Make a Claim

Find the Support

Understand Your Warrant(s)

Avoid Logic Errors

Organize Your Material


1. Make a Claim

1. Claims of fact assert that a condition has existed, exists, or will exist and are based on facts or data.

2. Claims of value attempt to prove that some things are more or less desirable than others.

3. Claims of policy assert that specific policies should be instituted as solutions to problems. The expressions "should," "must," or "ought to" usually appear in the statement.

 

Claims of Fact:

•Claims of fact entail the hazard that the factual map is constantly being redrawn. New data could always force us to reconsider our conclusions.

•Claims of fact are often qualified by such terms as generally, probably, or as a rule.

•To be valid, claims of fact must include sufficient and appropriate data.

•Claims of fact must rely upon reliable authorities or they are worthless. Especially in the age of the Internet, teachers must explain that a source's reliability is often ambiguous and debatable.

•Claims of fact must recognize the difference between facts and inferences.

Defending a Claim of Fact:

1. Be sure that the claim is clearly stated.

2. Define terms that may be controversial or ambiguous.

3. Make sure that your evidence is sufficient, accurate, recent, typical, and comes from reliable authorities.

4. Make clear when conclusions are inferences or interpretations, not facts.

5. Arrange your evidence in order to emphasize what is most important.

Examples of Claims of Fact (Possible Research Paper Topics)

•The possibility of an asteroid or meteor hitting Earth is great enough that the Federal government should be finding plans to prevent it.

•Generally, public secondary schools in America are not adequately preparing students for college.

•The death penalty, as used in the United States, is ineffective and impractical.

Claims of Value:

•Claims of value make a judgment.

•Claims of value express disapproval and/or approval.

•Claims of value attempt to prove that some action, belief, or condition is right or wrong, good or bad, etc.

•Some claims of value are simply expressions of taste, preferences, and prejudices.

•Many claims of value, however, can be defended or attacked on the basis of standards. You have to arrive at reasonable standards that reasonable readers will accept.

Defending a Claim of Value:

1. Make clear that the values or principles you are defending should have priority on a scale of values over competing values or principles others might defend.

2. Suggest that adherence to the values you are defending will bring about good results.

3. Since values are abstract, you should use real-world examples and illustrations to clarify meanings and make distinctions.

4. It is highly persuasive to use the testimony of others to prove that knowledgeable or highly regarded people share your values.

Examples of Claims of Value (Possible Research Paper Topics)

•The death penalty as applied in the United States is immoral.

•The use of civil disobedience during the Civil Rights struggle was reasonable, moral, and necessary.

•Fetal tissue research is wrong.

•Opera is not as entertaining as musical comedy.

Claims of Policy:

•Claims of policy argue that certain conditions should exist.

•Claims of policy advocate adoption of policies or courses of action because problems have arisen that call for solutions.

•Almost always "should" or "ought to" or "must" are included in the claim.

Defending Claims of Policy:

1. When you are defending a claim of policy, you must make your proposal clear. Terms should be precisely defined.

2. When you are defending a claim of policy, if necessary, establish that there is a need for change.

3. When you are defending a claim of policy, consider the opposing arguments. You may want to state them in a brief paragraph in order to answer them in the body of your argument.

4. When you are defending a claim of policy, devote the major part of your research paper to proving your proposal is an answer to the opposing arguments.

5. Support your proposal with solid data, but don't neglect moral and/or common sense reasons, which may be even more persuasive.

Examples of Claims of Policy (Possible Research Paper Topics)

•The private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the United States should be banned.

•America should rapidly move toward normalizing diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba.

•Fetal tissue research should not be funded by the United States government.

•"Recovered memory" should be disallowed as evidence in American courts.

 


2. Find the Support

Support consists of the materials used by the arguer to convince an audience that his or her claim is sound. These materials include evidence and motivational appeals.

•All the claims you make (of fact, of value, of policy) must be supported.

•Support for a claim answers the question, "What have you got to go on?"

•When you use evidence, you use facts, including statistics, and opinions, or interpretation of facts, both your own and those of experts.

Factual Evidence  

What is Factual Evidence?

-Factual evidence consists of statements possessing a high degree of public acceptance.

-Factual evidence appears most frequently as examples and statistics.

How do you evaluate Factual Evidence?

•Are the facts you have chosen to support your claim sound?

•Can they convince your readers?

Evaluation of Factual Evidence

•Is the evidence up to date?

•Is the evidence sufficient?

•Is the evidence relevant?

•Are the examples representative?

•Are the examples consistent with the experience of the audience?

Evaluation of Statistics

•Do the statistics come from trustworthy sources?

•Are the terms clearly defined?

•Are the comparisons between comparable things?

•Has any significant information been omitted?

Opinions

Opinions are interpretations of the facts.

Opinions fall roughly into four categories:

•Causal Connections

•Predictions About the Future

•Solutions to Problems

•Expert Opinions

Are the opinions you have chosen to support your claim sound and reasonable?

Evaluation of Opinions

•Is the source qualified?

•Is the source biased in a way that clearly violates common sense or known fact?

•Has the source bolstered the claim(s) with sufficient and appropriate evidence?


3. Understand Your Warrant(s)

The warrant is an inference or an assumption; a belief or a principle that is taken for granted.

•In order to be convinced by an author's claim, we must agree with the warrants on which the claim is based.

•As a writer, your claims are grounded in the assumptions that you hope your readers share. You must understand what you are taking for granted is true in order to anticipate objections to your argument.

•The warrant is a bridge or a connecting link between the claim and the support. In other words, your warrant must be believable in order for your support (facts and opinions) to back up your claim.

•Within the argument, the warrant can be either expressed or unexpressed. Some warrants are so obvious that they do not need to be expressed.

•There are three types of warrants depending on their bases. They are:

1. Authoritative or based on the credibility of the sources (ex.: we assume that famous scientists aren't willfully deceiving us as part of some nefarious plot).

2. Substantive or based on beliefs about the reliability of factual evidence (ex.: the physical laws that apply on Earth equally apply to the rest of the universe).

3. Motivational or based on the values of the arguer and the audience (ex.: as Americans, we seem to share the belief that no American should be forced to starve to death).


4. Avoid Logic Errors

Logical fallacies can spoil our claims or infect the warrants.

Although it is certainly not necessary for you to become an expert on logical fallacies, remember the following things:

1. A fallacy can create an error in meaning and/or clarity which will spoil our claims.

2. A fallacy can be a non sequitur; that is, our claims don't logically follow from the way we have framed the basis of our argument. This spoils our warrants.

In either case, your argument falls. If you want to find out more, look up:

Fallacies which spoil our claims (errors in meaning and/or clarity):

•Fallacy of many questions

•Death by a thousand qualifications

•Amphiboly

•Equivocation

Fallacies which infect the warrants (non seqitur-the claims don't follow from the grounds):

•Fallacy of composition

•Division

•Poisoning the well

•Ad Hominem

•Genetic fallacy

•Appeal to authority

•Proceeding by questions

•The slippery slope

•The appeal to ignorance

•Begging the question

•False analogy

•Post hoc ergo procter hoc

•Protecting the hypothesis

Want even more help? Try the following
Logical Fallacies Workshop
(courtesy of Prof. Dan Tripp, West Virginia University)

Identify the logical fallacies, if any, in each of the following statements:

1. Everybody agrees that we need stronger drunk-driving laws.

2. If Howard Stern uses "Equal," it must be better for you than "Sweet 'n Low."

3. The upsurge in crime on Sundays is the result of the reduced rate of church attendance in recent years.

4. Charging higher cover charges at the bars will solve the problem of alcohol abuse at WVU.

5. The Dean does not know how to improve dorm life because he never had to live in an on-campus residence.

6. Steve has joined the country club. Golf must be one of his favorite sports.

7. Blondes have more fun.

8. Because the coach isn't very skilled, this year's football team is not as good as it could be.

9. We must reject affirmative action in hiring or we'll have to settle for incompetent employees.

10. Obviously, eating tomatoes is dangerous, since eighty-four percent of all people killed in automobile accidents have eaten tomatoes in their life.

11. I wouldn't vote for him; most of his programs are socialist.

12. Real Americans understand that free trade agreements are evil. Let your representatives know that we want American goods protected.


5. Organize Your Material

When To Organize Your Material
Organization and My Thesis
Common Strategies:

•Defending the Main Idea

•Refuting an Opposing View

•Presenting the Stock Issues

 Q: When in the process of doing a research paper should I begin to organize my material?

A: Organizing the material occurs after you have identified all the issues that will appear in your paper.

A: Organizing the material occurs after you have acquired at least some of your evidence.

A: Organizing the material must be logical and persuasive.

Q: How is the organization of my research paper affected by my thesis?

A: What type of thesis do you plan to present?

•to make readers aware of a problem?

•to offer a solution?

•to defend a position?

•to refute a position held by others?

Your way of organizing you paper is determined by its content.

Q: What are the most common strategies for organizing persuasive research papers like mine?

A: There are three common ways to do this. One, a combination of two, or all three will probably fit your thesis. Click below for a full explanation of these three strategies.

 

Defending the Main Idea
Refuting an Opposing View
Presenting the Stock Issues


Strategy #1: Defending the Main Idea

-Early in the paper state the main idea, and two or three points you intend to develop to back up your claim.

-Then develop each claim/point with separate warrants and data.

-This strategy is effective in defending factual claims and policy claims.

 

 


Strategy #2: Refuting an Opposing View

1. Study the opposing argument carefully, noting all points with which you disagree.

2. If your readers may be sympathetic with the opposing view, summarize it at the beginning of the research paper, making it clear what you plan to refute.

3. If your argument is long/complex, choose only one point to refute. You won't have time in a paper of fewer than ten pages to do more adequately.

4. Attack the principle elements in the argument of your opponent.

5. Supply evidence and good reasons, being sensitive to issues of tone (don't insult your reader's intelligence by repeating common knowledge, and don't adopt a sarcastic tone that is more likely to insult than persuade).

6. This strategy may work best with a claim of value.

 

 


Strategy #3: Presenting the Stock Issues

(stating the problem before the solution)

1. Establish that a problem exists (create a NEED).

2. Propose a solution (give your PLAN).

3. Show reasons for adopting your plan (demonstrate the ADVANTAGES of your plan).

(need/plan/advantages=stock issues)

4. This strategy works when you are advocating policy changes and the audience must be convinced that a need exists for a change.

 
Ready to move on? Proceed to step #5: "How Do I Take Good Notes?"