Argumentation Tips

There are many different approaches to understanding argumentation. What we present here is one categorization and explanation of how argument works and it is based on Aristotle’s work Rhetoric.  

Please follow this link to our guide to the Rhetorical Triangle:






Beyond the Rhetorical Triangle:

Now that we have the audience in mind and understand the interplay between Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, here are some helpful hints to make your argument unstoppable!





Crucial to having a strong message, evidence should be used to support all of your major claims.


1. Be specific as you can - It is better to tell the audience an exact statistic on the number of deaths that occur each year from drunk driving than to just say “Many people die from drunk driving each year”. This will improve both the credibility you have as a speaker as well as the credibility of your message.


2. Use Novel Evidence: It is difficult to change minds with information that your audience already knows. The chance to persuade comes from either new information you present to your audience or creative and novel ways of interpreting and presenting old and well known information.


3. Use Credible Sources: In order to come across as honest and correct, it is important to use sources that are objective in the eyes of our audience. For example, when discussing the safety of offshore drilling would you be more likely to believe testimony from an impartial marine biologist or a BP executive?






It is important to support your claims using concrete analysis. Here is some information that describes the basic structure of how we normally organize our thoughts.


From Specific Instances: This form of reasoning takes specific examples and then makes a generalization from those examples. Example: My father is a businessman and always wears a tie, my uncle is also a businessman and always wears a tie, and my neighbor is a businessman too and wears a tie. So, all business men wear ties. Be very careful with this form of reasoning, as it can easily lead to hasty generalizations that are not proven with the evidence at hand. With this form of reasoning it is hard to garner solid ground, even if you have many examples, you only have so much time in a speech.


From Principle: Here we move from a generalization and apply it to a specific example. When reasoning in this way it is crucial to provide evidence to support/prove your general principle.

Example:             1. All people are mortal.

      2. Socrates is a person

3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.



Fallacies –A fallacy is an error in logic and or reasoning that detracts from the legitimacy of your message.


Prepared by GVSU Speech Lab Consultants

Information adapted from Stephen Lucas' The Art of Public Speaking, Tenth Edition.


Page last modified May 7, 2014