As you continue your research into your issue, keep in mind that you must distinguish between argumentative articles and informative ones. The following information will help you to see the difference between the two.
Arguments are persuasive efforts. The author is trying to convince you of something. Thesis statements of arguments reveal the author’s conclusion: the thing the author is trying to convince you of. As you read various articles during your research, look for thesis statements that attempt to convince you of something. If you find a thesis of this type, you will know that you are reading an argument.
Arguments come in four types: definition, value, policy, and consequence. Each type is readily identifiable by its thesis statement and purpose.
Authors of this type of argument attempt to tell you what something is. While many definitions are simply informative, some can be argumentative because of the nature of the subject. Suppose someone is trying to define pornography. The author is trying to tell you what pornography is (and probably what it isn’t). In other words, the author is trying to convince you to accept his definition of the term. However, you may disagree with his definition, so the issue is controversial, and the author knows that he must write an argument to support his definition.
This type of argument can be of great importance, and they occur regularly in our society, such as the pornography issue. Not too long ago, we saw definition enveloped in controversy in regard to John Walker Lindh, the American citizen who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan. President Bush wanted Lindh defined as an enemy combatant, not merely as an American citizen. The argument over this definition was crucial to Lindh’s fate. As an enemy combatant, he would have far fewer rights than an American citizen.
Thesis statements for arguments of this type frequently contain what’s called “the is of identity.” That is, they contain the be verb in order to link one thing with another: “Anyone who fights against his country is an enemy combatant.” If you see a thesis statement such as this, you’ll know that you have not just an argument, but an argument of definition.
An argument of policy is one in which authors attempt to convince readers that something should or must be done. A thesis statement for such an argument might look like this: “Our federal legislature must act more aggressively to eliminate pornography from the Internet.” Many arguments are of this type because people like to propose policies that they believe will remedy a problem.
Arguments of value are statements of judgment or evaluation. In value arguments, authors attempt to convince readers that something is good or bad, right or wrong, and so forth. Such a goal can be terribly difficult to obtain because value arguments involve a clash of belief systems: one person trying to modify what another person believes. Because these arguments are based largely upon the opinion of the author, they have the potential to become messy and melodramatic, as authors usually cannot produce concrete evidence to support their assertions.
Thesis statements in value arguments appear as such: “Pornography is bad,” or “Religion is good.” Note that in this type of argument, authors are not explaining the bad consequences of pornography or the good things that result from a strong religious foundation. If they did, the authors would produce the next type of argument—an argument from consequences.
Arguments of consequences explain the effects of an action. In this type of argument, authors try to convince readers what may happen if a certain action is taken. For example, many persons are contemplating the consequences of America’s funding of space exploration. An author may write a paper in which he argues the consequences of continuing to spend billions of dollars in space-related programs, as opposed to domestic-related programs. These arguments are usually the strongest type of argument that can be made because authors can gather lots of facts, statistics, and examples to support their assertions. Another explanation for their power is their all-inclusive nature. If authors convince their readers that certain bad things will eventuate from a contemplated action, then all three of the other types of arguments are assumed as well. That is, if readers believe that pornography will destroy persons’ lives and eventually lead to the destruction of a decent and responsible society, then those readers will also assume that pornography can be defined (definition argument) as something bad (value argument) that must be stopped (policy argument).
Authors of informational articles attempt to inform their readers of a situation. They are merely reporting to readers, as opposed to persuading readers. Thesis statements of informational articles do not reflect an attempt to persuade. Instead, they show that the author merely wishes to share information. An example of a thesis statement of an informational article would be the following: “Mayor Brown met with the Chief of Police today to discuss the rising crime rate.” From this thesis statement, readers will know that the author is going to provide details about the meeting. When people report information, they usually rely upon the six journalistic questions: Who did what, why, when, how, and where.
The information provided above will help you distinguish between argumentative and informational articles. It can also help you formulate a research question of your own, as you search for a topic for our class. Perhaps you have decided to work with the subject of corporate fraud. If your research question is “What is corporate fraud?” then you have chosen a definition-type argument as your issue for the semester. Such a precisely formed question will help you to focus your research efforts effectively and efficiently. Suppose your question is “What should the federal government do to stop corporate fraud?” then your issue will focus on policy arguments, and you will look for arguments and informative articles that deal only with policy.
As you consider which issue you wish to work with for the entire semester, carefully consider the different types of arguments. They can help you create a clear and concise research question that will guide your research efforts for the rest of the semester.