The Art of Effective Argument
Sometimes we wish to use another source to express our point, but we don’t know how to best include the quote or use it to further our arguments. This is especially true in an academic situation when the assignment requires a certain number of outside sources; in turn, students insert the quotes for the grade, not the argument.
How do we construct the most effective arguments? How do we also prevent our sources from becoming the main content with little of our own thoughts and ideas?
There are actually two main things we want to avoid when constructing effective arguments people will read, share, and discuss. One is using quotes for the sake of using quotes, and the other is pulling quotes out of context.
With using quotes, we supplement our own, original argument. These quotes provide extra information, evidence, and feasibility for your content. Your content is not supposed to consist of multiple quotes that readers have to sift through and make their own conclusions on what you were trying to say. Expert quotes are only the seasoning; your content is the meat. You can ingest your words just fine, but the quotes give leverage. But too many can choke the reader.
You want to use a quote for your content, or you want to reference research or someone else’s experience. How do you know your source will work for your purposes?
First off, never use anything out of context.When it comes to using sources, the worst thing you can do for your argument is to pull words out of context from another person. Writers and speakers do this all the time. All the time. And the audience pounces on it like frogs. The easiest way to lose authority and respect is to remove context from your sources. In most situations the contextual problem happens because the writer wants to argue against the other side where the quote comes from. They take a sentence that makes it seem like the other person said something that they really didn’t. People rarely know how to professionally counter argue, hence the slander and libel. The less damaging action is when the quote is still out of context but it’s done to coincide with the thesis. People are notorious for taking one thing someone else said out of the rest of the speech and using it for their purposes, but their main point is completely unrelated to anything this original person said. Stick to the integrity of the original work. Establish that the expert is agreeing with what you’re wanting to say.
In academia, it’s almost impossible to write a paper without including another source. And because of this it’s also almost impossible to not insert a quote for the sake of inserting a quote. This can also happen in corporate environments when the writer wants to assert their opinion with another’s, but doesn’t quite know how to support their arguments.
If this is you, stop.
Step back. Go ahead, do it.
Think for a moment.
Ask yourself, how do I want approach my content? How can I support my points? What is the most important message I want to get across and in what ways do I want to purvey that message? Sometimes that helps.
Also, read the entire work. If it’s a long book, at least read the chapter and the introduction that explains what the book is about and what it’s trying to prove. Comprehension is necessary in this case. When you really understand what the author says, you’re equipped with an effective message to use.
Know your purpose. Know everything you want to say and how you want to prove what you’re saying. If your goal is compiling a general collection of what others say, than by all means, quote like crazy. However, this isn’t typical in most cases, so the best thing you can do is understand your own argument first.