Writing for Students: What is an Argument?

For each author you read, you must be able to identify two sentences:

  • The specific statement (the argument, key point) the author makes on a particular issue and
  • The sentences in which the author provides support for that position.

If you can identify 1) the specific statement and 2) all the statements that support it, then you have identified what is called the argument of that essay.


One short-hand way to remember an argument is this:

  • Argument = specific position + supporting points
    In an English essay style, an argument is usually discussed in the following way:
  • Argument = main claim + supporting evidence
    In Critical Reasoning, an argument is usually discussed in this way:
  • Argument = main claim + supporting evidence
    In Critical Reasoning, an argument is usually discussed in this way: argument = conclusion + reasons

Definition of an Argument: An Argument is composed of two kinds of statements: (1) the conclusion (main claim) is that statement which follows from the other statements and (2) the reasons (evidence) are those statements which are intended to support the conclusion.

Visually, an argument looks like this:

The reasons are like pillars which support the roof or conclusion. Visually, an argument looks like a half-built shed with the supports showing. Please note that in both images all the reasons are separate, independent statements.