Here are some definitions of the word ‘argument’ from the Oxford English Dictionary:

  • Proof, evidence, manifestation.
  • A statement or fact advanced for the purpose of influencing the mind; a reason urged in support of a proposition.
  • A conclusion; hence (of later origin) against the contrary.
  • A connected series of statements or reasons intended to establish a position (and, hence, to refute the opposite); a process of reasoning; argumentation.
  • Statement of the reasons for and against a proposition; discussion of a question; debate.




How do the following phrases relate to your essay? Do you see your own writing as putting forward an argument or just stating facts? How can you evaluate the status of the ‘facts’ that you are writing about?

  • Take up a position.
  • Adopt a perspective.
  • Explore possible positions.
  • Link theory and evidence.
  • Draw a conclusion.
  • Be critical and use evidence.
  • Analyse, don’t just describe.
  • Develop a central idea.
  • Show: don’t just tell.

The ‘argument’ of an academic essay is not simply the ‘for and against’ debating model followed by a concluding paragraph agreeing with which side you’ve decided to settle for. Academic writing requires you to take a position regarding what is being written about, to show evidence to support that claim, and to structure the whole in a logical, coherent and cohesive manner. This is the central concept of academic writing.


In the next post, we’ll look at why and how you should use brainstorming techniques to improve your academic writing.