5.9 Argumentative Reasoning

Adam Falik

Once you have clearly articulated a thesis, you need to support that claim with reasons. Reasons answer the question, Why should the claim be? Reasons justify the claim and, in an argument, support the claim’s validity.

The reasons for an argument should follow a “because.” That “because” can either be present or implied. Consider this example:

College athletes should be paid [Claim] because they generate income for their school [Reason] while being unable to obtain employment of their own due to the demands of academic and athletic schedules. [Reason]

Reasons are the backbone of your argument. Your argumentative paper will be mostly comprised of the articulation of your claim, an explanation of reasons, and evidence that backs up your reasons.

Not All Reasons Are the Same

Not all reasons are of equal validity. The truth is that some of your reasons may be more urgent or stronger than others. Let’s say you make the rather simple claim that a cigarette smoker should quit smoking. Your claim, a cigarette smoker should break the habit and quit smoking, can be supported by (at a minimum) three reasons:

1) Smoking is damaging for one’s health

2) Second-hand smoking is damaging to other people’s health

3) Cigarette butts have a negative environmental impact on the planet

It can be argued that compared to the risk of heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer threatening habitual cigarette smokers, as well as the health dangers to those who are impacted by second-hand smoke, the environmental impact of cigarette butts is of lesser value. And that might be true. Though the majority of this paper might be focused on health risks, the environmental impact is still significant and warrants inclusion in the paper. The point is that not all reasons are equal in value, and not all reasons will be supported with equal amounts of evidence.

There is no exact number of reasons that should be included in support of a claim, just as there is no precise number of cited evidence that should support a reason. Generally, quality will reign over quantity. A few strong reasons that are supported by credible evidence are better than lots of reasons that are either unsupported by evidence or supported by weaker evidence.

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