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Making the Case


Disciplines Argument > Structuring the Argument > Making the Case

The positive case | The negative case | See also


When making your case, it is a very good idea to think about the overall structure. When you are in a debate, this may take two parts: the positive case for the your argument and also the negative case against any alternative positions.

The positive case


Before you build your case, make sure you know what you want, what you want others to believe what is outside the scope of the case. Then be ready to put this and more into words so you can say, simply and clearly what you want.

Clarification may include definition of a problem that needs to be solved and definition of criteria you can apply to determine whether the problem has been solved.


The actual solution of what you want to implement needs to be made clear. Who is affected and the detail of how they are affected should also be clear.

If you are seeking to create some change, then the question of how it will be implemented also may need to be considered, as well as what will be achieved.


The case that you are putting must have both just cause and acceptable rationale if you want other people to agree with it. The justification may, for example, make use of Toulmin's argument model to construct a well-supported argument.

Evidence is a very powerful tool for persuasion. Data and testimonials can provide very convincing ways of making a case.

Solvency is a term used to describe how the solution offered will solve a defined problem. Many solutions, particularly for complex problems, do not promise full answers. There is always a cost-benefit decision. There may be several solutions, each with a different cost, timescale, risks, etc. as well as different degrees of solvency.

Solutions can also have adverse consequences and any undesirable side-effects may need to be addressed. It may also be necessary to prove that the solution integrates and aligns with other activities that are occurring.

The justification needs to speak with all relevant stakeholders. This may include a number of different people and groups, each with different interests. Where their interests are conflicting and not all interests can be med, a fair consideration may need to be shown.

The negative case

The negative case in an argument is that which is said in order to neutralize or destroy the opposing arguments. There are a number of things you can attack in the other person's argument. Just a few of these are given here, to give you the idea. You can also, of course, use fallacies as well, although this does open you to attack also.

Question legitimacy

Question whether the case, or any element of it, is permissible. Compare it against legislation, regulations and standards. You can also compare it against ethics and morals, challenging whether the case would pass basic social tests such as 'common decency'.

I think you'll find that what you are proposing is against FS245.

You put a good case, but I don't think a court of law would allow it.

I challenge you to go out in the streets and ask anyone -- I can't imagine any decent citizen wanting to do what you are proposing.

Question authority

Any case may be based on the authority of a person or source. If you can challenge the authority, then the validity of the argument on which it is based is tarred with the same brush.

Are you the right person to be putting this case?

You say customers need this product. Have you asked them?

Question premises

A syllogistic argument (as well as other form) is based on premises from which conclusions are drawn. The premises are assumed to be true and hence may be questioned.

You say all customers want low prices. I'm not so sure of that.

Question grounds

You can question the truth of data, warrants and other supporting elements such as described in Toulmin's argument model. Again, this is tugging at the carpet beneath their proposals.

This report you are using, did it use statistically sound methods?

Attack fallacies

If the other person is using fallacies of any kind, these are points of weakness that you can attack. You can expose these or just help the other person dig a bigger hole. With luck they will bury themselves.

Sorry, that is an Ad Hominem attack and I cannot accept it.

Attack causality

Look for causal attributions, where A causes B. People will tend either to make bold assertions of causality or, more often, will take two items that are correlated in some way, such as being near each other in time or space, and then assuming that one causes another.

Yes, I know that traffic is greatest at 8 o'clock, but that is not the cause of the accidents.

See also

Toulmin's argument model, Fallacies, Refuting the argument

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