eLanguages.ac.ukUniversity of Southampton

Understanding academic argument

Identifying the elements of argument

At the heart of much academic writing is an argument. An academic argument can vary in form according to the subject area; however, there are shared common elements.You need to be able to deconstruct and understand an academic argument when reading and create an argument in your own writing.



Examine Riddle's model below for understanding academic argument and its core elements. Open the help section to see an example. Read the extracts that follow and identify the elements of a larger argument which each one contains. Highlight the part of the text which corresponds to either the claim, evidence or justification and select the appropriate button to change the colour. Then open the feedback to check your answers.

(Riddle, 2000)

A claim refers to the writer's opinion or position regarding the matter being written about. This is not factual but debatable and so needs to be argued.

Data relates to the evidence that is used by the writer to support their claim. This may be factual or contain reference to specific examples.

Justification refers to the writer's interpretation of the facts or circumstances. It links the data with the claim in the argument.

1. Extract from University of Southampton Portus MOOC:

2. Extract from University of Southampton Portus MOOC:

3. Extract from University of Southampton Portus MOOC:

Would you like to review the main points?


Riddle, M. (2000). 'Improving Argument by Parts.' Learning to Argue in Higher Education. Portsmouth: Boynton-Cook.

© eLanguages, Modern Languages, University of Southampton, 2014. All rights reserved.