Writing tip: Building persuasive arguments

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By: 
Theresa Bell

Creating paragraph-level arguments may seem like a skill that is only relevant in academic writing, but the demonstration of critical thinking that is involved is also applicable to persuading other audiences. In the Writing Centre’s “Introduction to Academic Writing” and “Writing an Academic Paragraph” videos, we use an Oreo cookie model of demonstrating critical thinking that identifies a claim, evidence that supports the claim, and analysis that explains the connection between the claim and the evidence (i.e., the “so what?”). Those three elements of an argument are typically present when attempting to persuade an audience because the elements demonstrate why the argument is convincing. Identifying how you use a similar argument structure in your everyday life, such as in your professional role, may help you to feel more comfortable when structuring arguments in academic paragraphs. Please see below for some hypothetical business examples where claims, evidence, and analysis create persuasive arguments.

General example

  • Claim: Statement of what you want people to do or agree with.
  • Evidence: Information that demonstrates the strength of your position.
  • Analysis: The explanation of why the evidence supports the claim, as well as why the claim is significant.

Request for funding

  • Claim: The funding body should provide $1,000,000 to support the development of the community project.
  • Evidence: Communities in cities with comparable populations have seen a demonstrable increase in community engagement due to similar programs and a resulting drop in crime and victimization (cite research).
  • Analysis: This project will support the city’s overall stated goals of improving communities and will assist in efforts to reduce poverty, increase community pride, and support the long-term success of residents.

Proposal for customer service initiative

  • Claim: The customer service initiative should be approved because it will ensure customers have significantly easier access to services, which will improve customer loyalty.
  • Evidence: A pilot project demonstrated the program’s effectiveness and value to customers (cite report), and information from similar projects in comparable companies identified projected benefits to the company (cite data).
  • Analysis: As identified in the company’s operating plan for this fiscal year, new programs are needed to ensure that clients experience exceptional support that will result in long-term satisfaction and customer loyalty (cite plan). This program will dramatically increase the company’s existing support to customers, and in doing so, positions the company well to be able to attract new clientele by promising and delivering high levels of customer service.

Hiring recommendation

  • Claim: Candidate A should be the successful candidate in the job competition.
  • Evidence: The candidate has the necessary background and skills (cite resume and interview), is motivated to succeed in the position (cite interview), and would be a good fit for the organization (cite references).
  • Analysis: The priority in this hiring process is to bring someone new into the organization who will support existing processes as well as lead the team to better performance. This candidate has a demonstrated ability to lead teams successfully, has excellent experience that is directly applicable to the role, and is keen to work for the organization. These qualities make the candidate the best choice.

If you’d like to practice structuring arguments, try to find opportunities in your professional or personal life to identify where you are using claims, evidence, and analysis to create convincing arguments. As is the case with so many aspects of academic writing, building persuasive arguments is a skill, which means that practice is essential; accordingly, being mindful of when you’re using claims, evidence, and analysis in your daily life will help you to see how that approach to argumentation translates to paragraph-level arguments. For more information on demonstrating critical thinking and developing arguments, please visit Argumentation. For more information on paragraph structure, including the Oreo cookie model of demonstrating critical thinking, please view the “Writing an Academic Paragraph” video.

Do you have questions about this tip or any other writing matter? Please contact the Writing Centre as we’d be pleased to assist you.

Theresa Bell
Writing Centre Manager