Academic Writing: Arguments, Claims, & Evidence

Academic writing is all about argument, that is, “expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with evidence” (Argument, 2010-2013). An argument is directed to an audience. In academic writing, the audience might include fellow students, instructors, committee members, journal editors, and the readers of journals, to name a few. The goal of academic writing is for the writer to persuade the audience of the value of the writer’s point of view.  Hence, it is important for academic writers to learn how to construct a persuasive argument.

While there are many formulas for explaining how to develop an argument, I like to begin with the simplest: to make an argument, a writer states a claim and supports it with evidence. The process of making claims and supporting them with evidence is called analysis (Using evidence, 2011).

A claim is an assertion of the writer’s position on a topic. A claim is a statement “about what is true or good or about what should be done or believed” (Argument: The basics, n.d.). A claim is not a statement of undisputed fact; rather, it is an assertion of an arguable position (one on which there could be contrary views).

At the heart of an academic argument is the use of persuasive evidence. Evidence refers to information (e.g., facts, testimony, research data, and examples) that supports your claim (makes it more persuasive or believable). “Without evidence, a claim is merely an unsubstantiated idea or opinion” (Using evidence, 2011). An academic writer signals that he or she is using evidence when the writer incorporates citations to sources in the argument. Citations to sources add credibility to the writer’s argument and also demonstrate that the writer is familiar with the important literature on the topic. In academic writing, scholarly sources are the most persuasive.

Finally, the writer must draw connections. He or she must explain how the evidence supports the claims made.  Evidence does not speak for itself, after all. The writer must interpret the evidence for the reader (explain what it means), so that the reader understands why the evidence is persuasive.

References

Argument. (2010-2013). The Writing Center. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/argument/

Argument: The basics. (n.d.). Speaking in the Disciplines. Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved from http://www.speaking.pitt.edu/student/argument/argumentbasics.html

Using evidence. (2011). Writing Tutorial Services. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Bloomington. Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/using_evidence.shtml

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