figuring out why you're bringing something up at a particular point, they can actually think about your ideas and respond. You will have pulled them into an argument conversation.
They Say/I Say with Readings, by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, provides templates of actual language (similar to the phrases on this page) to be used in written arguments. It's extremely helpful to beginning writers because it takes some of the mystery out of what to say. A blog accompanies the book .
While the templates are not on the blog, the blog contains short, elegantly constructed contemporary arguments from a variety of publications. Take a look at the blog for a moment now and read at least part of one of the readings to see how it can be helpful to you the next time you have to make a written argument. Better yet, check out the book from the library.