Student Writing Academic Writing Tips 2020-06-20 00:00

Use a Rhetorical Argument to Aim for High Marks

Plato and Aristotle discussing

  1. Write to Persuade
  2. Rhetorical Appeals
  3. Constructing a Paper With Rhetorical Argument
  4. Introduction
  5. Narration
  6. Confirmation
  7. Refutation
  8. Conclusion
  9. Tried-and-True Persuasion Argument

Write to Persuade

When you want to write a paper to persuade, a rhetorical argument leads the reader through a logical presentation to your conclusion. When you follow the logic of a rhetorical argument, you’ll end up with a paper that persuades.

Rhetoric, the art of persuasion, was first outlined in the Fourth Century B.C.E. by Aristotle. At that time, rhetoric was used in public forums for debate. But the principles work for papers that want to persuade using the same method.

Rhetorical Appeals

Traditional rhetoric uses three basic “appeals.” You could call them ways of making your case. You can combine the types of appeal in your argument (paper) so let’s look at each one.

Ethos. Ethos appeals to the character of the speaker, that’s you. Although this may work in a legal argument or in public speaking, when you tell your audience about your background, in a paper you need to be careful using ethos. Mention previous studies you have done related to the subject of your paper.

Pathos. This appeal calls on the emotional response of who reads your paper. This appeal is commonly used in closing arguments to the jury in courtrooms. In a paper, using pathos will depend on the subject of your paper and the conclusion you want to present. For instance, in a paper on social justice, you might appeal to what will happen to food-insecure people who have no access to transportation to low-cost food.

Logos. Logos uses logic through deductive or inductive arguments to prove a point. Most educational environments expect a strong presence of logos.

Use your discretion to guide you in using appeals. The subject of your paper and your educational environment will help you decide the best approach to selecting appeals.

Constructing a Paper With Rhetorical Argument

The basic form of a classical persuasive argument contains five basic parts: introduction, narration, confirmation, refutation, and conclusion. Arrange parts so that each section logically follows the preceding section. Style your argument for ease of thought transition from one section to the next. Your principal goal through each section is to persuade the reader. The following serve as introductions to creating the five sequential parts of your rhetorical argument.


In a paper, the introduction states the claim or premise of your entire argument to the reader. You tell the reader what they will discover by reading your paper. If you are giving a classroom presentation based on your paper, your introduction also establishes rapport with your audience and warms them up to your subject.

State your premise in clear, concise wording, and hint at the conclusion. You want your reader to understand what they will learn and where you will take them on the discovery journey of reading your paper.

man speaking on stage


Expand on the statement of your claim in the introduction. Summarize the background information relevant to your claim (argument). Outline the details that lead to the claim and the corresponding effects of your premise.


Now it’s time to support your claim with findings that support your claim. Cite papers, documents, and research that support your claim and state in your own words how these findings support your claim. Use supporting facts and opinion in line with your claim. Link each of your data, citations, and opinions with your claim. Explain why and how the data/findings support your claim.

Use this section to elaborate on your claim through multiple citations supported by your own opinion on how each data point supports your claim.

When the link between the supporting evidence and your claim is strong, you strengthen your argument. That is why you want to support your claim with multiple citations and strong statements from you on how each piece of evidence supports your claim.


Follow your strong confirmation by pointing out opposing claims and refuting their claims. This is the part of your paper that illustrates your comprehension of the material supporting your claim with your ability to recognize and refute opposing claims. Anticipate objections and address them.

A solid refutation demonstrates your breadth of knowledge on the subject and asserts the focus of your claim.

diamond yellow road sign that reads dead end


This is the last portion of your rhetorical argument. Summarize the principal points of your narration, confirmation, and refutation. Then, end with a last statement of your claim. Depending on the nature of the paper and the educational environment, you may also include an emotional (pathos) appeal to the reader.

Tried-and-True Persuasion Argument

The rhetorical argument creates a strong written claim. To create your confirmation and refutation, you must perform thorough research. First, you want to substantiate your claim with supporting evidence and then know and counter objections to your claim.

Before you write, gather and organize your information. Professional writing source [Magoosh] states,

The more information that you gather, the stronger your argument can be. Look for studies, quotes, statistics, and other things that can be incorporated into your paper. Doing this will build your credibility (ethos) and appeal to the audience’s logic (logos).

After you have collected your information, rewrite your thesis statement (claim) based on the additional information you have. Make it as strong as possible because it is the principal argument of your entire paper.

Outline your thoughts before you write. An outline helps you organize your points so they follow a logical flow from the introduction to the conclusion. Find the right place and order to present all the information you collect. The outline will help your writing flow and ensure you include the points of your extensive research.

Once you write your first draft, read it through for ways to strengthen your argument to engage your reader. Then proofread to catch spelling and grammar for a polished presentation.

With sound research and clear exposition, you will craft a rhetorical argument to persuade your reader to understand your point of view.

20 Editing Tips From Professional Writers

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.