Argument Structure in Academic Writing: Achieving Clarity and Simplicity

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Argument Structure in Academic Writing: Achieving Clarity and Simplicity

In the journey towards earning a higher academic degree, crafting a compelling and well-structured argument for your thesis or dissertation often emerges as a daunting task. It’s not uncommon to find yourself wrestling with questions like – How do I form a strong thesis statement? How can I ensure my argument is logical, coherent, and persuasive?

Let’s address these commonly asked student questions upfront and lay the groundwork for what is to follow. To start with, a strong thesis statement typically clarifies the central point that your entire dissertation aims to prove or disprove. This statement should be clear, concise, and specific, providing a roadmap for your argument. It’s not merely a statement of fact but rather a claim that requires evidence. The power of your academic work largely hinges on this crucial component.

Now, ensuring your argument remains logical and coherent calls for a carefully thought-out structure. Your argument should smoothly flow from one point to the next, creating a logical progression of ideas that would guide your reader through your research journey. Coherence, on the other hand, is about consistency and relevancy, ensuring that every piece of information, every point, and every piece of evidence you present ties back in a meaningful way to your central argument.

Positively overwhelming? It might seem so at first, but with the aid of an intuitive “if-then” framework, these daunting tasks become considerably simpler. By learning to identify, analyze, and articulate cause-and-effect relationships using this structure, understanding and communicating complex ideas become a lot more manageable.

In this blog post, we will introduce you to a seven-step approach to simplify and summarize cause-and-effect relationships. These steps will guide you to develop your argument in a more organized, coherent manner, making it easier for your readers (and you) to navigate your thesis or dissertation. Whether you’re working on a complex problem or trying to organize your thoughts effectively, this “if-then” framework has a broader applicability that can aid in enhancing understanding and clarity.

So, let’s embark on this journey of making sense of complex ideas, addressing concerns, and unraveling tangled threads of thought to present a strong, logical argument in your thesis or dissertation. Remember, every great piece of academic work starts with a powerful argument, and we are here to help you lay that cornerstone.

Step 1: Identifying Your Main Points for Argument Structure in Academic Writing

The first step in crafting a robust argument for your thesis or dissertation begins with the identification of your main ideas or theories. But what exactly constitutes a main point, and how do you recognize these in your work? These questions often linger in a student’s mind.

Your main points or ideas are those fundamental components that your argument hinges on. They serve as the backbone of your argument, providing the structure and substance around which all of your supporting evidence, literature review, and discussions revolve. Essentially, the key findings, theories or perspectives that you wish to express, argue for or against, prove or disprove, make up your main points. 

Here’s how to go about identifying these main points.

Read Carefully

A careful reading of your research will help you discern the main ideas you’re discussing. It could be the findings of your experiments, the patterns you observed, or the theories you’re exploring.

Look for Purpose

What do you intend to prove or disprove with your research? The framework of your argument will revolve around this purpose.

Deconstruct Your Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement can be a useful tool in pinpointing your main ideas. Break it down into smaller sections to identify the main points embedded within it.

Consider the Scope

Are there broad concepts in your work that you focus on in multiple sections or chapters? These recurring themes are likely to be your main points.

Review Your Literature

The literature review can also be a guide to identifying your main points, as it highlights the narratives or theories that your research is built on.

As you identify these anchor points, make sure they are sufficiently broad to offer expansive exploration, yet narrow enough to ensure depth and specificity in the argument. This core foundation sets the stage for the successive steps of building a compelling argument.

Step 2: Determining Connections

Having identified your primary points, the next step is to determine how these ideas interact with each other. Many students often ask – How do I identify the relationships between my main points? How can I establish the cause-effect or “if-then” relationships effectively? How can I have a strong Argument Structure in Academic Writing? Our guide helps structuring academic writing processes, taking a firm stance, and concluding effectively. Let’s dive into this.

Determining connections between your main points means figuring out logical relationships and dependencies that exist among different ideas inside your argument. It’s about understanding what led to what, identifying flows of influence or change – essentially mapping the cause-and-effect relationships between your significant points. You might use causal-loop diagrams (CLDs) to help.

The underlying structure of these connections could often be encapsulated in “if-then” statements. ‘If’ part refers to the cause or the condition, ‘then’ part is about the effect or the result. For instance, consider the following examples:

– If “Increase in carbon emissions” (Cause A) then “Rise in global temperatures” (Effect B).
– If “Decline in bee populations” (Cause A) then “Reduction in crop yields due to lack of pollination” (Effect B).

Here’s how to examine these connections

Trace the Impact

Look at each main point and consider its impacts inside your research. What other points are influenced by this? What are the effects this point could have? We’re not only looking for direct impacts, but indirect ones as well.

Consider Dependencies

How do your main points rely on, or result from, other points? Establish how the interdependencies between your main points contribute to your overall argument.

Formulate “If-Then” Statements

Identifying cause-effect relationships can be smoothed out by phrasing them as “if-then” statements. This not only helps clarify the connections but also makes it easier to explain and communicate them.

Mind the Complexity

Relationships among your points aren’t always linear or two-way. Sometimes, multiple causes might lead to a single effect or vice versa, as in: If A and B, then C. Remember to account for these complexities in your connection mapping.

Effectively mapping the connections between your main points helps ensure logical coherence in your argument. It allows you to create a compelling narrative stringing together your main ideas, thereby providing a clear roadmap for your reader to follow your argument.

Step 3: Creating a Visual Diagram for Argument Structure in Academic Writing

After identifying your main points and their connections, it’s time to visually illustrate your argument’s structure. However, the prospect often prompts questions from students such as: How do I depict my argument visually? Why is a visual representation necessary? And how can it benefit me?

Creating a visual diagram can seem like an extra task, but it is one that carries significant benefits. It serves as a graphical representation of your ideas and their relationships. It aids you in seeing the complete picture of your argument and the flow of logic within it. Let’s take a closer look at this process.

Start with Your Causes

Kick-start your diagramming process by picking up one of your main points that act as a cause. Draw lines from the cause towards its effects.

Diagramming Multiple Effects

Each effect you identify, consider if they impact or cause other points. If they do, draw additional lines from these effects towards those impacted points, forming a web of interconnected ideas.

Repeat the Process

Keep repeating the process until all your main points and their connections are represented.

Illustrating Multiple Causes

In certain cases, more than one cause may lead to the same effect. Remember to depict these in your diagram as well. For example, if Cause A and Cause B together lead to Effect C, your diagram should reflect this relationship.

Using a visual diagram can expose the strengths and potential weaknesses of your argument by illustrating the overall structure and the complex interplay of ideas. It can help you, and your readers, navigate the intricate layers of your argument more effectively, making each step of your logical progression easier to follow. 

And who knows – in the process of visualizing your argument, you might discover aspects that you hadn’t initially considered. So go ahead and let your creativity flow, all in the service of clarity and comprehension.

Step 4: Evaluating Your Argument

Once you have identified your main points, established their connections, and visualized the structure, it’s time to critically evaluate your argument. This step tends to invite questions from students, such as: How do I identify weaknesses or contradictions? What do I do if I find areas in my argument that need more evidence or context? How should I deal with insights that suggest changing my argument? We will tackle these concerns in this section.

Critically evaluating your argument involves reading through your work with a questioning mind, looking for areas that might need improvement, evidence that may need strengthening, or contradictions that require addressing. It’s a stage where you don your evaluator’s hat and look at your work objectively, open to potential changes and improvements.

Utilize Your Diagram

The visual diagram created in the previous step should be your starting point for evaluation. Look at the structure outlined in the diagram – are there points that don’t connect well? Are there areas where the logical flow seems disjointed?

Seek Contradictions

Keep an eye out for contradictions within your argument. Do you have any points that seem to conflict with each other? If so, you’ll either need to determine which point is valid or provide additional context to explain the contradiction.

Identify Weak Areas

Look out for points in your argument that lack robust evidence, have little support from the literature, or don’t seem to align seamlessly with your main argument. These weak areas might need more research, additional evidence, or rewording to ensure they hold up under scrutiny.

Embrace Changes

Most importantly, remember that it’s perfectly okay to change or adapt your argument based on the insights from your evaluation. An open-minded willingness to refine your argument usually leads to a stronger final result – so don’t shy away from the change!

By evaluating your argument critically, you are refining it to better withstand critique, enhance clarity, and enrich its persuasive power. It’s like polishing a gem – the process may take diligence and time, but the results are worth the effort. Stick with it, and soon you’ll have an argument that’s as robust as it is compelling!

Step 5: Condensing and Simplifying

Breaking down complex ideas and simplifying them is an art form of its own. Many students expressly ask: How can I simplify my argument without losing its substance? What’s the best way to ensure my argument remains accessible and understandable? We will address these common concerns in this section.

Condensing and simplifying call for streamlining your argument to its bare bones – keeping only what’s necessary and stripping away the fluff. This ensures that your argument stays focused on essential points, thereby improving its accessibility and comprehension.

Essence Over Extras

The trick here is to separate the wheat from the chaff – focus only on the most crucial points, the key cause-and-effect relationships. Strip away the excessive details or related tangents that do not directly contribute to your argument’s backbone.

High-Level Overview

Aim for a simple, high-level summary that captures the essence of your argument. This means you distill the key points of your argument to their core and present them in an easy-to-understand format.

Clarity is Key

Remember, the goal here isn’t to dumb down your argument but to make it more concise and clear. Reduce complex jargons, clarify obscure points and make sure your argument is understandable even to a layperson.

Check Completeness

Even though you are simplifying, ensure your summary still presents a complete argument – from the problem statement and key points to the fallout and conclusion.

Simplification doesn’t necessitate diluting the quality or depth of your argument. It’s about reshaping your argument in a way that is crystal clear and straightforward, improving its overall impact and effectiveness. This step of simplification will help your argument resonate better with your readers, making it a more impactful piece of work.

Step 6: Drafting a Clear Summary

With your arguments identified, connected, visualized, evaluated, and simplified, you’re now ready to draft a clear summary. Many students often question: What should be included in my summary? How do I ensure my summary is easily understood? How can I avoid unnecessary jargon? This section will provide a guide to these questions.

A clear summary is a brief, concise, and coherent run-down of your argument. It summarizes the key points you’re trying to convey, why they matter, and what overall conclusion they lead to.

Keep it Short and Simple

Your summary should cover the main points of your argument without delving into the specifics. It should be clear, straightforward and concise. Aim to be precise yet impactful.

Avoid Complex Jargon

Steer clear from unnecessary technical terms, complex jargon or academic language that might not be familiar to a broader audience. A clear summary, to be truly clear, needs to be comprehensible to all.

Focus on the Argument

Make sure your summary stays focused on your argument. Include your main points, important cause-and-effect relationships, and the conclusions derived.

Highlight the Importance

Make sure it’s obvious why your argument matters. What does it prove or disprove? What does it contribute to the field? Why should someone care about it? Answering these questions in your summary helps highlight the value of your argument.

A well-structured summary serves as a mini-map of your argument for the reader, providing an at-a-glance view of your central ideas and primary conclusions. It encapsulates your complete argument in a nutshell, making it an eminent part of your dissertation or thesis. Your aim should be to make this summary a compelling, stand-alone piece of reading.

Step 7: Reviewing and Refining

Upon drafting a clear summary, we’ve now reached the final step: reviewing and refining your work. Questions often posed by students at this stage include: How do I effectively review my argument? What should I be looking for during my review process? How do I refine my argument? Here, we will venture into answering these questions.

The final review is a crucial component in ensuring that your argument is not only logical but also articulated in a clear, concise, and comprehensive manner. This step involves actively looking for ways to refine and elevate the quality of your argument.

Read for Clarity

Ensure that your argument, in its entirety, is easy to follow. This means checking that your main points are transparent, the logical flow of ideas is clear, and the summary captures the essence of your argument effectively.

Check for Comprehensibility

Make sure that all elements of your argument, including cause-and-effect relationships, are comprehensible to your target audience, even if they may not be experts in your field of study.

Ensure Consistency

Check that your argument maintains consistency throughout, aligning with your stated purpose or thesis statement.

Look for Unaddressed Aspects

Are there any points or questions left unaddressed or unanswered? Do the dependencies and relationships between your main points make sense, and are they correctly illustrated?


Make necessary tweaks and adjustments to improve the clarity, comprehensibility, and consistency of your argument. Refining could mean simplifying a complex sentence, restructuring a confusing part, or expanding on a point where needed.

Remember, really good work is seldom perfect on the first go. Excellent academic work often results from a continuous review and refinement process. It’s about being open to self-constructive feedback and being willing to make the necessary changes to ensure your argument is as strong, clear, and persuasive as it can be. Now, you stand ready with a refined argument that not only adds value to your academic journey but also contributes meaningfully to your field of study.

Using Your Clear Argument Outline to Enhance Communication and Support Your Writing

Once you’ve shaped a clear, concise, and comprehensive outline of your argument, you’ve essentially forged a powerful tool you can use in multiple ways. This section will explore two primary applications: enhancing your communication with the reader and supporting your dissertation writing process.

Communicating with Your Reader

Having a clear outline of your argument allows you to steer the reader through the progression of your ideas, making it considerably easier for them to follow your thought process. Let’s delve into how you can leverage this in both written and visual mediums.

Written Communication

Your argument’s clear outline serves as a roadmap guiding your reader through your dissertation. It helps structure your ideas and findings in a coherent and logical manner, reducing confusion and increasing comprehension. For instance, introducing your paper with an abbreviated version of your argument outline offers your reader a glimpse of what to expect, setting the stage for the details that follow.

Visual Communication

Visual depictions of your argument’s outline provide an immediate snapshot of your argument flow. Diagrams and flowcharts, for instance, can illustrate cause-and-effect relationships, linkages between ideas, and the overall structure of your argument. Use them strategically to visually lead your reader through your argument’s progression.

Supporting Your Dissertation Writing

A well-crafted outline is a key to efficient and effective dissertation writing. Here’s how it can be of assistance:

Your clear argument outline serves as a blueprint for your dissertation, showing what to write and where it fits. Feel free to refer to it frequently to keep your writing aligned with your argument flow.
Transitioning Between Sections:

Guiding Your Writing

Using your outline can help you create smooth transitions between different sections of your dissertation. Seeing how your main points are ordered and interlinked helps in guiding your reader naturally from one section to the next.

Maintaining Focus

The outline helps you stay focused on your argument’s key points as you delve into more details. It can keep you tethered to your central argument, preventing you from meandering into less relevant territories.

Checking Coherence

Lastly, it serves as a checklist to ensure all ideas remain coherent and supporting evidence relates back to your main points.

In conclusion, a well-developed, clear argument outline not only simplifies the writing process but also enhances your dissertation’s readability and comprehension. It is a crucial part of effective communication of your work, doing justice to the ideas you’ve worked so hard to develop. Leveraging this tool allows you to create a well-structured, highly persuasive argument that can have the impact you desire on your reader.

Q: What is an academic argument?

A: An academic argument is a reasoned and well-supported perspective or claim that is made in an academic context, such as a research paper or essay.

Q: How does academic writing differ from other types of writing?

A: Academic writing is more formal and structured than other types of writing. It requires a clear argument, supported by evidence and logical reasoning.

Q: What is the structure of an academic argument?

A: The structure of an academic argument typically includes an introduction that presents the thesis or main claim, body paragraphs that provide reasons and evidence to support the thesis, and a conclusion that summarizes the main points and reinforces the argument.

Q: How can I make my academic argument more effective?

A: To make your academic argument more effective, you should clearly state your thesis, provide strong reasons and evidence to support your argument, address counter-arguments, and use rhetorical strategies to persuade your readers.

Q: Are there any resources available to help me improve my academic writing skills?

A: Yes, there are many resources available to help you improve your academic writing skills. You can consult writing guides, attend writing workshops, and seek feedback from professors or writing centers.

Q: Can I use personal opinions in an academic argument?

A: While personal opinions can inform your argument, it is important to support your claims with evidence and reasoning. Academic arguments should be based on scholarly research and analysis.

Q: How can I organize my academic argument effectively?

A: To organize your academic argument effectively, you should create a clear and logical structure, use topic sentences to guide your reader through each paragraph, and ensure that each paragraph supports your main thesis.

Q: What is the role of evidence in an academic argument?

A: Evidence is crucial in an academic argument as it helps to support your claims and validate your argument. This evidence can take many forms, including data, statistics, case studies, or examples.

Q: What is the difference between a strong argument and a weak argument?

A: A strong argument is one that is well-supported by evidence, reasoning, and logical coherence. A weak argument, on the other hand, lacks sufficient evidence, logical reasoning, and may contain fallacies or inconsistencies.

Q: How can I address counter-arguments in my academic argument?

A: It is important to address counter-arguments in your academic argument by acknowledging opposing viewpoints and providing evidence or reasoning to refute them. This strengthens your argument by demonstrating your awareness of alternative perspectives and your ability to respond to them.