Inquiry-Based Argumentation

Developing an Inquiry-Based Argument: 1113 Unit 2 

An argument that grows out of a line of inquiry starts with a few central questions. This  worksheet is meant to guide you through the process of forming a line of inquiry and developing  a working claim.  For the sake of the Unit 2 paper, I will fill in some of the spaces with a variation of what your questions/inquiries might look like (highlighted). But you can use this guide for future writing projects in other classes, as well. It is a helpful tool to use when at any stage of the writing process. 

  1. Write down a central question that you think is interesting, important, and possible to answer in a 4-6 page paper. Or, if you are writing to a prompt, what questions should you ask in order to answer the prompt. Make sure to form the question so that it can actually be answered by the texts. 
    1. Assignment: Analyze a single text that advocates a point of view on a social or political issue that differs from your own, demonstrating an understanding of how the author’s worldview (and/or values) is revealed in the text.
    2. Central Question: What worldview (and/or values) are revealed in (insert text) on the topic of (insert sociopolitical issue)?
  1. Write down a few satellite questions (these will become your minor claims) that you will need to answer along the way to answering your central question. The answers to these questions will most likely be in the body of your essay. Try to keep the questions textually based! For the sake of this example, I added space for three. However, you may have more or less than that, depending on the complexity and length of the assignment. 
    1. Question 1: What position(s) does the author take in the text?
    2. Question 2: What are some specific arguments the author uses to support their position? 
    3. Question 3: What other information do I know about the author, or the topic in general, that reveals values and/or worldviews associated with the issue?
  1. Review your notes and gather your text. List some examples from the text that will help you  answer each question. The more detailed you are here, the more useful it will be when you draft the essay body. 
    1. Answer 1: 
    2. Answer 2: 
    3. Answer 3: 
  1. Using your satellite questions and answers, write working minor claims. 
    1. Minor Claim 1: 
    2. Minor Claim 2: 
    3. Minor Claim 3: 
  1. Write a “working claim or thesis.” Based on reviewing your notes, what type of claim will you try to make by answering your central question? 
    1. Example Working Claim or Thesis: In “Guns in America,” John Doe argues that current gun laws are sufficient and do not need further amendment. Doe addresses several popular counterclaims on the topic, demonstrating the complexity of this issue for Americans, and ultimately demonstrating that his own positions are shaped by his values of safety and freedom. 
  1. After writing down your “working claims,” you might need to re-visit your line of inquiry  and text. Do you need to change your questions slightly–or drastically? 

Forming an argument is a messy process! Don’t be surprised if you find your claim and questions starting to change as you begin to re-read the text and put together a paper.

Note: Each body paragraph will support the thesis, in some way. If you have a paragraph that deviates from the thesis, you will need to do one of two things: Rework the thesis or rework the paragraph. ALWAYS do a reverse outline of your essay before submitting a final draft to ensure that each body is relevant to the central claim or thesis.

Resource Credit: Created in combination with faculty at The University of Oklahoma for use in First-Year Composition.  

Copyright, 2022, Lamanda Beesley Conrad

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