You have written an inviting first paragraph, you have informed your audience of your intentions with an astounding thesis statement but now what? Now comes the tough part, the meat and potatoes. Now you must prove your thesis with a logical, well rounded argument. How do you do this you might think, without feeling overwhelmed?
First you need to determine the Register. Register includes a range of linguistic aspects that are related to the contexts in which authors write. Among others, these include formality, sentence structure, specialist terminology, and the personal voice. By formality we mean the use of technical, elevated or abstract vocabulary, complex sentence structures and the avoidance of the personal voice (I, you). If we think of formality as a cline from the most formal (e.g. the language of legal documents) to the most informal (e.g. electronic mail between friends), most academic writing falls nearer to the legal documents than the friendly email (Curry et al, 2003).
Once the register is determined you need to have evidence. Evidence is what you will use throughout your paragraphs to convince and persuade your readers to accept your claims. Like any good lawyer you need to convince your audience that your thesis is in fact true and valid.
The types of evidence you use change from discipline to discipline–you might use quotations from a poem or a literary critic, for example, in a literature paper; you might use data from an experiment in a lab report.
The process of putting together your argument is called analysis–it interprets evidence in order to support, test, and/or refine a claim. The chief claim in an analytical essay is called the thesis. A thesis provides the controlling idea for a paper and should be original (that is, not completely obvious), assertive, and arguable. A strong thesis also requires solid evidence to support and develop it because without evidence, a claim is merely an unsubstantiated idea or opinion (Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, 2010).
Make sure you use have a logical and effective structure to your argument and that you present it in such a way that your audience can follow. Every time you begin a new subject, think of an inverted pyramid – The broadest range of information sits at the top, and as the paragraph or paper progresses, the author becomes more and more focused on the argument ending with specific, detailed evidence supporting a claim.
The main idea of a paragraph is called the topic sentence. Like an arguable thesis statement, the topic sentence is a debatable claim that requires relevant support or evidence. The topic sentence should appear near the beginning of the paragraph since that sentence states the claim or idea to be discussed and developed in the content of the paragraph.
- Offer evidence that agrees with your stance up to a point, then add to it with ideas of your own.
- Present evidence that contradicts your stance, and then argue against (refute) that evidence and therefore strengthen your position.
- Use sources against each other, as if they were experts on a panel discussing your proposition.
- Use quotations to support your assertion, not merely to state or restate your claim.
Use Evidence Effectively
In order to use evidence effectively, you need to integrate it smoothly into your essay by following this pattern:
- State your claim.
- Give your evidence, remembering to relate it to the claim.
- Comment on the evidence to show how it supports the claim.
Unpack your Evidence
Explain what the quote means and why it’s important to your argument. The author should agree with how you sum up the quotation—this will help you establish credibility, by demonstrating that you do know what the author is saying even if you don’t agree. Often 1-2 sentences tops
When you use deduction in an argument, you begin with general premises and move to a specific conclusion. There is a precise pattern you must use when you reason deductively. This pattern is called syllogistic reasoning (the syllogism). Syllogistic reasoning (deduction) is organized in three steps:
- Major premise
- Minor premise
In order for the syllogism (deduction) to work, you must accept that the relationship of the two premises lead, logically, to the conclusion.
One effective way to support your claim is to use quotations. However, because quotations involve someone else’s words, you need to take special care to integrate this kind of evidence into your essay.
Evidence appears in essays in the form of quotations and paraphrasing. Both forms of evidence must be cited in your text. Citing evidence means distinguishing other writers’ information from your own ideas and giving credit to your sources
Make sure that you transition from the previous paragraph safely and effectively. A Transition sentence is a sentence leading in from a previous paragraph to assure smooth reading. This acts as a hand-off from one idea to the next.
Your analysis or concluding observation is your way of “wrapping up” the information presented in your paragraph. It should explain why the evidence supports your claim and why this supports the main thesis in your paper
Once you have completed your paper and achieved all the necessary pieces to an effective argument you can ask yourself the following to ensure nothing is left out of your argument:
Questions to Ask Yourself When Revising Your Paper
- Have I offered my reader evidence to substantiate each assertion I make in my paper?
- Do I thoroughly explain why/how my evidence backs up my ideas?
- Do I avoid generalizing in my paper by specifically explaining how my evidence is representative?
- Do I provide evidence that not only confirms but also qualifies my paper’s main claims?
- Do I use evidence to test and evolve my ideas, rather than to just confirm them?
- Do I cite my sources thoroughly and correctly?
Teaching Academic Writing, Curry et al, 2003, Page 28
Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, 2010
Purdue University Online Writing Lab
Odegaard Writing & Research Center
North Central University Writing Center, Crafting Paragraphs