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Crafting an argument

Crafting an argument in your thesis means to clarify what you claim in the text and why. You need to state the reasons for your claims.

The argumentation consists of reasoning with the following elements

  1. A claim; that which you argue in favour of
  2. An argument; that which you argue with
  3. A statement that links the claim to the argument

The statement that links the claim with the argument enables your reader to understand why the argument functions and is often referred to as the warrant.

Your argumentation is the engine in your text. What would you like to communicate? What is the key point in your thesis, and how will you craft your arguments? The point of departure when building an argument is your research question. There is something you would like to investigate. The text you are working on is also related to other texts. From your searches earlier you have chosen sources and taken a stand on which texts are important for your work. Can you indicate what you expect to find in your investigation? The next step is to consider how to structure your arguments.

The structure of argumentation

Toulmin’s model on argumentation consists of six parts:

1. Claim
The claim is where you present a preliminary and possible conclusion on your research question; you present the work that lies ahead, and what you expect to find. The claim can be anticipated in your formulation of a research question, in hypotheses, in the introduction, or in partial conclusions. Your final claim will be central in your conclusion and is often presented in your closing.

What is your claim?

2. Argument(s)
Argument(s) may be based on empirical documentation, references to authorities in the field, or other sources (such as historical sources, experiments, interviews, surveys, statistics, photos, maps). The arguments are evidences for the claim.

What are your arguments in the thesis? How do you ground your claim? What are you reasoning with?

3. Research method(s)
The link between an argument and a claim is sometimes known as a warrant. Another word we use is research method (Rienecker, 2012, p.312). Research method(s) are the analytical methods you consider expedient to apply to your claims and your arguments. Make sure that there is a connection between your theory, method and empirical data.

Which research method(s) do you plan to use to test out your research question and claim? Which theoretical perspective will you apply in your thesis?

4. Counterargument
A counterargument is a critical reading of the research method you have chosen. Here you can point out limitations, and possible weaknesses in the research method. Be explicit as to whether you have reservations regarding the method, and if there are elements of uncertainty concerning the method as such, or the practical use of it.

Do you see any weaknesses in the method you have chosen? Can the use of this method be questionable, if so, in which way?

5. Backing
Backing is the elements that support the research method you have chosen. Backing can be found in scholarly works that have applied the same method, from authorities in the field, or from other facts that can justify the method.

Which elements support your research method?  Why do you choose to use this method in spite of the possible limitations you have pointed to?

6. Qualifier
The qualifier is used to propose the degree of certainty you mark the claim with. This is where you make reservations, and point to conditions that must be present to make the claim valid.

To which extent is your claim certain, probable, or possible?

EXERCISE

Ask questions to your own text:

  1. What is your claim?
  2. Which are your arguments, and how will you document your claim?
  3. What kind of research methods are you using?
  4. Which counterarguments do you have against the method?
  5. From where can you find backing and support to use this method? 
  6. To which degree is your claim certain, probable or possible? How will you qualify your claim?

Use Toulmins model on argumentation to clarify arguments and claims in your thesis.

Last updated: April 12, 2013

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