How to Make Arguments

Added on by Henry Zhang.

While a lot of people claim that they know how to argue, debating and even arguing in general can benefit greatly from the use of structure. In debate, arguments are often formed under the paradigm of a claim-warrant-impact structure. Using this format is greatly beneficial in terms of establishing your argument and making it clear that it has no gaping flaws.


The first essential part of an argument is the claim. Rather than serving to explain your argument, the claim is very basically a summary of what your argument is.

Claims should in general be very concise statements and you can think of them as being very similar to the topic sentence of a paragraph in your essay.


The warrant is the meaty part of your argument. This is the section where you go beyond stating what you believe to be true and proving why it is true. Warrants tend to come in one of two different forms.

Analytical Warrants

The first form is an analytical warrant. Analytical arguments are what we think of when we use pure logical reasoning to come to a conclusion. One of the most popular forms of analytical reasoning is a syllogism, which is reasoning that is of the form: if A implies B and B implies C, then A implies C. Most people are very familiar with these arguments and are comfortable accepting the truth of it.

However, analytical warrants do have their shortcomings. While there main goal is to take premises and show how conclusions undoubtedly follow from them, even if their logic is sound, there is no guarantee that the real world actually works in that way. For example, I could say that people are deterred by harsh punishments and the death penalty is the harshest of punishments, so implementing the death penalty would deter crime. However, despite the logical soundness of my argument, reality may not work that way.

Empirical Warrants

The second from is an empirical warrant, and this is the type of argument that deals with the way the world actually works. When you use an empirical warrant, you say when something happened in the past, a certain event followed.

Though these types of arguments are intuitive to many, they also have their problem. First, is that there is no way to ensure that just because two things happened, one caused the other. For example, just because the death penalty was implemented and crime increased, it is not the case that the death penalty caused crime to increase. In fact, a more plausible alternative explanation is that the increase in crime caused legislatures to try using the death penalty. In this way, empirical warrants are susceptible to confusing correlation and causation.

It appears to be the case that empirical warrants account for the flaws in analytical warrants and analytical warrants account for the flaws in empirical warrants. In fact, this is the case and is a good reason to include both types of warrants for an individual argument. It is definitely possible and absolutely encouraged to provide multiple warrants for a single argument, and the more reasons you have for your argument, the more likely it is to be proven true.


The impact is the final part of an argument and often the hardest part to understand in abstract. In essence, the impact of an argument is explaining why your argument matters. You can win any argument during a debate round, but only those that are relevant should matter. For example, if I prove that pizza is delicious, that isn't sufficient for me to win the debate (especially if the debate has nothing to do with pizza).

One of the ways that the impact is important is in explaining how your argument relates to justice. Concepts like morality are often extremely vague and thus extra work needs to be done to show how concrete things like crime or economic loss fit into a theory of morality. (For more in-depth information, check out the lesson on the standards debate).