Site Loader

In this lesson, we will learn how to recognize statements that strengthen or weaken arguments. We will pay special attention to identifying strong and weak claims, reasons, and evidence.

The Elements of an Argument

Arguments are everywhere. Someone is always trying to convince us of something. Part of our job as readers is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these arguments and figure out whether or not we should adopt the perspectives they present. This lesson will offer some tips about how to do just that.Before we begin, though, let’s review the basic elements of an argument. An argument, as we know, is a form of communication that tries to persuade its audience to adopt a particular position about a topic. Arguments have three main parts: a claim that states the position to be argued; reasons that logically explain why the claim should be accepted; and evidence that supports the reasons with facts, anecdotes, statistics, expert testimony, and examples.

The statements a writer makes to offer a claim, reasons, and evidence can weaken or strengthen an argument. Let’s see how this works.

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
4,80
Writers Experience
4,80
Delivery
4,90
Support
4,70
Price
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
4,70
Writers Experience
4,70
Delivery
4,60
Support
4,60
Price
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
4,80
Writers Experience
4,50
Delivery
4,40
Support
4,10
Price
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Strong Claims vs. Weak Claims

To be strong and effective, a claim should be debatable, focused, and specific.

In other words, it ought to be something that can be argued with reasons and evidence, and it ought to be narrow enough to properly support or prove in the space and format available.Take a look at the following claim and determine whether it is strong or weak: The environment must be protected. This is a weak claim because it is not debatable. Everyone would agree that the environment must be protected, so there really isn’t an argument here. Starting with a non-debatable claim weakens the argument from the get-go. A stronger claim might be something like this: Congress ought to allocate 25% of its annual budget to programs that will either preserve the environment or work to clean up environmental disasters.

Now there’s an argument that has some controversy in it!Let’s try one more example. In this case, the writer is preparing an argumentative essay. Is the following claim strong or weak? Slavery was the ultimate cause of the Civil War. Did you say weak? If so, you’re right. This claim isn’t focused and specific enough for the scope of an essay. Historians have been debating this in books of hundreds of pages for many years.

The writer has bitten off more than he can chew. A stronger claim might look something like this: The men of the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry signed up for service out of patriotism rather than out of any desire to eliminate slavery. See how this claim is narrower and more focused? It could be easily debated within the confines of an essay.

Strong Reasons vs.

Weak Reasons

Strong arguments have logical and clear reasons that directly support the claim. They answer the question, Why is this claim true?Let’s say a writer makes the claim that John Jones is the best candidate for the district’s Senate seat. He offers the following reasons to support the claim. See if you can pick out which reasons are strong and which are weak.

  1. John Jones is a terrific baseball player.
  2. John Jones has many years of experience in politics.

  3. John Jones is a nice guy.
  4. John Jones is committed to improving his community and working for his constituents.

If you said that number two and number four were strong reasons, you are correct. They are logical; readers and voters will want to know about John Jones’ political experience and dedication to his community and constituents. They are clear; readers understand the reasons with no questions left in their minds. They directly support the claim and answer the question of why John Jones is the best candidate.

How about reasons number one and number three? Both of these are weak. They do not logically, clearly, or directly support the claim of the argument. Who cares if John Jones is a terrific baseball player? What does that have to do with his race for Senate? How do baseball skills translate to being a good candidate for political office? What’s more, John Jones may be a perfectly nice guy and a very poor senator.

Strong Evidence vs. Weak Evidence

A strong claim and strong reasons require strong evidence. Strong evidence is accurate, convincing, and relevant to the argument at hand.

It comes from a credible source, and it truly supports the reason it is supposed to prove.Let’s look at some examples of strong and weak evidence. We’ll continue to explore the claim that John Jones is the best candidate for the district’s Senate seat. Recall that we have two strong reasons to support that claim:

  1. John Jones has many years of experience in politics.

  2. John Jones is committed to improving his community and working for his constituents.

For reason number one, the writer provides two pieces of evidence. See if you can determine which one is strong and which one is weak. First, the writer lists the political offices Mr. Jones has held, explaining the duties he performed in these positions, and tallies the total number of years Mr.

Jones has worked in the political arena. Second, the writer provides an anecdote about how Mr. Jones represented the city council at a baseball game and threw out the first pitch.If you said the first piece of evidence was strong and the second was weak, you are correct. The first piece of evidence, provided that it is accurate, is relevant to the argument, supports the reason, and is quite convincing.

The second is not relevant to the argument, and it does not support the reason.For reason number two, the writer also provides two pieces of evidence. Again, figure out which one is strong and which one is weak. First, the writer provides a set of statistics about Mr.

Jones’ donations to local charities and causes, as well as his numerous volunteer hours. Second, the writer offers a quote from Mr. Jones’ neighbor, Joe, who says, Sure, old John loves living here. We talk about this community all the time.

The first piece of evidence is strong because it provides relevant information to prove the reason’s truth, but the second piece of evidence is vague, and it doesn’t come from a credible source. Neighbor Joe doesn’t seem to know much at all about Mr. Jones’ community involvement.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. An argument is a form of communication that tries to persuade its audience to adopt a particular position about a topic. Arguments have three main parts: a claim that states the position to be argued; reasons that logically explain why the claim should be accepted; and evidence that supports the reasons with facts, anecdotes, statistics, expert testimony, and examples. The statements a writer makes to offer a claim, reasons, and evidence can weaken or strengthen an argument.

Strong claims are debatable, focused, and specific. Strong reasons are logical and clear, and they directly support the claim, answering the question Why is this claim true? Strong evidence is accurate, convincing, and relevant to the argument at hand. It comes from a credible source, and it truly supports the reason it is supposed to prove.Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of arguments is an important skill to develop. If you can do this, you will be much better able to think critically about what you read and decide for yourself whether or not the arguments that confront you every day are truly convincing.

Learning Outcomes

Utilize the knowledge that you gain from this lesson to:

  • Name the three elements of a writing argument
  • Analyze the differences between strong and weak reasons
  • Cite examples of strong and weak evidence and claims

Post Author: admin

x

Hi!
I'm Eric!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out