1) Draw your boundaries – when you are defending something, always be clear on how far along the spectrum you are willing to defend. Draw a parameter, decide on how much you are comfortable with defending. For example- the argument could be that cigarettes should be banned.
You could choose to say that “cigarettes should be banned for less than 18 year olds and people with severe health conditions”. By that statement, you only defend a certain category, and not the whole population, and therefore, your argument becomes easier.
2) Structure your argument – the simplest yet effective structure is the 2 premise model. Your justifications will be arranged in a logical manner that adds strength to your case.
Premise 1 – examinations cause stress
Premise 2- stress causes students to perform poorly
Conclusion – therefore exams are harmful and not effective.
If displayed in such manner, it is hard to come up with something to break an extremely logical reasoning.
3) Define a principle – be clear in what exactly your contention is. If you only have a vague idea, it is easy for your opponent to find loopholes in your argument. If someway through your case, you deviate from your principle, that’s ok as well. Sometimes covering other stuff around your contention only adds to the strength of your case. But it’s essential to have a very clear definition at the beginning, or your whole argument can crumble, because it’s on an unstable base.
4) Be aware of the stakeholders – the stakeholders are the people affected by your argument. Using our previous argument, “cigarettes should be banned”, we can conclude that the stakeholders are the cigarette companies, people who smoke and the government. Structure your argument in a way that appeals to the people who are interested and most concerned about that fact. Be aware of where they stand and to what extent you can push them towards your argument.
5) Think practically – you could have wonderful justifications based on theoretical data. But it’s still easy to break your argument. So it’s always important to see how your reasoning fits the practical world. For example, the argument “cigarettes should be banned”, is not that practical. It will cause a public outcry, a massive unbalance in the economy, and may even lead to the government being changed. But the argument “cigarettes should be banned for less than 18 year olds and people with severe health conditions”, is somewhat reasonable.
6) Ask why – every time you form a statement or a justification, ask yourself why. It will not only strengthen your argument, but will increase your confidence level in the matter being discussed. For example, “judges enforce laws”
Your question – “why do judges enforce laws?”
Answer – “they represent the values of a broader community”
Question – “why do they represent the values of a broader community?”
Answer – “because not everyone can voice their opinions and make them heard”
It goes on like that, till you reach the final answer.
7) you don’t have to be right – this is the simplest yet most valuable tip. It’s ok if you are in the wrong. Sometimes half way through the argument, you realise that you are so totally wrong. But that’s ok. Just don’t let the opponent know that. Analyse your case, and defend it following the previous tips. Once you get over the psychological aspect of it, being wrong only maximises the chances of winning your argument, for you know all the weak spots in what you are defending, and therefore, it’s easier to cover it.
Written by justateenagegirl