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Writing Articles Expounding Both Sides of an Argument
By Joan Whetzel
Articles that examine both sides of an argument or an issue are very similar to the argumentation essays we were all required to write in school.The most important part about writing the argumentation article is to know the purpose for writing it. Is the article meant to examine both sides of an issue in order to give readers something to think about or to open up a discussion on the topic? Or will it acknowledge the opposing argument in the process of promoting a specific argument or viewpoint and persuade readers to accept that argument or point of view? This form of writing, like any form of debate, allows the writer to defend his or her beliefs or self-interests, or provides a forum for readers to do the same. For those writers interested in exploring argumentation style articles, know in advance that it will require a good deal of research because the writer must understand both sides of the argument in order to explain them to readers and to explore why the issue (the article topic) is so hotly contested.
What Is Argumentative Writing?
Argumentative articles are a great way to discuss issues of a political, religious, or social nature. They can be used as a way to guide the judgment or opinions of readers, to sway them toward a specific point of view, or to present both sides so that the readers can make their own decision about what they believe. These types of articles may help resolve a difference of opinion or may lead to a mutual understanding of the opposing argument without having to concede or agree with it. The argumentative article, like argumentative essays, require the use of statements backed up by evidence.
These articles may present both sides and let readers decide, or may acknowledge the opposition's arguments in the process of making an argument for the other side of the issue at hand. Either way, articles presenting both sides of an argument - or issue - will probably cause one of the following to occur:
- · Reflection on the part of readers about the issues and the need for a resolution of some sort.
- · An exchange of ideas or a debate.
- · An acknowledgement of opposing viewpoints (by readers and those interested in the topic) as being valid.
- · The ideas presented could be combined with other individual contributions on the topic, meaning it the article becomes part of a larger discussion.
- · It changes peoples' opinions about the issue or argument.
- · It brings about a resolution to some or all of the issue.
- A word about what argumentation articles should not be. Many writers have been so caught up in the emotional aspects of the debate that they fall victim to the temptation to start cutting down any person or group that holds opposing views. This is rarely a good idea as it only inflames the emotions on both sides and never solves anything. While writers may feel quite emotional about the issue, it is better to lay those emotions aside and argue their viewpoint from a subjective point of view. More minds have been swayed by the honey of a well-spoken argument than the bitter, vitriolic, vinegar of an argumentative insult to one's intelligence.
Why Discuss Both Sides of an Argument?
For those writers who may consider articles that present both sides of an argument or issue, there is one main reason for doing so. It helps readers understand what both sides stand for and how both sides feel about the issue at hand. In this case, the writer is not promoting either side and is not trying to convince readers to take one side or the other. Presenting both sides, however, may result in some readers being persuaded by the arguments of one side or the other. It may also open up dialogues between individuals or groups who hold the opposing views and enable them to resolve at least some portion(s) of their opposition. It may also inspire individuals or groups to bring about a solution to the issue at hand (i.e. how to get computers and internet service to underprivileged households) that would be mutually agreeable to the people and groups on both sides of the issue.
Language that Makes an Argumentative Article Effective
There are a few do's and don'ts with writing argumentation articles.
· use a passionate vocabulary.
· cite experts with opinions that back up the argument.
· back up both sides of the argument with facts, evidence and statistics.
· provide well thought out reasoning for supporting one side or the other.
· present the opposing argument and refute their claims in a logical, subjective manner (when arguing one position over the other) or simply to explain people on both sides feel.
· use flimsy modifiers like "I believe", "I feel", or "I think." Simply state it like it's a statement of fact, then back it up.
· assert that you are an expert if you're not.
· use claims that are strictly religious or moralistic to support your argument. People have a funny way of taking offense to this type of "supportive evidence" as it tends to come across more as condemnation than actual reasoning or logic.
· assume that readers will automatically agree with any part of your argument.
· make others look bad by insulting or condemning their views, ideals, values, or beliefs.
Why Acknowledge Opposing Arguments?
For those writers who aren't taking one point of view over the other, presenting both sides of the argument allows for a balanced approach to the issue. It also lets the reader decide which side of the argument they are leaning toward without the reader trying to change their mind or sway them in either direction.
For the argumentation article aimed at convincing readers to adopt one point of view over the other, acknowledging the oppositions arguments is vital as the old kung-fu saying goes: "the hand that strikes also blocks" or the football adage, "the best defense is a good offense." What that means is that it is to the writer's advantage to anticipate what his or her opponents would say in response to the article, so as to strike down the arguments in that response within the body of his or her article.
Acknowledging the opposing arguments also:
· demonstrates that the writer thoroughly understands the subject of the article.
· reveals a lack of bias, especially for writer's writing the more balanced argumentations article that informs the readers and lets decide.
· builds the trust level that the reader has for the writer and his or her opinion.
· provides writers (who are arguing one side of the argument) with the opportunity to refute any arguments proffered by the opposition.
· it makes the writer's argument stronger by weakening the opposition's argument, without belittling it.
How to Present Both Sides of an Argument to Stir Discussion
The key components to embrace in argumentation articles include the following.
1. Identify and understand the opposing arguments, whether explicit or implied.
2. Identify and understand the goals of the people and organizations on both sides of the argument.
3. Don't try to explain how the opposing argument is outright wrong, but instead, document how those opinions might not be current or, perhaps, not well-informed.
4. Identify the foundation for which the opposition is basing their opinion.
5. Ascertain who made the original claim and, therefore, is responsible for providing the burden of proof to back up both sides of the argument.
6. Identify the faulty reasoning in the opponent's argument - or both sides of the argument for the balanced article - as a means of criticizing the reasons for the opinion or the premise on which the opinion is based.
7. Provide counter examples.
When writing an argumentation article that promotes one side of the argument over the other, be aware that those on the opposite side of the argument will probably do the same to your arguments. So, look at your arguments with the same critical eye. What faulty reasoning, explicit or implied arguments, goals will the opponent find in your arguments? Find ways to shore them up and back them up. What part(s) of your argument could the opposition claim are outdated or ill-informed? Find the documentation to make them more relevant or knowledgeable.
Keep the readers in mind. Understand their background, what influences them, and their thinking process. This may be difficult if the article is aimed at a general audience. But if you know you are trying to convince people who are of the same opinion, the article will almost write itself. On the other hand, if you are trying to sway readers who are not like-minded or the middle-of-the-roaders who haven't made up their mind, you had best find out - ahead of time - how they think, what their background is, and what will influence them toward your point of view.
Also, organize the article so that it shifts effortlessly between the sections that defend your position and the sections that contest your opponents' views. For those writing a balanced argumentation, simply shift back and forth between the two sides. The basic structure runs something like this:
· Make the Claim
· Back it up with data, expert opinion, and evidence.
· Present the opponent's claim.
· Offer rebuttal to the opponent's claim.
· Repeat the above until all claims have been explored.
· Offer any conclusions, possible resolutions, or ideas to mull over concerning the topic and the issues raised.
Purdue University Online Writing Lab. What Is an Argumentation Essay?
Roane State Online Writing Lab. Types of Papers: Argument / Argumentative.
University of Pittsburg. Argument and Debate.
Wikipedia. Argumentation Theory.