Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

Making an argument: what it is and is not in academic writing

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Writing in the Academy

This post follows on from our previous post about unthinking the way we teach students to argue in their written work. We see many students every year at the Writing Centre with argumentative essays. We therefore spend a lot of time talking about how to help students understand what argument is, and how to construct arguments in their essays. We also have to talk about what it isn’t, amongst ourselves as tutors and also with students.

Several research papers within the field of academic literacies and writing look at argumentative writing, and debate student struggles with this genre and how to help them write more effective or relevant or appropriate essays. Key among the findings of the papers we have read seems to be that students come to university with a narrower understanding of what an argument is. In short, many students associate argument with arguing in the sense of…

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