Activity Nineteen

Before you begin reading this chapter please write down anything at all that you think making an argument might mean in your subject. This will help you to explore and clarify your own thoughts and compare these with what you read in this chapter.

You could do this as notes or in prose, as a piece of practice writing (see Chapter 2).

In the last chapter we looked at different ways of organizing ideas and information in your university writing. We also looked at the need to find a central idea (to get your 'story' or 'plot') and clustering your ideas around this, as a part of building a 'good argument'. In this chapter we continue to explore how to make an argument, but this time with your reader more in the foreground. Putting together an argument is about more than finding a central idea, it also involves making a claim or building up a case and persuading your reader of its worth.

All writing for university needs to be logically organized according to its type; it needs to be coherent and cohesive (see Chapter 11 for more on this) and it needs to be clear for the reader to digest. When you write for university, however, you are often also asked to do more than this: to present a 'good argument'. We call this chapter 'Making an argument and persuading your reader' because we want to suggest that, fundamentally, an argument involves constructing a case through building up a point of view and engaging with those of other people. So, when you make a case in a piece of writing, in a way you are entering into a dialogue, even though it is usually an imaginary one. This takes your writing from a point where you are thinking about how you are handling your information, for instance thinking about what is your main idea and the different ways the writing can be organized in its own terms (as in cause/effect, etc.), to thinking more specifically abut how you can persuade your reader to accept the case or claim you are making.

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