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HIS 270 - American Environmental History

The guide provides resources relevant to the history of the American environment, paying particular attention to the impact of European settlement on the landscape and the subsequent commodification of resources that defined the American experience.

What is an Argument?

An argument is an effort to change readers' mind about an issue -- a topic of concern or urgency that is not easily agreed upon due to its complexity. Arguments arise when people disagree on what is true or false, accurate or inaccurate, sufficient or insufficient, about the subject being discussed.

An argument must possess four basic ingredients to be successful. First, it must contain as much relevant information about the issue as possible. Second, it must present convincing evidence that enables the audience to accept the writer's or speaker's claim as authentic. Third, it must fairly represent challenging views and then explain why those views are wrong or limited. And fourth, it must lay out a pattern of reasoning. That is, it must logically progress from thesis to support of thesis to conclusion.

Source: White, F. D., & Billings, S. J. (2014). The well-crafted argument: a guide and reader. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Crafting Your Argument

A Strong Thesis

You will craft your topic and research into an argument by establishing your thesis, which will present your topic as a problem that can be researched and refuted by potential counterarguments. Your thesis will clearly state your position on the topic, and your position needs to be debatable (something that reasonable people would have a disagreement on), and not just state facts. For example, if your topic is European Colonialism, your thesis might look something like this: Colonialism was essential for the development of European countries because... (list a few reasons why). 

The reasons you give to support your thesis should be meaningful and supported by evidence. You can use scholarly articles from the library as supporting evidence; for tips on how to do that, check out the Finding Your Sources page on this guide.

An Organized Argument

After writing a strong thesis statement, the next step is to organize your argument. There are a few ways you can structure your paper, but here is one simple way:

  1. Introduction and Thesis
  2. First Claim
  3. Second Claim
  4. Third Claim
  5. Counterargument rebuttal
  6. Conclusion

For more help on crafting an argument and writing a persuasive essay, reach out to the Online Writing Center for support.


Presenting a counterargument is an important component of writing a persuasive essay. Here, you provide acknowledgement and fair representation of those claims that oppose or in some way challenge the claim you are arguing. Here are some steps you can follow to establish and refute a counterargument:

  1. Ask yourself, what are the possible objectives to my claim? See if you can anticipate refutations to your claim even if you cannot readily locate them.
  2. Search for actual arguments that challenge your own. Be sure to summarize these arguments fairly; that is, do not omit parts of the claim that you think you would not be able to counterargue. Note: it is entirely possible that a challenging view will strike you as so convincing that you may want to revise or even abandon your original claim.
  3. Look for common ground - places where the challenging claim intersects with your own.
  4. Explain why the challenging claim is incorrect or flawed.

Source: White, F. D., & Billings, S. J. (2014). The well-crafted argument: a guide and reader. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Finding Resources for the Counterargument

You can use the library's resources to help you identify a counterargument and find resources that support it. One way to do this is to do a search using the Multi-Search with keywords like disadvantage, risk, negative, or other words that imply disagreement. For example, if your argument is that all children should be vaccinated, you might try a search like this one to find articles that offer an opposition: colonialism AND Europe* AND econom*.  (*note: the asterisk at the end of the word is called, truncation, or, a wildcard, and will search for a variation of that word. For example, econom* will find economy, economic, economics, economical, etc.)

You can also search for resources that discuss the overall issue or controversy, rather than focusing on one particular side. Try using additional keywords like debate, controversy, discussion, etc., in your search. Even articles that strongly argue for one side could also present a section on the counterargument to their position. Looking through the full text of any articles you find will help you identify these kinds of resources.

For more help finding resources to support your counterargument, email a librarian at!