An Introduction to Persuasion and Argument

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An Introduction to Persuasion and Argument

  • Moving people to a belief, position, or course of action
  • Adapted from Mike McGuire’s Com 101 class notes, MV Community College

Persuasion vs. Argument

  • Persuasion and argument are often used interchangeably
  • Persuasion is a broad term, which includes many tactics designed to move people to a position, a belief, or a course of action
  • Argument is a specific kind of persuasion based on the principles of logic and reasoning

The Importance of Argument and Persuasion

  • In everyday life…
  • Appealing a grade, asking for a raise, applying for a job, negotiating the price of a new car, arguing in traffic court
  • In academic life…
  • Defending your ideas, engaging intellectual debate
  • On the job…
  • Getting people to listen to your ideas, winning buy-in, getting your boss to notice, getting cooperation, moving people to action
  • In writing…
  • Irrefutably making your point, writing to be read
  • In reading and listening…
  • Critically evaluating other’s arguments, protecting yourself from unethical persuasive tactics, recognizing faulty reasoning when you see it.

What exactly is an Argument?

  • An argument involves the process of establishing a claim and then proving it with the use of logical reasoning, examples, and research.

The Essential Ingredients of an Argument

  • An issue open to debate
  • Your position on the issue
  • Your reasons for that position
  • Evidence to support your reason
    • Experience, expert opinion, research and statistics

The Role of Your Audience

  • Understanding your audience is key to effective writing of all kinds, especially persuasive writing
  • An argument is an implicit dialogue or exchange with your audience, so in writing arguments, assume there is a reader that will not agree with you
  • Audience awareness is absolutely essential to successful persuasion and argument; therefore…
  • Know your audience
    • What is their position on the issue?
    • How strongly do they feel about it?
    • Are they open-minded enough to consider other views?
    • What will their objections be to your argument?

Structure of a Classical Argument

  • Introduction
  • Thesis Statement
  • Background Information
  • Reasons and Evidence
  • The Opposing View and the Refutation
  • Conclusions

The Thesis Statement

  • …is the most important sentence in your paper
  • …is an assertion
  • …answers the question: “What am I trying to prove?”
  • ...brings focus to the entire essay
  • …lets the reader know the main idea of the paper
  • …is not a factual statement or an announcement of purpose, but a claim that has to be proven throughout the paper.

Example: Which thesis statement

  • Parents, often too busy to watch television shows with their families, can monitor their children’s viewing habits with the aid of the V-chip.
  • To help parents monitor their children’s viewing habits, the V-chip should be a required feature for television sets sold in the U.S.
  • This paper will describe a V-chip and examine the uses of the V-chip in American-made television sets.

Using a Reasonable Tone

  • Shows you are fair-minded and therefore adds to your credibility
  • When you acknowledge the opposition with balanced language, it shows that your respect the opposing views
  • No matter how passionate you are about the issue, don’t resort to careless, harsh words; this would show more about your than the issue

Offering a Counterargument

  • Addressing the opposition demonstrates your credibility as a writer
  • It shows that you have researched multiple sides of the argument and have come to an informed decision
  • Remember, keep a balanced tone when attempting to debunk the opposition

Counter-arguing Effectively

  • Conceding to some of your opposition’s concerns can demonstrate respect for their opinions
  • Remain tactful yet firm
    • using rude or deprecating language can cause your audience to reject your position without carefully considering your claims

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