Did you know that Dundee University has a Centre for Argument Technology and studies aspects of argumentation?
The picture above shows a model for building an argument, adapted from Professor Chris Reed’s article on the BBC.
The next time you have to make a case, the following might serve as a useful checklist.
1. Are you focused on the issue?
It’s easy to get sidetracked and distracted by things.
A good argument will focus on the main issue and be relevant.
2. Are your claims clear?
Your argument is built up of claims.
You should select claims that are directly linked to the issue you are debating and discount or remove ones that are peripheral.
3. Do you have evidence to support your claims?
You need to show why your claims are true – by linking evidence, reasoning and conclusions.
The more evidence you have the better, and the more the evidence you have corroborates and confirms what you are saying, the more likely it is that people will accept what you say.
4. Are you addressing objections first?
The best way to handle objections is to bring them up yourself.
You will inevitably get objections. Instead of struggling to come up with an answer on the spot, it’s easier to raise them in the first place and explain how your argument deals with them.
5. Have you thought through the counter-claims?
The other side will be thinking about claims that support their position.
It’s important to think about the issue from their point of view, so that you understand the fundamental differences between your claims and why they cannot be reconciled.
6. Have you found the weak spots in their argument?
Just as the other side will bring up objections, you need to find the weak points in their claims and possible chain of reasoning.
If you can point to factual or logical flaws in their reasoning, then you may be able to undermine their argument.
Knowing how to make an argument is crucial in many situations – from making a sales presentation to pitching for funding.
Having this kind of model to hand may help the next time you need to make one.