ARGUMENT ESSAY GUIDE
Dr. Diane Thompson NVCC, ELI
Argument is a special word that we use to describe a certain kind of paper which has a thesis, supporting evidence for that thesis, and warrants, or explanations of why the evidence does indeed support the thesis.
My favorite example deals with Mackerel, a fat and clever cat. He asserts (his thesis) that "turkey is the best food in the entire world." Well, not all of us agree with Mackerel, so we challenge his thesis. I, for one, prefer vegetable soup. So I say, "hey Mac, can you prove your thesis? If not, we're going to have vegetable soup for dinner."
Well, Mackerel is no slouch at arguments, so he quickly musters his supporting evidence. First of all, he points out, turkey is the most delicious food in the world. Second, it is the most nutritious food in the world. And third, it is the most economical food in the world. Having taken English 111, Mackerel even whips out a few magazine articles with polls and charts that show just what he says. One article reports on a poll of 500 people, dogs and cats. They were asked what the most delicious food in the world was, and 75% of the people, 68% of the dogs, and 99% of the cats said that the most delicious food in the world was turkey.
Next, Mackerel shows us an article from the Washington Post. The food section, of course. A nutritionist did a study of which foods were highest in nutritional value and guess which food was number one? You got it, turkey.
"But Mackerel," I object, "you still haven't proven that turkey is the most economical food in the world. I know it costs me a lot of money to buy a turkey, and my family eats it up so quickly I scarcely get a bite." Ah, says Mackerel, that may be true, but you have to look at all the food value you are getting for your money. And he shows me a Food Guide that analyzes the vitamins, minerals, protein, etc., in hundreds of different foods. And right there, in the introduction, he points to a paragraph that says, "turkey is the most economical food in the world when you compare nutrition per dollar."
Well, what can I say? Mackerel has really supported his thesis. I have visions of cooking a huge turkey for dinner. But wait! The WARRANT! The warrant is what links the facts together and connects them to the thesis. Mackerel has forgotten the WARRANT. I may get vegetable soup after all.
"Mac," I point out slyly, "I agree that you have good supporting evidence, but your argument lacks any warrant. You have not explained to me why turkey or any food would be the best food in the world just because it is the most delicious, the most nutritious, and the most economical. Unless you do that, it's vegetable soup for supper."
Mackerel sighs. It's late and he's hungry. But he knows I am right, so he starts thinking hard. He scribbles on a scrap of paper; he tugs on his whiskers, he whistles a sour little tune. And then, voila!
In the tone one would take with a stupid child, Mackerel then presents his warrants. "First, the best food in the world must be the most delicious, because if it is not, then no matter how good it is for people, they will not want to eat it. Second, the best food in the world must be the must nutritious, because if it were just the most delicious and people could not stop eating it, and it were not the most nutritious, they would get malnutrition, because they would not want to eat anything else. Third, the best food in the world must be the most economical, because if it were not, then many people could not afford to eat it."
He'd done it! He'd connected his supporting evidence to his thesis. I congratulated him, and since it was much to late to buy and cook a turkey for dinner, we went out to eat. I'll buy the turkey tomorrow.
Go to Blackboard, "Unit 4, Task 5," and follow the instructions there for filling out and posting your Argument Worksheet.
(c) Thompson; 11/7/1998; updated: 08/21/2006