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Line of argument

The parts of an argument



You can quickly analyze and create arguments if you know the common set of milestones they commonly use.  What are these milestones? 


Milestones of the argument

Authors create arguments to help a community resolve a set of problem cases -- successful arguments do this by moving the readers through 3 milestones (stages) of argument: "seeing the issue," "defining the problem," and "choosing a solution."

When classifying your notecards, you will want to figure out which stage of argument they fall.

Milestone 1: Seeing the issue

At seeing the issue, authors try to get the reader to care enough about the issue to want it solved.  Authors do this by (a) describing typical, recurring, or provocative problem cases and (b) through historical accounts of the controversy.  In an empirical research paper, this usually happens in the introduction and background sections of the paper.

Milestone 2: Defining the problem

At defining the problem, authors explain the source of the tension to give readers the terms they need to understand the heart of the problem.  In an academic paper, this usually happens in the background and purpose/hypothesis section.

Milestone 3: Choosing a solution

At the third milestone, authors convince readers to accept and act on their recommendations.  In an empirical research paper, the Methods, Findings and Conclusion are usually the author's solution to the problem (research question) raised in the purpose section.

Arguments, counterarguments and rebuttals

When reading an argument, the author doesn't just articulate the main points they want you to accept, they also discuss "faulty paths" our counter-arguments that they want you to reject.  They typically also give you a rebuttal or "return path" that gives you a reason to reject the faulty path.  You can visualize the argument, main path, faulty path, and return path as follows.

For example:

Full line of argument

You can map out the full line of an argument relatively concisely: