Chapter 7: Making Your Own Argument
Chapters 1 through 6 of this textbook focused on close reading. Those chapters walked through how to identify another author’s argument and analyze it by focusing on key pieces of evidence in the first storey, linking that evidence to a specific argument within the text in the second storey, and then expanding the scope of the argument in the third storey.
However, not every assignment at the university level is a close reading. It is very common for a professor to give students an essay prompt or question (or a series of prompts or questions) and ask that students construct an argument to that question or prompt using scholarly research. In these cases, the professor is asking you to make an argument of your own. Chapters 7 through 13 of this textbook will describe how to write an effective university-level essay in which you make your own argument.
The good news is that the principles that we used to construct a three-storey close reading are exactly the same as the ones we will outline in the coming chapters. In order to make your own argument, you will:
- Begin with evidence that you acquire by analyzing a specific text in your first storey
- Combine that evidence with scholarly research to make a complex argument in your second storey
- Expand the scope of your argument in your third storey by considering the full results or consequences or solutions to the argument you raised in your second storey
As such, you will need the tools you developed in Chapters 1 through 6 as you close read other documents to get evidence for your first storey; you will also need to close read scholarly research to support your own argument in your second and third storeys.
The major difference, however, between a close reading of another work and making an argument of your own is the focus. In your close reading, you analyzed the author’s complex argument. When making your own argument, you will be close reading other documents and arguments and incorporating them into your argument, but the focus is always your own argument. You will use the same tools but add further complexity and your own ideas and analysis.
When asked to construct your own complex argument, you should first do a close reading of the essay prompt(s) and question(s), as we outlined in Chapter 1, patterns, key words, new words, and contrasts.
Forming your own argument is a slow and deliberate process and begins with the essay prompt or assignment guidelines that you are given. After you have read the assignment guidelines very carefully and asked your professor any initial questions, begin each of your assignments by identifying what you are being asked to do.