Two Approaches to Argument

You may argue for your thesis by way of two major routes:  the routes of deduction or that of induction.  Most papers combine both approaches.

Deductive Argumentation

Deductive argumentation seeks to demonstrate the truth of the thesis by logical reasoning. To argue in this way, a writer usually begins with a single fact or axiomatic statement and derives from that single observation implications that lead logically to the affirmation of the thesis.

Inductive Argumentation

A second approach to developing an argument is inductive. This approach consists in gathering evidence to support the author’s thesis and presenting this evidence to the reader.

Consider the following inductively supported thesis:

 A careful investigation of the text of the gospel of John and the testimony of the early church regarding the text, must conclude that the “disciple who testifies to these things” in John 21:24 refers to St. John the apostle, whose eyewitness accounts have been collected and edited by a redactor.

This thesis depends upon considering evidence from two major sources: the gospel itself and later Christian testimony about its authorship. Since there are two major sources of evidence, it would be natural for the writer to divide the body of the paper into two corresponding sections—one discussing internal evidence, the other discussing external evidence. Each of these sections would probably have its own natural subdivisions. 

Perhaps the first section would contain a discussion of the use of the term “beloved disciple” in John’s gospel, followed by a detailed analysis of how this language functions in the particular text in question. The second section on external evidence might include both a discussion on other evidence of apostolic authorship but also some evaluation of the reliability of those sources.

A simple outline of the body might look like this:

 A.  Evidence from the Gospel

1. “Beloved disciple” passages

2. Close reading of John 21:24

B. Later Christian Testimony

Combining Deductive and Inductive Argumentation

It is the conceptual shape of the argument that determines the format of the actual paper. Whether the argument proceeds in a mostly deductive or mostly inductive manner, the paper should be organized according to the writer’s own conception of the argument. A complex or specialized body of evidence might require a more creative method of presentation in order not to overwhelm the reader. If the argument is based on historical evidence, how is that evidence best arranged (geographically, chronologically, topically)? Or, if you are writing a paper on a biblical text, perhaps it is simplest to present your argument by simply walking through the text verse by verse.

In each case, the writer must make decisions about which format will provide the reader with the clearest and most persuasive presentation of the argument.


Other "Body of Your Paper" topics:

The Body of Your Paper

Deciding on Structure

Anticipating Objections 


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