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Rhetoric of Gaming: Spring 2013

CONSTRUCTING A SOPHISTICATED AND NUANCED


RESEARCH-BASED ARGUMENT
As you start to develop your claim for your research-based argument, you might find it helpful to
focus not only on what you want to argue, but how you want to argue it. That is, you might want
to evaluate what sort of claim would best suit your topic and the argument you want to make.

Five Types of Claims


According to author Nancy Wood (Perspectives on Argument 5th ed. NY: Pearson, 2007:158-172),
we can categorize almost all arguments as belonging to one of the following types: claims of
definition; claims of cause; claims of value; claims of policy; and claims of fact. Wood
suggests that we get a better sense of which type of argument it is (or that we want to
construct) by looking at the questions that it answers (or that we want to answer about it).
Many times the claim defines the structure of the entire paper; on occasion, it functions as a
supporting claim for the larger argument (so more than one claim might operate in the same
essay).
CLAIMS OF DEFINITION
1) What is it?
2) What is it like?
3) How should it be classified?
4) How should it be interpreted?
5) How does its usual meaning change in a particular context?
CLAIMS OF CAUSE
1) What caused it?
2) Where did it come from?
3) What are the effects?
4) What probably will be the results on a short or long term basis?
CLAIMS OF VALUE
1) How bad is it? How good?
2) How moral or immoral?
3) Of what worth is it?
4) Who says so?
5) What do these people value?
6) What values or criteria should I use to determine its goodness or badness?
CLAIMS OF POLICY
1) What should we do?
2) How should we act?
3) How can we solve this problem?
4) What course of action should we pursue?
CLAIMS OF FACT
1) Did it happen?
2) Is it True?
3) How do we know this?

** adapted from handouts by PWR instructors Donna Hunter and Scott Herndon **

Modes of Analysis
Another way to fashion a sophisticated claim is to think about different ways that you might
structure your analysis (that is, in a nuanced argument, you might not be arguing a pro-con
position, but instead might be performing a type of analysis that enriches your readers
understanding of your subject based on the claims you are making). These can be more
challenging types of structures, but also can yield more interesting essays.
1. Demystification: To reveal the inner workings of a tradition, event, product, or social
value. The key here is to distinguish between the explicit/stated purpose of the event and
the deep structure/implicit purpose of the event. That is, what does the example you are
using say its about, and what can you see happening that isnt discussed openly? This
technique works best when it reveals something unexpected; it succeeds by digging
deeper into your topic than most people would to expose something new and
unanticipated.
2. Contradiction or Paradox: To analyze a social practice in terms of two opposing
problems within a topic or specific example derived from your topic. This can be
expressed directly (explicit) in an examples rhetoric, or it can be hidden (tacit) within its
own structure or operation. Often, this mode of argumentation suggests that the example
is significant because its salient or conspicuous contradictions are hidden and abstracted
in the world around us. (In this regard, it is a variant of [1].) For example, we have
children play violent video games to show that having children play violent video games
are wrong.
3. Paradox: A variant of (2), paradox is a contradiction that offers no clean analytic
solution. In other words, we are caught in the critical web that we are trying to situate
ourselves above or beyond. How is it possible that we can see a problem so clearly, and
be so unable, even in our own lives, to escape or change it? This argumentative method
works in many ways, but often it is most effective in doling out the blame in a
surprisingly equal way, eschewing partisanship. Heres one example: "Paradox of
Success: the more successful a policy is in warding off some unwanted condition the less
necessary it will be thought to maintain it. If a threat is successfully suppressed, people
naturally wonder why we should any longer bother with it." (James Piereson, "On the
Paradox of Success," Real Clear Politics, September 11, 2006)
4. From Donna on paradox you can do this mode of analysis on a small scale in a paper,
or on a larger scale, governing the whole paper. Sometimes its just in the conclusion.
You might come to the conclusion, through analysis, that something is a paradox. Or you
might explore the implications of the fact that something is a paradox. Or you might look
for a solution for a paradox. Her example is the legal defense of guilty by reason of
insanity. On the one hand, we dont want to stigmatize the mentally insane by having a
plea like this. On the other hand, if we dont have a plea like this, the mentally unstable
will end up in mainstream prisons. How to resolve this paradox?
5. Juxtaposition: This method combines tactics by comparing two examples/case studies.
The trick to writing and delivering analyses through juxtaposition is in recognizing the
differences between the juxtaposed objects or events, and making it implicitly clear that
you recognize them.

** Slightly adapted from handouts by Donna Hunter and Scott Herndon **

** Slightly adapted from handouts by Donna Hunter and Scott Herndon **