Developing your argument from topics and themes

We have talked about how an argument is frequently concerned with developing a central idea and the way in which all the different parts of your assignment will be related in some way to this central idea. In your writing you will be concerned with developing a number of themes which support your central idea and therefore provide evidence for the argument that you are making. One way of thinking about the central idea is that it is at the core of your argument. It is the core structure, and building an argument is often about putting together a number of themes to create this core structure. The themes themselves are also made up of components, and these are the basic content-based topics of the assignment. These topics come from your reading and lecture notes and may be concerned with factual material which you need to illustrate and develop your themes. So, in a sense, the topics are the basic building bricks out of which you construct your themes. Remember how we used the analogy of building blocks in Chapter 3. Figure 6.5 illustrates how these topics and themes help to underpin your central idea and support the complete argument.

Look at Figure 6.6, the mind map on 'Famine and its causes'. The student who wrote this used it as the basis of her written assignment. The notes in Figure 5.1 were also hers and relate to the same piece of work. So how would she have gone about putting together her argument? Some of the topics that this student needed to bring in to illustrate her themes can be seen in her mind map: depletion of grain stocks; lack of food; lack of work; cattle prices; migration. From these topics she developed one of her main themes; this was that 'war causes displacement'. She used this, along with other relevant themes, in order to develop her central idea that 'famine was caused by factors other than lack of food'. For her, this idea lay at the heart of the argument that she wanted to express in her assignment. She developed her argument, as she wrote, through the examination of her chosen themes. The argument did not exist before she began to write but it gave voice to the central idea that she wished to develop. Although she had her mind map to guide her, the argument was developed through the writing process as she struggled with the

Figure 6.5 Developing an argument

points that she wanted to make at all levels: topics, themes and central idea. The important point to remember is that an argument is not a tangible thing that you can identify somewhere else and import into your assignment. An argument is developed through your writing, and you as the writer make the decision about what weight to give to the different topics and themes that you will be drawing on to build your argument and to express your central idea as clearly as possible to the reader.

0 0

Post a comment