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Rhetorical functions in academic writing: Arguing and discussing


An essential part of critical writing is arguing and discussing.

In academic writing, arguing and discussing is often part of a larger piece of writing. In arguing and discussing, you are expected to present two or more points of view and discuss the positive and negative aspects of each case. On the basis of your discussion, you can then choose one point of view and persuade your readers that you are correct. This means giving your opinions (positive and negative) on the work of others and your own opinions based on what you have read and learned. You need to evaluate arguments, weigh evidence and develop a set of standards on which to base your conclusion.

As always in academic writing, all your opinions must be supported - you should produce your evidence and explain why this evidence supports your point of view. It is important to distinguish between (see Toulmin, 1958):

A simple example would be:

There are two main methods of presenting an argument, and in general the one you choose will depend on exactly your task (See Understanding the question and Organising the answer for more information).

Presenting an argument

a. The balanced view

In this case you present both sides of an argument, without necessarily committing yourself to any opinions, which should always be based on evidence, until the final paragraph.

At its simplest your plan for writing will be as follows:

Introduce the argument to the reader.

e.g. why it is a particularly relevant topic nowadays
or refer directly to some comments that have been voiced on it recently.


Reasons against the argument

State the position, the evidence and the reasons.


Reasons in favour of the argument.

State the position, the evidence and the reasons.


After summarising the two sides,
state your own point of view,
and explain why you think as you do.

b. The persuasive view

This second type of argumentative writing involves stating your own point of view immediately, and then trying to convince the reader by reasoned argument that you are right. The form of the piece of writing will be, in outline, as follows:

Introduce the topic briefly in general terms,

and then state your own point of view.

Explain what you plan to prove in the essay.


Reasons against the argument.

Dispose briefly of the main objections to your case. Provide evidence and your reasons.


Reasons for your argument

the arguments to support your own view,

with evidence, reasons and examples.


Conclusion - Do not repeat your opinion again.

End your essay with something memorable

e.g. a quotation or a direct question.


Read the following examples: Example 1, Example 2.


Try this exercise: Exercise 1


Presenting own point of view

There are many reasons why …

It is



bear in mind
point out


The first thing
First of all,

we have
I would like

to consider


The first thing to be considered is

It is a fact
There is no doubt
I believe


The first reason why … is …

First of all, …

The second reason why … is …

Secondly, …

The most important …

In addition, …

Furthermore, …

What is more, …

Besides, …

Another reason is …

A further point is …

Further details

You need to provide evidence to support your points of view and conclusions.

See: Providing support

You can use examples to support your conclusions.

See: Giving examples

And you will always give reasons and explanations for your claims and points of view.

See: Cause & effect

As you recognise and work with other people's points of view. Within all these opinions, you need to make yours clear.

See: Working with different voices

You will need to summarise other people's ideas, combine them and come to conclusions.

See: Reporting - paraphrase, summary & synthesis

You need to make sure that your point of view shows through clearly.

See: Taking a stance

You will compare and contrast differenet ideas and your own, discussing advantages and diasadvantage.

See: Comparing and contrasting

In all cases, points of view may be qualified and generalisations may be made.

See: Generalising

You may also have different degrees of certainty about your claims.

See: Expressing degree of certainty

At various stages during your argument, you will need to sum up and come to a conclusion.

See: Drawing conclusions


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