What Does Argumentation Mean?

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Touchstone Pictures, 2005

Argumentation is the process of forming reasons, justifying beliefs, and drawing conclusions with the aim of influencing the thoughts and/or actions of others.

Argumentation (or argumentation theory) also refers to the study of that process. Argumentation is an interdisciplinary field of study and a central concern of researchers in the disciplines of logic, dialectic, and rhetoric

Contrast writing an argumentive essay, article, paper, speech, debate, or presentation with one that's purely persuasive. While a persuasive piece can be built with anecdotes, imagery, and emotional appeals, an argumentive piece needs to rely on facts, research, evidence,  logic, and the like to back up its claim. It is useful in any field where findings or theories are presented to others for review, from science to philosophy and much in between. 

You can use different methods, techniques, and tools when writing and organizing an argumentive piece:

Purpose and Development

Effective argumentation has many uses—and critical thinking skills are helpful even in everyday life—and the practice has developed over time.

  • "The three goals of critical argumentation are to identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments. The term 'argument' is used in a special sense, referring to the giving of reasons to support or criticize a claim that is questionable, or open to doubt. To say something is a successful argument in this sense means that it gives a good reason, or several reasons, to support or criticize a claim." 
  • The Argumentative Situation
    "An argumentative situation...is a site in which the activity of arguing takes place, where views are exchanged and changed, meanings explored, concepts developed, and understandings achieved. It may also be a site in which people are persuaded and disagreements resolved, but these popular goals are not the only ones, and too narrow a focus on them threatens to overlook much for which argumentation is a central and important tool."
  • Argumentative Theory of Reasoning
    "Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick...is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth."
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to Argumentation
    "The argument runs something like this. 'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing.'


D.N. Walton,  "Fundamentals of Critical Argumentation." Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Christopher W. Tindale,  "Rhetorical Argumentation: Principles of Theory and Practice." Sage, 2004.

Patricia Cohen, "Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth." The New York Times, June 14, 2011.

Peter Jones as the Book in episode one of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," 1979.

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Nordquist, Richard. "What Does Argumentation Mean?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-argumentation-1689133. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). What Does Argumentation Mean? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-argumentation-1689133 Nordquist, Richard. "What Does Argumentation Mean?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-argumentation-1689133 (accessed March 24, 2023).