What does it mean to argue something?

Throughout your life, you will often be asked to take a stand on a given topic and argue your position, but what exactly does that mean?

In argumentative or persuasive texts you use arguments to give reason for your position or point of view. If you take a stand but are unable to support your position, you have not succesfully argued the issue. You have simply made a claim.

Open or closed argumentation

An argument that is based on facts, data, statistics and other logical demonstrations is called an open or direct argument. We recognize these types of arguments as ‘logos’ in rhetoric.

Argumentation that appeals to the audience’s emotions is sometimes referred to as indirect argumentation. In rhetoric, we recognize this as ‘pathos’.

There is also a third form of argumentation that can be referred to as ‘ethos’. This is a form of argumentation where authority is used to legitimize the points being put across. An authority is an expert within a set theme or topic.

So, arguing something means … ?

Argumentation is part of the reasoning that consists of the following three parts:

  • … an opinion, a point of view or a claim that we argue for,
  • … an argument, what we use to reason our case, and 
  • … a statement that unifies the opinion and the argument.

The statement that unifies the opinion and the argument is what makes us understand why the argument works.

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Ung gutt står på en stol og roper i en megafon.
Ung gutt står på en stol og roper i en megafon.

The Toulmin Method

When we look for arguments in a text, we need to look for certain components in the text.

Component 1: Claim

What is the author claiming? What is he or she arguing?

The claim can also be called the main argument. It is the assertion that the author wants to prove to the audience. The author builds the argumentation that affirms the author’s position.

Example of a main argument: You will get sick.

The strength of the arguments

How strong are the arguments? You can look for certain words that reveal the strength of the arguments.

Some arguments contain moderating words and phrases like “probably”, “maybe”, “in most cases”, or “some studies show”. You can criticize a claim if the arguments are not strong.

Component 2: Grounds

What are the arguments in the text? How do they support the claim?

The grounds of the arguments are the evidence and facts that support the claim.

Example of an argument: The fish you ate was spoiled.

You can support this even more by saying:
I know the fish was spoiled because it smelled bad.

Component 3: Warrant or relevance

What are the basic assumptions that the arguments are based on? What makes the arguments seem relevant in the given context?

The warrant shows the relevance of the arguments. It can either be implied or stated clearly and it is the assumption that links the grounds to the claim.

Example of warrant: You get sick from eating spoiled fish. You ate spoiled fish, therefore you will get sick.

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The quality of arguments

To consider the quality of argumentation, we can ask ourselves:

  • Are the arguments durable? Is the claim true? Does it seem probable and just?
  • Are the arguments relevant? Are the arguments significant for the case?
  • How strong are the arguments as opposed to the counter arguments?
  • Have all important sides of the case been discussed?
En person bruker en ekstra stor megafon for å snakke med en annen person.
En person bruker en ekstra stor megafon for å snakke med en annen person.

First of all, second, third…

To persuade or convince others, you need solid and factual arguments.

When you write an argumentative text, you should have several arguments that point in the same direction. You need to sustain each argument and use them all to reach a final conclusion.

When you argue, it can be useful to repeat what you say. If you get others to repeat your arguments, it seems even more convincing. When something feels familiar, people tend to be more likely to believe that it is correct.

Forretningsmann peker på den han diskuterer med.
Forretningsmann peker på den han diskuterer med.


  • Alnes, Jan Harald: argument i Store norske leksikon på snl.no.
    Hentet 10. november 2021 fra https://snl.no/argument

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