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Essays and Arguments: A Handbook on Writing Argumentative and Interpretative Essays

(Revised Edition, May 2000)
Ian Johnston
Malaspina University College

[This text has been prepared for the use of students in Liberal Studies and English courses at Malaspina University College, Nanaimo, BC.  This text is in the public domain, released May 2000, and may be used, in whole or in part, without permission and without charge. A printed version of this text is available in the Malaspina book store. The content of this e-text is identical to the printed volume but the formatting is different in places]

Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction and Copyright Information

2.0 Arguments: Some Simple First Principles

3.0 Setting up the Argument: Definitions (1)

4.0 Defining Key Terms: Definitions (2)

5.0 Deduction and Induction (In Brief)

6.0 Organizing the Main Body of the Argument (1)

7.0 Organizing the Main Body of the Argument (2)

8.0 Paragraph Structure

9.0 Paragraph Functions

10.0 Written Arguments about Literary Works

11.0 Sample Outlines For Essays and Research Papers

1.0 Introduction

One of the single most important intellectual skills central to an undergraduate education is the ability to deal with arguments. In fact, in one way or another, almost everything you study as an undergraduate is connected with this task. While the subject matter will vary from one course to another, in almost all disciplines the major purpose of study is to develop students' ability to read, understand, evaluate, and construct arguments, written and oral.

The following sections form a basic introduction to some of the more important elements in the analysis and construction of arguments. The discussion begins with some very basic ideas and moves on quickly to a few points essential for effective written or spoken argumentation. The sections are structured so as to encourage students to develop skills which will make their arguments, especially their written presentations in essays or reports, more persuasive and which will improve their ability to analyze arguments.

Because this handbook is designed primarily for undergraduates in Liberal Studies and English courses, it pays considerable attention to what are probably the most important written assignments in these areas of college study, the argumentative (or persuasive) essay and research paper. However, most of the material applies equally well to other subjects and to spoken presentations.

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