Argument in Research


Microargument is the smallest unit of proof - the individual claim and the data that support it.


Researchers must eat, drink, and sleep claims and support. Identifying a significant claim must be like asking for candy when you were a baby. Knowing how to support a claim must come to you like knowing what will satisfy your hunger.

The context for argument is the scholarly community

Booth, Columb, and Williams put this well. Always think of argument in terms of what you have learned about the rules of the scholarly community conducting the inquiry - from your education; from your reading. Graduate school is nothing more than teaching you these expectations.

What makes a good argument?

From Wayne Brockriede, "Rhetorical Criticism as Argument" Quarterly Journal of Speech 60 (April 1974): 166. The notions here are the definition of argument without regard to the context in rhetorical criticism. Brockriede goes on to apply them to criticism in this essay, an article that all critics should read.

"By 'argument' I mean the process whereby a person reasons his [or her] way from one idea to the choice of another idea. This concept of argument implies five generic characteristics:

The Toulmin Model

From Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), pp. 97-100. Note that hardly anyone in Communication goes back to Toulmin to define his model. That is partly because Toulmin himself gives differing definitions in Uses and in other places, and partly because initial interpretations in Communication, while distorting Toulmin, challenged old ways of thinking less. You need to read Toulmin. Disciplines will nearly always weaken the frameworks of novel thinkers as they "adapt" them to what is familiar.

Toulmin's initial introduction of his notion of how argument proceeds is with the device of a conversation. Think of this, in our case, as a conversation between two researchers:

(These are the elements of the Toulmin model you need to remember. But to complete his six terms:

Presenting the Microargument

This could not be simpler. The presentation involves the following:

Most often, each paragraph is a microargument. On rare occasions, paragraphs will contain multiple microarguments. More often sufficient bulk of explanation may be required or several proofs may be offered so that a single microargument will take more than one paragraph. In the latter case, make certain the clinch ties the paragraphs in question together back to the claim. Also, in the latter case, there may be an extra element in the argument - the forecast, a metastatement that explains what you will do to prove the argument and how it will be organized.

Remember, nothing is more important than claim and support.


Macroargument is the argument of the work - an article, a book, a dissertation.


To Prepare a Macroargument

How does a thesis function?

A good thesis does multiple work. When you have finished your work you should be able to see this influence:

Refuting a Research Claim

Refuting is a way of identifying why you disagree with a research claim and marshaling proof for your position.

Types of Refutation

Presenting the Refutation

There is a particular form which a good refutative argument takes:

Defending your Original Claim

A good researcher will quickly recognize the validity of sound refutation and abandon her original claim. But, refutation may not always alter your faith in your own conclusions. These are strategies for responding to refutation

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