How To Construct An Argument: A Teacher’s Guide

Why Is Argumentation Important?

Whether you teach Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or not, it is important for students to learn how to create strong arguments based on evidence. Engaging in argumentation encourages students to find the most plausible solution out of multiple possible answers. It also highlights the fact that our understanding of the world can change as we gather new evidence.

Effective argumentation requires the use of critical 21st century skills like data and media literacy, clear communication, and critical thinking. Convinced? We are too.

What Makes a Strong Argument?

While it may be clear that argumentation is an invaluable tool for all students, what can be less clear is what makes an effective argument and how to teach it. Thus, we created a simple and straightforward guide for students on creating an argument. This guide can serve as a one-stop resource for students as they learn how to make their arguments as strong as they can be.

Real-World Argumentation in the Classroom

Learning the mechanics of creating a strong argument is, of course, only the beginning. Once students have the tools and knowledge to build strong arguments, they need to practice! Check out the following PopEd lesson plans that have students making arguments backed by evidence: Energizing Policies, The Great Bag Debate, and Fracked or Fiction. These activities will put students’ argumentation skills to the test with real-life topics such as environmental justice, energy policies, and more.


♦ ♦ ♦ A Student’s Guide to Creating a Strong Argument ♦ ♦ ♦

Elements Of An Effective Argument

Step 1: Argument Thesis

After reviewing all the evidence, you’ll need to decide what your main argument is. This will become your thesis statement – an initial statement that summarizes everything you are trying to argue in a concise way.

Step 2: Argument Evidence

Your thesis statement should be followed with several pieces of evidence supporting your argument. Evidence is factual information that proves your argument is correct. It can be powerful to include pieces of evidence from different sources, to show there is consensus among expert opinions. However, be careful not to present too much evidence that you overwhelm your readers. Choose a few key pieces of your strongest evidence instead. And of course, be prepared to cite your sources.

Step 3: Counterarguments

All complex issues have multiple sides and perspectives. This means there are likely counterarguments, or opposing views, to whatever position you are arguing. It is important to address these counterpoints in your argument, and refute them using evidence to back up your claims.

Step 4: Conclusion Of An Argument

Finally, end your argument with a strong conclusion where you talk about why what you are arguing matters. This is often referred to as the “so what” part of your argument.

4 Tips For Improving Argumentative Skills

It may seem like there’s a lot to think about when crafting a strong argument. However, if you keep in mind the following tips, they will help to ensure that your argument is as strong as it can be.

Tip 1: Have a Clear Main Point

Choose a singular topic that you have familiarity with and form your argument around that. It is okay to have a few subtopics that support your main idea, but don’t lose focus on your main point.

Tip 2: Use Reliable Evidence

Any evidence you use must be understandable, factual, and properly cited. Gather your evidence from multiple different sources to strengthen the legitimacy of your argument. Ensure that your evidence comes from reputable sources and make sure to consider any biases the source might have. Remember to cite your sources in the proper format.

Tip 3: Avoid Fallacies

A fallacy is any false or mistaken idea. They can take away from the legitimacy and strength of your argument and should be avoided.

How to avoid fallacies in an argument:

  • Do not mention unrelated issues
  • Do not insult someone’s character
  • Do not jump to conclusions without proper evidence
  • Do not use selective evidence, also known as cherry picking or confirmation bias
    • This also includes selecting data that will support your argument, but is not actually representative of the whole
  • Do not make false comparisons

Tip 4: Be Specific

The more specific you can be in your argument, the harder it will be to counter; generalizations are easier to disprove. It is rare that a fact applies to everyone or everything, so avoid words such as every, all, universal, entire, complete, etc.


Image credit: Person at table (Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash)