Analysis of argument structures: Inquiries into effective writing

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Akie Yasunaga, Tokyo Keizai University

In this paper the structural features of argumentative texts (12 essays) generated by Japanese university students attending an English presentation course are analyzed. Toulmin’s model of argument (1958) was used as a measure for analysis of micro-structures (i.e., claim, data, warrants, backings, and rebuttals). The aim of the study is twofold: to identify common substructures used in the arguments; and, based on the results, to investigate implications for teaching argumentative writing. The study reveals that the predominant structure was justificatory argumentation presenting data and data-backings in support of the claim. Only a few students employed warrants and rebuttals in the substructures; three cases and eight cases respectively out of a total of 96 cases. The results indicate that L2 linguistic knowledge and subject-related knowledge play an important role in shaping argument. Two implications for teaching also emerged: firstly, learning and practicing both macro- and micro-structures of argument are necessary, and secondly, reader-oriented activities that help the students to understand wider reader opinions would help improve argumentative writing.