Inver Hills Community College


Home & Contents                       Basics                       College Writing             




Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions





This "ARGUMENT" section of has five chapters in it:

F. "Arguments" Chapters:

  31. What Is an "Argument"?--Establishing Fair, Deep Argument

  32. Dialogic/Dialectic--Arguing Using Opposing Points of View

  33. Thesis Worksheet --Simple Steps for Starting a Thesis Position

  34. Thesis Paper--Main Way of Formally Arguing in College

  35. Tests & Other Args.--Essay Tests & Other Argument Papers

Also, you may want to see these additional pages and chapters:



Research--Section G.

Disagreement with a Reading 

Literary Thesis Paper

Professional Proposal

Professional Recommendation Report

Magazine or Newsletter Article

IMRaD/Science/Research Report

Research Case Study


This Page's Contents:

What Is This Section?

My Story about Learning to Argue


What Is This Section?

This "Argument" section shows you how to write arguments.  Some methods are highly informal.  Others are formal.  Ask your teacher what he or she wants, as this often can help you decide how to start. 

A written argument is one of the two most common papers in college writing.  The other most common type of paper is an "analysis" (in many forms).  In fact, many types of disciplinary and professional papers--papers in your majors--contain both analysis and argument: you analyze something thoroughly in order to argue or prove a point. 

Argument has been both an art and a craft for nearly as far back in history as we can trace written language.  It was especially highly developed in ancient Greek times as the art of political debate and "rhetoric" (the art of persuasion). A person in ancient Greece was not considered well educated unless the person could argue fairly, logically, rationally, and effectively. Both good and bad forms of arguing were recognized.  Good argument was taught in Greek schools, later in Roman schools, and eventually in educational systems throughout the Western world. 

Argument takes many shapes and forms in may societies and cultures.  Argument in the U.S., for example, usually includes a statement of the argumentative position in the beginning, several sub-points with plenty of details to help prove the argument, and a concluding restatement of the overall argumentative position. 

In Europe, though, especially in countries influenced by French education, the typical argument is a flow of details and ideas, with each one ending in an important sub-point, and then once all of the materials have been presented, the final, overall point is made. 

On the other hand, in many Native American cultures, an argument is composed exclusively or primarily of a story or of several brief stories, and as in French argument, the point is not made until the very end--sometimes not even clearly stated but rather with the assumption that you can figure out the moral of the story for yourself.

And in many Asian cultures, argument is almost exclusively a series of analytical or factual reports of information in a series of groupings and then, at the very end, a very mild point will be made showing how all the facts lead inevitably to the conclusion--much as in what is called, in the West, an "IMRaD" scientific or lab report.

This section explains what formal academic and professional writing means in college and the professions in the U.S., and it offers the two most primary ways of learning to write argument papers in the U.S.: through thesis (single-argument) and dialogic (multiple-argument) methods.  There also are many other types of argument or argument-analysis papers in this online textbook: each of these is listed above and also in the right-hand column throughout all five chapters of this "Arguing" section.


Return to top.

My Story about First Learning to Argue

When my sister, Jan, and I were young, we argued like most little kids do.  We called it "fighting," or at least our parents called it that, and I suppose that was an accurate characterization of it because we didn't argue all that reasonably (as most young kids don't).  We learned to start out stating our own point of view reasonably enough, as in "That toy is mine, not yours," but such calmness soon would escalate into being upset and, if it was really a big deal, either grabbing something from the other person or going to tell Mom.

However, both of us learned early on that going to Mom (or Dad, evenings and weekends) was better left for dire situations because we knew that we would have to go through a long (to us), involved process of figuring out what was "fair."  Both of us would run to her, and the first one to get there would state his case.  For example, I might say to Mom, "You and Dad gave that toy to both of us and Jan had it for a long time and now it's my turn!"  If I had had my way, Mom would have simply said, "Okay, Jan, it's your brother's turn, now."

But no, she had to make a big deal of it.  She was more likely to say to me, "How long has she had it?"  

"It must have been a whole hour!" I might say.

"And Jan," she would say to my sister, "how long do you think you had it?"

She might say, "That's not true!  It was only two minutes!" 

"Okay," Mom would say, "Let's go half way and call it half an hour.  Now, how long do you think each of you should have?"

Jan and I would haggle about that, too, and finally reach a settlement.  Often my tendency was to let Jan have the toy for a little longer, just so I could have it even longer when it was my turn.  In this situation, I might have said, knowing she had to have had it, at the very least, for half an hour, "Can she have it for another ten minutes, and then I get it for forty minutes?"

Mom would then say, "Well okay.  I'm going to set the timer here in the kitchen for ten minutes.  When you hear it go off, Jan, you have to give the toy to your brother for forty minutes."  

And that was the way it went.  As parents, Mom and Dad were our court of last resort--prosecutor, defending attorney, jury, and judge all rolled into one.  It was very frustrating at times, trying our short patience as children.  However, we were forced to grow up being aware that there was a story to every side.  As we got older, we learned to try, at least initially, to listen to each other and try to seek a compromise before going to our court of last resort, just because it saved time.  We also learned to be cautious, fair traders that way, as in "If you give me that toy right now, I'll let you borrow some money from me to buy that comic book you want this weekend."  We made all kinds of deals, and we always had our court of last resort--Mom and Dad--to sort things out when a deal or an argument went wrong.

Academic argument takes place in its own court of law of sorts: college instructors expect you to have consideration for arguments opposing your own.  If you are making a single argument--for one side of an issue--you should know what the other side argues so that your own reasons counter theirs, and so that you appeal to the intelligence of anyone (a teacher or other college students) who might be listening to both sides.  And if you are explaining the arguments of two or more opposing sides, you need to be consistently fair, accurate, and complete in representing the arguments of each side.  

Knowing the opposing sides is important not just because it is good practice in reasoning.  In addition, only by using such fairness and balance can our own academic community, which is our school, and indeed all of society around us, be fair and reasonable.  Whenever we misuse logical or use other tricks, whether on purpose or accidentally, in trying to win an argument, we hurt our own reputation and respect, and we hurt the ability of society to be just and fair to everyone.  

My sister, Jan, and I grew up and grew closer together, becoming great friends.  A big reason for this strong friendship is that we know we can always trust each other to be honest and fair.  


Return to top.







 31. What Is an "Argument"?

 32. Dialogic/Dialectic

 33. Thesis Worksheet

 34. Thesis Paper

 35. Tests & Other Args.




Related Chapters:


Disagreement w/Reading 

Literary Thesis

Professional Proposal

Recommendation Report

Magazine/Nwsltr. Article

IMRaD/Science Report

Case Study

 Related Links in

12. Types of Papers

14. Online Readings

16. Research Writing

20. Major/Work Writing




Updated 27 July 2013

   also is at and

Natural URL:
Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.