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Critical Thinking: Step 5: Structuring Arguments

Argument Activity

Rank the following arguments from 1-5 (5 being the best) as “reason” for taking an umbrella to school.

  • March is usually a rainy month, and this is the first day of March. It will probably rain today.
  • I listened to three weather forecasters last night and they, all predicted rain for this afternoon. It will probably rain today.
  • Last week, one of the television weather forecasters said rain was a possibility for today. It will probably rain today, and I’m going to be carrying some books that I don’t want to get wet.
  • The weather predictions on station WETT have always been accurate, and last night they said the rain will be heavy most of today. It will probably rain.

Structuring an Argument

Step 5: Structuring Arguments

The tabs in this box are laid out in the order of which you should consider structuring your arguments. Click through each tab to view the step in structuring an argument, as well as good and bad examples of that step.

Clearly state your main point in the form of an assertion. This should be an arguable point - NOT a fact. 

Good Example: All shopping centers should be smoke free. 

Bad Example: Smoking causes cancer.

Offer insight into the main idea of the argument by providing background information. 

Good Example: Most shopping malls are enclosed, and when one person smokes inside, it can affect the health of those around them.

Bad example (This does not support the main idea): Shopping malls have stores in them, and some of those stores sell tobacco.

It is up to you (not your reader or conversation partner) to provide specific information to prove the main points of your argument.

Good Example: According to the Centers for Disease Control (2014), "cigarette smoking kills more than 480,00 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke."

Bad Example: Lots of people smoke and then subsequently die from lung cancer.

In your own words, clearly and thoroughly offer evidence and support for your argument. 

Good Example: Children of smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke at home. Doctors suggest that there is an increased risk for them to contract lung cancer despite having never smoked. 

Bad Example: As a child of a smoker, I was exposed to secondhand smoke at home. My doctor says that I have an increased risk to get lung cancer, even though I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.

Any argument must take into account the opposing points of view. Acknowledge the existence of differing views and have a clear counter-point to that perception.

Good Example: While many believe they should be free to smoke wherever they choose, statistics show that smoking puts otherwise healthy people at risk for disease. As an alternative to being able to smoke wherever they desire, smokers should be provided with a smoking area outside of the enclosed mall environment.

Bad Example: Statistics show that smoking puts otherwise healthy people at risk for cancer. All malls should be smoke and alcohol free.

Without using the exact phrasing, clearly restate and summarize your thesis/argument.

Good Example: To provide the healthiest environment for everyone, all enclosed shopping centers should be smoke free with designated smoking areas.

Bad Example: Smoking causes cancer and all shopping centers should be smoke free.

Critical Thinking Videos

TechNyou. (2011, December 11). Critical thinking part 1: A valuable argument [Video file]. Retrieved from

TechNyou. (2011, December 11). Critical thinking part 2: Broken logic [Video file]. Retrieved from