READ: Elements of Argumentative Speaking

1 Claims

Making Claims in Argumentative Speaking

To develop a good argumentative speech, you should have a solid claim and solid grounds to back it up. The following definitions, taken from Speech Communication by Raymond S. Ross, should clarify these terms for you.

Claim: This is your stand on an issue, the position you are taking, and your purpose for arguing.

Grounds: These are the evidence, facts, data, and information that provide the reasons for your claim in the first place.

An argumentative speech can be based on a claim of fact, a claim of value, or a claim of policy.

A claim of fact begins with an occurrence or reality based on evidence.

A claim of value is a belief that something is good or bad, right or wrong.

A claim of policy recommends a course of action.

The following examples illustrate the differences between these three types of claims.

Claims of Fact:

If you eat too much fat in your diet and neglect to exercise, you will gain weight. If you give up fat and begin to exercise, you will lose weight.

Paper products take up the largest percentage of space in landfills in the United States. If we recycled more paper, we could reduce the size of our landfills.

Claims of Value:

Capital punishment is wrong. It is merely a state-sanctioned form of murder.

Capital punishment is right. In legal, religious, political, and social terms, it is the best way to handle violent criminals.

Claims of Policy:

Voter registration should be tied to driver’s license renewal. There is a specific need for this policy; it is very practical and is better than the current system.

All children should learn a foreign language in elementary school. A statewide initiative is necessary to introduce all teachers to the merits of early foreign language exposure.

In organizing your argumentation speech, you should have your strongest arguments first or last. You want to make a powerful impact right up front, and you also want to leave a lasting impression on your audience at the end. Avoid personal attacks. As most political analysts will tell you, “mud slinging” usually backfires, and the one who starts the fight ends up with the dirtiest face. In other words, derogatory remarks and unfounded accusations erode your own credibility with the audience. Get to the point and use practicalities. If the argument becomes too wordy or tedious, you will lose your audience and lose your ability to make an impact.

Although they are similar in some ways, persuasive speeches and argumentative speeches have different purposes and different approaches. Persuasion involves expressing an opinion and wanting to make a change in the minds of the audience. The speaker wants to influence and sway the audience with friendly persuasion, and to motivate and inspire them into taking his or her suggested plan of action. Persuasion can take the form of television advertisements, political rallies, product packaging, marriage proposals, etc.

Argumentation, on the other hand, requires a firm stand on the affirmative or negative side of an issue backed by specific grounds. The goal is not to win over your audience, but to win the argument. You must support your own case with solid reasoning and dispute the claims of the opposing side with equally solid reasoning. Argumentation carried on between two parties is called a debate. Debates are sparked by any issue that seems to polarize us (divide us into definite pro/con viewpoints). These types of issues include welfare reform, abortion, environmental protection, and affirmative action.

Read the following speech, by Pam Rhoads, a BYU student who takes a firm stand on welfare reform.


Raymond S. Ross, Speech Communication