As you switch from component to component in your paper, you’ll be making what are called rhetorical moves—taking subsequent steps to move your argument along and be persuasive. Your readers will probably know what you’re doing because the components in everyday oral argument are the same as in written argument. But why you’re switching between components of your argument, and with these particular sources, might be less clear.
The ideas and examples in this section are informed by all three editions of Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say/I Say. The third edition of the They Say/I Say provides templates of actual language to be used in written arguments. This can be extremely helpful to beginning writers because it takes some of the mystery out of what to say and when to say it. For these templates, check the book out from your library.
You can help readers follow your argument by inserting phrases that signal why you’re doing what you’re doing. Here are some examples:
- To state that what you’re saying in your thesis (answer to your research question) is in opposition to what others have said:
“Many people have believed …, but I have a different opinion.”
- To move from a reason to a summary of a research study that supports it (evidence). “Now let’s take a look at the supporting research.”
- To introduce a summary of a resource you’ve just mentioned.
“The point they make is…”
- If the objection is that you’re not being realistic.
“But am I being realistic?”
- To acknowledge an objection you believe a reader could have.
“At this point I should turn to an objection some are likely to be raising…”
- To move from the body of an essay to the conclusion.
“So in conclusion…”
Phrases like these can grease the skids of your argument in your readers’ minds, making it a lot easier for them to quickly get it instead of getting stuck on figuring out why you’re bringing something up at a particular point. You will have pulled them into an argument conversation.
Examples: The Language of Arguments
The blog that accompanies the book They Say/I Say with Readings, by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, contains short, elegantly constructed contemporary arguments from a variety of publications. Take a look at the They Say/I Say blog for a moment and read part of at least one of the readings to see how it can be helpful to you the next time you have to make a written argument.
Additional Advice Sources
Take a look at these sites for argument essay advice for students:
- Developing Your Thesis – Dartmouth Institute for Writing & Rhetoric
- Handouts – Ohio State Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing
- Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper – Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- Argument Handout – University of North Carolina Writing Center
- Rewriting: how to do things with texts – Utah State University Press (Project Muse affiliates only)