Dissecting an argument
Just as the argument as a whole has a structure so does each stage. Therefore:

Each issue needs an entry.

But to get to the entry you need to pass through a corridor. You need a sentence which tells the reader that he or she is going from one situation into another. “Corridor sentences” are essential to the understanding.  For example: The two sentences in italics surrounding this paragraph are simple examples of what I mean. Corridor sentences make a reader aware of the connection between two subjects. Let’s go back to describing the entry or introduction to any issue.


An example of an entry- or introductory sentence might be a statement of the problem, a description of the situation as it is, the giving of relevant statistics, the quoting of an authority on the subject or the establishing of your point of view.

You then have to explain why you want the reader to understand this part of the problem by explaining its relevance to the whole argument.


A proposition needs to be supported by evidence. Evidence is the furniture of a point of view, just as a room always proposes an activity by the way it looks. The evidence you bring to bear on the argument must support your point of view. If it does not, get rid of the point of view or find compelling evidence.


Illustrations are a form of evidence. Illustrations can be used as independent visual statements, that is, as self-illustrating arguments or provocations. When you use illustrations without comment they can form a useful back up to the essay. That way they can help set the mood of an essay. That is part of the rhetoric of Illustrations, which means not just what a picture shows, but also the way it shows it. [1] I shall discuss this possibility a little further on when we get to the manifesto, which is specifically concerned with the relationship between words and images. But usually Illustrations need to be supplemented by a description of their relevant features as well as an outright explanation of their relevance to the argument.


Of course Illustrations are not always of the visible kind: anecdotes can be used as very appropriate illustrations and evidence. Anecdotes are short stories that recount an event or a particular situation to become evidence of a particular interpretation and point of view. The same is true for statistical information and sociological evidence.


Make sure that the picture, diagram, graph, statistic or anecdote you use, helps the argument as effectively as possible. The questions you have to ask yourself are:

·         What is it about the picture, anecdote, statistic, which helps me to show what I am trying to say?

·         Would it help the reader understand if I describe what is relevant about this evidence?

·         Have I explained the relevance and purpose of my illustration in my text?

·         Remember: illustrations can make a text more desirable, use them often but only when they help your argument or story.


Every argument inevitably throws up many possible threads to follow. Every proposition has a wide range of implications for all sorts of other topics. There are two things you need to do:

·         You need to keep to your purpose as defined by the focus of your topic.

·         Discuss any wider implications in footnotes or appendices.


When you want to leave a particular proposition or issue to go to the next, you will need to explain why you want to leave, and where you want to go and why you want to go there.

Although the exact order is not carved in stone, an argument necessarily consists of “a problem” in the form of a question leading to “a proposition” to answer that question, “an explanation” telling us why it is a good proposition and then a reaction to that proposition which will prepare the ground for the next proposition or argument. That is the process whereby you seek out the implications of your argument.


What are implications? Implications are things which have not been stated but which are contained in what has been stated. We will deal with this now that we have reached The Conclusion.


[1] The art or study of using language effectively and persuasively. b. A treatise or book discussing this art. 2. Skill in using language effectively and persuasively. 3.a. A style of speaking or writing, especially the language of a particular subject: fiery political rhetoric. b. Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous: His offers of compromise were mere rhetoric. 4.Verbal communication; discourse. Quoted from Bookshelf 98, CDROM.