Home > Strategies and Skill Development > Conceptual Strategy Families > Argument Building


Argument building is a set of strategies for taking a position and constructing chains of reasoning and evidence that support that position in support of the discourse task of framing arguments to build an overall case and present it in textual form. The resulting skill set supports rational discourse in which an open-minded audience decides what position to accept on the basis of reasons and evidence. As a result, it corresponds to a well-established genre at the level of discourse: persuasive argumentation. This genre has expectations that are not strictly associated with building an argument but which are strongly conventionalized, such as the use of formal and impersonal language. The hypothesized development of these skills are presented in Development Tables 17 and 18.

This class of strategies corresponds to Reading Standard 8 and Writing Standard 1 from the Common Core State Standards.

The following standards from the Common Core State Speaking and Listening Standards also draw upon argument-building strategies:

Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Literature Note - Argument Building

Development Table 17. Hypotheses about Development of Argument-Building Skills (Taking a Position)

Level
Interpretation
Expression
Deliberation
Achievement
Limitation
Achievement
Limitation
Achievement
Limitation
Preliminary
Take-1-I-A
Infers which side people are taking in an argument based on the reasons or evidence they provide
Take-1-I-L
Is limited primarily to simple for/against positions
Take-1-E-A
Explicitly states one’s own opinion in sentence form
Take-1-E-L
Has little or no ability to focus or narrow down a position statement to make it easier to defend, and tends to ignore alternate perspectives
Take-1-D-A
Can formulate simple strategies for verifying statements (such as find a confirming example or trying an idea to see if it works)
Take-1-D-L
Has limited ability to distinguish statements of fact from statements of opinion, often equating fact with belief
Foundational
Take-2-I-A
Infers a writer’s specific position from text details even when it is not explicitly stated in the text
Take-2-I-L
May have difficulty tracking who has which belief or perspective, and may confuse actual positions with stereotypes
Take-2-E-A
Produces or revises sentence-length position statements so that they narrow down the broad claim with a specific debatable focus
Take-2-E-L
May choose positions without first exploring how easy it will be to build a strong case in their favor or in favor of other perspectives
Take-2-D-A
Can apply concept-mapping strategies that identify important concepts in the domain and summarize one’s knowledge and assumptions about them
Take-2-D-L
May have trouble distinguishing between one’s personal opinions and the common ground shared with the audience
Basic
Take-3-I-A
Distinguishes an author’s position from alternative positions and identifies critical points in need of support
Take-3-I-L
May not be sensitive to subjective or implicit aspects of the position
Take-3-E-A
Produces an elaborated position statement that indicates important lines of argumentation and contrasts the position being advanced from alternatives
Take-3-E-L
May be too strongly committed to one’s own perspective and fail to see where one is making assumptions and subjective evaluations
Take-3-D-A
Can apply analytical strategies that distinguish and map out common ground, factual disagreements, and contrasting opinions on a topic
Take-3-D-L
May tend to reduce opposing viewpoints to straw men or caricatures
Intermediate
Take-4-I-A
Identifies those parts of a thesis or other statement that imply an opinion or presuppose a subjective point of view (assumption)
Take-4-I-L
May have difficulty evaluating the plausibility or significance of a thesis in the light of specific disciplinary frames
Take-4-E-A
Formulates or revises a thesis so that it presents a well-defined, debatable proposition, including alternative perspectives.
Take-4-E-L
May not be able to clarify the significance of the thesis in the light of a larger discourse or to anticipate some alternative perspectives motivated by that larger discourse
Take-4-D-A
Can apply strategies that use subjective language to locate unstated assumptions and make them explicit
Take-4-D-L
May have difficulty distinguishing between questionable assumptions and those provide a disciplinary common ground
Advanced
Take-5-I-A
Explicitly evaluates the plausibility of a thesis in terms of the availability of effective arguments and fit with prior knowledge
Take-5-I-L
N/A
Take-5-E-A
Frames a thesis to preclude alternative perspectives while indicating its significance in the light of a larger discourse
Take-5-E-L
N/A
Take-5-D-A
Can apply strategies that survey an ongoing discourse to identify live issues and formulate key questions
Take-5-D-L
N/A

Development Table 18. Hypotheses about Development of Argument-Building Skills (Reasons and Evidence)

Level
Interpretation
Expression
Deliberation
Achievement
Limitation
Achievement
Limitation
Achievement
Limitation
Preliminary
Reason-1-I-A
Identifies reasons people give to support a specific point
Reason -1-I-L
Is limited to atomistic comprehension, showing little global understanding of the overall case
Reason-1-E-A
Generates at least one reason to support a specific point, in sentence form
Reason-1-E-L
May display an unselective and additive approach, generating arguments based primarily on most obvious points of attack
Reason-1-D-A
Can apply template-based argument-generation strategies (such as making lists or filling in a pro-con chart)
Reason-1-D-L
May deploy only a narrow range of argument schemes, thus limiting the quality of generated arguments
Foundational
Reason-2-I-A
Identifies supporting reasons or evidence in a written text and relates them to the point they support
Reason-2-I-L
May have only a minimal understanding of evidence; anything that seems loosely relevant to the point may be viewed as providing support
Reason-2-E-A
Generates multiple reasons to support a point, and uses these reasons to counter others' argument in an engaging, familiar context
Reason-2-E-L
May have only a limited ability to evaluate or provide supporting evidence, exercising it only in response to specific questions, instructions, or objections
Reason-2-D-A
Can apply analytical strategies to identify information needed to support a point, reflecting implicit understanding of common argument schemes)
Reason-2-D-L
May have an entirely implicit understanding of argument, with little meta-cognitive control over the process of building or evaluating an argument
Basic
Reason-3-I-A
Recognizes and explains the relationship between main and supporting points and keeps track of which evidence supports which point
Reason-3-I-L
May not see flaws in elaborated arguments and so find them overly plausible
Reason--3-E-A
Builds logical, hierarchically structured arguments by selecting and arranging reasons and evidence to support main and subsidiary points
Reason-3-E-L
May fail to recognize critical questions which must be addressed in order to make a reasonable argument
Reason-3-D-A
Can evaluate the strength of evidence and distinguish sound and unsound arguments by recognizing common syllogisms and fallacies
Reason-3-D-L
May significantly overestimate the strength of evidence and arguments with which one agrees
Intermediate
Reason-4-I-A
Identifies specific points in a text that are vulnerable to objections and counterarguments
Reason-4-I-L
May not be adept at selecting the most important questions and objections to address
Reason-4-E-A
Writes simple critiques or rebuttals that critically provide summaries of or responses to other people’s arguments
Reason-4-E-L
May miss problems and issues that are highlighted in prior discussions but not in the current situation
Reason-4-D-A
Can apply critical-question strategies for commonly used argumentation schemes to generate counterarguments and determine how to reinforce specific points
Reason-4-D-L
May not have explicit knowledge about argumentation schemes and critical questions to systematically evaluate strength of arguments
Advanced
Reason-5-I-A.
Evaluates arguments in light of existing knowledge and discussions, actively verifying, challenging, and corroborating the case using a larger literature for reference

Reason-5-I-L
N/A
Reason-5-E-A
Writes extended discussions and critiques that place arguments in the context or a larger literature or discourse
Reason-5-E-L
N/A
Reason-5-D-A
Can apply argument-mapping strategies to model the structure of an ongoing debate
Reason-5-D-L
N/A




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