5 Elements of an Argument

by June Farquhar; Updated September 26, 2017
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Five elements of a classical argument have been held as a model since the days that ancient Greek scholars began teaching rhetoric. Ancient Greek rhetors, teachers of rhetoric, believed that with these five elements, any case can be presented successfully and all open-minded audiences will come to the right conclusion. Even today they are touted as the most basic parts of an argument.

Introduction

In the introduction of an argument common bonds should be established with the listeners or audience. Building a rapport with the people to whom you will present your argument is vital if you want them to give you a fair hearing, but don’t lose sight of your purpose. The introduction must get the audience’s interest, establishing your worth as someone to be listened to and revealing your opinion of the subject matter. Consider an anecdote in the introduction that demonstrates the correctness of your argument.

Narration

The narration puts the argument in context. It gives the audience all the background information needed to evaluate the validity of the argument. To provide the narration, you can use the anecdote you created in the introduction and give statistics and relevant historical facts such as court cases, legal precedents and public opinions. After the narration, the audience should understand what is at stake.

Confirmation

In the confirmation element of an argument, present claims that support the argument. Claims are weak if they have little or no evidentiary support. Claims with the most support or evidence should be presented first and the ones without a lot of support should be presented last or not at all. Each individual claim and supporting evidence must also support the larger contention or thesis that is being argued.

Refutation

To every argument there are opposing views; these should be given after the confirmation because opposing views allowed to stand without explanation can take root in an audience. The difference between the confirmation element and the refutation element is that with one you are arguing why a claim works and in the other you are arguing why a claim does not work. Don’t leave a refutation out because it muddies the water; your audience will likely find it.

Summation

In the summation, a person reiterates the most powerful points of his argument and explains how the circumstance or situation will be improved by conforming to the argument produced. Remind your audience what is at stake and how it is significant to them. A summation is vital after the refutation because you need to leave your audience with affirmation and not refutation.

About the Author

June Farquhar has been writing for newspapers and special publications in California since 1998. She's the recipient of a press club award for organizing and designing a 42-page "Red Ribbon Week" tabloid, which received recognition from the California State Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Farquhar studied newspaper journalism at Bakersfield College.

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