2.+Building+an+Argument_Slides

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BUILDING AN ARGUMENT
How to write analytically
Class Activity: What makes a good argumentative
essay?
What are the overall characteristics of a good
essay?
What does a paragraph need?
How do you support your argument?
How do you convince your reader?
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Outline
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1.
Structure
2.
Description vs. Argumentation & Analysis
3.
Fact & Evidence vs. Opinion
4.
Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
5.
Nuance and Persuasion
1. Structure
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How does Mahmood Mamdani explain mass
participation in the 1994 Rwandan genocide?
Do you find his arguments convincing? If so,
why?
1. Structure
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Overall structure is important!
Introductions provide an initial roadmap to your
argument
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Introductions should contain:
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1-2 lead-in sentences
A clear thesis statement
A brief outline of your argument
Introductions – Exhibit A
When one is asked to give an example of genocide, they are likely to give the
holocaust during World War II as their example. While the holocaust is recognized as
one of the most inhumane events in history, it should be known that Rwanda genocide in
1994 was more efficient than the holocaust. The Rwandan genocide took place
between April 6th and July 1994 and lasted a mere 100 days, but during those 100
days the death toll rose to an estimated 800,000 (BBC). In mathematical terms, the
Rwanda genocide was three times more effective then the Holocaust in terms of deaths
during its length of time. This genocide was lead by Hutu Power, a group of Hutu
extremists, against the Tutsi. One of the most interesting facts about the Rwandan
genocide is the mass participation that the Hutu Power was able to attract in the
genocide. In the novel, When Victims becomes Killers, author Mahmood Mamdani
argues that the mass participation of the genocide was caused because of politics.
Mahmood Mamdani states that the conflict in politics in the past between the Hutu and
Tutsi was a continual problem between the ethnic groups, which eventually lead to the
Rwandan genocide.
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Introductions – Exhibit B
Popular mass participation during the 1994 Rwandan genocide has been a topic of
great academic debate since the genocide ended. Several theorists have attempted to
establish why so many Hutus, who had never killed before, engaged in the mass
murder of nearly one million Tutsis. This essay will critically analyse Mahmood
Mamdani’s argument that the genocide was mainly a result of the political
manipulation of Hutu fears of a return to servitude under the Tutsi. Both the strengths
and the weaknesses will be highlighted. Furthermore, alternatives to Mamdani’s
argument, which Mamdani downplays, will be discussed in order to support the
critiques. The alternatives which will be explored in this essay are: the effects of the
1970s economic crisis, cultural factors, and finally, the role of Hutu-on-Hutu violence.
This essay ultimately concludes that while Mamdani provides a strong explanation for
mass participation, his downplaying of several other important factors weakens his
argument significantly.
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Class Activity – Introductions and Outlines
- Have a look at Exhibit B and make a brief outline of the
student’s essay. What is she going to argue, and what
part of her argument is she going to make in each
paragraph?
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Thesis Statement:
Paragraph 1:
Paragraph 2:
Paragraph 3:
Paragraph 4:
Paragraph 5:
Conclusion
1. Structure
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
An ‘Analytical’ Essay would look like this:
Introduction.
 1. Brief summary of main author’s argument.
 2. Main author’s strong points – analyse and support with
other authors and context/background.
 3. Point of weakness 1 – criticise using other authors,
background and context.
 4. Point of weakness 2 – criticise using other authors,
background and context
 5. Point of weakness 3 – criticise using other authors,
background and context
 Conclusion

1. Structure
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
Avoid descriptive essays! A prime example of a
descriptive structure would be something like this:
 Intro
 1.
The history of the conflict
 2. Summary of Main Author argument
 3. Summary of Supplementary Author X
 4. Summary of Supplementary Author Y
 5. Analysis
 Conclusion
1. Structure
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Every argument is made up of sub-arguments, e.g. in
order to argue that Mamdani has downplayed certain
factors, the previous student has to convincingly argue
that these factors are important
Sub-arguments come in two types:
A. Supporting your main argument with logic and evidence
giving credibility to your position
 B. Supporting your main argument by discrediting someone
else’s opposing/alternative argument with logic and
evidence

Class Activity – Make an Outline
What was the main cause of the RUF insurgency in Sierra Leone?
Thesis statement: pick one cause
Sub-arguments A: Make points supported by evidence in favour of your cause
Sub-arguments B: Make points supported by evidence that discredit alternative
causal explanations
Thesis Statement:
Paragraph 1:
Paragraph 2:
Paragraph 3:
Paragraph 4:
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2. Description vs. Argumentation & Analysis
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You need to support every single claim you make in your argument
with:
Factual evidence
Other author’s arguments
In any case, you need to make explicitly clear why any point you make
is relevant to your argument. Each point should close off with a magical
“So What?”-Sentence.
NEVER ASSUME YOUR AUDIENCE KNOWS WHY SOMETHING YOU
BRING UP IS IMPORTANT – MAKE YOUR TRAIN OF THOUGHT, AND
EVERY POINT’S RELEVANCE EXPLICIT!
Using factual information – Exhibit A
Background is required to understand the Rwandan genocide. The social structure that
was present prior to the genocide is a by-product of the Belgian colonial system that had
been handed down the native people. That of ethnic separation (Mamdani 2001 : 190).
Before colonisation, it was a unified community, whereby neither religion nor politics
sought to divide Hutu from Tutsi. Economically, they both indulged in pastoral agricultural
activities. The emergence of the colonial system was the introduction of a religious and
scientifically based domination of the Hutu under the politically powerful Tutsi. Biblical
tales sought to justify the divide and rule tactic that was implemented by the Belgians
(Mamdani 2001: 191). Moreover, the kingship of Rwabugiri institutionalized ethnicity
when prior to that all Rwandans were categorised under the term Badusi. It was also a
period of Tutsi power and Hutu oppression. It was believed that the Tutsi were an alien
race to the Rwandan topography and not a minority ethnicity. [moves on to next point]
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Using factual information – Exhibit B
According to Mamdani the Civil War played a pivotal role in not only entrenching
colonial ideas of race groups but also creating opposing political identities. “The
Habyarimana regime entered the war pledged to a policy of ethnic reconciliation and
came out of it pledged to a policy of Hutu Power” (Mamdani, 2001:185). The Hutu
Power radicals in the Rwandan government used the RPF attack in 1990 to reinforce
these political identities and it is this foundation which made mass participation possible
(Mamdani, 2001:185).
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2. Description vs. Argumentation & Analysis
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A crude example:
NOT a good point: “Mamdani underplays the cultural dynamics of the
genocide, because Fuji (2008) says so.”
A good point: “Fuji (2008) has shown the importance of cultural factors in the
genocide. For example … [case xyz]. Without this dynamic, mass participation
would have been a lot more unlikely, because it appears to have been a major
factor that pressured people to take part. Mamdani does not give this enough
credit.”
The good point…
… demonstrates the author’s argument with an example/evidence, i.e. it
SHOWS that it is valid, rather than just CLAIMING that it is.
… it explains why it is relevant to the student’s own argument – the magical
“So What?!”-Sentence
3. Fact & Evidence vs. Opinion
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“With defeat looming on the horizon, the Hutu Power
tendency differentiated even further: the genocidal
tendency was born of the crisis of Hutu Power”
(Mamdani, 2001: 185).
3. Fact & Evidence vs. Opinion
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When things go terribly wrong…
… students present other authors’ opinions as facts
… subscribe uncritically to someone else’s weak
arguments
… misrepresent an authors’ argument and twist it out of
shape to support their own viewpoint
Sometimes, this is done inadvertently – be careful how you
phrase things!
Class Activity – Fact vs. Opinion
“At the core of the ideology of Hutu Power was the conviction
that the Tutsi were a race alien to Rwanda, and not an
indigenous ethnic group. The shift in political vocabulary was a
return to the vision of the colonial period. That the Tutsi were a
race not indigenous to Rwanda was both central to colonial
ideology and a key idea that had propelled forward the
1959 Revolution.” (Mamdani, 2001: 190).
- What is Mamdani reiterating here? A fact or an opinion?
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Reiterating Mamdani’s point
Student A: “Moreover, the kingship of Rwabugiri institutionalized
ethnicity when prior to that all Rwandans were catergorised under
the term Badusi. It was also a period of Tutsi power and Hutu
oppression. It was believed that the Tutsi were an alien race to the
Rwandan topography and not a minority ethnicity (Mamdani,
2001: 190).”
Student B: “The Tutsi were an alien group in Rwanda, so the Hutu
felt threatened and oppressed in their own country, which worked
as a catalyst leading up to the genocide (Mamdani, 2001: 190).”
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4. Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
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Some Common Assumptions
Quantitative Research is… Qualitative Research is…
More scientific
Less scientific
More objective
More subjective
More methodologically
rigorous
Less methodologically
rigorous
4. Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
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When looking at Quantitative Research, ask yourself…
- What are the assumptions behind the approach to the issue?
What sorts of questions are asked, and why?
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How are real-world phenomena turned into variables that
can be quantified?
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That a variable is the best approximation possible or that the
data is the best that could be obtained does not mean that the
research is without problems!
How is the data interpreted? What claims are made based
on the data?
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Numbers never just speak for themselves!
4. Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
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When looking at Qualitative Research, ask yourself…
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Who are the participants, and what are their potential alterior
motives?
How does the researcher relate to the participants?
How is the data interpreted? What claims are made
based on the data?
How transparent is the author about the process of
interpretation?
 Are generalisations supported by the data?
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4. Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
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Whether quantitative or qualitative, good research
that produced good evidence…
- Is open about its assumptions, theoretical
background and limitations
- Is transparent about and rigorous in its methodology
- Makes clear how data was interpreted in order to
arrive at its conclusions
- Does not make claims it cannot really substantiate
5. Nuance & Persuasion
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
Stronger claims do not necessarily make your argument
stronger! This applies to the body of your essay as well
as your final conclusion.
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It is way easier to criticise a claim that is phrased too
strongly than it is to dispute a cautious statement.
In the social sciences there is never just one answer,
explanation or interpretation – to claim that yours is the
absolute best, one and only answer is asking to be
criticised!
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For example, consider the question, “What caused the
Rwandan genocide?”
Class Activity – Safer Statements
How can you make these phrases “safer”?
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This proves…
This example shows…
Mamdani’s argument is convincing
The main cause was…
He completely ignores that fact that…
One can definitely see that…
The truth is that…
Wrapping up
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A good argumentative essay…
… is logically structured
… has a clear introduction
… makes explicit, why certain points/pieces of
information and evidence are relevant
… does not misrepresent other authors’ arguments just to
“prove” a point
… engages critically with the literature
… makes cautious conclusions rather than stark statements

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