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GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE ARGUMENTATION 1) 1) Don't be one-sided or biased. Don't be partisan or dogmatic. Anticipate realistic objections . Give the other side a fair representation – don’t commit the Straw Man fallacy by picking only on the weakest opposition. Examine both pros and cons , both benefits and costs, of your thesis. Picturing yourself as a member of the audience at a debate , weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of all the major competing positions, helps you to be fair to all positions. Your research allows you to listen in on the debate. It is a big mistake to write as a competitor in the debate, because participants in a debate only have to present and defend their own position, so they are very one-sided. Example: If you argue that we should raise taxes for something, you must do more than list the benefits of the extra money. You must admit that people hate increased taxes. If you argue for a tax decrease, on the other hand, you must address the problem of cutting public services. For any cut in government programs, there will be enormous criticism-- people will lose jobs, businesses will lose business, etc. 2) 2) Have a clear thesis. Underline it in your final version. Write it out (for yourself) on a separate piece of paper (your outline). Don't make it vague or ambiguous or overly general. Example: “People on welfare cheat the government and the taxpayers” is ambiguous. If you mean that all people on welfare are cheats, this is obviously false. If you mean that some people on welfare are cheats, this is trivially true. Some people not on welfare cheat the government, too! “Many people on welfare cheat…” is unacceptably vague . You should argue something more specific, like “Most people on welfare are cheats.” That obviously requires a lot of evidence , however. Example: “Street drugs should not be legalized.” Are you talking about all drugs? If so, your arguments must apply to all drugs, not just the hardest drugs. Example: “The ban on same-sex marriages is a form of discrimination.” The word “discrimination” is ambiguous in this context. It has two distinct meanings in the dictionary, and mixing them up could ruin your argument. 3) 3) Have a bold (but not too bold) thesis. Don't make it trivially true. Example: “It is wrong for city officials to engage in ‘ghost pay rolling’ for friends and relatives.” This is obvious, not bold enough. No one would argue that ghost pay rolling is good . “Allowing government to regulate the tobacco industry will lead to complete government
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