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Strategies for Developing Support
for Argument/Persuasion Essays


Good arguments are structured around clear reasons in support of the thesis (or claim), and each reason needs specific evidence to serve as grounds or backing for that reason. This guide specifically focuses on developing support for reasons, or using the language from the Guide to Development, this guide focuses on developing Secondary Supports for Primary Supports.

1)  Make sure that each paragraph presents ONE reason in support of the position.

            e.g.  I support _______ because ________________________ .

            e.g.  I support continuing funding for the space program because it helps our economy.

2)  Examine closely what each Primary Support (REASON) is asking you to support.  Then list your Secondary Supports.

            ASK:  What support or evidence is there for this reason to be true?  In what ways is it true?

e.g.  Primary Support:  I support continuing funding for the space program because it helps the economy.

You ask:  What support do I have for the assertion that space exploration helps our economy?  What evidence is there in support of the assertion that space exploration helps the economy.  In what ways does it help the economy?

                        Ways this is true--  (Secondary Supports)

                                    1) it provides jobs

                                    2) it stimulates innovation  in products

                                    3) it helps America be a leader in exporting technology around the world

3) For each Secondary Support you list, find some specific, detailed support to back it up.        
Sometimes it helps to prompt this "downshifting" to detail with these transition words:  for instance, for example, specifically, one example comes from, in fact.

            e.g. Secondary support with detail:

One way the space program helps the economy is by providing jobs.  For instance, NASA alone employs thousands of workers in Texas and Florida, and this does not even count all the jobs provided by space contractors all over the country.


Strategies for Collecting Data to Develop an Essay's Support

Before beginning these strategies, you should have a good sense of your Subject, Essay Question, and Thesis (or your answer to the essay question). You should also have a good idea of the Primary Supports or Reasons you will use to support your Thesis. See the other guides on Arriving at a Thesis and Brainstorming to Define Reasons for help getting to this point.

Strategy #1: Textual Evidence Sheets

This strategy asks you to devote a separate page for each Reason and find textual evidence for that particular Reason. State the CLAIM/THESIS + REASON at the top of the page to make sure you stay anchored in the most important part of the essay--your thesis.

Then you will write down quotes from the text that you believe show, demonstrate, illustrate, or prove that your Reason is true or valid. For each bit of textual evidence, you will also write an explanation for how that quote is working to support the reason.


See example of Textual Evidence Sheet -- Open MS Word Template of evidence sheet


Strategy #2: Data Sheets

Another strategy is to create scrap pieces of paper to record your thinking on each part of your paper and gather "data." What is "data?" Data includes any information from your reading and research that supports your thinking. By sorting your data gathering according to your Primary Supports, you will find it much easier to write your draft using this evidence for support in your paper.

To do this strategy on your own via a computer, open the MS Word Template for making your own data sheets. You can certainly do this exercise with scratch piece of paper. See THIS example of data sheets done correctly. (See student example)

Get out five to ten scratch pieces of paper and devote a page for each part of your essay:

At the top of paper #1: write the Essay Question

At the top of paper #2: write your Answer or Thesis

Use these two sheets as work spaces for troubleshooting, refining, adjusting your ideas

At the top of paper #3: write your Thesis + your first Reason/Support

At the top of paper #4: write your Thesis + your second Reason/Support

--repeat this step for as many Reasons or Primary Supports you will develop in your paper

After you have these sheets ready related to each Reason/Support, spend time gathering data that will back up each one.

Ask of each Reason: What evidence or support is this reason calling on me to find and supply.

Find the quotes or facts or examples that will provide the concrete basis and support for your reason.
--list this data in any order
--collect as much as you can

When you are ready to write, you can use each data sheet as the raw material as you develop each body paragraph devoted to the different Reasons. You'll find that by gathering data you have done most all the heavy lifting for writing your paper. Donald Murray says that writers should write from an abundance of information, and these data sheets are a strategy you can use for gathering this information. When writing from multiple sources, data sheets can be important tools to help you sort information from these different sources into categories of support.

Example Data Sheets:

The following example shows a student set of data sheets. They are not an idea example because the student has not label the data sheets as I recommend. The labels have been added above.

Subject: Creon
Issue: Was Creon's end just? Was justice served on Creon by the end of the play?
Thesis: Creon's end was just, but there is still a sense of sympathy felt towards him.

Data Sheet 1: Essay Question


Data Sheet #2: Thesis
Data sheet should be used to write and rewrite the thesis statement in multiple different ways until the phrasing is sharp and on target with what the author thinks.

Data Sheet #3: Reason #1

Write on the top of the sheet the THESIS + REASON= Creon's end was just because his pride was destructive
Support needed showing that Creon's pride was destructive.


Fair job of collecting textual support. More support possible.

Data Sheet #4: Reason #2

THESIS + REASON = Creon's end was just because he showed no mercy so he should be shown no mercy.
Support needed that shows Creon showing no mercy.

Weaker job of collecting textual support. More support definitely possible--needs more specific reference to places in the text that show Creon not showing mercy.

Data Sheet #5: Reason #3

THESIS + REASON = Creon's end was just because he had not really changed before he faced his consequences.
Support needed that shows Creon had not changed at the end.

--needs more textual support




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