How do you develop an argument?

An argument, in the more extended sense as a sequence of propositions, is sort of like a journey within a confined space, a journey through a topic.


Each argument needs to be carefully defined by the assumptions or philosophical outlook you bring to it. These are the ideas and beliefs, which you consider to be essential to support your argument. They carry and shape the overall argument and dictate the orientation or perspective and define the space within which the argument allows us to manoeuvre.

Assumptions can range from the tenets of Christianity, the theory of Evolution, theories of Relativity or Chaos to philosophies like Phenomenology, Existentialism, Structuralism, Deconstructivism or any other kind of -ism. These all belong to the scale of world-view and they tend to be accepted notions, which help you to determine the way of looking at a particular problem. This does not mean that assumptions should not be questioned. In fact, essays often set out to question well-established assumptions.


Arguments themselves have to satisfy the demands of structural possibility. You should not build an argument that does not hold up. That means that you must think carefully whether you have covered all the angles. Neither should you build an argument that cannot be seen to hold up. In a good argument everything useful is clearly visible. And the logic or structure of your argument has to be sound and self-evident.


The first thing to do is to think about what that point of view is, and how you are going to convince other people that your point of view is a good one. For this you need to do research, to see what others have thought about your topic and to see whether the evidence supports your point of view.


By thinking about what others have said and investigating the evidence you have gathered you will find that your original ideas on the subject will adjust, adapt and sharpen and so fall into a place of their own. They will develop their own limits and arrange themselves into a seemingly natural combination which we can call a strategy or approach.