Reading for this week (February 5-9):

From Elements of Argument:

  • This week's lecture is on Chapter 3--"Claims" (page 51-79)--which is given below.
  • Skim through the chapter and learn how to write and support an effective claim or thesis
  • You also need to learn how to write an Annotated Bibliography (page 380, Elements of Argument), for your next written assignment.  You will find the directions on NC 11. 
  • Also, please keep in mind that it is time to begin serious work on your Term Paper.  The rough draft of the paper should be posted on NC 15 on March 2 for group feedback. 
  • Do not wait until the end of the month (February) to work on your research project.  You will not be able to do a good job if you wait that long.

From A Writer's Reference:

  • For additional help with the research process and citation format etc. look into A Writer's Reference or the NortonConnect Handbook information on Research Papers.

What’s due this week (February 5-9:
(a) Annotated Bibliography on three resources geared towards your Term Paper--February 7 on NC 11 and (b) Seminar 3 final draft--February 8 on NC 10  (both for grade)


Lecture on


Chapter 3

Claims are equivalent to your Thesis.

Writers can make at least three different kinds of Claims in their arguments: (a) Claims of Fact,   (b) Claims of Value, and (c) Claims of Policy

I.   Claims of Fact

They deal mainly with factual data, which are verifiable--can be validated--and no controversy exists as far as the evidences are concerned. 

  • For example: If someone claims that Spokane is a city for retired people, all he/she has to do is to prove the point with existing statistics, number of R.V.'s and Bingo places!  Another example, another factual claim: Students study in Community Colleges because these higher educational institutions are cheaper and carry an Open-Door policy.  This claim can also be verified by comparing the enrolment numbers in any given year between several Community Colleges and Four-year colleges in the locality.

  • These claims can be verifiable through standard reference materials like "almanacs, telephone directories, scientific data," statistical information, testimonials, sociological profiles, media news. 
    The sources need to be highly reliable and accepted as standard measuring guides.

  • Some problems related to Claims of Fact

    1. One problem with this type of claim is that the data is constantly being modified, with the quick changes in social, political, geographic, and cultural scenarios.  The writer has to keep abreast of the newest information/data available to prove his/her case.

    2. Sometimes Claims of Fact are difficult to prove because
      (a) The proof  may be difficult to obtain (Refer to the Bilingual Programs example in text--page 52)        
      (b) There are often exception to the rule, and hence the writer has to choose certain "qualifiers" carefully!
      (c) The more complex the subject is, the more difficult it will be to prove the claim; "the more controversial the subject, the more facts and testimony" will be necessary (53); the readers may want testimonials from more than one or two sources; unfortunately, more than one or two sources may not be available on the subject for so many different reasons.

    3. Proofs, evidences, statistics, testimonies, etc. also need to be taken from "Reliable Authorities," experts on the field, more than one witness, etc. for "accurate observations" and factual reports. 
      (a)  This is one reason why serious arguers do not depend on the Internet sources--because anyone and everyone can express an opinion on the Internet.  In a case like this, more authoritative and accepted sources (like published materials, relaiable media programs, news, etc., and authoritative statemrnts) are called for.
      (b) Writers of Claims of Fact need to follow guidelines to find out about their sources/authorities to evaluate their "reliability": "the rank or title of the experts, the acceptance of their publications by other experts, their association with reputable universities, research centers, or think tanks" (54).

    4. Yet another problem that might arise is when experts do not agree.  If this is the case,  after comparing the various points-of-view by different authorities/experts, you need to decide which data/information will help support you own claim and go your direction.  A more detailed discussion on this problem is on page 166-168 in your text.

    5. Another more frustrating situation is for you to distinguish between "facts and inferences."  A fact is easily verifiable; however, an inference is not always factual--but an interpretation (by someone) based on available facts.  An inference normally offers "probabilities."

      :  There will always be a shadow of doubt or ambiguity when you use inferences to support your Claims of Fact.  (Refer to the detailed discussion on the topic "Excessive television viewing has caused the steady decline in the reading ability of children and teenagers" on page 55 in your text.)

    • Defending a Claim of Fact:

      1. Your claim should be clearly stated, at the beginning of the essay (readers look for a thesis statement/claim at the end of the Introductory paragraph).

      2. Define clearly all "controversial or ambiguous" terms for the readers' benefit, whenever you are unsure whether the readers would recognize or understand the idea / concept / term / issue etc. 

        (This is one reason why you should begin with a brief summary of the opposing viewpoints or what the controversy is, when you bring in essays/articles written by various writers in your text.)

      3. Your supporting evidences should be adequate--not too much, not too few.  Using one specific example may not always be convincing enough (Reflect on all the comments I made on your seminar papers so far about this problem, when you may not have used sufficient evidences or if you used generalized hypothesis, rather than specific evidences / case-studies / examples.)

      4. Follow a progressive order in presenting both your reasons for your claim/point-of-view or your supporting evidences--meaning move from the least important reason to the most, or vice versa.   It should be clear in your development which way you are moving, another reason for using good transitional expressions.

    • Skim through the annotated essay "Cocaine is Even Deadlier Than We Thought" on page 56 for clearer understanding of the format and the order of reasoning.

II.  Claims of Value

  • Claims of Value offer the writer's "judgment" on a controversial issue

  • They present "approval or disapproval," and they "attempt to prove that some action, belief, or condition is right or wrong, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, worthwhile or undesirable" (60). Normally, writers present their "preferences and/or prejudices" (61) and the   choice may not  be easily refuted or disputed.

    For example, in an essay titled "Why Don't We Complain?" William F. Buckley, Jr. claims that Americans do not complain in any adverse situation; he offers three (or four) scenarios--one in a hot train compartment, one in a movies theater, one at a restaurent, and one at a ski shop.  In each of these situations, he showed the reader--with great descriptive details--how despite the frustration or discomfort, he and others like him did not complain.  It is definitely a value judgment and readers--based on their own experiences--may agree or disagree with Buckley.  They may argue that Americans do complain a lot--or else why are there so many law suits etc.    

    So far, in the two seminar papers, you have been using this method--claiming your approval or disapproval of the two issues: whether abolishing grades is a good or a bad idea; whether censoring Internet sites (children being exposed to these sites) is worthwhile or undesirable (considereing our First Amendment rights).

  • Some problems related to Claims of Value:

  1. Despite the fact that Claims of Value cannot always be disputed, they are often challenging and not completely favored because after all they offer an arguer's personal preferences.

  2. Readers are not always sympathetic towards Claims of Value because there are often some standard beliefs that may restrict the readers from accepting anything and everything: these standards include their ethical and moral values, or their social, political, religious, and cultural attributes, and even aesthetic values.  This is one reason why people have difficulties in agreeing about or even coming to terms with abortion issues, gun-control issues, censorship issues, euthenesia, capital punishment, family relationships,   disciplinary methods, declining moral values and other current concerns or problems in society.

  3. As a writer, you can only guess--and not be completely assured--as to what system of values your audience may abide by.  Fortunately, there ARE certain standards that human beings are comfortable with, and as long as you have maintained those standrds, you Claims of Value will have some weight.

  4. Remember, you cannot persuade or convince all the people all of the times, so expect some resistence!

  • Defending a Claim of Fact:

  1. Clearly define in your argument the values you are "defending" and establish the fact that these values are important for a common good (As for example your views on whether we should or shouldn't censor the Internet for our children's sake: some of you approved censorship in this situation, and some of you didn't, but you both had to show [prove] logically why you came to thae conclusion. )

  2. Emphasize the reasons why your claims of value are significant for the overall benefit of society

  3. The terms of the value system are often "abstract"; thereore, you need to provide your reader with ample evidences/examples, drawing them from real-life situations so your readers can see them, relate to them, and hopefully accept them as valid evidences.  (Once again, this is what I have been trying to tell you through my comments: Specific illustrations are always needed as evidence to strengthen your arguments.)

  4. Use expert opinions to support your claims of value, saying that there are others who share your opinion.  (That is why, you need to quote the authors from the text which works as a good reference source.)

Note: "Kids in the Mall" is a well-analyzed sample paper on the Claims of Value.  Note how the reasons are qualified by the writer and supported by authoritative data and testimonials.

III.    Claims of Policy:

  • Claims of Policy "advocate adoption of policies or courses of action because problems have arisen that call for solution" (73).  These claims persist on how certains social conditions should be.  (Example: Paul Goodman's claim that "Grading should be abolished"; or when someone claims that "Voluntary prayer should be permitted in public schools" [73].)  In each of these claims, the writer wants to convince the audience that the issue under consideration poses a problem, and something needs to be done to solve this problem.

  • For such a claim, you may simultaneously use Claims of Fact (to show existing statistics or data, emphasizing the current faulty or unsatisfactory conditions) and/or Calims of Value (to show that the values we believe in are being jeopardized, and something needs to be done).

  • Based on your findings, you should always offer an alternative or a solution so the situation (plagued by the problem) could be stabilized or improved.

  • Again, you need to guess your readers' reaction to your demand or appeal for a change of policy.  They will be skeptical and not very sympathetic to any changes in the existing social order.  Some may have their own agenda.  These are the readers you are trying to convince when you are proposing a change.  You have to be very carefull with the words you choose or the solution you suggest--without offending traditional views, coercing your readers, or being insincere with your supporting evidences.

  • Defending a Claim of Policy:

    1. Your claim and proposal should be clearly presented--defining all complex terms, clarifying any anbiguities etc.

    2. Emphasize the fact that a change IS needed, for the common good of all

    3. Always "consider the opposing arguments" (73) and guess the kinds of questions your audience may ask.   Answer those possible questions in the body of your essay

    4. Your main emphasis will lie in supporting (proving) you point and assert that the change of policy you are suggesting will benefit all

    5. The supporting evidence should, without doubt, be strong: reliable data, authoritative and expert opinions (researched), and a plausible (logical) solution.  Keep in mind your audeince's expectations of standards.

    NOTE: For a detailed analysis, skim through the essay "Happiness Is a Warm Planet" (77).

This is a highlight of the Chapter 3--"Calims."  Understanding the constraints and the cautionary measure will help you not only with the next two Seminar papers but specifically the Term Paper.   You have to be very careful in presenting your thesis and your supporting evidences--with as much specific evidences as you can--because you will be dealing with highly-controversial issues, making value judgments, suggesting policy changes, and offering solutions if the issue is a problem.  Therefore, this chapter will be very useful to review agian before you begin writing your Term Paper. 






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