How do the examples, interviews, and data support that claim?


“The author starts with the skeleton and tries to cover it up. His aim is to conceal the skeleton artistically or, in other words, to put flesh on the bare bones.”

Mortimer Adler

With your claim and counterclaim prepared and preliminary sources identified, you have completed the first two steps of the argument pre-writing process. The final step in the pre-writing process is organizing your ideas in an outline. Your outline is the skeleton on which you will build your final argument.


After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

use organizational strategies and tools
establish a logical organizational pattern with supporting details
The Need for Structure
You may have an excellent appeal to logic and convincing evidence from reliable sources. However, if these elements in your writing are not structured properly, your argument will fall apart. A structured outline will ensure that your argument is presented in a logical order. This is critical because an audience is more likely to be persuaded by your argument if it makes sense and they can easily follow your way of thinking.

Sometimes it is tempting to skip this step of the pre-writing process. Resist that temptation. Take the time to organize now to save time later.

To organize your ideas, revisit your claim, counterclaim, and evidence. Ask yourself:

What is my claim?
How do the examples, interviews, and data support that claim?
What is the counterclaim?
How does my evidence refute that counterclaim?
The answers to these questions will help you decide how to organize your points.

A solid argument will not only recognize the opposition by including the counterclaim; it will also refute the counterclaim. Check out this video to see how you can refute the opposition in the body of your essay.

Organizational Pattern

A logically organized argument follows an alternating format:

This is my position.
First, you state your claim.

This is why I have taken that position.
Next, you use evidence to make supporting points that show why your claim is the more desirable position.

This is why people might disagree with me.
Then, you acknowledge the opposing points of view by providing researched counterpoints that show why it might be the more desirable position.

That is true, but you should agree with me because…
Finally, you use your evidence to address the counterclaim by providing a rebuttal that reinforces your claim and reminds your audience why they should agree with you.

That pattern continues throughout the argument until all of your points are stated and all of the counterpoints are addressed.

Look at these comments from Michelle Obama’s address at the Childhood Obesity Forum. Match her comments to the correct location in an alternating organizational pattern.
I know how hard it is as a parent when you’re bombarded by ads for junk food; when you’re hit with a barrage of conflicting stories about what’s healthy and what’s not; when you always feel like you’re failing to meet some impossible standard for working parents – or for any parents for that matter.

And I’ve been meeting with parents, too, because we all need to do our parts, as well, because the fact is, is that our kids didn’t do this to themselves.

But we also know this – that over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. That is a fact. Nearly one-third of children in America now are overweight or obese.

We make those decisions. That’s all up to us.

This is my position:

This is why I have taken that position:

This is why people might disagree with me:

That is true, but you should agree with me because:


Developing a Rebuttal
The more evidence you have to support your position, the better you can address counterclaims. If you do not have enough information to refute the counterpoints to your argument, take some time now to look for additional data or expert opinions.

Creating an Outline

Use this structure to organize your argument:

Research Source Information

to show where you got this information

Body Part I

State your claim
Point A
Make your first point
Support your first point
Counterpoint A
Present first counterpoint
Support first counterpoint
Rebuttal A
State first rebuttal point
Support rebuttal point
Body Part II

Point B
Make your second point
Support your second point
Counterpoint B
Present second counterpoint
Support second counterpoint
Rebuttal B
State second rebuttal point
Support rebuttal point
Body Part X*

*Continue pattern until all points and counterpoints have been addressed.

View an example outline that follows the alternating pattern format

Develop Your Outline
You have carefully researched both sides of an issue, determined your position, and stated a claim. Now you must find a way to juggle your supporting evidence and counterclaims to create a powerful argument.

Use the Outline Planning Guide to begin organizing your argument. As you build your outline, make note of the sources where you found your information.

Need a refresher?
Check out this review to see the building blocks of an outline.


When we outline, it helps to use the following formatting rules:

Use Roman numerals for each paragraph heading.
Use parallel structure for headings, subheadings, and examples. For example, if you use a phrase beginning with a verb in Roman numeral I, then you should use a phrase beginning with a verb in Roman numeral II, and so on. If you write in complete sentences in your headings, you should write in complete sentences in your subheadings.
Place main points in headings indicated by Roman numerals.
Place specific information or examples in subheadings indicated by capital letters beginning with A.
Divide each heading into two or more parts. For example, if you have an A, you should have a B
Required Sources
Keep in mind, your finished argument must be supported by at least three credible sources and include at least one visual representation of data that supports your claim. If you find that you do not have enough evidence to write a complete argument, conduct another search to locate additional sources.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you have learned a technique to organize your ideas and research for an effective argument. Having a clear plan will help you thoroughly develop support for your claim and address the counterclaim.

Your outline will be evaluated according to the Outlining Your Argument rubric.

Submit your outline to your instructor for feedback before moving on to writing your argument.

Complete the reading for this lesson.
Complete the self-checks in this lesson.
In the Assessments area, submit your outline for 04.06 Outlining Your Argument.

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