- Claims and evidence. Claim = concrete + debatable. Evidence = reliable + relevant. Break into sub-claims for your readers.
- Warrants = valid connections between claims and evidence. Test your major warrants before writing.
- Think of possible objections, then answer them. Types of objections: (a) ones you entertained (not all blind alleys, of course, but the major ones); (b) anticipated objections of readers (think from their background); (c) other possible explanations for a phenomenon you explain in a certain way; (d) critical-reader objections (very hard to think of ahead of time, but well worth thinking about). Grounds for reader rejection of your argument: (a) wrong definitions of key terms (try to think from multiple sides); (b) cause-effect oversimplifications; (c) using too little evidence to overgeneralize (extrapolating millions of years of biological existence based on hypotheses and a few hundred years of collective experience, anyone?); (d) ignoring exceptions to the rules you lay out.
- Be honest and "concede what you cannot rebut." This makes you more thoughtful in the eyes of your readers.
- Lay out limiters - take into account the possibility of changes of circumstances that usually don't change. Example: "We can conclude the earthquake occurred in central Costa Rica, so long as the instrumentation had been accurately calibrated" (emph. orig.).
- Narrow the scope of your claim, but don't do it too much!
- Try rearranging claims, evidence, warrant, and qualifications to see various effects.
- Think about the structure of the arguments of your sources. This helps your understanding and organization.
- The three rhetorical appeals of any argument: logos (logic), pathos (inspiring feelings in your readers), and ethos (your own credibility, enhanced by the List of Four, above).